Archive for October, 2009

October 30, 2009

[843 acres] Seeing Color

by Perryn Pettus

According to Ansel Adams, life was best viewed in black and white. He valued the ability to manipulate black and white photographs to the precise reality in which he saw it, but feared that there was no process capable of depicting the nuance of color and detail that could be captured by the human eye. Toward the end of Adams’ life, he began to dabble in color photography but never reached a full sense of achievement with this medium for his artwork. Adams once wrote, “I have yet to see — much less produce — a color photograph that fulfills my concepts of the objectives of art.” [TIME, Ansel Adams: The Black-and-White Master, in Color

Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 13:12 provide a similar hope. After writing the famous “love” passage that is often read at weddings (see 1 Corinthians 13:1-11), he suggests – in the terms of Ansel Adams – that right now our love is in black and white but one day it will be in color:

“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.” NIV.

Our earthly eyes translate a mere black and white photograph because they aren’t able to see the brilliant glory that awaits. In Revelation, John gives a glimpse of the radiance we will see when His face shines as brightly as the sun. Revelation 1:16 (“…His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance”).

We will see things as they are supposed to be: in full color, complete with beauty, magnificence, splendor and every detail pronounced!

October 30, 2009

[Morning Walk] Perfunctory Love: 2 Timothy 2

by Bethany

Today’s Readings: 2 Kings 11 & 12, 2 Timothy 2

When I envision getting engaged, I imagine that it will be a beautiful and memorable moment in which my boyfriend tells me how much he loves me and how he can’t wait to spend the rest of our lives together.

I definitely do not imagine that he tell me that we should get married because we’re of the appropriate age to do so or because our friends and family expect it given how long we’ve dated. If he did, I would walk run away and not look back. After all, love should not be perfunctory and appropriate, but rather spontaneous and passionate. Right?

Paul writes to Timothy,

Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything. ESV.

On the one hand, there is knowledge of God that leads to a cold love because it is perfunctory and appropriate. On the other hand, however, there is also passionate zeal for God that “is not according to knowledge” (Romans 10:2).

How can our knowledge of God and our passion for God merge? We must “reason together” (Isaiah 1:18) and we must “not be [children] in [our] thinking” but rather “mature” (1 Corinthians 14:20).

Deep and serious questions arise in the human life – questions about suffering, duty, delight, money, or career advancement. Although the world has certain answers to these questions, only “the Lord will give you understanding in everything.”

October 29, 2009

[843 acres] There’s Never Any Time

by Bethany

This stopped me in my tracks today …

“One of the great uses of Twitter and Facebook
will be to prove at the Last Day that prayerlessness was not from lack of time.”
– John Piper via Twitter, 10/20/2009

If lack of time is not my reason, then what is?

October 29, 2009

[843 acres] Perversion of Human Sexuality

by Neal

“Gangs used to sell drugs. Now many of them have shifted to selling girls because it’s just as lucrative but far less risky.” – Detective Kelly O’Connell, former head of the human-trafficking unit, Boston Police Department.

“[Convicted pimps] said they went after girls with low self-esteem, prior sexual experience and a lack of options … It all depends on her being so love-drunk off of me that she will do anything for me … The problem is that there is no methadone for a bad relationship.” – Ian Urbina, New York Times columnist

After reading these reflections in For Runaways, Sex Buys Survival, I was a combination of sad, angry and hopeless. Not only are adults being sold for sex against their wills, but so are children!  Why?  Because there’s a business for it – people actually pay for sex … with minors.  Despicable.

This perversion of human sexuality is a result of our sin. In Romans 1, Paul tells us that humans were given over to the “sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another,” “shameful lusts” and “to a depraved mind to do what ought not to be done.”

