Archives for October 2013

AAR 2013: Panel Discussion on Jim Wallis’ On God’s Side

AAR members, you will not want to miss this event!

WallisPanel

Free Ebook Short of God’s Economics by Jim Wallis

We are pleased to announce a new ebook short from Jim Wallis: God’s Economics: Principles for Fixing Our Financial Crisis.

A selection from the well-received On God’s Side, this new ebook short shows God requires a different kind of economy and explores how we can all help fix the financial crisis.

 

Until November 6, God’s Economics is FREE from the following participating retailers:

Barnes & Noble

Amazon

Apple

CBD

 

 

Responding to Economic Injustice

The collapse of financial systems and the resulting economic crisis have caused a growing distrust of the way things operate. Why has the global economy become so unfair, unsustainable, and unstable, with the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer? A conversation about how the market should operate within a moral framework is needed now more than ever.

Jim Wallis shows that God requires a different kind of economy—both globally and domestically—and provides principles that should guide economic policy matters, including clarity, transparency, accountability, and protecting the common good against private greed. Our financial institutions require real reform, but so do our own economic choices, desires, and demands, for they have far-reaching consequences. Wallis explores things we can all do to help fix the financial crisis and suggests making “Ten Personal Decisions for the Common Good.”

Ebook Special for Real Sex by Lauren F. Winner

Now through November 6, the ebook for Real Sex: The Naked Truth about Chastity by Lauren F. Winner is only $1.99—87% off! 

More information and a list of participating retailers is available here.

 

Christianity Today 2006 Book Award Winner

“Winner, author of the critically acclaimed memoir Girl Meets God, weaves an intriguing tapestry from sociological, autobiographical, pastoral, and historical threads. She balances a journalistic report of how difficult chastity is for American Christians; a personal account of how she and her friends have approached premarital sex and marital sex; a survey of what the Bible, pastors, and good Christian books say about the topic; and an overview of how chastity has been understood throughout Christian history. The candor with which Winner writes about sex may alarm some Christian readers, but those who follow her arguments to their conclusions will find themselves rewarded with fresh insights about an overdiscussed but still deeply entrenched problem among Christians. Interestingly, some of Winner’s best insights are about married sex. . . . Winner places real sex not in the passionate world of one-night stands and dating relationships but in the ordinary, domestic life of married couples. As such, she helpfully and perhaps even radically reframes both the Christian and cultural discussion of chastity and sexuality.”
Publishers Weekly

SEX. Splashed across magazine covers, billboards, and computer screens-sex is thrilling, necessary, unavoidable. And everybody’s doing it, right?

In Real Sex: The Naked Truth about Chastity, Lauren Winner speaks candidly to single Christians about the difficultyand the importanceof sexual chastity. With nuance and wit, she talks about her own sexual journey. Never dodging tough terms like “confession” and “sin,” she grounds her discussion of chastity first and foremost in scripture. She confronts cultural lies about sex and challenges how we talk about sex in church (newsflash: however wrong it is, premarital sex can feel liberating and enjoyable!). Building on the thought of Wendell Berry, she argues that sex is communal rather than private, personal rather than public.

Refusing to slink away from thorny topics, Winner deftly addresses pornography, masturbation, and the perennial question of “how far is too far?” Winner also digs deeper: What does chastity have to do with loving my neighbor? How does my sexual behavior form habits and expectations? With compassion and grit, she calls Christians, both married and single, to pursue chastity as conversion and amendment of life.

Real Sex will be an essential read for single Christians grappling with chastity, for married Christians committed to monogamy, and for those who counsel them.

Lectionary Reflection for the Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost

This excerpt comes from Luke (BTCB) by David Lyle Jeffrey, commenting on Luke 19:1-10:

Luke BTCB

Zaccheus is the Greek form of the Jewish name “Zakkai,” which derives from Hebrew zakkay (“righteous one”) (Ezra 2:9; Neh. 7:14)—a ludicrously incongruous name to begin with, given his occupation. He is the very opposite of righteous by any cultural reckoning. For all that, he has been so keen to see Jesus, and so overcome that Jesus greets him and even enters into fellowship with him just as he is, that he spontaneously undertakes a radical redirection of his entire life.

From Luke’s compressed narrative we cannot tell whether his enthusiastic speech to Jesus is more of less immediate, but it seems so: “Look Lord, I give half my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore it fourfold” (Luke 19:8). In Judaism, legal restitution for having been guilty of extortion was twenty percent (Lev. 5:16; Num. 5:7), but Zaccheus assumes the harsher penalty imposed on people who stole livestock (Exod. 22:1; Bock 1994-96: 2.1520).

