Archive for August, 2009

August 31, 2009

[843 acres] Presidential Death Threats

by Bethany

Death threats against President Barack Obama have risen by 400% since the inauguration. Recently, Chris Broughton – with an AR-15 firearm - arrived at a public speech given by the President in Arizona. The day before this event, Broughton was sitting in church, listening to his pastor give a sermon entitled, “Why I Hate Barack Obama.” In this sermon, Pastor Steven Anderson of the Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe said, “And I’m going to tell you something. I hate Barack Obama. You say, well, you just mean you don’t like what he stands for. No, I hate the person. Oh, you mean you just don’t like his policies. No, I hate him … I am not going to pray for his good. I am going to pray that he dies and goes to hell.” [CNN]. Has Pastor Anderson read the entire Bible?

  • Has he read 1 John 4: 19-21 (“We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.”)
  • Some may argue that 1 John 4 only applies to “brothers,” i.e., fellow believers, of which we do not know whether Obama is. But, even if he is not, what about Matthew 5:43-47 (Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven … If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?), or what about Ezekiel 33:11 (“As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live.”)?
August 31, 2009

[Morning Walk] Kennedy’s Cancer : 1 Cor. 5

by Bethany

Today’s Readings1 Samuel 24, 1 Corinthians 5

In May 2008, Senator Ted Kennedy was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor. Although doctors initially told him that the tumor was inoperable, he sought second opinions. In the end, he decided to pursue an extremely aggressive and exhausting course of treatment. First, in June 2008, he underwent a 3 1/2-hour surgery - during which he remained conscious – in order to remove as much of the tumor as possible. Second, after the surgery, he began a lengthy course of chemotherapy and radiation treatment. Although the operation was considered to be a success, no one knew exactly how much longer he would live. Over the next year, unfortunately, Kennedy suffered at least two more seizures and, he ultimately passed away on August 25th.

Kennedy sought an aggressive and risky treatment because he understood that one bad “seed” can infect the whole “bunch.” Similarly, Paul writes,

Don’t you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast – as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth.

Here, Paul warns that we should use aggressive treatment for our sin in order to get rid of it. We should – like Kennedy understood - take our “spiritual” cancer seriously by seeking to remove it entirely. We cannot live alongside it, ignore it with the hope that it will go away, or let it grow and fester until we become spiritually dead. Rather, we fight it, we confess it, we flee from it, and we do not boast about it. And we are capable of doing so because Christ has been sacrificed and has completed this work. Let us rejoice and put our faith in the great physician so that we may be spiritually alive into eternity.

August 31, 2009

[843 acres] IN THE NEWS: 8.31.09

by Bethany
  • Farewell to Facebook? [The New York Times Magazine]. What is the vision of the new “community”? And, to what extent does it not include meeting together? [Hebrews 10:25].
  • Would you vote to replace the entire Congress? 57% of you would. [Rasmussen Reports]. As long as they are our leaders, however, how should we approach them? [Hebrews 13:17].
  • Is it disturbing that a celebrity look-alike sperm bank is coming to NYC? [New York Magazine]. Since when was it our job to control the creation and beauty of a baby? [Psalm 139:13-14].
August 28, 2009

[Morning Walk] Why The Park Forum? 1 Corinthians 2

by Bethany

Today’s Readings: 1 Samuel 20, 1 Corinthians 2.

It would be malpractice for a lawyer to file a brief with a court without knowing, citing, and conveying the relevant statute. In fact, Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter once told his students at Harvard Law School that there were three keys to interpreting a law: “(1) Read the statute. (2) Read the statute. (3) Read the statute.”

If reading a statute is an essential practice for a lawyer to interpret the law, then it stands to reason that knowing the Bible is an essential practice for a Christian to interpret the God who wrote it (2 Timothy 3:16). Yet, many of us reading this blog today will simply read the post (written by a mere human being) and not read the relevant Bible passage (written by the Creator of the universe).

The aim of The Park Forum is not to make you feel guilty about not reading the Bible. Rather, The Park Forum exists to help city dwellers access the Bible more readily. Accordingly, we are in the process of creating city-friendly Bible studies for small groups  (i.e., daily 10-minute quiet times that that will be available on iPhone applications, etc.), developing reading skills directly applicable to the Bible, and building the “843 acres of the near future” that looks at current events through a Biblical lens (under the theory that, if you can see that the Bible is alive on the pages of your city paper, you will be more likely to pick up the Word on your own).

