April 16, 2014

843 Acres Lent: Does Heaven Make Us Better Citizens on Earth?

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Ecc 3 (txt | aud, 3:02 min)
1 Ti 5 (txt | aud, 2:59 min)
Highlighted: Ecc 3:11

Heaven: C.S. Lewis said, “Heaven is the remote music that we were born remembering.” Ecclesiastes says, “For God has set eternity on the hearts of men.” [1] Is it dangerous, however, to believe in it? Does it make us bad citizens of earth? John Lennon certainly thought so: “Imagine there’s no heaven … Imagine all the people living for today.” In other words, he sang, until we realize that this is our only reality, we will not work to make it better.

Exile: Ezekiel was exiled to Babylon in 597 BC. Speaking to both exiles and those who remained in Judah, he predicted judgment and the fall of Jerusalem. After the city fell in 586BC, however, he prophesied hope and restoration. The last words of his prophecy end with a picture of heaven and hope: “The name of the city from that time on shall be, THE LORD IS THERE.” [2]

Staying: Believing in heaven makes us better citizens of earth. In the years after the resurrection of Jesus, the gospel spread precisely because his followed believed in heaven. Two plagues swept through the Roman Empire. In the course of about a hundred years, about 25-35% of its population was wiped out. Although no one knew how to stop these plagues, everyone knew that they spread by contact. As a result, people left the cities in droves. Even family members abandoned sick relatives. But the Christians stayed. They cared for their own and others. Many of them died. Why did they stay? Because they believed in heaven. Contrasting the flight of the famous physician Galen, historian Ronald Stark writes, “Galen lacked belief in life beyond death. The Christians were certain that this life was but a prelude. For Galen to have remained in Rome to treat the afflicted would have required bravery far beyond that needed by Christians to do likewise.” [3] To flee was the pagans’ rational response; to stay was the Christians’.

Prayer: Lord, We confess that we often keep away from people with bed bugs—much less the plague! Forgive us and lift our eyes to see the empty cross and the glorified Christ, who is the first fruits of our resurrection. Remind us that this life is a prelude so that we joyfully risk our lives for the sake of glorifying your name and loving others. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Ecclesiastes 3:11 | [2] Ezekiel 48:35 | [3] Rodney Stark. Epidemics, Networks and the Rise of Christianity. January 2011.

April 15, 2014

843 Acres Lent Tweetable Tuesdays: Pursuing True Pleasure

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Ecc 2 (txt | aud, 3:51 min)
1 Ti 4 (txt | aud, 1:55 min)
Highlighted: Ecc 2

Discerning Brokenness

I said in my heart, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure; enjoy yourself.” But behold, this also was vanity. Ecc 2:1

Whatever my eyes desired, I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure. Ecc 2:10

I considered all that my hands had done & the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity & a striving after wind. Ecc 2:11

Imagining Redemption 

For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? Mark 8:36

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven. Matt 6:19-21

When we’re young, we pursue success for its own sake. When I was young, I admired clever ppl. Now that I’m old, I admire kind ppl. #Kushner

Praying ACTS

Lord, We #adore you for you give us all that matters – namely, you. Chasing after pleasure apart from you is a fool’s errand.

Yet we #confess that we often want to gain the whole world, lay up for ourselves treasures on earth, pursue success for it’s own sake.

We give you #thanks for answering the quest of Ecclesiastes by raising Jesus from the dead. In his life, we have life.

Thus, make us kind. Change our hearts to want treasures in heaven. May we not forfeit our soul for the vanity of this age. #supplication

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April 14, 2014

843 Acres Lent: When All You’ve Ever Wanted Isn’t Enough

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Ecc 1 (txt | aud, 2:09 min)
1 Ti 3 (txt | aud, 1:55 min)
Highlighted: Ecc 1:2-3, 9

Success: “If the book of Proverbs is about wisdom for people who want success,” writes Mark Dever, “the book of Ecclesiastes offers wisdom for people who have success. Particularly, it is for individuals who have gotten what they wanted out of life, or at least what they thought they had wanted, and then have found it wanting.”

Vanity: The author of Ecclesiastes was wealthy and wise. Yet he laments the daily drudgery of life that seems to be nothing but repetitive: “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity. What does a man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun? … What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.”

Enjoying: In When All You’ve Ever Wanted Isn’t Enough, Harold Kushner writes that the dailiness of our activities is the beauty of life: “When we stop searching for the Great Answer, the Immortal Deed which will give our lives ongoing meaning, and instead concentrate on filling our individual days with moments that gratify us, then we will find the only possible answer to the question, What is life about? It is not about writing great books, amassing great wealth, achieving great power. It is about loving and being loved. It is about enjoying your food and sitting in the sun rather than rushing through lunch and hurrying back to the office. It is about savoring the beauty of moments that don’t last, the sunsets, the leaves turning color, the rare moments of true human communication. It is about savoring them rather than missing out on them because we are so busy and they will not hold still until we get around to them … When we come to that stage in our lives when we are less able to accomplish but more able to enjoy, we will have attained the wisdom that Ecclesiastes finally found after so many false starts and disappointments.”