But, we need not be controlled by these desires. Rather, the Good News is that God sent Jesus to forgive our sins.  Whereas the teenagers in the article had no home and faced bad relationships, Luke 15 tells us how God, our Father, welcomes us home: “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”

October 29, 2009

[Morning Walk] The “Withness” of God: 1 Kings 10 & 2 Timothy 1

by Joy

Today’s Readings: 1 Kings 10, 2 Timothy 1

Stories of the opulence and genius of Solomon wound their way into the Queen of Sheba’s court. So, she set out to see for herself by testing Solomon with hard questions and examining his worth. What she found in Solomon and his palace had no rival:

She said to the king, “The report I heard in my own country about your achievements and your wisdom is true. But I did not believe these things until I came and saw with my own eyes. Indeed, not even half was told me; in wisdom and wealth you have far exceeded the report I heard” (10: 6-7, NIV).

She continued,

How happy your men must be! How happy your officials, who continually stand before you and placed you on the throne of Israel. Because of the Lord’s eternal love for Israel, he has made you king, to maintain justice and righteousness” (10:8-10, NIV).

At first blush, it seems that the takeaway of this passage is that our prosperity will lead others to God (not great news for those of us without lucrative jobs!). But Jesus’ view of Solomon’s wealth takes a different turn.

Jesus refers to Solomon in his instructions on not worrying:

And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor and spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was not dressed like one of these” (Matthew 6:28-9, NIV).

What becomes apparent from these passages is that God is deeply involved the reality of these stories. Solomon is king because God made him king – even the Queen of Sheba acknowledged this truth. It is God’s “withness” that is the ultimate reality. God’s “withness” and his care are our reality.

God has not changed and will not change. It is “because of the Lord’s eternal love for Israel” and “because of his own purpose and grace” that he is with us (2 Timothy 1:8-9). And not only with us but also in control to make us beautiful reflections of His provision and glory.

October 28, 2009

[843 acres] That They All May Be One

by amyjuliabecker

Recently, the Catholic Church invited Anglicans to join their communion as fellow believers. The media coverage of this invitation betrays cynicism (at best) and hostility (at worst).

According to Harriet Barovick of TIME, the announcement is merely a cunning move by the Vatican. The opening lines of her short article (entitled, “Papal Power Play“) read: “In an apparent bid to boost its ranks by capitalizing on a rival’s internal friction … “

Rachel Donadio of the New York Times isn’t quite as callous. On the one hand, she echoes Barovick’s perspective by arguing that Pope Benedict desires “to bring in traditional believers at all costs.” On the other hand, by approaching the issue from a marriage-celibacy perspective, she wonders whether this move will paradoxically liberalize the Catholic church (although “married priests are permitted in the eastern Catholic rites,” and have been for quite some time) [Offer Raises Idea of Marriage for Catholic Priests].

Certainly, such unity is possible even within a multiplicity of denominations and traditions. After all, Jesus prayed for the people:

My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. John 17:20-23, NIV.

Perhaps Pope Benedict is not out for power but actually cares about Christian unity? Perhaps he wants the world to know of God’s love?

October 28, 2009

[Morning Walk] The Love of Money: 1 Timothy 6

by Bethany

Today’s Readings: 2 Kings 9, 1 Timothy 6

The Park Forum exists to promote Biblical literacy in the urban church. One of the reasons that we believe Biblical literacy is so important is because, if we don’t read the Bible carefully, we can misunderstand important points that it makes.

For example, in 1 Timothy 6, Paul writes:

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. 1 Timothy 6:10, NIV.

Yet, according to George Barna, 49% of Americans believe that the Bible teaches that money itself (not the love of it) is the root of all evil. So, why is this difference so important?

Paul is not warning against our desire to earn money so that we can better meet needs – both for us and others. Rather, he is warning against our desire to love money for the ego it brings and the material things that it provides.

And why shouldn’t we love money? Paul gives three reasons: (1) because there is no storage in heaven (“For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it” – v. 7), (2) because simplicity is possible (“But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that” – v. 8), and (3)  because pursuing riches leads to ruin and destruction (“People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction” – v. 9).

