August 29, 2014

843 Acres: Reader’s Choice: Hope for Troubled Souls: Everybody Worships

by Bethany

Reader: Brad Elledge: This devotional struck me because it so reflected my life experience. We were fresh out of B-School: from Chicago, Wharton, Harvard, Northwestern and part of a corporate planning staff where ambition ran like a bull market. “We all aim to be the King of France, running our own empires,” remarked our Chief of Staff.  Five years and three moves later, having worshipped at the altar of career glory, I was burnt out and empty realizing, having given it everything, my career wasn’t loving me back. It had literally sucked the life out of me. There had to be more than the endless cycle of beating sales quota, sacrificing for the next promotion … so in a moment of weakness, I accepted a friends invitation to go to church. And those strange people would invite me to a meal out of mere kindness and free me from my loneliness and self-sufficiency. They represented Christ and I was captivated by the alternative. Our redemption, truly, is found in Him alone. And with that redemption comes the true riches: friendships that span decades, family, community, knowing and serving the one true God. It is not about us … it’s about Him.

843 Acres: Reader’s Choice: Hope for Troubled Souls: Everybody Worships
Originally published on May 20, 2013.
Highlighted: Ps 73:25-26

Worship: “Everybody worships,” said David Foster Wallace in 2005. “The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing … is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough … Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths … Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you in your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. But the insidious thing about these forms of worship is … they’re unconscious” [1]. 

Troubled: In 2008, Wallace committed suicide. He was 46 and best known for Infinite Jest (1996), a novel that “perceives American society as self-obsessed, pleasure-obsessed and entertainment-obsessed” [2]. The next year, he received a MacArthur grant, “the so-called genius award”. The NYT chief book critic once said, “[He] can do practically anything if he puts his mind to it. He can do sad, funny, silly, heartbreaking and absurd with equal ease; he can even do them all at once”. His obituary, however, read, “In contrast to the lively spirit of his writing, [he] was … consumed with his work and its worth, perpetually at odds with himself … a titanically gifted writer with an equally troubled soul”.

Injustice: In Psalms, we find several troubled souls. In Psalm 73, for example, Asaph is troubled because he wonders whether God cares about injustice. Yet he takes his confusion and emotions into the sanctuary, where he finds what Wallace intimated—that God alone will not eat him alive: “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” [3].

Prayer: Lord, We confess that, when we look upon our imperfect and broken world, our souls are troubled. Yet we know that our redemption is found in you alone. Therefore, let our hearts rejoice that you are our strength and portion forever. Amen.

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About Brad: Brad grew up in the Napa Valley before it was big time wine country. He migrated to Chicago for B-School and pursued a corporate career with stops in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Phoenix, Tucson (where he met the Lord), and Knoxville, TN. He now manages a manufacturing plant with 100 employees (his “flock”) in North Dallas. With his ‘noble soul’ wife of 30 years, Eileen, they have raised 4 children, 2 “domestics” & 2 “imports” (adopted Vietnamese). They now reside in Frisco, TX, where they attend Grace Church.

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M’Cheyne Reading as Scheduled

Eze 1 (txt | aud, 4:19 min)
Ps 37 (txt | aud, 3:58 min)

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 M’Cheyne Weekend Readings as Scheduled:

Saturday, August 30: Eze 2 (txt | aud, 1:20 min) & Ps 38 (txt | aud, 2:10 min)
Sunday, August 31: Eze 3 (txt | aud, 4:08 min); Ps 39 (txt | aud, 1:49 min)
Monday, September 1 (Labor Day): Eze 4 (txt | aud, 2:48 min); Ps 40-41 (txt | aud, 4:01 + min)

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Footnotes

[1] David Foster Wallace. “Transcription of the 2005 Kenyon Commencement Address.” May 21, 2005. | [2] Bruce Weber. “David Foster Wallace, Influential Writer, Dies at 46.” New York Times. Obituary. September 15, 2008. | [3] Psalm 73:25-26 ESV

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August 28, 2014

843 Acres: Reader’s Choice: Prone to Wander, Lord, We Feel It

by Bethany

Reader’s Choice: Jen Pollock Michel: I appreciate this post for its clear presentation of the gospel: we are reckless sinners who need grace at every turn. Only the steadfast and patient love of God, expressed in Jesus, insures our hope of hearing and faithfully obeying the voice of God.