So, why does The Park Forum believe that knowledge of the Word is essential for a Christian? As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 2:4-5

My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power. (emphasis mine). NIV.

(1) The Park Forum believes that our faith cannot rest on men’s wisdom. All over the world, pastors and church leaders tell their congregants what the Bible says (which is important, Hebrews 10:25), but they rarely teach them how to read it. As a result, many Christians do not know what they believe and simply repeat what they hear. This practice is dangerous because it results in a faith that rests on men’s wisdom, which pales in comparison to God’s (1 Corinthians 1: 25: “For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom …”).

(2) The Park Forum believes that our faith must rest on God’s power. Only the word of God has a guarantee on it. In Isaiah 55:11, the LORD says, “[The word that goes out from my mouth] will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” To the extent that our words are either not the Word of God or not closely implied from it, our words have no such guarantee.

In the next few months, you will see various ways by which we hope to get you excited to read the Word on a daily basis. We hope that we will get you to see that, “As the Park is to the City, so the Word is to Life” – democratic, playful, enjoyable, restful, explorable, and communal. We hope that you’ll join us on this journey of placing our faith on God’s power and not in men’s wisdom.

August 28, 2009

[843 acres] IN THE NEWS – 8.28.09

by Bethany
  • Can two Members of Congress (former MoC Tony Hall and current MoC Frank Wolf), who are involved with The Fellowship, provide a better commentary on the group than the press has been offering recently? [Christianity Today].
  • How will you finish your life? Senator Ted Kennedy, from the time that he was diagnosed with brain cancer 15 months ago, sought to have “a good ending for himself.” [The New York Times]. Similarly, the Apostle Paul wrote, “For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”).
  • Has Facebook and/or Twitter ruined friendships? [The Wall Street Journal]. Paul still could have tweeted, “I thank my God every time I remember you” (98 characters, Philippians 1:3).
August 27, 2009

[843 acres] IN THE NEWS – 8.27.09

by Bethany
  • Is the feeling of guilt useful? Psychologists continue to think so. [The New York Times]. But, what are we supposed to do with it? Two thousand years ago, the Apostle Paul offered a suggestion : “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation and brings no regret, but worldly grief produces death.” [1 Corinthians 7:10].
  • Thermotherapy can keep berries from becoming moldy? [The New York Times]. After limited exposure to hot water (between 113 to 145 degrees), berries are far less likely to become moldy (1 out of 48 became moldy after heat was applied, as compared to 7 out of 52 became moldy without applied heat). Similarly, is not Jesus a hot refining fire that cleansed us to prevent our becoming spiritually moldy? [Malachi 3:1-2 – “See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me … For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap.”)
  • Is Summer 2009 the “Summer of Death”? [New York Magazine]. If so, are you ready? [Matthew 25: the story of the ten virgins concludes: “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.”)
  • Is the NYC Department of Education’s Rubber Room a wasteland of human life? [New Yorker] This setting is polar opposite from the God’s calling over the life of a precious human being: “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So, glorify God in your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20.
August 27, 2009

[Morning Walk] Wide Awake : 1 Samuel 19

by Joy

Today’s Readings: 1 Samuel 19, 1 Corinthians 1

On the one hand, I find this story hilarious: it reminds me of an evil cartoon character’s plot of doom getting foiled with a cloud declaring, “BOOM!” or “BAM!” The dramatic irony of verse 6 can’t be beat: “Saul listened to Jonathan and took this oath, ‘As surely as the Lord lives, David will not be put to death.’” NIV. Saul cannot win; the more deeply he enters into his hate, the more outrageous and pathetic his attempts at murder become.

On the other hand, this story makes me ache for David (and Saul), reminding me of my grandmother saying: “No good deed goes unpunished.” David is being faithful to God and is compensated by Saul repeatedly trying to kill him. In verses 4-5, Jonathan pleads to his father on his friend’s behalf: “Let not the king do wrong to his servant David; he has not wronged you, and what he has done has benefited you greatly…. The Lord won a great victory for Israel, and you saw it and were glad. Why then would you do wrong to an innocent man like David by killing him for no reason?” NIV.

David’s experience with Saul’s enmity defined how he prayed and lived. We can watch David wrestle with this disparity/inconsistency in Psalm 7 (NIV):

“O Lord my God, I take refuge in you;
save and deliver me from all who pursue me…

O Lord my God, if I have done this and there is guilt on my hands…
then let my enemy pursue and overtake me.

