Archive for September, 2009

September 24, 2009

[843 acres] What Is the Origin of the World?

by Bethany

Some evangelical Christians, including Kirk Cameron, are already poised for war on university campuses to answer this question. [US News & World Report, Creationism Advocates Publish Darwin's 'Origin of Species,' With Rebuttal]. But, they assume two things: (1) the Big Bang theory and evolution are completely exclusive from creationism, and (2) creationism must take a defensive position from the outset. Let’s take each in turn.

(1) Are the Big Bang theory and evolution completely exclusive from creationism? Big Bang holds out that, in one moment, something was created from nothing. Does not creationism hold forth the same – in a mere seven days, God created the entire world and all its inhabitants from nothing? Genesis 1-2. Evolution puts forth that things evolve and change over time. Does not creationism – or, more specifically, Christianity – teach that humans can “evolve” as the result of a new birth experience? 1 Peter 1:3, 22-25.

(2) Creationism need not be defensive because it is the only theory that places a proper value on human life. If humans are merely accidental creations, as the Big Bang theory and evolution teach, then – at their most rational theoretical extensions – human beings have no inherent value. Thus, our society is irrational to the extent that we, on the one hand, promote the Big Bang theory or evolution while, on the other hand, punish murder more severely than any other crime. At least Princeton Professor of Bioethics, Peter Singer, has come to a conclusion that is consistent with Big Bang and evolution:

When the death of a disabled infant will lead to the birth of another infant with better prospects of a happy life, the total amount of happiness will be greater if the disabled infant is killed. The loss of happy life for the first infant is outweighed by the gain of a happier life for the second. Therefore, if killing the hemophiliac infant has no adverse effect on others, it would, according to the total view, be right to kill him. [Taking Life: Humans].

Does this offend you? If so, it is because you see human life as having more value than merely one component in a “total happiness” equation. Yet, only the creationism theory teaches that humans have inherent value because they were created in the image of God, Genesis 1:26-27, and, as a result, are precious to God. Luke 12:7 (“Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”).

September 24, 2009

[843 acres] THIS WEEK: Freedom Week to End Slavery

by Neal

Did you know that there are over 27 million slaves worldwide? That is more than 3 times the population of Manhattan.

In order to raise awareness and inspire action, a group of modern-day abolitionists have gotten together and formed Freedom Week in New York City this week. There are speaking panels, art exhibits, and documentary viewings this week, as well as an awareness walk on Saturday. Featured speakers include Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times, Kaign Christy of the International Justice Mission, and (friend of The Park Forum) Faith Huckel of RestoreNYC.

To contibute to the fight against slavery of the oppressed is to do the work that God has called us to do (Isaiah 58):

 Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter – when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? NIV.

And what is the benefit for doing this work?

Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. NIV.

September 24, 2009

[843 acres] TONIGHT: Through the Eyes of Little Children

by Bethany

As you may remember, 100cameras went to Africa and back to capture the perspective of children in Africa. 100cameras.africa: Hebrews 13:3. It its latest project, 100cameras went to the Lower East Side of NYC to see what the children in our own backyard see. This project is now on display at Whole Foods on Bowery and there is a special viewing reception tonight.

It is important to see the world through the eyes of little children – for some of us have become too “professional” in our hearts and perspectives. Let us see Jesus with a childlike faith – wide-eyed and excited. In Matthew 18, we read:

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me.

 

September 24, 2009

[Morning Walk] Perseverance in Faith: 2 Corinthians 13

by Bethany

Today’s Readings: 2 Samuel 20, 2 Corinthians 13

God wants us to feel secure in His love and power (Ephesians 1:12-14). Even if everything else – health, family, job, or education – is unstable, He is not. Yet, some of the greatest obstacles to enjoying the security of His love can be found in the New Testament itself (e.g., Romans 11:20-21, 1 Corinthians 10:12, Galatians 6:9, Colossians 1:21-23, Hebrews 12:14, 1 Peter 1:17, Revelation 2:10).

Today, in 2 Corinthians 13, we read:

Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you – unless, of course you fail the test? And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test. NIV.

How do I “pass” the test? According to Hebrews 3:14, we pass the test if we persevere (“We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first”). In fact, the New Testament assumes that those who persevere in their faith are watchful over their salvation. See Matthew 25, 1 Peter 5:8, Philippians 2:12.

Yet, how many of us treat our salvation like a one-time act (e.g., walking down an aisle, getting baptized, or going through confirmation) rather than a vigilant desiring or treasuring of God?