843 Acres: Reader’s Choice: Prone to Wander, Lord, We Feel It
Originally published on April 28, 2014
Highlighted: Heb 3:12-14

Exodus: When God rescued the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt and led them through the Red Sea, they were full of celebration. With one voice, they sang, “I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously … The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.” [1] Three days later, however, they complained about the way He gave them food and water. They said that they would rather be slaves again than depend on Him. Then, a few weeks later, they worshipped handmade idols, saying, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” [2] How did they fall away from the Lord so quickly?

Caution: Looking back on these events, the Psalmist warned, “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts … when your fathers put me to the test and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work. For forty years I loathed that generation and said, ‘They are a people who go astray in their heart, and they have not known my ways.” [3]Hundreds of years later, the writer of Hebrews quoted the Psalmist and expanded the message: “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called, ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence to the end.” [4]

Gospel: The Hebrews were slaves to Egypt; we are slaves to sin. They were released by the plague of the firstborn son; we are released by the death of the firstborn son of God. On the cross, the work of God is on display far greater than during the Exodus. How much more, then, must we cling to belief!

Prayer: Lord, We confess that, like the Hebrews, we can turn quickly from celebration to sin. Yet we do not have the strength to endure in faith. Therefore, we beg you to increase our faith. As we look to the cross, help us to remember your work and to exhort one another daily so that we will not be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we admit that we are prone to wander. Amen.

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About Jen: Jen lives in Toronto with her family. She’s the author of Teach Us to Want: Longing, Ambition and the Life of Faith. She also regularly contributes to Christianity Today’s Her.meneutics blog and Today in the Word, a devotional publication of Moody Bible Institute. You can follow her on Twitter: @jenpmichel.
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M’Cheyne Reading as Scheduled

Lam 5 (txt | aud, 2:01 min)
Ps 36 (txt | aud, 1:23 min)

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Footnotes

[1] Exodus 15:1, 2 ESV | [2] Exodus 32:4 ESV | [3] Psalm 95:7-11 ESV | [4] Hebrews 3:12-14 ESV

August 27, 2014

843 Acres: Reader’s Choice: Unconditional Love vs. Contraconditional Love

by Bethany

Reader’s Choice: Brett Gaudin: I like this because it reminds me that what we refer to as God’s “unconditional love” is not without conditions. Those conditions are the law and it demanded of Christ his very life. And yet it was to his joy to give us his inheritance and take us as his. “What a love, what a cost, we stand forgiven at the cross” … perfectly ruled and perfectly free.

843 Acres: Reader’s Choice: Unconditional Love vs. Contraconditional Love
Originally published on September 18, 2013.
Highlighted: 2 Cor 7:9-10

LoveIn 1961, psychologist Carl Rogers popularized the term, “unconditional positive regard,” suggesting that we mustlove our children for who they are, not for what they do [1]. In 2004, TV personality Phil McGraw argued that what children want or need should be offered contingently until they “behave according to your wishes” [2]. Supernanny agreed: “The best rewards are attention, praise and love,” and these should be held back “when the child behaves badly until she says she is sorry” [3].

Grief: In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul called out their conflicts, divisions and immorality. He did not write these things to make them feel “ashamed,” but to “admonish” them as “beloved children” [4]. When he heard that his letter grieved them, he wrote again, saying, “I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death” [5]. Paul did not have an “unconditional positive regard” for the Corinthians nor did he withhold his love from them until they behaved according to his wishes; his love was neither permissive nor manipulative.

Contraconditional: God’s love is something more than unconditional. As David Powlison has written, “God does not accept me just as I am; He loves me despite how I am; He loves me just as Jesus is; He loves me enough to devote my life to renewing me in the image of Jesus. This love is much, much, much better than unconditional! Perhaps we could call it ‘contraconditional’ love … Contrary to my due, He loves me. And now I can begin to change, not to earn love but because of love … You need something better than unconditional love. You need the crown of thorns … You need the promise to the repentant thief. You need to know, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’ You need forgiveness. You need … a Father, a Savior. You need to become like the one who loves you. You need the better love of Jesus” [6].

