April 23, 2014

843 Acres: Finding Patience to Wait

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Ecc 10 (txt | aud, 2:16 min)
Ti 2 (txt | aud, 1:41 min)
Highlighted: Ti 2:13

Waiting: We are all in the waiting room—for a test result, for a baby, for a wedding day, for a job offer. Here, in Titus 2, we read that we are “waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” [1] How do we wait, though, without growing cynical, idolatrous, and despairing?

Eros: Perhaps the old word for patience—longsuffering—better describes how we experience waiting. In Love Within Limits, Lewis Smedes contrasts patience born of natural love (eros) with patience born of divine love (agape). He writes, “Erotic love has no power for longsuffering. Eros is desire … It can be frustrated when we do not get exactly and enduringly what we long for. It can be betrayed when people renege on a promise to fulfill our need. It can be burned out when what filled us for a season suddenly leaves us empty. Born from suffering, eros is destined for suffering. That erotic love does not have power to suffer long is its built-in tragedy. It must suffer, but it has no strength for longsuffering. Eros cannot wait.”

Agape: Agape, however, “has the power to be creatively weak. Because it is not driven by ardent need, it has power to wait. It gives power to accept life, to find goodness in living while we are victims of situations we despise. This is the only way to explain two attitudes we observe in Jesus toward his own horrible suffering. In Gethsemane, we hear him plead with God to be spared the cross that lay ahead … The next day, as he bears his cross to Calvary, he tells the weeping women who follow him: ‘Don’t cry for me.’ Here we see his power to affirm himself as the loving Lord and free Savior who chose to suffer, to be a victim of suffering. He was not a helpless victim of tragedy; he was a powerful person who chose to be weak. He had the strength to become a victim even while he affirmed his own life as free in obedience to love.”

Prayer: Lord, Longsuffering is not passive, but aggressive. It takes power of soul. Our only hope in waiting, therefore, is the power of your divine love that moves us toward one another and toward you. May we seek your face and find your love that we may be longsuffering. Amen.

____________________________________ 

FAQs

How can I make a tax-deductible donation? Click here.
How can I get these devotionals in my inbox? Click here.
What is the reading plan this blog is based on? Click here.

 ____________________________________   

Footnotes

[1] Titus 2:13 ESV

April 22, 2014

843 Acres: Tuesday Tweetables: The Same Event Happens to Us All

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Ecc 9 (txt | aud, 3:01 min)
Ti 1 (txt | aud, 2:10 min)

Discerning Brokenness

It is the same for all, since the same event (death) happens to the righteous and the wicked, to the good and the evil. #Ecc9

The hearts of the children of man are full of evil and madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead. #Ecc9

“Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” #Thomas

Imagining Redemption

Paul: “Christ is raised. Therefore, be steadfast, immovable, abounding … knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” #1Cor15

His resurrection gives meaning to our work. Therefore, eat your bread with joy, drink your wine with merriment, work with might. #Ecc9

The good life, the truly human life, is not based on a few great moments, but on many, many little ones. #Kushner

Praying ACTS

Lord, We #adore you for not letting death have the final word. In Christ, you solved the riddle of Ecclesiastes, fulfilling his longings.

Yet we #confess that we often do not know how to live in this already-but-not-yet state. Our work is not in vain, but what does that mean?

We #thank you that what was begun at the resurrection of Christ will continue until it is thoroughly finished, that we work as your hands.

Therefore, may we enjoy our bread, wine, and work, as we point to Christ as the bread, the wine, and the new creation. #supplication

____________________________________ 

FAQs

How can I make a tax-deductible donation? Click here.
How can I get these devotionals in my inbox? Click here.
What is the reading plan this blog is based on? Click here.

 ____________________________________   

 

April 21, 2014

843 Acres: Metrics of Success

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Ecc 8 (txt | aud, 2:27 min)
2 Tim 4 (txt | aud, 2:36 min)
Highlighted: 2 Tim 4:7-8

Success: On Wall Street, success is measured when the closing bell rings. On Capitol Hill, it’s measured when constituents cast their votes. When it comes to our lives, however, how do we measure success? How do we determine whether a life was well lived?

