Archive for June, 2013

June 28, 2013

843 Acres: Is the Bible’s Teaching on Sexuality “Good News”?

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Deut 33-34 (text | audio, 6:36 min)
Ps 119:145-176 (text | audio, 2:54 min)
Highlighted: Ps 119:162

Word: When we agree with the Scriptures, it seems easy to celebrate with the Psalmist, “I rejoice at your word like one who finds great spoil” [1]. We frequently return to our favorite promises—that nothing can separate us from God’s love [2] or that He has plans to give us a hope and a future [3]. When the Bible says hard or unpopular things, however, do we equally rejoice at His word? Can we honestly say that it is “good news” in all parts?

Sexuality: On Saturday, Professor Dale Kuehne, author of Sex and the iWorld, spoke at Trinity Grace Church about sexuality in the modern age. He said that he once debated Bishop Gene Robinson, the first openly gay priest in the Episcopal Church, about same-sex marriage. At the outset of the debate, Kuehne said that he did not think the Bible supported same-sex marriage. Robinson agreed, but then shifted the conversation. He said that the Bible was not about science and history, but about love and grace. For the next ninety minutes, said Kuehne, everyone wanted to know why he was such a bigot. “What went wrong?” he wondered. Upon reflection, Kuehne realized, “I did not have the language to explain to the world what I believe to be true—that the Christian teaching about sexuality is good news” [4].

Spoil: The Christian teaching on sexuality is an extremely controversial topic today. Instead of rejoicing in it as “one who finds great spoil”, our culture mocks it as backwards and rejects it as judgmental. How are we, as Christians, approaching it? Are we embarrassed by it? Do we primarily talk about it as “moral law”, not “good news”? Is our rejoicing in it primarily a rejoicing in our own righteousness or a rejoicing in God’s gracious love that shows us how to live in full relational flourishing with Him and others?

Prayer: Lord, Your law is perfect, reviving the soul. Yet we confess that we sometimes struggle to see all parts of your law as good news. When it comes to your teaching on sexuality, for example, some of us feel embarrassed by it and others of us feel righteous about it. Show us how to engage our culture in life-giving conversations about difficult topics like sexuality. May we rejoice at your word, even when it is hard or unpopular, like one who finds great spoil. Amen.

Note: Unfortunately, our limit of 400 words renders our ability to deal fully with this subject inadequate. If you’re interested in learning more about why the biblical teaching on sexuality is good news, check out Sex and the iWorld. Also, you can read a fuller debrief of the event at bethanyjenkins.com.

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Footnotes

[1] Psalm 119:162 ESV | [2] Romans 8:39 ESV | [3] Jeremiah 29:11

June 27, 2013

843 Acres: Throwback Thursdays: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Psalms

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Deut 32 (text | audio, 7:34 min)
Ps 119:121-144 (text | audio, 2:06 min)
Highlighted: Ps 119:130

The unfolding of your words gives light;
it imparts understanding to the simple.

Psalm 119:130

“The Law” – an excerpt from Psalms: The Prayerbook of the Bible by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Introductory Note: “As his role in the conspiracy developed, Bonhoeffer continued his pastoral work and his writings. He would write until the last months of his life, but the last book he published in his lifetime was The Prayerbook of the Bible, which appeared in 1940.” (Eric Metaxas, Bonhoeffer.)

The three Psalms [1] which in a special way make the law of God the object of thanks, praise and petition seek to show us, above all, the blessing of the law. Under “law”, then, is to be understood usually the entire salvation act of God and the direction for a new life of obedience. Joy in the law and in the commands of God comes to us if God has given the great new direction to our life through Jesus Christ. That God could at one time conceal his command from me [2], that he could allow me one day not to recognize his will, is the deepest anxiety of the new life.

It is grace to know God’s commands. They release us from self-made plans and conflicts. They make our steps certain and our way joyful. God gives his commands in order that we may fulfill them, and “his commandments are not burdensome” [3] for him who has found all salvation in Jesus Christ. Jesus has himself been under the law and has fulfilled it in total obedience to the Father. God’s will becomes his joy, his nourishment. So he gives thanks in us for the grace of the law and grants to us joy in its fulfillment. Now we confess our love for the law, we affirm that we gladly keep it, and we ask that we may continue to be kept blameless in it. We do that not in our own power, but we pray it in the name of Jesus Christ who is for us and in us.

Psalm 119 becomes especially difficult for us, perhaps, because of its length and monotony. In this case, a rather slow, quiet, patient advance from word to word, from sentence to sentence, is helpful. Then we recognize that apparent repetitions are always new variations on one theme, namely the love of God’s word. As this love can never cease, so also the words which confess it can never cease. They want to accompany us through all of life, and they become in their simplicity the prayer of the child, of the young man, and of the old man.

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Footnotes

[1] Psalms 1, 19, 119 | [2] Psalm 119:19 | [3] 1 John 5:3

June 26, 2013

843 Acres: Floating God’s Authority on God’s Love

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Deut 31 (text | audio, 5:10 min)
Ps 119:97-120 (text | audio, 2:12 min)
Highlighted: Ps 119:102, 112

Contextualization: “When we enter a culture,” writes Tim Keller, “we should be looking for two kinds of beliefs. The first are what I call ‘A’ beliefs, which are beliefs people already hold that, because of God’s common grace, roughly correspond to some parts of biblical teaching. Because of their ‘A’ beliefs, people are predisposed to find plausible some of the Bible’s teaching (which we may call ‘A’ doctrines). However, we will also find ‘B’ beliefs … beliefs of the culture that lead listeners to find some Christian doctrines implausible or overtly offensive. ‘B’ beliefs contradict Christian truth directly at points we may call ‘B’ doctrines” [1].