My shield is God Most High, who saves the upright in heart.
God is a righteous judge, a God who expresses his wrath every day.

The trouble he causes recoils on himself;
his violence comes down on his own head.”

Throughout this episode we see God’s grace to both Saul and David. God is active in both their lives, but they respond in contrasting manners. God basically gives David’s life and success to Saul, but instead of receiving the gift, Saul develops envy and hatred towards David. To David, God gives incredible friends who are willing to protect him and constantly shield him.

Pastor and author Eugene Peterson observes: “David refuses the way of violence and embraces the way of love and service…. Evil doesn’t diminish David; it doesn’t narrow him (Leap Over a Wall 57).” Although I identify with Saul’s ingratitude and fear more now, I yearn to grow into a David who is wide awake to God’s presence in his life.

August 26, 2009

[Morning Walk] A Holy Kiss : Romans 16

by Bethany

Today’s Readings: 1 Samuel 18, Romans 16

On a regular basis, we read stories of miraculous rescues. Yesterday, The Miami Herald ran a story about a 3-year-old girl who was rescued after having spent an hour with her arm in a pool drain. Recently, we all followed the dramatic rescue story of Laura Ling and Euna Lee, who were freed by North Korea after Clinton’s “humanitarian” trip. Finally, of course, we remember one of the greatest and most challenging rescue efforts in our nation’s history: 9/11 and its aftermath.

Although these stories vary in circumstances and results, all of them have one thing in common: the rescued survivors celebrated their redeemed lives by demonstrably sharing their affection with family and friends.

In Romans 16, Paul concludes his letter to the Roman church. In winding down, he asks the letter-bearer to greet more than thirty named individuals on his behalf. At the end, he writes: “Greet one another with a holy kiss.” NIV. 16:16.

Does all of his emotion seem too much?

Before becoming a Christian, Paul persecuted and killed Christians. In fact, Paul’s first mention in the Bible happens at the stoning of Steven, where Paul was “giving approval to his death” (Acts 8:1). On the Damascus Road, however, Jesus came to Paul in a vision and asked, “Why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:4). It was here that God opened Paul’s eyes so that he could became a Christian, an event which he constantly remembered (see Acts 22:7, 26:14).

What does Paul’s conversion have to do with his greetings in Romans? Since Paul lived in the truth that God rescued him from condemnation, Paul’s joy in other rescued Christians was exponentially immense. Every day, in his interactions with other believers, Paul lived as if he were the 3-year-old girl in the pool, or the two reporters in North Korea, or those rescued in 9/11. He wanted to celebrate his rescue with his fellow rescued Christians with much affection.

So, am I like Paul? As a general matter, unfortunately, I do not live in the mindset that God has rescued me from condemnation and, as a result, I start to treat my relationships with my Christian brothers and sisters as ordinary ones.  But, I should not. Rather, I should greet them with an immense joy – recognizing that we have been snatched up in God’s love so that we’re heaven-bound to be with him.

August 26, 2009

[843 acres] IN THE NEWS – 8.26.09

by Bethany
  • What should our schools be teaching? [The New York Times]. No matter how that question is answered, it must break God’s heart (and, to a certain extent, anger him) that he is not even a consideration in our system’s education. After all, “For from him and through him and to him are all things” (Romans 11:36). How ignorant are we to the profound truths that comprise our realities? Do we only see partial truths of science, sociology, art, etc.? (1 Corinthians 13:12 – “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”).
  • Shouldn’t the Bible be at the top of a Christian best-sellers list? [The Examiner].
  • Is it appropriate to boycott Madonna because she disrespects the Christian faith? The church in Bulgaria thinks so. [The Associated Press] Apparently, on her “Confessions” world tour in 2006, Madonna’s shows included crucifying herself on a mirrored cross while wearing a crown of thorns. [The Christian Post].
August 25, 2009

[843 acres] Lockerbie Bomber Release – continued

by Bethany
  • Can only God show mercy? Some people think so and, thus, have a problem with the Lockerbie Bomber’s release by the Scottish government. [Telegraph – UK]. Times haven’t changed too much, though. During the time of Jesus, people also thought only God could forgive sins. That’s why some found Jesus offensive – for he, in claiming to be able to forgive sins, was claiming to be God himself. (Luke 5: 20-21: When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.” The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”)
  • For more TPF coverage on the Lockerbie Bomber release, here.

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