Something truly profound has happened, and in the joy of his acceptance by the Lord he goes much farther than anything the law requires. His exuberant restitution indicates a genuine repentance; as Augustine notes, restitution is not enough for full forgiveness; by giving generously out of his acquired wealthy beyond the normal requirements he takes his action to a higher level (Sermons on the New Testament Lessons 63.3). Augustine here grasps something basic about repentance in the Jewish context. . . .

By committing himself to restoration fourfold and to giving half of his goods to the poor, Zaccheus demonstrated a genuine conversion from his sinful path of life and, in so doing, in a Jewish context, acquired again his full ethical status as a Jew under the law. This is what Jesus, as a rabbi, is formally recognizing when he says, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham” (Luke 19:9). The public promise of restoration to his victims by Zaccheus in the presence of Jesus and the joy of his being accepted by the Lord show that he has now come to terms with the law in the only way that ultimately matters—performatively.

How had this so suddenly happened to him, after a life of “walking in the way of sinners”? The answers surely is the call and acceptance (reconciliation) offered him by Jesus. He has been bowled over by love, a love that will not let him go without a mimetic response. His story is thus a paradigm, for Luke an example of the lost soul found and rescued from inevitably dire consequences. And that is the point of it, Jesus seems to say: “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (19:10).

 

©2012 by David Lyle Jeffrey. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

Excerpt from Searching for Home

The following is an excerpt from the first chapter of Searching for Home: Spirituality for Restless Souls by M. Craig Barnes.

Now through November 2, the ebook of Searching for Home is available for only $2.99 (81% off).

More information and a list of participating retailers is available here.

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It doesn’t matter where you move, how fast you run, or how many new identities you try on along the way, you can’t escape the longing for home. Most people don’t destroy their families and homes in order to die alone in an old camping trailer. Right. But we all leave home, and, like my Dad, we never recover from it.

Even if you stay in the same community in which you were raised, which is rather unusual today, you’re stuck with the same longing the rest of us have because the community itself has changed. Sometimes it is we who leave home, sometimes it is home that leaves us, but an inescapable dynamic of life today is that we are a long way from where we used to be.

The only approximation we have of our true home with God is the place where we grew up. For some that was such a terrible place that the approximation is pale, and they never want to return there. For others the childhood home was a place filled with delightful memories for which they are thankful, but from which they are not trying to recover. They’ve moved on. But in either case leaving home as a young adult sets an agenda in our souls to find a new place where we belong.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau about 43 million Americans move in an average year. That accounts for 16 percent of the population who are hitting the road every year. And for the most part it’s a different 16 percent that move the next year, and a different group the year after that. Pretty soon the numbers add up. The typical American is now expected to move fourteen times over the course of his or her life.

Why are so many of us constantly moving from one place to another? If you ask people that question, and I have certainly asked plenty, the most common answer involves work. As the geographer David Sopher has claimed, “It is the property of vegetables to remain rooted.” Our society has taught us from an early age to move ahead in life, and after going away to college we discover that our next move is getting the best job we can, and then an even better job, and then a better one after that. These jobs are usually all in different places. Work may be the excuse for our transiency, and it may even be the only reason of which we are consciously aware. But the pastor in me has been digging deeper to discover what is it that drives us to accept these job offers that make us pack up and take off again.

The answer of the Scriptures to this deeper questions is that from the beginning we have been searching for paradise. We think that the next place, where a more lucrative job is waiting, will afford us a better chance of creating it for ourselves. But it never quite works out that way. The house may be bigger, but we were never really looking for that. We’re looking for home.

Before long the new place into which we have moved is marred by all of the pressures that we thought we had left behind in the old one. Stress always seems to be conveyed from one house to the next. In our disillusionment, we find other ways of distracting ourselves and staying on the move, even though our address has not yet changed. . . .

We’re yearning for home, and home has nothing to do with how good the place is. It has everything to do with whether or not it is the right place. And the right place isn’t something you choose, but a place that chooses you, molds you, and tells you who you are.

 

©2003 by M. Craig Barnes. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

Ebook Special for Searching for Home by M. Craig Barnes

Now through November 2, the ebook for Searching for Home: Spirituality for Restless Souls by M. Craig Barnes is only $2.99—81% off! 

More information and a list of participating retailers is available here.

 

“Every person searches for meaning and direction in this life—and beyond. In Searching for Home, Craig Barnes tells not only of his personal experiences, but also sets inspirational guideposts for us all.”
Senator John Glenn

“Here is a theological witness to the Christian message that is deeply personal, insightful, accessible, moving, and redemptive. I highly commend it to a wide reading audience.”
—Thomas Gillespie, Princeton Theological Seminary

One translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy opens with the words, “Midway along the journey of our life, I woke to find myself in a dark wood, for I had wandered off from the straight path.” Many of us can identify with this confession. We might be pressing on bravely in the search for paradise, moving from better job to new town to bigger house, but the truth is that we are lost.

