Archives for February 2012

Living Into Focus Book Club

A terrific conversation has been going on concerning Living Into Focus: Choosing What Matters In An Age of Distractions at the Patheos Book Club. In an early post, Arthur Boers challenged us to think of focal practices that are meaningful and life-giving to us.

He writes:

“It’s a cliché now to talk about how quickly New Year’s resolutions break down. It’s often just too hard to impose and live by restrictions. Oughts, musts, and shoulds are all important, no doubt about that, but I for one do not find them very motivating.

Naming and honoring what gives one life is far more attractive and winsome. So, choose life.”

(Read the entire post here).

Various bloggers have responded to Arthur’s call and written about their own focal practices:

“Our Blessing, Our Curse” by Anna Quinn

“What Is Your Focal Practice?” by Jen Steed

“Grandparenting as a Focal Practice” by Bruce Epperly

To read more, or to share your own focal practice, be sure to check out the Book Club at Patheos.com.

Lenten Season Lectio Divina Series: Abraham

During the Lenten season, we will be running a series of posts from Stephen Binz’s Ancient-Future Bible Study: Experience Scripture through Lectio Divina. For the next six Tuesdays, we will be posting from each of Binz’s entries in the series – beginning today with Abraham.

First, some background to the series and style:

“Ancient Future Bible Study unites contemporary study of the Bible with an experience of the church’s most ancient way of reading Scripture, lectio divina. By combining the old and the new in a fertile synthesis, this study helps modern people encounter the sacra pagina, the inspired text, as God intends it for the church. Through solid historical and literary study and the time-honored practice of lectio divina, the mind and the heart are brought into an experience of God through a careful and prayerful reading of the biblical texts (taken from Abraham, ix).”

For more on lectio divina (including a description of each of its movements) check out the excerpt from the Abraham study. You can also hear Stephen Binz’s description here.

Today’s study is called “Ancestor of Us All” and is taken from Abraham: Father of All Believers.

Ancestor of Us All

Lectio

Read this inspired text, listening for its fuller meaning in light of the whole plan of God.

Romans 4:11–12

11[Abraham] received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the ancestor of all who believe without being circumcised and who thus have righteousness reckoned to them, 12 and likewise the ancestor of the circumcised who are not only circumcised but who also follow the example of the faith that our ancestor Abraham had before he was circumcised.

Continue exploring the meaning of Paul’s words through the tradition of the church.

In writing to the Christians in Rome, Paul demonstrates that Abraham is “the ancestor of all who believe” (v. 11). For the early church, this meant that both Jewish and Gentile followers of Jesus, the circumcised and the uncircumcised, could enter a saving relationship with God and thus claim Abraham as their father. Neither is pitted against the other. All people can become descendants of Abraham by sharing his faith. In the life of Abraham, as Paul demonstrates, faith was the priority. Abraham was made righteous before God through his faithful trust. His circumcision was a subsequent seal of his righteousness, not the producer of his saving relationship with God. Thus Abraham is the bearer of God’s promised blessings to all people, not just the Jewish people. All who believe in the God of Abraham are Abraham’s children.

Meditatio

Consider the meaning of this Scripture passage in the context of your own life in Christ today.

In what ways do people sometimes erect unnecessary barriers that divide people rather than unify them?

How can faith in the God of Abraham be a means of dialogue and understanding among Jews, Christians, and Muslims?

Oratio

Respond in prayer with the hope that arises within you.

God of Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar, you have promised blessings to all the peoples of the earth. Open my heart to a spirit of forgiveness toward those who share my life, and help me be a minister of reconciliation to struggling and broken people. May the peace you desire for the world begin through an understanding of the inspired texts of our ancestors in faith. Enlighten and encourage me as I read and contemplate your inspired Word in these sacred Scriptures. Show me how to make my life a testimony to God’s love.

Continue to pray to God from your heart . . .

Contemplatio

Remain in quiet and place yourself under God’s loving gaze. Ask God to give you an experience of shalom (Hebrew), salaam (Arabic), peace.

