Archives for November 2013

Free Ebook Short of Who Jesus Is and Why It Matters by Jim Wallis

Happy Thanksgiving!

We are pleased to announce a new ebook short from Jim Wallis: Who Jesus Is and Why It Matters.

A selection from the well-received On God’s Side, this new ebook short shows how our vision of Jesus changes everything about us and our world.

 

Until December 6, Who Jesus Is and Why It Matters FREE from the following participating retailers:

Amazon

Apple

Barnes & Noble

CBD

 

 

What You Believe about Jesus Changes Everything

Who was Jesus? Why did he come? Some people think it was to save them from their sins, so their spiritual focus is personal salvation. Others appreciate Jesus’s teachings but see little connection between the wise teacher of old and how they live life here and now.

Both groups have lost the true vision of who Jesus is—a vision that changes everything about us and our world. What we believe about Jesus has the power to transform how we treat all our neighbors—including the poor, the marginalized, and our enemies—and promote the common good.

Jim Wallis steps into our current context with this timely invitation for fellow sojourners on the road of faith to change the world in sustainable, life-giving ways. He explores what Jesus himself said about why he came and why it matters today, showing that our faith impacts our household values, our community values, and our institutional behaviors for the sake of the world. He suggests “Ten Personal Decisions for the Common Good” that will inspire you on your journey.

Lectionary Reflection for the First Sunday of Advent

This excerpt comes from Matthew (BTCB) by Stanley Hauerwas, commenting on Matthew 24:36-44:

The disciples’ task is to stay awake, to be ready, exactly because they do not and cannot know the day and hour of the triumph of the Son of Man. Disciples are not in the game of prediction. Rather, they are called to be ready and prepared.

Disciples, like Noah, are to build an ark even if it is not raining. The name given to that ark is church. The builders of the church will be surrounded by many who go about their lives, eating, drinking, marrying, living as if nothing has changed, even though Noah has built an ark. But the floods will come, drowning all.

The only difference is that when the Son of Man comes not all will be swept away, because his coming is a quite different flood. It is the flood of his blood meant to save the lost. Some will be left judged by this just judge. Jesus is not threatening, but rather stating facts.

The disciples have been learning what it is they must do. Jesus observes that if the owner of a house had known that the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be robbed. Of course, the problem for most of us is that we think it quite unlikely that someone will want to break into our house. But the disciples must learn to live as those who recognize that the thief is coming and will likely come at an unexpected hour.

Apocalyptic names the time that requires waiting. It is not just any kind of waiting, but rather it is the waiting made possible by a hope made real. Jesus is that hope, and he instills the same hope in those who would follow him. It is not the hope of idealism that tires when the ideals seem unreachable. Rather, it is the hope schooled by the Father’s patience to redeem the world through his Son.

Without patience, those filled with hope threaten to destroy that for which they hope. Without hope, the patient threaten to leave the world as they find it. Disciples of Jesus must learn how to take the time patiently to hope in a world that thinks it has no time for either hope or patience.

 

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

Too Much Information: Craig Detweiler on Why He Wrote iGods

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In an age of too much information, how do we filter an avalanche of options?

In 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 iGodsclick here.

 

Excerpt from Beauty for Truth’s Sake

The following is an excerpt from the first chapter of Beauty for Truth’s Sake: On the Re-enchantment of Education by Stratford Caldecott.

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Education is our path to true humanity and wisdom. By this I do not mean simply what goes on in school and university—which all too often turns out to be a path in another direction entirely away from both humanity and reason. I mean the broader process that engages us all through life. To be alive is to be a learner. Much of the learning we do takes place at home, in the family, or after we leave both home and college and begin the struggle to survive in the wider world. Increasingly, in a society shaped by technology that is continually changing, we need to learn a new skill: how to keep learning. We must be flexible and adaptable enough to survive in any circumstances. Even more important than flexibility is a virtuous character and set of guiding principles that will enable us to keep track of goodness amid the moral and social chaos that surrounds us.

I believe it is possible to remain an active learner throughout life, and yet to maintain a moral compass in good working order. But vital though they are, adaptability and ethics are not enough by themselves. There is a structural flaw in our education that we need to overcome. It is related to a profound malaise in our civilization, which by progressive stages has slipped into a way of thinking and living that is dualistic in character. The divisions between arts and sciences, between faith and reason, between nature and grace, have a common root. In particular, our struggle to reconcile religious faith with modern science is symptomatic of a failure to understand the full scope of human reason and its true grandeur.

The classical “Liberal Arts” tradition of the West once offered a form of humane education that sought the integration of faith and reason, and that combined the arts and the sciences, before these things became separated, fragmented, and trivialized. We need to retrace our steps, to find the “wisdom we have lost in knowledge,” the “knowledge we have lost in information” (T. S. Eliot). The wisdom I am referring to can be traced back via Boethius and Augustine to Plato and Socrates; but before Socrates there was Pythagoras, and the Pythagorean contribution is just as important in helping us understand what was lost. This book is an attempt to discover and enter creatively into that Pythagorean spirit which lies at the root of Western civilization.