Love and Authority: In our culture, what the Bible says about God’s love is welcome (an ‘A’ belief). Even nonbelievers love to hear Bono say things like, “I think I know what God is. God is love” [2]. This is an ‘A’ doctrine, a direct quote from 1 John 4:8. What the Bible says about God’s authority, however, is unwelcome (a ‘B’ belief). Many verses in Psalm 119, for example, celebrate God’s authority and word, e.g., “I do not turn aside from your rules, for you have taught me” [3], or “I incline my heart to perform your statutes forever, to the end” [4].

Floating: How can we speak compellingly about ‘B’ doctrines in our culture? Keller says, “We need to ‘float’ ‘B’ doctrines on top of ‘A’ doctrines.” That is, we need to show that ‘A’ and ‘B’ doctrines are equally true and interdependent. In The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis floats God’s authority on God’s love: “You asked for a loving God: you have one … not a senile benevolence that drowsily wishes you to be happy in your own way … but the consuming fire Himself, the Love that made the worlds … provident and venerable as a father’s love for a child, jealous, inexorable, exacting as love between the sexes.” In other words, God is love, but His love is not dispassionate. He uses His authority to guide us and make us into fully flourishing human beings.

Prayer: Lord, Your love and authority are complementary, not contradictory, for you love us passionately. We confess, however, that our hearts often ask the same question that the serpent asked in the garden, “Did God really say …?” We question the loving quality of your commands. Reform us and incline our hearts to perform your statutes forever, to the end. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Tim Keller. Center Church. | [2] Bono. As quoted in Bono: In Conversation with Michka Assayas. | [3] Psalm 119:102 ESV | [4] Psalm 119:112 ESV

June 25, 2013

843 Acres: Tweetable Tuesdays: Love Is Not Lack of Work

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Deut 30 (text | audio, 3:10 min)
Ps 119:73-96 (text | audio, 2:28 min)
Highlighted: Ps 119:93-94

Discerning Brokenness

Ben Affleck caught some flak earlier this year when he referred to his marriage to Jennifer Garner as “work”. http://nyti.ms/11LFPmY

True love makes no harsh demands. It neither rules nor binds. And true love holds with gentle hands. The hearts that it entwines. #unknown

Imagining Redemption

What’s the environment that frees us if we confine ourselves to it? “Love. Love is the most liberating freedom-loss of all.” @timkellernyc

I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have given me life. I am yours; save me, for I have sought your precepts. Psalm 119:93-4

Think about what God’s love is like. God does not benignly gaze on you in affirmation. God cares too much to be unconditional. #DavidPowlison

“Safe? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” #MrBeaver #Narnia #CSL

Praying ACTS

Lord, You are love and, when you love us, we are changed for your love has a normative character about it. #adoration

Lord, We confess we often struggle to embrace your love because, in its relentless pursuit of us, it sometimes chisels us. #confession

Lord, Thank you for fighting for us and also for fighting us. For being patient with our sinful, suffering and confused hearts. #thanks

Lord, May we know your jealous and conditional love for us, which is based on what Christ has done, so that we may be changed. #supplication

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June 24, 2013

843 Acres: Freedom Is Not a Lack of Restrictions

by Bethany

843 Acres: Freedom Is Not a Lack of Restrictions
M’Cheyne: Deut 29 (text | audio, 3:32 min)
Ps 119:49-72 (text | audio, 2:02 min)
Highlighted: Ps 119:37, 45

Freedom: When we think about freedom, we almost always think about it in its negative sense—freedom from. In his 1958 lecture, “Two Concepts of Liberty,” Isaiah Berlin distinguished between negative and positive freedom. “Negative freedom, as Berlin defines it, is freedom from—in essence, freedom from interference and constraint. Positive freedom is freedom for—in essence, freedom for excellence according to whatever vision and ideals define that excellence” [1]. What happens when we divorce the two freedoms and only think about freedom in its negative sense?

Essence: True freedom includes both the negative and the positive sense. As Os Guinness writes, “Neither positive nor negative freedom is complete without the other. They each describe complementary sides of the same full freedom, which always rests on two conditions: the complete absence of any abuse of power, which is the essence of negative freedom, and a vision of a positive way of life, which is the essence of positive freedom. In a free society understood in this way, free citizens are neither prevented from doing what they should (the denial of positive freedom) nor forced to do what they shouldn’t (the denial of negative freedom)” [2]. For example, he says, the American Revolution was both freedom from the British and freedom for the American experiment.

Bound: The Psalmist celebrates full freedom: “Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways … I will keep your law continually, forever and ever, and I shall walk in a wide place, for I have sought your precepts” [3]. In other words, he is seeking freedom from the ensnarement of worthless things that demand his worship and freedom for the joy of running in the statutes of God and seeking the Lord with his whole heart. This is true freedom.

Prayer: Lord, We confess that true freedom is not a lack of restrictions; it is finding the right restrictions that fit our being. Like fish that find true freedom within the confines of the fish bowl and die when “liberated” from those constraints, we, too, seek true freedom within the loving confines of your statutes. For that is where we find true freedom—freedom from living as slaves to sin and freedom for living as children of God. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Os Guinness. A Free People’s Suicide: Sustainable Freedom and the American Future. (To see a 45-minute video of Guinness speaking on this book at Socrates in the City in NYC, click here.) | [2] Id. | [3] Psalm 119:37, 45 ESV

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