Prayer: Lord, What wondrous love is this! Your love for us is neither permissive nor manipulative. How desperately we need your love so that we can live as Paul, loving others as you do. Give us the crown of thorns and the better love of Jesus. Amen.

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About Brett: Brett is from Indiana and has lived in NYC going-on nine years. Brett works for Tegu, a socially-minded toy company, and is part of Redeemer’s Center for Faith & Work Gotham Fellowship Class of 2013.

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M’Cheyne Reading as Scheduled:

Lam 4 (txt | aud, 3:32 min)
Ps 35 (txt | aud, 3:22 min)

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Footnotes

[1] Carl Rogers. On Becoming a Person. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1961. | [2] Carl Rogers. On Becoming a Person. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1961. | [3] Carl Rogers. On Becoming a Person. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1961. | [4] 1 Corinthians 4:14 ESV | [5] 2 Corinthians 7:9-10 ESV | [6] David Powlison. God’s Love: Better than Unconditional. 2001.

August 26, 2014

843 Acres: Founder’s Choice: Bearing with the Weakness of Others

by Bethany

Founder’s Choice: Bethany Jenkins: The “stumbling block” passage, when properly applied, is one of the most beautiful truths in all of Scripture. To me, it’s one of the ways that we can live totally opposite from the wisdom of this age: Who in their right mind voluntarily puts down their rights for others? Here, Paul doesn’t tell “the strong” that they are wrong; in fact, he says, they’re right. Yet he calls them to lay down their rightness out of love and service to others who are “weak” and, he acknowledges, wrong. I rarely see such humility in my own heart. I like to be right, to win arguments, to live according to the rights that I have. I don’t want to lay down my rights to those who are wrong; instead, I want to show them how wrong they are. Yet when I see Jesus, who laid down his divine rights out of love and service to me (his wrong-headed and stubborn enemy), I weep as I embrace his kindness. This, in turn, enables me to lay down my rights—not because I’m wrong, but because I’m called to love and serve others as he has loved and served me.

843 Acres: Founder’s Choice: Bearing with the Weakness of Others
Originally published as a Tuesday Tweetable on September 3, 2013.
Highlighted: 1 Cor 8

Discerning Brokenness

We exclude people in three ways: (1) expulsion: get away from me, (2) subjugation: submit to me, (3) assimilation: conform to me.

Traditional intolerance says, “We have rules and, if you do not adhere to our truth, then you are out.” #expulsion

Modern (in)tolerance says, “We can live together as long as no one claims to have the truth. This is the only absolute truth.” #assimilation

Imagining Redemption 

Modernity says, To accept someone, you accept their beliefs. Christianity says, Accept one another, even if you don’t accept their beliefs.

How do we treat people who we think are wrong? We were saved by someone who entered into our humanity when we were wrong. #love #innerpoise

Eating food sacrificed to idols was not sinful unless it was in the presence of a believer with a weak conscience. http://ow.ly/mO6MK

Praying ACTS

Lord, On the cross, we see your intolerance for sin and your vulnerability for us. What a condescending, loving God we serve! #adoration

Lord, We confess that we are often impatient with others. Instead of being driven by other-love, we are driven by self-love. #confession

Lord, Thank you for bearing with our weak consciences, for being intolerant of our sin and for adjusting your life for us. #thanksgiving

Lord, Help us relate to others as you relate to us – on the basis of your grace, not our goodness, rightness or kindness. #supplication

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About Bethany: Bethany is the founder of The Park Forum and the director of Every Square Inch, the faith and work initiative of The Gospel Coalition. She attends Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, where she was a Gotham Fellow in 2012-2013. She studied at Baylor University and Columbia Law School.

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M’Cheyne Reading as Scheduled:

Lam 3 (txt | aud, 5:05 min)
Ps 34 (txt | aud, 2:02 min)

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Footnotes

[For further meditation on this topic, I highly recommend: Tim Keller. “Receptive Grace.” Sermon. February 10, 2002. Redeemer Sermon Store: here.]