For every great change, every rebirth or renaissance in human culture, has been triggered by the retrieval of something valuable out of the past, making new, creative developments possible. The Italian Renaissance, for example, was triggered by the fifteenth-century re-discovery of the Classical Greek civilization. Similarly today, we may legitimately hope that ressourcement, a “return to sources,” and in particular to the pattern of humane learning as it was traditionally understood in the West, though expressed in new ways, will lead to a renaissance, the birth of a culture more appreciative of life and wisdom.

 

©2009 by Stratford Caldecott. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

Excerpt from A Life Observed: A Spiritual Biography of C. S. Lewis

To honor the 50th anniversary of the death C. S. Lewis, following is an excerpt from the first chapter of A Life Observed: A Spiritual Biography of C. S. Lewis by Devin Brown.

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At around four in the afternoon, on November 22, 1963, Warren Hamilton Lewis carried tea to the small downstairs bedroom of his home in the quiet English suburbs. He was glad to see that his younger brother, who had been in poor health for several months, was resting comfortably, though very drowsy. Major Lewis—Major because he had served in the British Armed Forces in both World War I and World War II, but known to everyone as simply Warnie—was sixty-eight. His brother was a week short of turning sixty-five.

The few words they exchanged were to be their last.

At five thirty, Warnie heard a sound and rushed in to find his brother lying unconscious at the foot of his bed. A few minutes later, Clive Staples Lewis—or Jack, as he was known to his friends and family—ceased breathing.

Today—fifty years after his quiet death in the brothers’ modest house just outside of Oxford—the man who many have called the most influential Christian writer of our times continues to live on in the books he left behind, continues to challenge and inspire. And the story of C. S. Lewis’s life—his journey from cynical atheism to joyous Christianity, his remarkable friendship with J. R. R. Tolkien, the legendary meetings with the writing group known as the Inklings, and his experience of deep love and deep heartbreak late in life—is as fascinating and as moving as any of the stories he wrote.

 

©2013 by Devin Brown. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

The Weekly Hit List: November 22, 2013

Living into Focus by Arthur Boers was reviewed in Mockler Memo.

“In the midst of chaotic schedules and beeping smartphones is precisely where God calls us to find or create relevant, contextualized focal practices. A healthy Silicon Valley career — just like that of a Montana-based writer — requires focal practices like meditation and study, prayer groups, jogging at noon, the evening walk, the music lesson or dance group, and the household feast on weekends (at least).

“Boers never suggests that technology per se is evil, nor does he invite us all to move out into rural communes. His message, so biblical, so appropriate today, is to be thoughtful and aware and make space and time in our lives for what is truly important.”

Read the rest of the review here.

 

Quick Hits:

Devin Brown, author of A Life Observed, was quoted in “50 years ago, Kennedy, Huxley and Lewis followed different paths to the grave” in Deseret News.

Devin Brown was also quoted in The Imaginative Conservative.

Kevin Schut, author of Of Games and God, appeared on Issues, Etc.

iGods by Craig Detweiler was referenced on Hopeful Realism blog.

 

Ebook Specials:

Jesus and Money: A Guide for Times of Financial Crisis by Ben Witherington III is only $3.99 (79% off) through November 23.

AAR 2013: Panel Discussion on Jim Wallis’ On God’s Side on Sunday, November 24

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

WallisPanel

Lectionary Reflection for the Twenty-Seventh Sunday after Pentecost

This excerpt comes from Luke (BTCB) by David Lyle Jeffrey, commenting on Luke 23:33-43:

Luke BTCB

Luke is minimalist in his description of the crucifixion at this point, omitting the effort to get Jesus (as well, presumably, as the others) to drink some drugged wine vinegar, a typical amelioration of executions by crucifixion by the Roman military (cf. Matt. 27:34; Mark 15:23; Lightfoot 1979: 3.211).

Beyond this gesture comes the final phase of the torture. Here in Luke is just the bare fact of it: from contemporary accounts of such executions we can all too readily fill in some of the gaps. Three men, in the agonies of torment, having been nailed or roped to their respective crossbeams, are hoisted up by poles and dropped with an agonizing thud into sockets at the top of the poles already fixed in the ground, so that the feet of the condemned cannot touch the earth.

Luke uniquely records that Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (23:34), modeling in a most striking way his teaching: “Bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you” (6:28). They take away his garment and cast lots for it (all the evangelists allude to Ps. 22:7 here, but there is an echo also of Luke 6:29).