Operatio

How can I best dedicate myself to the reflective study of these sacred texts of Abraham over the coming weeks? What regular place and time could I choose for the quiet practice of lectio divina?

How can faith in the God of Abraham be a means of dialogue and understanding among Jews, Christians, and Muslims?

Oratio

Respond in prayer with the hope that arises within you.

God of Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar, you have promised blessings to all the peoples of the earth. Open my heart to a spirit of forgiveness toward those who share my life, and help me be a minister of reconciliation to struggling and broken people. May the peace you desire for the world begin through an understanding of the inspired texts of our ancestors in faith. Enlighten and encourage me as I read and contemplate your inspired Word in these sacred Scriptures. Show me how to make my life a testimony to God’s love.

Continue to pray to God from your heart . . .

Contemplatio

Remain in quiet and place yourself under God’s loving gaze. Ask God to give you an experience of shalom (Hebrew), salaam (Arabic), peace.

©2011 by Stephen J. Binz. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without expressed written permission is strictly prohibited.

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For more information on the Ancient-Future Bible Study series, click here.

The Weekly Hit List: February 24, 2012

Arthur Boers’ Living Into Focus: Choosing What Matters in an Age of Distractions is currently a part of the Patheos.com Book Club.

There has been some wonderful interactions with the book and interesting input on “focal practices” by Dr. Boers and others.

Here are some highlights:

“Choosing What Matters: An Interview with Arthur Boers” by Deborah Arca

“Today’s Focal Practice: Eating Together” by Arthur Boers

“Grandparenting as a Focal Spiritual Practice” by Bruce Epperly

Check out the conversation – and even add your own “focal practice” in the Book Club Roundtable.

Rachel Held Evans wrote another entry in her series on Christian Smith’s The Bible Made Impossible.

She writes:

“Maybe it’s just because I’ve lived in the Bible Belt my whole life, but when Smith writes that,  among evangelicals, Jesus often gets ‘sidelined by the interest in defending every proposition and account as inerrant, universally applicable, contemporarily applicable, and so on in ways that try to make the faith “relevant” for everyday concerns,’ I totally get it.”

 

On the “Jesus Creed” blog, RJS wrote another great post on Peter Enns’ The Evolution of Adam titled “Is the Adam of Genesis Not Paul’s Adam”:

“The approach taken by Enns here will no doubt stretch the thinking of many. To make his point more clearly Enns moves on in the next chapter to take a careful look at the way Paul used the Hebrew Scriptures in his writing and in his arguments. We’ll look at this in the next post.”

Spirituality and the Awakening Self Giveaway

For our current giveaway, five winners will receive a copy of David Benner’s new Brazos book Spirituality and the Awakening Self: The Sacred Journey of Transformation.

To enter, click here.

Winners will be announced in next week’s Hit List.

Lectionary Reflection for the First Sunday of Lent

From Genesis (BTCB) by R. R. Reno, commenting on Genesis 9:9

Aside from the ark, the flood story has all the features of decreation and a return to the beginning of creation. Yet the ark would seem to be the main point, and it introduces the dominant pattern in the rest of scripture: “For a brief moment I forsook you, but with great compassion I will gather you” (Isa. 54: 7).  Floods of trial, slavery, exile, persecution, and even the flood of death on the cross—all these winnowing and purging episodes of suffering are for the sake of finding our way into the future of fellowship with God. In this sense, the flood sets out patterns of divine loyalty to his creatures: “Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it” (Song 8: 7).

The covenant with Noah, however, is the ambiguous first stage in the divine project of realizing this loyalty in the flesh and blood of human life. It does not so much move history forward as stay the destructive effects of sin. For this reason, the flood is best understood as the covenant of God’s patience. The protecting mark of Cain stays the hand of those who seek to kill him. The covenant with Noah has similar effect. The blessing that changes human relations to animals and establishes the basic duty to punish transgression lays the foundations for human survival. The family tribe, held together by rough justice, enters the flow of history. This human-centered change is mirrored in the divine-centered promise never again to unleash the primal forces of nature against humanity. Water will return as a remedy for sin in the history of the covenant, but it will be the irrigating, lifegiving water of Gen. 2 rather than the primal waters of Gen. 1 that overwhelm the world in Gen. 7: “I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses” (Ezek. 36: 25). Looking back on the flood episode, therefore, we can see that the massive project of worldwide cleansing does not create a new future for humanity. It hits the pause button on the doleful, destructive thrust of sin and brings a modicum of stability to human history.