August 25, 2014

843 Acres: Reader’s Choice: How Generous Should We Be?

by Bethany

Reader’s Choice: Evan Shaver:  CS Lewis’ comments from “Mere Christianity” challenge me to never think about giving in numerical terms. As he eloquently states, “the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare.” It’s a difficult rule to follow because it’s not a straightforward percentage of income. It’s a state of mind and heart. If we’re not constantly challenging our mind and heart to be uncomfortable, then we’re not sacrificing enough and trusting God with our lifestyle. I’ve found that as I apply these principles, I can consistently increase my level of giving because I learn to adapt to live within those tighter fiscal constraints.     

843 Acres: Reader’s Choice: How Generous Should We Be?
Originally published #TBT September 19, 2013

Paul. 2 Corinthians 8:2-5.

… their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints—and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.

C.S. Lewis. Mere Christianity. (an excerpt)

In the passage where the New Testament says that everyone must work, it gives us a reason: “in order that he may have something to give to those in need.” Charity—giving to the poor—is an essential part of Christian morality: in the frightening parable of the sheep and the goats, it seems to be the point on which everything turns. Some people nowadays say that charity ought to be unnecessary and that instead of giving to the poor, we ought to be producing a society in which there were no poor to give to. They may be quite right in saying that we ought to produce this kind of society. But if anyone thinks that, as a consequence, you can stop giving in the meantime, then he has parted company with all Christian morality.

I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words, if our expenditures on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc., is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little. If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charities expenditure excludes them. I am speaking now of “charities” in the common way. Particular cases of distress among your own relatives, neighbors or employees, which God, as it were, forces upon your notice, may demand much more: even to the crippling and endangering of your own position. For many of us, the great obstacle to charity lies not in our luxurious living or desire for more money, but in our fear—fear of insecurity. This must often be recognized as temptation. Sometimes our pride also hinders our charity; we are tempted to spend more than we ought on the showy forms of generosity (tipping, hospitality) and less than we ought on those who really need our help.

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About Evan: Evan is a former McKinsey consultant and currently works at PepsiCo in Dallas, where he lives with his wife and two young daughters. He is a member of Irving Bible Church and has been following The Park Forum since his consulting days.

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M’Cheyne Reading as Scheduled:

Lam 2 (text | audio, 5:03 min)
Ps 33 (text | audio, 2:12 min )

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August 22, 2014

843 Acres: Reader’s Choice: What’s the Purpose of Giving Something Up?

by Bethany

Reader’s Choice: Anon: This was one I enjoyed over the Lenten season. It helped articulate that living the Christian life is not a long list of things you now can’t do, but orienting your life around saying Yes, Yes to Christ, in whom is ultimate freedom. Made it easier to give up sugar!

843 Acres: What’s the Purpose of Giving Something Up?
Originally published during Lent, March 5, 2014
Highlighted: 2 Cor 4:7-12

Lent: Today is Ash Wednesday, which marks the start of the 40-day liturgical period of prayer and fasting or abstinence that we call Lent. During this season, many of us will give up certain things—social media, chocolate, alcohol—but how many of us understand that Lent isn’t fundamentally about abstention at all?

Abstention: On Saturday, at S1NGLE hosted by Redeemer, Wesley Hill talked about abstention in the form of chastity. He said that his understanding of chastity as a single Christian flipped from negative to positive when he began to discern the fundamental purpose of abstention in the Christian life. “When God gives someone a calling,” he said, “it’s never primarily about orienting your life around saying, ‘No,’ to something. A calling is not about constructing a practice of abstention from something. A calling or a vocation … is fundamentally about saying, ‘Yes,’ to something and whatever you abstain from in the course of pursuing that is important, but it’s not the most important. It’s not the thing you build your passion around or order your affections around.”

Purpose: What then do we build our passions and affections around? To what do we say, “Yes”? Paul writes, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed … so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.”[1] In other words, Paul embraces abstention from political freedom in the form of imprisonment and persecution and abstention from an unmarked and healthy body in the form of sufferings and beatings. Why? So that the Corinthians might fully enter into the risen life of Christ. He abstained so that they might know Christ.

Prayer: Lord, In this season of abstention, may we look deeper than at the abstention itself. Show us how to say, “Yes,” to knowing you and to loving others so that we may discern that to which you are calling us to say, “No.” And may we orient this Lenten season around our Yes, not our No. Indeed, may we use Lent as a time of seeking your face so that we may hear your voice about turning our entire lives toward you. Amen.