The rulers taunt Jesus, effectively saying, “If he is the Christ, the Chosen One of God, let him save himself ”—a mockery aimed at his identity directly and echoing the temptation by Satan in the wilderness (4:5–12). The soldiers also mock him, even as they offer him the customary vinegar, taunting the agonized victim, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself” (23:37), ridiculing what they take to be his political pretensions.

Luke does not mention that it was Pilate who caused the sign to be placed over his head, alluding to the ostensible capital crime of sedition, but this feature too was normal. The sign is trilingual—Greek, Latin, and Hebrew—in each saying, “This is the King of the Jews,” as much as to say also, in a grim jest, “This is what comes to such folly as to claim to be a king” (23:38).

Even the two criminals mock him, or at least Matt. 27:44 and Mark 15:32 say so. Luke, however, mentions only the one criminal, his foreshortened account highlighting the condemned man who evidently has bethought himself, with an account unique to him of conversation between Jesus and the others crucified (evidently Luke’s informer in this matter was not one of those “who stood afar off ”).

Whereas the one malefactor mimics the taunt of the elders (23:39), the other is suddenly stricken: “We indeed justly” suffer, he says, “the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong” (23:41). Even as he is declaring something truthful about Jesus’s identity, he is moved to a plea: “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (23:42).

This plea is also, of course, a confession of belief in Jesus’s true identity, and Jesus immediately responds, in a voice audible to those close to the foot of the cross but not to those at a distance, in words that have intrigued theologians and laypersons alike for centuries: “Assuredly I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (23:43).

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

Craig Detweiler on Our Faith in Technology

 

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How is technology altering our relationships to God and to each other?

In 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 iGodsclick here.

our relationships to God and to each other?

 

Excerpt from Jesus and Money

The following is an excerpt from the first chapter of Jesus and Money: A Guide for Times of Financial Crisis by Ben Witherington III.

Now through November 23, the ebook of Jesus and Money is available for only $3.99 (79% off).

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

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It is important from the start to recognize that money is just one sort of asset, one sort of material good that exists in this world, and from a theological point of view all such “stuff” should be discussed together. The rationale for such a discussion comes from the very first chapter of the Bible, where we read the following: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” and then it goes on to say at the end of the chapter “and God saw all that he had made, and it was good” (Gen. 1:1 and 31). All things—the whole material universe and everything in it—are created by God. Equally important, all things were created good. Trees are good, the sun is good, animals are good, food is good, minerals are good, people are good, and so on. There is nothing inherently evil about any material thing, not even money. Of course it is true that human beings have the capacity to take a good thing and turn it into something harmful and even wicked, like turning the coca plant into cocaine.

But there is an important corollary that comes with the notion that God created all things, and made them all good. That corollary is that all things ultimately belong to God. They do not “belong” in the fullest sense to human beings. As the psalmist puts it, “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and all who dwell there” (Ps. 24:1). Properly speaking, God is the only owner of all things, whether born or made, whether natural or humanly fashioned. This sounds simple and obvious enough, but all too often we fail to think about money and material possessions in this proper theological way. And that failure leads to a host of problems. Apparently it is easy to forget that we brought nothing with us into this world, and even if we are buried with our pink Cadillacs we can’t actually take them with us. Perhaps you’ve heard the humorous story about a man who was about to die so he liquidated all his assets, turning them into gold bricks. He required his family to pack the bricks in two suitcases and bury them with him. When he arrived at the pearly gates St. Peter met him and immediately noted the oddity that this man had come to heaven with luggage. “What’s in the suitcases?” inquired Peter. The man proudly opened his suitcases. Peter stared into them nonplussed, then said: “You brought pavement up here? Pavement?”

Christians can have some pretty odd notions about the issue of ownership in this world. What a proper understanding of the Genesis creation story reminds us of is that God is the maker and owner of all things, and so, as the story of Adam and Eve makes evident, we are but stewards of God’s property. Our task is to be good stewards of property we do not own. Adam and Eve were to fill the earth and subdue it, they were to be fruitful and multiply, they were to tend and take care of the garden, but they were not to think they owned the world just because they worked in the world. And this brings us to another important point.

In modern Western culture we place a high value on work, which is fine, but one of the philosophical assumptions that can come with such values is that we assume that we own what we earn or buy. From a biblical point of view this is extremely problematic. There isn’t any necessary correlation between hard work and ownership. Think, for example, of all the hard work that went into building the pyramids in Egypt. Most of the workers were slaves, and they had no delusions that because they built the pyramids they owned the pyramids. No, they believed that both the pyramids and they themselves belonged to Pharaoh! In this sense (excepting of course that Pharaoh is not God), they had a more biblical worldview of work than most of us do. Our hard work may be well rewarded or not. It may produce prosperity or not. But until we see all that we receive, whether by earning it or receiving it without work, as a gift from God, a gift we should use knowing who the true owner of the gift is, we will not be thinking biblically about such matters.

 

©2010 by Ben Witherington III. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.