Failure: Paul’s second letter to Timothy was his last. He was aging and imprisoned; he knew that his life was drawing to a close. [1] Was his life successful? First, let’s consider whether he was well liked. During his thirty years of ministry, he was deserted, opposed, flogged, beaten, betrayed, imprisoned, shipwrecked, left for dead, and stoned. [2] According to tradition, a few days after he penned this letter, Nero beheaded him as a criminal. What about the churches he planted? Were they successful? According to John’s vision in Revelation, the church that Paul planted in Ephesus would be told, “I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.” [3] What about his apprentice, Timothy? According to tradition, Timothy was beaten, dragged, and stoned to death by an enraged mob. In other words, from all external appearances, Paul’s life doesn’t seem too successful—he wasn’t well liked by the cultural elite, the church he planted abandoned their first love, and his apprentice was killed by a mob.

Perspective: Yet Paul writes, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.” [4] In other words, Paul did not measure his success by externalities, but by the Lord. And knowing that Jesus—who also seemed like a failure to many—was his great redemption, Paul knew that his life was successful.

Prayer: Lord, We praise you for making our success rooted in your love, not our achievements. Yet we confess that we often seek after those things that we think make us successful—popular opinion, professional reward, or influential relationships. Yet it is fighting the good fight, finishing the race, and keeping the faith that matter. Reform our hearts so that we take greater joy in being called your children than in accomplishing great things. Amen.

____________________________________ 

FAQs

How can I make a tax-deductible donation? Click here.
How can I get these devotionals in my inbox? Click here.
What is the reading plan this blog is based on? Click here.

 ____________________________________   

Footnotes

[1] 2 Timothy 4:4:6, ESV | [2] See 2 Corinthians 11:16-33 | [3] Revelation 2:2-7, ESV | [4] 2 Timothy 4:7-8 ESV

April 18, 2014

843 Acres Lent: How Great Is Our God

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Ecc 5 (txt | aud, 2:56 min)
2 Ti 1 (txt | aud, 2:20 min)
Highlighted: 2 Ti 1:8-9

Jerusalem: A few years ago, I traveled to Israel and Jordan with my parents. When we visited the Garden of Gethsemane, I entered the church on its grounds—the Church of All Nations—to pray. As I thanked Jesus for his sacrifice and the redemption of all people, I became very aware that behind me was the most contested piece of real estate in the world—the Temple Mount. Muslims, Jews, and Christians all claim it as rightfully theirs.

Nations: During my short time in the Middle East, I saw some of the brokenness between the Israelis and the Palestinians. As I prayed, I was so overwhelmed with sadness for this conflicted land that I wanted to sing. Since there is no talking allowed in the church, though, I used my headphones to listen to music. The first song that played was “How Great Is Our God” by Chris Tomlin. When I heard the chorus, “How great is our God—sing with me, How great is our God—and all will see, How great, how great is our God,” tears began streaming down my face. I felt like I—praying in the Church of All Nations—was calling out to all nations to “sing with me” for “all will see.” It was then that I experientially realized that Jesus’s desire is for all nations—no matter how much war is between them—to know him. This is why he chose to die—to break down the barrier between him and us and the one between us and each other. [1]

Gospel: How does he do this? Through unmerited favor in Christ, who is righteousness for all who believe: “ … God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace …” [2]

Prayer: Lord, In Christ, you reconcile your people to you in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility between us. This is why Jesus died. This is why he chose to die. To break down the dividing wall between you and us and the one between one another. Today, as we reflect on the offering of his body, we pray that all the nations will see that Jesus is Lord. We pray that they might know how great our God is. Amen.

____________________________________ 

M’Cheyne Weekend Readings:

Saturday, April 19: Ecc 6 (txt | aud, 1:47 min) & 2 Ti 2 (txt | aud, 3:00 min)
Sunday, April 20: Ecc 7 (txt | aud, 3:24 min) & 2 Ti 3 (txt | aud, 2:01 min)

____________________________________ 

 Lent - logo

We invite you to join us and the Women’s Bible Society to a Lenten Bible Listening Event on Thursday morning, April 10th.
Click 
here for more details.

____________________________________ 

FAQs

How can I make a tax-deductible donation? Click here.
How can I get these devotionals in my inbox? Click here.
What is the reading plan this blog is based on? Click here.

 ____________________________________   

Footnotes

[1] See Ephesians 2:15-16 | [2] 2 Timothy 1:8-9 ESV

April 17, 2014

843 Acres Lent #TBT: Fleas in the Hiding Place

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Ecc 4 (txt | aud, 2:15 min)
1 Ti 6 (txt | aud, 3:01 min)

Solomon: Ecclesiastes 4:1-2

Behold, the tears of the oppressed, and they had no one to comfort them! On the side of their oppressors there was power, and there was no one to comfort them. And I thought the dead who are already dead more fortunate than the living who are still alive.