Let us throw off these many “griefs” by not loving money. Rather, let us love God and use the currency of money to love Him more and pursue His purposes. After all, everything comes from Him anyway (“But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand” – 1 Chronicles 29:14).

October 27, 2009

[843 acres] Natural Disasters

by amyjuliabecker

“Acts of God” – hurricanes, fires, floods – are in the news daily, particularly when individual lives and the traces of civilization are wiped out. Christians wrestle to understand God’s presence in the face of such disasters.

In the current issue of the New Yorker, Christine Kenneally reports on the fires that decimated miles of Australia earlier this year. She describes the 300 foot fire wall and the burned homes. In one case, she writes, “police found a house with the remains of nine bodies: eight adults had formed a protective huddle around a baby.” [The Inferno].

What do we make of such devastation? What do we make of a dead baby? On the one hand, creation is fallen and this world is not as God planned. On the other hand, God could have stopped the fire.

I don’t understand. And yet there are some things I know. I know that God is just, merciful, loving, and compassionate, that He suffered for us and suffers with us, and that He restores and redeems:

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Romans 8:22-24, NIV.

Perhaps the proper response is to participate in the groaning – not the groaning that leads to death but rather the groaning of childbirth that leads to life. I may not understand fully, but I can hope for and await the redemption that is to come.

October 27, 2009

[Morning Walk] Secret Giving (or Not): 1 Timothy 5

by Bethany

Today’s Readings: 2 Kings 8, 1 Timothy 5

In the New York financial market, profits and bonuses are returning. [New York Magazine, A Fair Question: even monkeys might resent the return of record profits - and record bonuses - on Wall Street]. And I imagine that many of you are excited to become “cheerful givers” with your new items of stewardship.

As Christians, how should we handle our financial giving? Unfortunately, as most difficult (and meaningful) issues of obedience are, the issue of financial giving must be lived in the tension between two dangers.

On the one hand, we cannot be so private that we miss the opportunity to encourage one another to admire Jesus by the way we live. To this danger,

Jesus says: You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:14-16).

Paul says: Let your gentleness be evident to all (Philippians 4:5). In the same way, good deeds are obvious, and even those that are not cannot be hidden (1 Timothy 5:25).

Peter says: For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men (1 Peter 2:15).

On the other hand, we must be careful about what deeds we want to show and why we want to show them. Not all good deeds should be seen, and no good thing should be seen in order to advance our own recognition and praise. To this danger,

Jesus says: But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. (Matthew 6:3-4). And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full (Matthew 6:5). When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full (Matthew 6:16).

In order to live well between these two dangers, we must ask the Lord for wisdom and humility. We must dig deeply into our heart’s motivation and find out what it is we truly want.

October 26, 2009

[843 acres] A Designer’s Challenge

by Perryn Pettus

A recent article explored designer Ron Marvin’s transformation of a New York City apartment from a child’s playpen to a more sophisticated grown-up space. The article vividly described the interaction between Mr. Marvin and his client as well as revealed the frustration that arose during the course of the renovation and redecoration. The client, Andrea Sperling, said, “being a creative person, I have my own visions” and “[i]t was hard to be trusting because it wouldn’t be about me anymore.” [Redecorating Isn't Always Pretty, New York Times]

I can feel Mr. Marvin’s pain. As a designer myself, I am charged with making old things look new and bringing beauty to something otherwise deemed unsightly and undesirable. Yet, I often encounter distrusting and hesitant clients who are reticent to trust me because they cannot visualize the outcome as I can.

Doesn’t God feel the same way with His children? We have our own creative visions of what is best and we find it hard to trust in God because doing so suddenly shifts the control from us.

Scripture is full of promises that He is the Great Designer. He formed and created us. [Psalm 139:13For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.] He assures us of His design and workmanship in us, [Ephesians 2:10 For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.] and promises that His vision is best. [Romans 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.] And, He declares to make old things new and beautiful. [2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!]

God’s vision far outreaches the depths of our creativity. We lack the imagination to envision what He can do. Let us trust Him to implement the renovation according to His perfect design.

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