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About Anon: Anon works in the healthcare industry in New York City. 

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M’Cheyne Weekend Reading as Scheduled:

Friday, August 22: Jer 51 (txt | aud, 11:31 min) & Ps 30 (txt | aud, 1:29 min)
Saturday, August 23: Jer 52 (txt | aud, 6:23 min) & Ps 31 (txt | aud, 3:16 min)
Sunday, August 24: Lam 1 (txt | aud, 4:42 min) & Ps 32 (txt | aud, 1:29 min)

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Footnotes

[1] 2 Corinthians 4:7-12 ESV

August 21, 2014

843 Acres: Redeeming Our Commute

by Bethany

Reader’s Choice: Perryn Pettus:  I’m an introvert. It’s freeing to know this about myself, but can too easily become a shield for protection of my personal space and time. This devotional struck me in a deep way, “When we talk to strangers, we stand to gain much more than the ‘me time’ we might lose.” Of course it’s an interesting study based on scientific facts, but the more interesting thing is, in order to truly know those around me—in an attempt to see into others like Jesus sees me—I must fight against the erroneous belief that the greatest pleasures are in solitude.

843 Acres: Redeeming Our Commute
Originally published on April 30, 2014
Highlighted: Heb 5:8-9

do not touch anyone. It’s no wonder, then, why “commuting is associated with fewer positive emotions than any other common daily activity”—after all, we’re told to be alone when we’re smack dab in the middle of community. Can commuting be redeemed?

Guide: Jesus learned obedience—not because he disobeyed, but because he needed to experience suffering and temptation first-hand to qualify as our sympathetic high priest. [1] He needed to suffer in order to be made “perfect” for the job. As Hebrews says,“Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him.” [2] His learning, however, took place in an incarnate life, not a classroom. Jesus did not come as an anthropologist to learn about us in a detached way. He came into the fabric of our everyday lives, in the commonness of our humanity. [3]

Choice: Commuting is part of our ordinary, daily lives. When we commute, however, we get to choose whether we will see people or see through them. Recently, Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton reported in the New York Times Magazine on a study showing that those who talked with strangers had a more positive commuting experience than those who sat in solitude. They concluded,  “Rather than fall back on our erroneous belief in the pleasures of solitude, we could reach out to other people. At least, when we walk down the street, we can refuse to accept a world where people look at one another as though through air. When we talk to strangers, we stand to gain much more than the ‘me time’ we might lose.”

Prayer: Lord, In becoming incarnate, Jesus broke down the wall of solitude between us and you. He saw into us, not through us—becoming our high priest and sympathizing with us in our weaknesses. Although we often fear engaging with strangers, may we not fall back on the erroneous belief in the pleasures of solitude. May we smile at others, reaching out to them as you have reached out to us. Amen. 

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About Perryn: Perryn has lived in New York City for 6 years and enjoys traveling to obscure spots in the outer boroughs to try new restaurants.

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M’Cheyne Reading as Scheduled:

Jer 50 (text | audio, 8:37 min)
Ps 28-29 (text | audio, 1:12 min )

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Footnotes

[1] The full meaning of “perfect” is not only “flawless,” but also “complete”. | [2] Hebrews 5:8-9 ESV | [3] Theology of Work. “Hebrews.”

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August 20, 2014

843 Acres: Reader’s Choice: Christopher Hitchens and Christian Unity

by Bethany

Reader’s Choice: Shelley Kemp: Thank you! This is excellent! There’s all kinds of disunity amongst true believers even down to feelings of superiority over eating organic foods (which I do for my health) and whether or not to immunize your children. Our sinful hearts major on the minors excessively while Paul’s heart for the Christians in Rome focused on unity as well and the law of love. Of course, Paul was following Christ’s example. We are breathtaking in our arrogance.

843 Acres: Reader’s Choice: Christopher Hitchens and Christian Unity
Originally published on May 16, 2014.
Highlighted: 1 Pet 3:8

Unity: Have you ever noticed that Jesus prayed specifically for us–you and me? In one of his last prayers, he said, “I do not ask for [the apostles] only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word.” [1] We are–“those who will believe in me through their word.” What did he pray for us? Unity: “that they be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us.” [2] Peter, too, wrote, “Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.” [3] What is at stake in our unity?