Prayer: Lord, There is nothing new under the sun. The Great Answer lies not in our activities, but in Christ. And it is his resurrection that gives meaning to our daily lives. May we be people who receive your gifts with joy and pleasure, not rushing through them to get to more “important” things. May we savor them, spend time with them, and thank you for them. Amen.

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April 11, 2014

843 Acres Lent: Absolute Truth and Megalomania

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Prov 29 (txt | aud, 2:52 min)
2 Th 3 (txt | aud, 2:04 min)
Highlighted: Prov 29:25

Megalomania: A few years ago, David Brooks wrote about the megalomania of Muammar el-Qaddafi. “How does a guy who seems to be only marginally attached to reality manage to stay in power for 42 years?” he asked. One thing, Brooks noted, was that Qaddafi was not bothered by the fear of man: “[Megalomaniacs like him] are untroubled by doubt or concern for the good opinion of others since they already possess absolute truth.” But does possession of absolute truth necessarily lead to megalomania? How can it lead to love and service instead?

Truth: The problem with Qaddafi was not that he was untroubled by concern for “the good opinion of others.” His problem was that his absolute truth was rooted in making himself god. Instead of fearing the Lord, he repeatedly likened himself to Jesus and the Prophet Muhammad and referred to the Green Book, his book of teachings, as “the new gospel.” His self-worship led him to seek “control every neuron” in the heads of his people and to “destroy all outside authority and civil society.”

Trust: Proverbs says, “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.” [1] The Scripture, thus, connects our not being afraid of man with our trusting God. How does this lead to a life of love and service? When we trust the Lord, we follow him who revealed himself as a servant-king in Jesus. Although some people expected him to come as a political or military ruler, he came as a sacrificial lamb, who laid down his life for his people. Following this type of God does not lead to totalitarianism or dictatorship. It leads to taking up our crosses daily and serving others.

Prayer: Lord, Possession of absolute truth does not necessarily lead to megalomania; it depends on what that truth is. In Christ, our truth is that weakness is strength and foolishness is wisdom. For the cross is weak and foolish in the eyes of the world; but we know that it is the power of salvation to those who believe. Therefore, may we root ourselves in your truth, not fearing man by trusting you. Amen.

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M’Cheyne Weekend Reading

Saturday, April 12: Prov 30 (txt | aud, 3:50 min) & 1 Ti 1 (txt | aud, 2:43 min)
Sunday, April 13: Prov 31 (txt | aud, 2:56 min) & 1 Ti 2 (txt | aud, 1:34 min)

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Footnotes

[1] Proverbs 29:25 ESV

April 10, 2014

843 Acres Lent #TBT: Confession in Life Together

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Prov 28 (txt | aud, 2:48 min)
2 Th 2 (txt | aud, 2:11 min)

Solomon: Proverbs 28:13

Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Life Together

A confession of sin in the presence of all the members of the congregation is not required to restore one to community with the entire congregation. In the one other Christian to whom I confess my sins and by whom my sins are declared forgiven, I meet the whole congregation. Community within the whole congregation is given to me in the community which I experience with this one other believer. For here it is not a matter of acting according to one’s own orders and authority, but according to the command of Jesus Christ, which is intended for the whole congregation, on whose behalf the individual is called merely to carry it out. So long as Christians are in such a community of confession of sins to one another, they are no longer alone anywhere.

In confession there occurs a breakthrough to the cross … In confession we affirm our cross. In the profound spiritual and physical pain of humiliation before another believer, which means before God, we experience the cross of Jesus as our deliverance and salvation. The old humanity dies, but God has triumphed over it. Now we share in the resurrection of Christ and eternal life.

In confession there occurs a breakthrough to new life. The break with the past is made when sin is hated, confessed, and forgiven. “Everything old has passed away.” But where there is a break from sin, there is conversion. Confession is conversion. “Everything has become new” (2 Cor. 5:17). Christ has made a new beginning with us. As the first disciples left everything behind and followed Jesus’s call, so in confession the Christian gives up everything and follows. Confession is following after. Life with Jesus Christ and the community of faith has begun. “No one who conceals transgressions will prosper, but one who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy” (Prov. 28:13). In confession, Christians begin to renounce their sins. The power of sin is broken. From now on, the Christian gains one victory after another. What happened to us in baptism is given to us anew in confession. We are delivered from darkness into the rule of Jesus Christ. That is joyful news. Confession is the renewal of the joy of baptism. “Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Ps. 30:6).

