Archive for September, 2009

September 30, 2009

[843 acres] Identity Politics

by amyjuliabecker

“I’m a Democrat.” “I’m a Republican.” “I’m straight.” “I’m gay.” “I’m a runner.” “I’m a swimmer.” “I’m smart.” “I’m pretty.”

“I am a new creation in Christ Jesus.”

The last statement, I hope, stands alone.

In the Sunday New York Times Magazine, Benoit Denizet-Lewis reports on a growing trend among middle-school students of announcing their sexual identities. Denizet-Lewis, himself a gay man, finds himself interviewing young teenagers who are proclaiming themselves gay, straight, and bisexual with remarkable confidence. He writes, “The effect was initially surreal to me, and before long I heard myself blurt out, ‘But you’re so young!'” (Coming Out in Middle School). There are obvious concerns with kids as young as ten declaring their sexual identities, but as Christians, there is a more disturbing underlying issue raised by this report.

Our identity as human beings is not based in our sexual preferences, nor in our political affiliations, nor in our athletic accomplishments. Our identity is bestowed upon us, as human beings created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). Furthermore, as Christians, our identity is an identity in Christ, not in our human accomplishments, desires, or abilities. Paul writes, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17) . He also exhorts the Galatians to get past their various self-defining identities and understand that Christ has come to break through barriers: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

We live in an increasingly sexualized world, a world in which people increasingly seek to self-identify. My hope and prayer, for middle-schoolers on up, is that we would identify ourselves as belonging to God, as adopted sons and daughters, as women and men “in Christ Jesus.” All the rest is secondary.

September 30, 2009

[843 acres] To Sacrifice or Not to Sacrifice?

by Perryn Pettus

Upon President Obama’s election last November, First Lady Michelle Obama declared to the nation that her primary role in the White House would be as “Mom-In-Chief”. Caring for her daughters was her focus as they transitioned between schools, moved into the White House and became the media sweethearts.

Recently she shared her advice on motherhood in an interview with Prevention magazine, which is scheduled to hit newsstands in November. The First Lady said, “[B]eing a good mother isn’t all about sacrificing. It’s really investing and putting yourself higher on your priority list.” She urged women to make their decisions based on how they would be affected. Do what makes you happy, she suggested. [Baltimore Sun, Michelle Obama aims to ‘make me happy,’ says it ripples and benefits kids, husband, her health]

This guideline on how to live our lives seems like a paradigm shift. Haven’t we been taught to put others first? Yes, because that’s precisely what Jesus did. Paul says in Ephesians 5:1-2, 21, “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God,” and also charges us to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Similarly, Paul also admonishes us in Romans 12:3 about thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought.

We have a Father whose parenting philosophy is diametrically opposed to that presented as Mrs. Obama’s. Our heavenly Father provided the ultimate sacrifice by allowing His Son to die on the cross for the sins of His children.

Which philosophy will you adopt?

September 30, 2009

[Morning Walk] What Counts Is a New Creation: Galatians 6

by Bethany

Today’s Readings: 1 Kings 2, Galatians 6

In this passage, Paul compares two mindsets: one that exalts self and one that exalts God.

Of the mindset that exalts self, Paul writes:

Those who want to make a good impression outwardly are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ. Not even those who are circumcised obey the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your flesh. NIV.

According to Paul, these legalists have two motives: (1) to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ, and (2) to boast about the Galatian church’s “obedience” were they to “obey” the strict laws. In other words, they fear the loss of human affection and they love the increase of human praise. Such a mindset cannot embrace the cross of Christ because the cross puts the Christian in the path of persecution and it puts an end to pride.

Of the mindset that exalts God, Paul writes:

May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation.

The new creation is what exists when the mindset that exalts self has died. This new creation “boasts” in the cross – rather than a merely intellectually assenting to the cross, it relies on the cross. This mindset has two aspects: (1) it crucifies the world to us, and (2) it crucifies us to the world. Everything that this world offers is “rubbish” compared with knowing Christ.

Which mindset are you?

September 29, 2009

[843 acres] Why I Am Ashamed

by Bethany

In his recent op-ed, David Brooks chastised the Religious Right. [New York Times, The Next Culture War]. And, in my mind, he was correct to do so.

We pick up our abortion signs. We preach judgment on “liberals.” We stand “at the pole” to promote prayer in schools. We argue at the Supreme Court for First Amendment rights.

But, when it comes to economic values, where have we been? With our myopic focus on the social and moral legislation of our country, we have ignored the personal obedience and self-denial that is required in the Christian life. Consider:

  • Why do we amass debt if we believe that this life is fleeting? “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth … but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” [Matthew 6:19-21, NIV].
  • Why do we pursue our own happiness in goods and toys outside of Christ and the cross? “And [Jesus] said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole word and loses or forfeits himself?'” [Luke 9:23, ESV].

As we have pointed our finger at Washington or New York and told them that the problem lies there, we have ignored what lies within. Rather than disciplining or denying ourselves over the past few years, we have spent more (until we have exploded). As Brooks points out:

In the three decades between 1950 and 1980, personal consumption was remarkably stable, amounting to about 62 percent of G.D.P. In the next three decades, it shot upward, reaching 70 percent of G.D.P. in 2008. During this period, debt exploded. In 1960, Americans’ personal debt amounted to about 55 percent of national income. By 2007, Americans’ personal debt had surged to 133 percent of national income.

When I read the Brooks op-ed, I was ashamed of myself. How often have I spoken of the “big issues” in politics while I have ignored the seemingly “small issues” of my own personal obedience?

Have we missed our opportunity to demonstrate the beauty of a life of self-denial? Is it too late to show that we love the Lord so much that we do not need the “riches” of this world more than the “riches” of the one to come because, for us, “to live is Christ and to die is gain”?

September 29, 2009

[843 acres] Three-Year Olds and Self-Control

by amyjuliabecker

Aristotle considered self-control one step towards a virtuous and, therefore, happy life. Biblical writers are big fans of this virtue, too. Consider Paul, writing to the Galatians, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (5:22-23). Paul, of course, considers self-control a virtue that comes from God through a relationship with the Holy Spirit. Aristotle, on the other hand, had no concept of a personal God. Either way, however, the idea that self-control is a virtue has been around for ages.

The New York Times Magazine reports, “[R]ecently, cognitive psychologists have come to believe that executive function, and specifically the skill of self-regulation, might hold the answers to some of the most vexing questions in education today” (Can the Right Kind of Play Teach Kids Self-Control?). The magazine describes a pre-K and K curriculum, Tools of the Mind, that seeks to teach children – through play – how to control their emotions, order their thoughts, and plan their days. It sounds rather dull for a three-year old, but the key to teaching self-control is make-believe play. And it seems to work.

What’s even more fascinating than the method is the fact that the creators of Tools of the Mind believe, “their program can reliably teach self-regulation skills to pretty much any child – poor or rich; typical achievers as well as many of those who are considered to have special needs.”

Small wonder that self-control – the final “fruit” of the Spirit in Paul’s list of the abundance that God longs to give us – is not only helpful, but also available, to almost all of us, starting at a very young age. Perhaps we can discern the Spirit of God in public school classrooms after all.

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