Posts tagged ‘deuteronomy’

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

June 21, 2013

843 Acres: Let’s Admit It: We All Hate God

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Deut 26 (text | audio, 3:32 min)
Ps 117-118 (text | audio, 3:00 min)
Highlighted: Ps 118:22

Repression: Aldous Huxley confessed that he was an atheist partly for “non-intellectual reasons” [1]. He wrote, “I had motives for not wanting the world to have meaning, consequently assumed that it had none, and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption. The philosopher who finds no meaning in the world is not concerned exclusively with a problem in pure metaphysics, he is also concerned to prove that there is no valid reason why he personally should not do as he wants to do … For myself, the philosophy of meaningless was essentially an instrument of liberation”.

Cornerstone: Jesus told a parable about a landowner who hired tenants to work his vineyard while he was away. In his absence, however, they began to think of themselves as owners, not tenants. When the landowner sent messengers to collect his profits, the tenants beat them and sent them away empty-handed. Finally, he sent his son, hoping they would respect him. Instead, they killed him, thinking they might inherit the vineyard. Jesus asked, “What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others.” Then he quoted Psalm 118: “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone” [2].

Spirit: Like Huxley and the tenants, all of us have non-intellectual reasons for wanting to reject God. We want to live freely; we want to be owners, not tenants. Paul says that our natural minds are “hostile to God” [3]. Our hostility may be overt—we reject him—or subtle—we try to avoid sinning altogether so that we do not have to admit that we need his grace. By the Spirit, however, we come out of our stupor of repression. As Tim Keller says, we know that we are Christians when we see that sin is “not just a violation of this or that rule or regulation, but a whole attitude of resentment toward the crown claims of Christ over your life” [4].

Prayer: Lord, Jesus is the stone that we have rejected. We have hated him. Yet, in your great mercy, instead of destroying us, you destroyed him. You crushed him and, thereby, made him the cornerstone of our faith. Open our eyes to see our rebellion against you so that we may, in turn, embrace your good claims over our lives. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Aldous Huxley. Ends and Means. | [2] Psalm 118:22 ESV | [3] Romans 8:7 ESV | [4] Tim Keller. The Parable of the Last Messenger. Sermon. August 28, 1994.

June 20, 2013

843 Acres: The Denial of Death

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Deut 25 (text | audio, 2:45 min)
Ps 116 (text | audio, 1:49 min)
Highlighted: Ps 116:15

Death: When his neighbor’s three-year-old nephew suddenly died, recalls philosopher Peter Kreeft, his neighbor’s seven-year-old son asked his mother, “Where is my cousin now?” She did not believe in an afterlife, but she had read a book about how to tell children that death was “natural”. Its reasoning made sense to her, so she answered, “Your cousin has gone back to the earth, where we all came from. All of nature is a cycle. Death is a natural part of that cycle. When you see the earth put forth new flowers next spring, you can know that your cousin’s life is fertilizing those flowers.” He screamed, “I don’t want him to be fertilizer!” and then ran off. [1].

Unnatural: Death is not natural. We know this instinctively. Books that teach otherwise, said one New York Times reviewer, “try to diffuse the finality, the fearfulness” [2]. Ultimately, Kreeft says, “The first face of death is that of an enemy. If death does not first appear to us as an enemy, then it cannot appear truly as a friend, or as anything greater than a friend. Death cannot immediately appear as a friend. Death cannot be a friend; it can only become a friend, after first being an enemy. Otherwise, it is not death that is a friend, but something else we confuse with death, such as sleep, or rest, or peace”

Friend: How can we reconcile, however, seeing death as our enemy with reading the words of the Psalmist: “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints”? [3] In the gospel, we celebrate the death of death in the death of Christ. Jesus did not destroy death, but he obliterated its sting so that death no longer has the final word over our life. Instead, it has become our friend that leads us into eternal life. As the poet George Herbert said, “An executioner at best; thou art a gard’ner now, and more, an usher to convey our souls beyond the utmost stars and poles” [4].

Prayer: Lord, We admit that death is unnatural, that you did not create us to die. When sin came into the world, however, death entered into our reality. It is our enemy. In Christ, however, we rejoice that death has become our friend for it brings us into the fullness of your presence. Let us hate death, but love eternal life. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Peter Kreeft. Love Is Stronger Than Death. | [2] Id. | [3] Psalm 116:15 ESV | [4] George Herbert. “Time.” The Temple. (1633)

June 19, 2013

843 Acres: Divorce Is An Amputation

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Deut 24 (text | audio, 3:14 min)
Ps 114-115 (text | audio, 2:16 min)
Highlighted: Deut 24:1

Marriage: “There’s no relationship between human beings that is greater or more important than marriage,” writes Tim Keller. “In the Bible’s account, God himself officiates the first wedding [1]. And when the man sees the woman, he breaks into poetry and exclaims, ‘At last!’ Everything in the text proclaims that marriage, next to our relationship to God, is the most profound relationship there is” [2]. Many of us, however, struggle to hold such a high view of marriage because we live in an age that aims to devalue it—even our own laws try to make it somewhat easy to dissolve. In 2010, New York became the last state to enact “no-fault divorce” legislation and, when Governor Paterson signed it into law, he said, “Finally, New York has brought its divorce laws into the 21st century” [3].