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April 9, 2014

843 Acres Lent: Planning Our Lives

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Prov 27 (txt | aud, 2:29 min)
2 Th 1 (txt | aud, 1:19 min)
Highlighted: Prov 27:1

Precious: Life is precious but precarious. We may not always have eyes that can see a child’s surprise at Christmas or legs that are able to run on the beach. We may not always be able to see snow falling, eat molten chocolate cake, or read great novels by the fire. Recognizing this, what do we do? How do we live today?

Tomorrow: In Proverbs, Solomon offers guidance, “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.” [1] And James wrote, “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.” [2]

Boasting: It is our boasting—not our planning—that displeases the Lord. After all, Jesus planned “tomorrow” when he set his face to Jerusalem: “He was determined to go to Jerusalem.” [3] Yet he also humbly submitted to his Father’s plan: “Not my will but yours be done.” [4] Similarly, Paul planned “tomorrow” when he embarked on his three missionary journeys. [5] Yet he told the Ephesians, “I will return to you again, if God wills.” [6] Thus, as we recognize that it is God—not us—who holds every minute of our precious yet precarious lives in his good and wise hands, let us treasure humble hearts that cling to “if God wills.”

Prayer: Lord, You decide how long we will live and what we will or will not accomplish. As we plan our precious yet precarious lives, give us strategic minds that plan and humble hearts that do not presume. Let us rest in the security of your providence that is stronger than chance or schedules. May your will—not ours—be done. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Proverbs 27:1 ESV | [2] James 4:13-17 ESV | [3] Luke 9:53 NASB | [4] Luke 22:42 NASB | [5] See Acts 27-28. | [6] Acts 18:21 NASB. See also 1 Corinthians 4:19

April 8, 2014

843 Acres Lent Tweetable Tuesdays: Pray Continually

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Prov 26 (txt | aud, 2:47 min)
1 Th 5 (txt | aud, 2:28 min)
Highlighted: 1 Th 5:16-18

Discerning Brokenness 

According to a 2010 Gallup poll, 92% of Americans say there is a God. 83% say he answers prayers. But what about “unanswered” prayers?

“Unanswered prayer forms a barrier that blocks desire to keep company w/God + poses serious threat to faith of trusting children.” #Yancey

“I do not doubt that God answers prayer. Rather, I struggle with the inconsistency of those apparent answers.” #Yancey

Imagining Redemption

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Th 5:16-18

In 1976 Joni Eareckson Tada became quadriplegic. She prays daily for healing. Also she paints w/her teeth + sings praise songs in elevators.

Tension: “My Father, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will but as you will” + “For the joy set before him, he endured the cross”

Praying ACTS

Lord, we #adore you for not answering Jesus’s prayer to take the cup from him, but instead you answered his deepest prayer-to redeem us.

We #confess that we doubt whether you answer our prayers, which often keeps us from praying and, in turn, experiencing your fullness.

Yet we are #thankful that you listen to our deepest desires. For we often do not know what to pray. Hear our prayers and hear our hearts.

As we pray continually, may we always pray, “Not as I will, but as you will.” For we struggle to know our own desires. #supplication

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April 7, 2014

843 Acres Lent: Clothed in Christ for Eternity

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Prov 25 (txt | aud, 2:59 min)
1 Th 4 (txt | aud, 2:18 min)
Highlighted: 1 Th 4:14

Specialness: Our need to deny death motivates us. Hoping to avoid its bitterness, we strive for immortality by pursuing lives of significance. This longing for “cosmic specialness,” as Ernest Becker puts it, leads us to create a “heroic self-image” that convinces us that our lives are meaningful and significant.

Mausoleum: Although our heroic self-image inspires greatness, it also instigates evil. In his forward to Becker’s The Denial of Death, Sam Keen writes, “Becker’s radical conclusion [is] that it is our altruistic motives that turn the world into a [mausoleum] … At what cost do we purchase the assurance that we are heroic? … [H]ow easily we will shed blood to purchase the assurance of our own righteousness.”

Immortality: The Thessalonians thought about death and immortality, too. Although they knew that Christ had risen, they seemed to believe that Christians who died before his return would be lost forever. Paul, therefore, wrote this letter to assure them that the dead would be resurrected to eternal life: “For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.” [1]

Living: Paul encourages the Thessalonians to live in light of their immortality. Rather than polishing their heroic self-image, they can encourage others and embrace grace. [2] Since the unchanging work of Christ secures their immortality, they can be unwavering—rejoicing “always”, praying “without ceasing”, and giving thanks in “all circumstances.” [3]

Righteousness: Knowing that we’ll receive eternal life frees us from our need to deny death, and knowing that we can rest in the righteousness of Christ frees us from our need to establish our own. We can release our heroic self-image when we see that Jesus is our hero. As Becker writes, the most remarkable thing about Christianity is “that it could take slaves, cripples, imbeciles, the simple and the mighty, and make them all secure heroes, simply by taking a step back from the world into another dimension, the dimension called heaven. Or we might better say that Christianity took creature consciousness—the thing man most wanted to deny—and made it the very condition for his cosmic heroism.”