September 23, 2009

[843 acres] An Independent Judiciary?

by Bethany

On the one hand sits the Supreme Court of Honduras: an independent governmental decision-maker that was within its statutory and constitutional authority to oust President Zelaya for his constitutional violations. On the other hand sits the United States Government, namely President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton: a persuasive behemoth that considers the ousting of Zelaya to be a coup and, thus, has sanctioned the court. [Wall Street Journal, Hillary's Honduras Obsession].

A threat to the independence of a judiciary is a threat to democracy itself. As Ahron Barak, the former president of the Supreme Court of Israel and a prominent legal scholar, once wrote: “Judicial independence is a central component of any democracy and is crucial to separation of powers, the rule of law and human rights.”

There will come a day when a court will have absolute independence from those who oppose its judgments. Although this judiciary will be an independent entity as to “foreign” governments, there will be no independence of it from its own legislative and executive branches because it will not be a democracy. As Isaiah wrote, “For the LORD is our judge, the LORD is our lawgiver, the LORD is our king; it is he who will save us.” (33:22, NIV).

September 23, 2009

[Morning Walk] Joyfully Boast of Weakness: 2 Corinthians 12

by Bethany

 Today’s Readings: 2 Samuel 19, 2 Corinthians 12

As much as I love New York City, there is one thing about it that I cannot stand: people’s inability and refusal to talk about their weaknesses.

Most of us are quite adept at talking about our wonderful degrees from fancy schools, or our clever eye for fashion, or the amazing and upwardly mobile job that we’ve acquired. Yet, for all of our boasting, we avoid the mention of weaknesses. In fact, when asked during interviews, “What are your weaknesses?”, we avoid offering real weaknesses (e.g., “I’m chronically tardy to meetings”) by offering masked strengths (e.g., “I’m a perfectionist,” or “I’m a workaholic.”).

The Apostle Paul, however, had a very different view of his weaknesses. Rather than hiding his weaknesses, he would boast about them in order to magnify Christ’s strength:

Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take [the thorn in my flesh] away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

How does boasting about our weaknesses highlight God’s power?

When we joyfully boast about our weaknesses, we exhibit (at least) two things: (1) that our success is not fundamentally rooted in our ability to succeed (for who can succeed in the face of all these weaknesses?), and (2) that our happiness is not dependent on our having strengths (for who would be happy with all these weaknesses?). In this way, we show that we define success in terms of knowing Christ and that our happiness is based on Him. In both manners, He is magnified by our joy in Him.

Do you joyfully boast about your weaknesses? Do you say, “You know, I’m naturally a gossip and rarely have control over my tongue. In general, I’m a mess! But, today, the power of God worked in my life because I never spoke ill of anyone or spoke a half-truth! Praise be to the Lord because that is not my will but His at work in me!”

Let us joyfully boast about our weaknesses so that Christ is magnified in our midst!

September 22, 2009

[843 acres] Women and Happiness

by amyjuliabecker

In the New York Times, Maureen Dowd reports, “the more women have achieved, the more they seem aggrieved. Did the feminist revolution end up benefiting men more than women? According to the General Social Survey, which has tracked Americans’ mood since 1972, and five other major studies around the world, women are getting gloomier and men are getting happier.” (Blue is the new Black) She goes on to explain that, as women have continued to participate in family life (even with men taking a greater share of the household responsibilities) and as they have also found success in the workplace, their happiness has decreased. Dowd concludes that women’s stress levels have risen because their choices in life have increased.

So, does this all lead to the conclusion that a woman’s place is in the home? That women just can’t handle the stress of both family and work? I hope not.

There are Biblical examples (few, but present nonetheless) of working women who handle household and professional responsibilities (see Proverbs 31: 10-31 and Acts 16:14). But the problem goes deeper than the question of work and home. It is a problem of identity, and a problem of accepting our limitations as human beings who cannot “do it all” all the time. It is a problem – male and female – from the beginning.

Genesis 3 tells the story of that first man and woman who wanted to overcome their God-given limitations and know the difference between good and evil without asking God for direction. This independent choice led to misery. So should women leave the workplace in order to become happier? Or, should we all – male and female – accept our limitations? Should we all – male and female – learn what it means to receive our value from our Creator rather than from our productivity?