Divorce: Biblical grounds for divorce, however, are limited. In Deuteronomy 24, Moses allowed for divorce upon some showing of “indecency” [4]. When Jesus was asked about this, he replied, “Because of your hardness of heart, Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery” [5]. Paul later allowed divorce for abandonment, too [6]. Biblical grounds for divorce are limited because, when man marries a woman, Jesus says they become “one flesh” [7]. There is a deep oneness and unity between them. Therefore, Keller says, “Divorce is an amputation” [8].

Final: Since it is an amputation, he continues, divorce is “sometimes necessary for life”. In other words, he says, the teaching is that, although divorce can happen, does happen and can be survived, it should not be entered into lightly. Like amputation, divorce should be an extreme and last resort, not a first (or second or third or …?) response. As Ruth Graham jokingly responded when someone asked her whether she had ever contemplated divorce, “Divorce? No. Murder? Yes” [9].

Prayer: Lord, Our legal efforts to make the dissolution of marriage easier cannot destroy the deep oneness that you have given it. For you created it and, by your power, you sustain it and redeem it. Give us the vision to have high views of marriage and, when it is necessary, to walk humbly and compassionately with one another through divorce. For the sake of your great name. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Genesis 2:22-25 | [2] Tim Keller. The Meaning of Marriage. | [3] Paterson Signs No-Fault Divorce Bill. New York Times. N.Y. / Region. August 15, 2010. | [4] Deuteronomy 24:1 | [5] Matthew 19:9 ESV | [6] See 1 Corinthians 7:15. | [7] Matthew 19:6 ESV | [8] Tim Keller. “Marriage, Divorce and Singleness.” Sermon. April 22, 1990. | [9] Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy. “Ruth Graham, Soulmate to Billy, Dies.” TIME. June 14, 2007.

June 18, 2013

843 Acres: Tweetable Tuesday: Disenfranchised Grief

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Deut 23 (text | audio, 3:32 min)
Ps 112-113 (text | audio, 1:05 min)
Psalm 113 (text | audio, 0:45 min)
Highlighted: Ps 113:9

Discerning Brokenness

“The grief hit me in my mid-30s without warning … I now know the grief was over being childless.” @savvyauntie http://ow.ly/lWtU9

“I grieved alone … Grief over childlessness for a single woman in her 30s & 40s is not as accepted.” @savvyauntie http://ow.ly/lWtU9

Year by year, Peninnah provoked Hannah to irritate her because the Lord had closed her womb. And Hannah wept and would not eat. 1Sam1

Imagining Redemption

He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children. Praise the Lord! Psalm 113:9

Sing, barren woman … because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband, says the LORD. Isaiah 54:1

Ultimate fulfillment of ‘the barren woman’ is in the new birth through faith in Christ. God can bring life out of a dead womb. @timkellernyc

Praying ACTS

Lord, You delight to bring life from death, strength from weakness. When you do these things, you get the glory, we get the good. #adoration

Lord, When we come to you with honest disenfranchised grief, we confess that we often are confused; we doubt your goodness. #confession

Lord, Thank you for always choosing the weak, unlearned, barren, poor, orphan. For it shows your might, wisdom, sufficiency, love. #thanks

Lord, Make us a people who honestly admit our longings, but then turn in hope to the redemption of our souls in Christ. #supplication

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June 17, 2013

843 Acres: Whether There Is a God

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Dt 22 (text | audio, 4:23 min)
Ps 110-111 (text | audio, 1:58 min)
Highlighted: Ps 110:1

Question: “The most boring and unproductive question one can ask of any religion,” writes Alain de Botton, author of Religion for Atheists, “is whether or not it is true” [1]. He continues, “Unfortunately, recent public discussions on religion have focused obsessively on precisely this issue, with a hardcore group of fanatical believers pitting themselves against an equally small band of fanatical atheists.” Instead of asking whether a religion is true, then, perhaps we could ask more engaging questions, e.g., “Is it possible to know whether there is a God?”

Jesus: In this discussion, there are many things to consider (e.g., the five senses, the theory of knowledge). We also might want to ask about the people who have claimed to know God or, even, be him. In their gospels, Matthew and Mark write that, as the religious establishment grew increasingly wary of Jesus, they tried to discredit him by asking him controversial questions, e.g., “Should we pay taxes to Caesar?” His responses were so insightful that even his dissenters found them compelling. Yet Jesus claimed to be more than a teacher; he claimed to be God. In one discussion, for example, he quoted Psalm 110, which everyone believed was a prophecy about the Messiah: “The LORD said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool’” [2]. Then he asked, “David himself calls him Lord. So how is he his son?” [3]. In other words, “To whom is David talking? Who is David’s ruler? I am. I existed when David lived. I’m not a mere mortal; I’m the Messiah.”

Response: Most people either hated or worshipped Jesus; few, if any, were neutral. Interestingly, even thousands of Jewish people—although they believed in God’s preexistence and would not even speak his holy name—came to believe that Jesus was their Messiah. In fact, the former Jewish leader and zealot, Paul, believed that Jesus was “in very nature God” [4]. What accounts for these changes? What explains why these otherwise rational people, who knew and lived with Jesus, began worshipping him as God just years after his death?

Prayer: Lord, It is possible to know whether there is a God because, in your grace, you sent Jesus. Teach us to be quick listeners and slow speakers in our culture, as we seek meaningful engagement with our words and hearts. May we worship Jesus as God all our days. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Alain de Botton. Religion for Atheists: A Non-believer’s Guide to the Uses of Religion. [2] Psalm 110:1 ESV | [3] Mark 12:37 ESV. See also Matthew 22:44. [4] Philippians 2:6 NIV

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