In Ps. 104, the stabilizing purpose of the covenant with Noah is given a broad, cosmic expression. In the flood the Lord covered “the deep as with a garment; the waters stood above the mountains” (104: 6). Then, after the waters receded, “the mountains rose, the valleys sank down to the place which thou didst appoint for them. Thou didst set a bound which they should not pass, so that they might not again cover the earth” (104: 8–9). The work of dominion is expanded to deputize us to police our own transgressions (→9: 1). In this sense, the covenant with Noah is the foundation for rather than a prefiguration of the subsequent, sanctifying covenant begun with Abraham, given full form on Sinai, and completed on Golgotha. “Be still before the Lord,” the covenant with Noah would seem to signal, “and wait patiently for him” (Ps. 37: 7). “The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be still” (Exod. 14: 14).

©2010 by R. R. Reno. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

 

 

Today’s Focal Practice: Walking

As part of the conversation on Living Into Focus: Choosing What Matters In An Age of Distractions at the Patheos Book Club, we asked Arthur Boers to reflect on some specific practices that give him life. First up: walking.

“You walked in this weather?” people often ask me, as if walking is only pleasurable in a congenial climate. Will Ferguson a Canadian humorist once walked 500 miles in Ireland and when he grew frustrated with the perpetual precipitation, he was often told: “There is no bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.” Or, as I once heard somewhere, only drivers complain about weather. So, yes, chances are I did walk “in this weather,” whether it was hot or cold, dry or wet, sunny or cloudy. Why not? Walking gives me life. (Read the rest at Patheos).

 Also, be sure to check out Bruce Epperly’s contribution to the Living Into Focus Roundtable: “Grandpareting as a Focal Spiritual Practice.”

Spirituality and the Awakening Self Giveaway

We are very excited about David Benner’s new Brazos book Spirituality and the Awakening Self: The Sacred Journey of Transformation.

How excited? Well, so excited that we are giving away five copies here on The Brazos Blog.

To enter, fill out the form below.

Winners will be announced on the March 2nd Weekly Hit List.

From Publishers Weekly:

“A challenging multidisciplinary analysis of psychological change and spiritual development. . . . Blending insights from psychology, theology, anthropology, his own clinical practice, and other disciplines, the author suggests that the adventurous journey of the ‘awakening self’ is one of experiencing the possibility of ‘radical’ transformation leading to oneness with God. Throughout the book, stories from the Christian mystics and other spiritual tutors provide a rich array of examples of communion with the divine as the writer presents his vision of the self as it moves from one stage of consciousness to the next. . . . [Readers] will find this profound journey into spiritual and psychological growth provocative, enriching, and full of insights that will stay with them after they have put down the book.”

This giveaway has expired.

Video: Peter Enns on Reading the Bible Well

Here is the last of three clips with Peter Enns, author of the just released The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say About Human Origins!

The Weekly Hit List: February 17, 2012

Frank Viola posted an interview with Christian Smith about The Bible Made Impossible: Why Biblicism Is Not a Truly Evangelical Reading of Scripture on his blog.

Read the entire interview here.

Rachel Held Evans continued to blog through Smith’s book with a post titled “Is there a difference between a ‘Christian worldview’ and a ‘biblical worldview’?”

Nita Steiner is also blogging through The Bible Made Impossible. Check out her latest post here.

On the “Jesus Creed” blog, RJS posted two entries this week that engaged Peter Enns’s The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say about Human Origins:

YHWH is Creator and Redeemer, But is Adam Israel?

Out of Egypt? … Say What?

Living Into Focus Giveaway

Congratulations to Linda Sheppard, Glen McCullough, Dan Brubacher, Wes Horn, and Andrew Keuer!