Prayer: Lord, Embracing our weakness and mortality is the condition for our receiving the strength and immortality of Christ. Therefore, may we come to you as weak and needy so that you may clothe us in him. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] 1 Thessalonians 4:14 ESV | [2] 1 Thessalonians 5:12-15 | [3] 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

April 4, 2014

843 Acres Lent: What Is a Christian

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Prov 22 (txt | aud, 2:45 min)
1 Th 1 (txt | aud, 1:19 min)
Highlighted: 1 Th 1:4, 9-10

Background: Paul planted a church in Thessalonica, the capital of Macedonia and a flourishing center of trade and philosophy. While the church was still new and the Christians were still young, there was so much opposition against Paul that he had to leave prematurely. So he sent Timothy to check on them and return with a report. In response to hearing how they were doing, Paul sent them this letter to remind them how and why they became Christians. In essence, he reminded them what a Christian was. What does he say?

Marks: He writes, “For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.” [1] First, they became Christians by the gospel—that is, not by some general message of love or morality, but by the good news of Jesus. Elsewhere, Paul refers to the gospel as “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” [2] Second, the gospel did not come only in words, but also in power. A Christian is someone in whom and through whom the gospel has become a power. [3]

Choice: Finally, Paul says that they are Christians because he has heard “how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.” [4] In other words, they sensed the totalitarian claims of Christ and understood that the issue was not what they were going to make of him, but what he was going to make of them. They saw that the true choice was not between Christ and freedom, but between Christ and slavery. For they began to see how everything but Christ would enslave them.

Prayer: Lord, May we know that we are Christians by our having received the gospel, by our having been empowered by it, and by our turning from idols to serve you, the true and living God. For we know that it is only in Christ that we experience true freedom. Therefore, increase our desire for you daily and remind us in your Word that we are your children and heirs to your promises. Amen.

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M’Cheyne Weekend Reading

Saturday, April 5: Prov 23 (txt | aud, 3:19 min) & 1 Th 2 (txt | aud, 2:30 min)
Sunday, April 6: Prov 24 (txt | aud, 3:11 min) & 1 Th 3 (txt | aud, 1:33 min)

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Footnotes

[1] 1 Thessalonians 1:4 ESV | [2] 2 Corinthians 4:6 ESV | [3] Romans 1:16 ESV | [4] 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10 ESV

April 3, 2014

843 Acres Lent: The Joy and Terror of the Abolition Movement

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Prov 21 (txt | aud, 3:00 min)
Col 4 (txt | aud, 2:07 min)

Proverbs 21:15

When justice is done, it is a joy to the righteous, but terror to evildoers.

Concerning the Abolition of Slavery from In Defense of Faith: The Judeo-Christian Idea and the Struggle for Humanity by David Brog

It would be difficult to overstate the enormity of this accomplishment [the abolition of slavery and the slave trade]. Any objective observer would have given this small band of religious misfits [William Wilberforce and others] little chance of changing the policy of an empire. Commenting on the abolitionists’ ultimate victory, no less an observer than Alexis de Tocqueville wrote: “If you pore over the histories of all peoples, I doubt that you will find anything more extraordinary or more beautiful.”

When the English abolitionists began their efforts, slavery was an accepted fact of life not only in England but throughout the world. The institution had existed since the dawn of human history, and few people had ever questioned its validity. As author Adam Hochschild has noted, on the day the Abolition Society first met in the Quaker print shop “well over three-quarters of all people alive were in bondage of one kind or another, not the captivity of striped prison uniforms, but of various systems of slavery or serfdom.” Beyond African slavery in America, this worldwide bondage included Russian serfdom, Indian debt bondage, African slavery in Muslim lands and in Africa itself, and the slavery practiced by certain American Indian tribes.

The institution of slavery was buttressed not only by its universality, but also by its profitability. Almost all of Britain’s slaves lived in its West Indian colonies, where they were essential to the cultivation of the Empire’s most valuable cash crops. England’s planters and shipping interests believed that abolition would destroy their lucrative enterprises, and they were ferocious in their opposition to it.

These crops were the source of enormous revenue not only for the businessmen who grew and shipped them but also for the British crown which taxed their sale. The implications of abolition thus extended beyond economics to geopolitics. The unilateral abolition of slavery threatened a crucial source of revenue at the very time that Britain was locked into a bitter global rivalry with France. Defenders of the Empire thus joined with vested economic interests in determined resistance to such reform.

It turns out that those who predicted that abolition would result in enormous economic losses were not exaggerating. The fiscal impact of abolition was so great, in fact, that historian Seymour Drescher characterized the British abolition of slavery as voluntary “econocide.”

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