In Searching for Home, M. Craig Barnes draws on Dante’s pilgrimage as a parallel to our own search for paradise. Never sidestepping the difficult truth of our situation, Barnes begins with the disconcerting news that paradise is lost and we can’t go home again. Our great comfort and hope, however, is that we are never lost to God; in fact, he travels with us in our sojourning, and all roads belong to him. Barnes, seasoned by more than twenty years as a pastor, discusses the importance of confession, worship, and grace in our search for home. He offers advice about how we can move from being transient nomads “too frightened to be grateful” to pilgrims who are at home with God, guided by our pleasure in him.

The hope is that readers, after experiencing Searching for Home, will be able to echo Dante’s declaration at the close of the Divine Comedy: “I felt my will and my desire impelled by the Love that moves the sun and the other stars.”

This book was written for both Christians and seekers who are still looking for a sense of belonging or “home.” It’s a very useful tool for pastors, therapists, and counselors of all kinds who are advising pilgrims along the way.

The Weekly Hit List: October 25, 2013

Cover ArtPublishers Weekly reviewed iGods, by Craig Detweiler.

“An excellent conversation starter recommended for classroom use; Detweiler has made a solid contribution to the growing literature about religion and technology.”

Quick Hits:

At Thoughts Theological, Terrance Tiessen reviewed Daniel Bell’s Just War as Christian Discipleship.

Peter Stevens, at life, the universe, and everything, reviewed Devin Brown’s A Life Observed.

Bob Trube reviewed A Public Faith, by Miroslav Volf, for Intervarsity’s Emerging Scholars Blog.

Ebook Specials:

Through October 27, Living the Sabbath by Norman Wirzba is on sale for only $4.99 at participating retailors. Learn more here.

 

Are We Devoted to Our Devices?

 

Are we lost without our smartphones?

Does technology make us more connected, or less?

Cover ArtIn iGods: How Technology Shapes our Spiritual and Social Lives, Craig Detweiler, a nationally known writer and speaker on media issues, provides needed Christian perspective on navigating today’s social media culture. He interacts with major symbols of our distracted age–Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Pixar, YouTube, and Twitter–to investigate the impact of the technologies and cultural phenomena that drive us.

Detweiler offers a historic look at where we’ve been and a prophetic look at where we’re headed, helping us sort out the immediate from the eternal, the digital from the divine.

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For more information about iGods, click here.

Lectionary Reflection for the Twenty-Third Sunday after Pentecost

This excerpt comes from Luke (BTCB) by David Lyle Jeffrey, commenting on Luke 18:9-14:

Luke BTCB

This particular parable sharpens a central distinction in many biblical narratives, namely that between unrepentant and repentant or between hard-hearted and brokenhearted hearers of Jesus’s word. The Pharisee in this parable is one of the “some” (tinas) who have, in effect, self-justified, asserting their notion of vindication before God; this “stage” Pharisee is not one of those who, like Nicodemus or Gamaliel, have some humility about their standing before God and who refrain from presumptuous judgment over others accordingly. In this respect, the Pharisee in Jesus’s story is an exemplar of a type; those who have earlier made self-confident judgments about Jesus are doubtless the immediate targets of his parable (Marshall 1978: 678). . . .

The “tax collector” (telōnēs) is equally a type, in his case already a general object of contempt because of his profession. Tax collectors in general had earned the reputation of being toadies to the occupying Roman power by serving as Herod’s bagmen, and thus were as a class often seen as traitors to their own people. Tax collectors often used their power to overcharge. As such they were social outcasts, the “moral equivalent of lepers” (Wright 1996: 267), and while it may not have been strictly necessary for this tax collector to make his prayer for God’s mercy from the outer court, or Court of the Gentiles, the way the narrative is framed makes it seem that he goes no farther before stopping to make his prayer. Though this is a parable, there could be no doubt in the listeners’ minds that Jesus’s story described a real and painful social reality.

The prayers of the two men are even more a contrast than their social station. The Pharisee has gone with full confidence straight into the inner court; there he begins to “pray with himself,” probably after depositing his tithe in one of the thirteen chests for tithes and offerings found there. Tellingly, “the Pharisee manages to refer to himself in the first person five times in two verses,” speaking of himself in his prayer in the active voice (Bock 1994–96: 2.1458). To whom is he really speaking? The phrase Jesus uses to introduce his prayer is already damning: he is talking not to God but rather as one curved back in upon himself, as Basil puts it, not feeling any need to ask for forgiveness or to pray “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors” (Commentary on Isaiah 2). Nor, as Augustine points out, does he ask anything of God (Sermon 115).