They have each won a copy of Arthur Boers’s new book Living Into Focus: Choosing What Matters in an Age of Distractions.

Lectionary Reflection for the Last Sunday after the Epiphany

From 1 & 2 Kings (BTCB) by Peter J. Leithart, commenting on 2 Kings 2: 1-12

Starting with Moses, Jesus teaches his disciples that all the Old Testament Scriptures are about the sufferings and glory of Christ (Luke 24: 27). That hermeneutical rule is more obviously applicable to some passages than to others, but there is no problem applying it to 2 Kgs. 2.  Elijah is a type of John the Baptist (Matt. 11: 14; Mark 9: 9–13; Luke 1: 17), and the transition from Elijah to Elisha foreshadows the succession from John to Jesus. Like John, Elijah is a lone voice in the wilderness, but Elisha is surrounded by disciples. Jesus’s ministry is a ministry of life-giving miracles—cleansing lepers (Mark 1: 40–45), raising dead sons and restoring them to their mothers (Luke 7: 11–17), relieving distress. Similarly, Elisha raises the dead (2 Kgs. 4: 18–37), provides a meal for one hundred men from twenty loaves of barley bread (4: 42–44), cleanses a leper (2 Kgs. 5). On the surface of things, Elisha is a type of Jesus.

But the typology works another way as well: Elijah is a type of Jesus himself, and Elisha of the disciples who continued Jesus’s ministry after his ascension. Elisha first appears plowing a field, but he leaves home and family (1 Kgs. 19: 19–21) like the disciples of Jesus who leave their fishing boats and tax booths to follow him. At the beginning of 2 Kgs. 2, Elisha doggedly follows his master, refusing to stay behind, until Elijah is taken from him in a whirlwind. Because he follows Elijah, Elisha becomes like his master, and after Elijah departs he immediately begins to replicate his ministry. Having received the promised double portion of Elijah’s spirit, Elisha is a “reincarnation” (or “reanimation”) of Elijah, as the church is the body of Christ in the Spirit of Jesus. The sons of the prophets recognize the family resemblance between Elisha and his predecessor, just as the Jews perceive the courage of Peter and the apostles and remember they have been with Jesus (Acts 4: 13).

From this angle, the Elijah-Elisha narrative directly foreshadows the sequence of the biography of Jesus (Brodie 1999, chap. 5). The Gospels begin with the ministry of the Elijah-like John, who confronts the ambivalent King Herod and his bloodthirsty queen and calls Israel to repentance (Mark 1: 1–8; 6: 14–29). John baptizes Jesus as his successor (Mark 1: 9–11), as Elijah calls Elisha (1 Kgs. 19: 19–21); and Jesus receives the Spirit as he is baptized, as Elisha receives the spirit of Elijah. Jesus announces the destruction of Jerusalem’s temple (Mark 13), and Elisha anoints the temple-destroyer, Jehu (2 Kgs. 9: 1–10). Jesus comes eating and drinking (Luke 7: 34), and Elisha’s ministry is like Jesus’s above all in giving central attention to the gift of food and drink. He heals the deadly waters at Jericho (2 Kgs. 2: 19–22), provides healthy food for the sons of the prophets (4: 38–41), multiplies loaves to feed a multitude (4: 42–44), feeds Aramean soldiers who come to capture him (6: 20–23), and provides food for besieged Samaria (7: 1, 18–20). The Gospels end at an empty tomb, and Elisha’s story ends with his life-giving grave (13: 20–21).

©2006 by Peter J. Leithart. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

Name One Thing That Gives You Life

Today we kick off a two-week feature on Arthur Boer’s Living Into Focus: Choosing What Matters In An Age of Distractions over at Patheos.com in their Book Club Section.

At Patheos you can find an excerpt from the book, author Q&A, and more.

Start by checking out this original article by Boers on “Life-Giving Practices: Identifying What Matters Most.”

Intrigued? Then think about what gives you life, and submit your thoughts (300 to 500 words) to Patheos (books@patheos.com) for possible inclusion on Patheos in their roundtable discussion on this book (and for a chance to get a free book).