Corrie ten Boom: The Hiding Place

Corrie and her sister Betsie were put in concentration camps for rescuing Jews. Here, they have just moved barracks and discovered that fleas are everywhere. Corrie says that she has no idea how she can live in such a place.

“Corrie!” Betsie said excitedly. “He’s given us the answer! Before we asked, as He always does! In the Bible this morning. Where was it? Read that part again!” …

“Oh yes: ‘Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus.’”

“That’s it, Corrie! That’s His answer. ‘Give thanks in all circumstances!’ That’s what we can do. We can start right now to thank God for every single thing about this new barracks!”

I stared at her, then around me at the dark, foul-aired room.

“Such as?” I asked …

“Thank You,” Betsie went on serenely, “for the fleas and for—“

The fleas! This was too much. “Betsie, there’s no way even God can make me grateful for a flea.”

“Give thanks in all circumstances,” she quoted. “It doesn’t say, ‘in pleasant circumstances.’ Fleas are part of this place where God has put us.”

 And so we stood between piers of buns and gave thanks for fleas. But this time I was sure Betsie was wrong.

Months later, Corrie realized that the fleas kept the guards away, which meant they could read their secret Bible in the open.

And thus began the closest, most joyous weeks of all the time in Ravensbruck. Side by side, in the sanctuary of God’s fleas, Betsie and I ministered the Word of God to all in the room. We sat by deathbeds that became doorways of heaven. We watched women who had lost everything grow rich in hope. The knitters of Barracks 28 became the praying heart of the vast diseased body that was Ravensbruck, interceding for all in the camp-guards, under Betsie’s prodding, as well as prisoners. We prayed beyond the concrete walls for the healing of Germany, of Europe, of the world—as Mama had once done from the prison of a crippled body.

____________________________________ 

 Lent - logo

We invite you to join us and the Women’s Bible Society to a Lenten Bible Listening Event on Thursday morning, April 10th.
Click 
here for more details.

____________________________________ 

FAQs

How can I make a tax-deductible donation? Click here.
How can I get these devotionals in my inbox? Click here.
What is the reading plan this blog is based on? Click here.

 ____________________________________   

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.

____________________________________ 

 Lent - logo

We invite you to join us and the Women’s Bible Society to a Lenten Bible Listening Event on Thursday morning, April 10th.
Click 
here for more details.

____________________________________ 

FAQs

How can I make a tax-deductible donation? Click here.
How can I get these devotionals in my inbox? Click here.
What is the reading plan this blog is based on? Click here.

 ____________________________________   

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

____________________________________ 

 Lent - logo

We invite you to join us and the Women’s Bible Society to a Lenten Bible Listening Event on Thursday morning, April 10th. Click here for more details.

____________________________________ 

FAQs

How can I make a tax-deductible donation? Click here.
How can I get these devotionals in my inbox? Click here.
What is the reading plan this blog is based on? Click here.

 ____________________________________   

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.

____________________________________ 

 Lent - logo

We invite you to join us and the Women’s Bible Society to a Lenten Bible Listening Event on Thursday morning, April 10th. Click here for more details.

____________________________________ 

FAQs

How can I make a tax-deductible donation? Click here.
How can I get these devotionals in my inbox? Click here.
What is the reading plan this blog is based on? Click here.

 ____________________________________   

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.

____________________________________ 

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)

____________________________________ 

 Lent - logo

We invite you to join us and the Women’s Bible Society to a Lenten Bible Listening Event on Thursday morning, April 10th.
Click 
here for more details.

____________________________________ 

FAQs

How can I make a tax-deductible donation? Click here.
How can I get these devotionals in my inbox? Click here.
What is the reading plan this blog is based on? Click here.

 ____________________________________   

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).

____________________________________ 

 Lent - logo

We invite you to join us and the Women’s Bible Society to a Lenten Bible Listening Event on Thursday morning, April 10th.
Click 
here for more details.

____________________________________ 

FAQs

How can I make a tax-deductible donation? Click here.
How can I get these devotionals in my inbox? Click here.
What is the reading plan this blog is based on? Click here.

 ____________________________________   

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 147 other followers