Rather, he has the audacity to thank God that he is “not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as [kai hōs] this publican” (18:11 KJV)—the unnamed tax collector, whom he regards at the very least as an extortioner. . . . The Pharisee proves to be as devoid of a spirit of repentance, and as hard-hearted about it, as Pharaoh; the law is unable to call him to repentance because he is after all a master of the law, not one mastered by it.

What a contrast is the prayer of the wretched tax collector. A man without community, without acceptance, without self-respect, and even perhaps without love—what should he do but cry out for mercy? He pleads, as he should, for pardon. . . . And on the explicit interpretation of Jesus it is this poor outcast who goes “down [from the temple] to his house justified rather than the other” (Luke 18:14). We are reminded that Jesus came to call sinners, not the righteous, to repentance (5:32; cf. Mark 2:17; Matt. 9:13). Who then, though sinful, is brokenhearted? Such a one is capable of repentance. Who is condescending, full of self-justification, confusing institutional status with personal righteousness so completely that he can no longer even conceive of a reason for repentance? The hard-hearted man of religion.

These are not difficult questions to answer—just discomfiting. As with so many of Jesus’s stories of reversal, it turns out to be the case that here too “the proud” are “scattered . . . in the imagination of their hearts,” “the mighty” are “put down . . . from their thrones,” and “the lowly” are “exalted,” even as “the rich” are “sent away empty” (Luke 1:51–53).

 

©2012 by David Lyle Jeffrey. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

Excerpt from Living the Sabbath

The following is an excerpt from the second chapter of Living the Sabbath: Discovering the Rhythms of Rest and Delight by Norman Wirzba.

Now through October 27, the ebook of Living the Sabbath is available for only $4.99 (75% off).

More information and a list of participating retailers is available here.

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The Israelites knew as well as anyone that people can declare God’s goodness with their lips but then with their hands and feet manifest the preeminence of self. For this reason their Sabbath teaching included well-developed social and economic directives, beginning with the clear command that all work stop on the seventh day. It is easy, especially in our culture, to underestimate the significance of this injunction. But if we remember that the Israelite economy was predominately agricultural, then this command takes on special significance.

When I look back at the farming community in which I was raised, I am astounded by the fact that family members and neighbors stopped work on Sundays. At most times of the year this was not a big deal, but during harvest seasons it most certainly was. In a farming economy the produce of the land, and thus the lion’s share of the farmer’s sustenance
and income, comes in at specific times of the year. The window in which harvest can occur is limited, due to changing ripening and drying conditions. Every day during harvest is
thus precious and not to be squandered, for whatever is not appropriately harvested spoils and registers as lost income, as lost livelihood for the family and sustenance for livestock. If the farmer gave up work to rest and bad weather set in and spoiled the remaining harvest, the costs were truly high.

One would think that Sabbath rest would thus be the occasion for considerable anxiety, especially in an agricultural economy. But in our community worry and fret did not overcome the Sabbath aim of rest and refreshment. To be sure, the farmers might worry about whether they had made the right choice by not going into the fields on Sunday, but such worry would reflect a distrust in God’s ability to provide and take care of them. Worry and anxiety would be byproducts of a fundamental doubt of the goodness of God, a suspicion that maybe God’s grace is limited or not enough. My experience of farmers at that time, however, is that they experienced daily multiple examples of God’s goodness and power, most basically in the germination and growth of crops and the birth and health of livestock. To be sure, crop failure and disease, as well as painful death, were perennial possibilities, but the experience of farming overwhelmingly taught the beneficence of grace. (It is no accident that as farming has turned into agribusiness, the practice of Sabbath rest for farmers, animals, and the land has come to an end.) If the farmer is honest, and thus appropriately humble, he or she will recognize that there is much more to be grateful for than there is to fear. Authentic rest becomes possible, even in the midst of harvest time, because it is informed by the palpable, concrete understanding that God provides. The means of divine care, whether in plant and animal cycles of birth, growth, decay, and death or in the kindnesses of kin and community, are ample and clear for those who care to notice.

Rest is not simply about stopping. When we stop from our work, what we are really doing is exhibiting a fundamental trust and faith in the goodness and praiseworthiness of God. Of course faith is not a guarantee of special divine favor. But we cannot delight in God’s provision for us if we are at the same time worried about whether or not God cares for us. Sabbath rest is thus a call to Sabbath trust, a call to visibly demonstrate in our daily living that we know ourselves to be upheld and maintained by the grace of God rather than the strength and craftiness of our won hands. To enjoy a Sabbath day, we must give up our desire for total control. We must learn to live by the generosity of manna falling all around us.

 

©2006 by Norman Wirzba. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.