September 22, 2009

[843 acres] Obama’s Nontax Tax

by Bethany

On “This Week” on Sunday, President Obama talked with George Stephanopoulos about the Senate health care bill and everyone’s “individual mandate” to either buy health insurance or pay a penalty. [Wall Street Journal, Obama's Nontax Tax]. When Mr. Stephanopoulos called a spade a spade (or, in this case, a tax a tax), the President rejected the notion. So, Mr. Stephanopoulos pulled out the dictionary:

“I don’t think I’m making it up,” Mr. Stephanopoulos said. He then had the temerity to challenge the Philologist in Chief, with an assist from Merriam-Webster. He cited that dictionary’s definition of “tax” – “a charge, usually of money, imposed by authority on persons or property for public purposes.”

Mr. Obama: “George, the fact that you looked up Merriam’s Dictionary, the definition of tax increase, indicates to me that you’re stretching a little bit right now. . . .”

Really? Although I believe that Mr. Obama is a very smart man, this is a very poor argument. Every lawyer – including Mr. Obama – knows that language can be manipulated and, thus, resorting to a common definition from a public source can be appropriate. No wonder people hate lawyers – whether they’re manipulating the word “tax” (Obama) or the word “sex” (Clinton)!

Just as it is wise to be cautious of populist politicians, it is also wise to be cautious of populist teachers of the Bible.  The Apostle Paul warns two different churches of people who seek to bend the truth of the gospel: “By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people” (Romans 16:18) and “I tell you the truth so that no one may deceive you with fine-sounding arguments” (Colossians 2:4).

Let us not be manipulated in any realm – the political or the spiritual – by eloquent speech. But rather, let us be discerning thinkers who seek the Lord and His truth.

September 22, 2009

Good Anger

by Neal

The Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting started today in New York City and a point of focus is Investing in Girls and Women.   The New York Times Magazine recently had a special issue, Saving the World’s Women, with one article describing the story of Abbas Be, a teenage girl from Hyderabad, India:

Money was tight in her family, so when she was about 14 she arranged to take a job as a maid in the capital, New Delhi. Instead, she was locked up in a brothel, beaten with a cricket bat, gang-raped and told that she would have to cater to customers.

The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo documents just a few stories of women who were raped in the Congo over the past twelve years; all told, an estimated 200,000 women and girls have been raped.

I burn with anger when I read about such injustice.  How can you not??  Psalm 97:10 says, “Let those who love the Lord hate evil,” and Jesus reacted with anger when the temple was turned into a marketplace (John 2:13-16).  We’re supposed to get angry when we learn about evil.  Such anger, though, should spur us on to love and good works.  It should raise in us a desire to fight for the oppressed.  Justin Dillon, a musician, was lead to make a film to raise awareness about modern slavery.  What makes you mad and what will you do about it?

September 22, 2009

[Morning Walk] Idolater or Worshiper : 2 Samuel 18

by Bethany

Today’s Readings: 2 Samuel 18, 2 Corinthians 11

At the young age of thirty-two, I have had five friends die. One died in a boating accident, two in car accidents, one due to kidney failure, and another committed suicide. To this day, I have never witnessed anything more heart-breaking than the grieving process of parents over the death of their child. Some describe this loss as the “ultimate test” for families. [ABC News, Death of a Child the Ultimate Test for Families].

Today, in 2 Samuel 18, we read of King David’s reaction to the news of the death of his son Absalom:

The king was shaken. He went up to the room over the gateway and wept. As he wept, he said: “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you – O Absalom, my son, my son!”

Absalom died because he was a rebel against the king – his father David. Although David specifically asked his soldiers to protect Absalom, one of the men disregarded the request and “plunged [three javelins] into Absalom’s heart while Absalom was still alive.” 14. NIV.

Prior to his death, Absalom drove his father David out of the palace and into the wilderness. While in the wilderness, David wrote Psalm 63:

Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. 3. NIV.

Better than life? Even the life of his son Absalom?

By drawing David into the wilderness, the Lord showed David that His love was better than anything that life had to offer – better than food, friends, time, city culture, toys, iPhones, computers, music, homes, sunsets, colors, poverty work, etc. These are, of course, good things that result from the love of God. But, to the extent our love for God is rooted in the gifts that He gives us and not in Him, we are idolaters and not worshipers.

This wilderness was necessary to prepare David for the loss of his son. Of course, it did not relieve David of his intense grief over the loss of his son, but it did give him a proper foundation by which to view it.

So, do you thank God for the wilderness in your life – when He’s stripping away things from you so that you’ll know whether you love Him for Himself or His gifts?

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