Observation: While Christopher Hitchens was undergoing various cancer treatments, he journaled his thoughts about dying. These thoughts were published posthumously in a short book of essays called Mortality. In one essay, Hitchens–a renowned atheist–offers an insightful observation on Christian unity: “If I were to announce that I had suddenly converted to Catholicism, I know that [two particular fundamentalist evangelicals] would feel I had fallen into grievous error. On the other hand, if I were to join either of their Protestant evangelical groups, the followers of Rome would not think my soul was much safer than it is now …” [4]

Disunity: The debate he observes is not merely Catholic vs. Protestant; it’s also Presbyterian (PCA, PCUSA, etc.) vs. Baptist (SBC, CBF, etc.) vs. Methodist (EMC, UMC, etc.) and more. To be sure, there are important doctrinal differences between these groups that should be taken seriously–sometimes very seriously. Yet how we talk–our tone, sympathy, and love–about those with whom we disagree, though, can tell us about our own views on unity. Do we have hearts that long to pray with Jesus, saying, “Make us one, just as the Son and the Father are one, that we together may be in the Christ”?

Prayer: Lord, Freud coined the phrase–“the narcissism of minor differences”–and we confess that our sinful human nature seeks to make major differences out of minor ones because we are prideful. There are, of course, some differences that cannot be overcome. Where we can, however, give us “unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind”. For when Jesus prayed for us, he told us what is at stake in our unity: “that the world may believe that you have sent me.” [5] Amen.

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About Shelley: Shelley is a Christ-following, homeschooling mom who primarily loves to write to encourage her family in the Lord. She lives outside of Philadelphia; has borderline chronic fatigue syndrome and feels extremely thankful for her husband, Mark, who always lightens her heart and causes her to look to Christ no matter how brain-foggy the day starts.

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M’Cheyne Reading as Scheduled:

Jer 49 (txt | aud, 6:45 min)
Ps 26-27 (txt | aud, 1:06 min)

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Footnotes

[1] John 17:20 ESV | [2] John 17:21 | [3] 1 Peter 3:8 | [4] Hitchens also writes about how Christians engaged with him as he was dying. Although he wasn’t always accurate in his assessment ofChristian theology, his voice about how he was treated during this time is important (and painful) to hear. (One notable exception was his friend Frances Collins, who was lovely, he said.) | [5] John 17:21

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August 19, 2014

843 Acres: Unconditional Love vs Contraconditional Love

by Bethany

Reader’s Choice: Jessica Hong: I love this post because I loved learning the term “contraconditional” love. Contrary to what I deserve, God loves me. He loves me so much that he would never leave me nor forsake me. He loves me so much that He seeks to renew me in the beautiful and glorious image of Christ.

843 Acres: Unconditional Love vs Contraconditional Love
Originally published on September 18, 2013.
Highlighted: 2 Cor 7:9-10

Love: In 1961, psychologist Carl Rogers popularized the term, “unconditional positive regard,” suggesting that we must love our children for who they are, not for what they do [1]. In 2004, TV personality Phil McGraw argued that what children want or need should be offered contingently until they “behave according to your wishes” [2]. Supernanny agreed: “The best rewards are attention, praise and love,” and these should be held back “when the child behaves badly until she says she is sorry” [3].

Grief: In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul called out their conflicts, divisions and immorality. He did not write these things to make them feel “ashamed,” but to “admonish” them as “beloved children” [4]. When he heard that his letter grieved them, he wrote again, saying, “I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death” [5]. Paul did not have an “unconditional positive regard” for the Corinthians nor did he withhold his love from them until they behaved according to his wishes; his love was neither permissive nor manipulative.

Contraconditional: God’s love is something more than unconditional. As David Powlison has written, “God does not accept me just as I am; He loves me despite how I am; He loves me just as Jesus is; He loves me enough to devote my life to renewing me in the image of Jesus. This love is much, much, much better than unconditional! Perhaps we could call it ‘contraconditional’ love … Contrary to my due, He loves me. And now I can begin to change, not to earn love but because of love … You need something better than unconditional love. You need the crown of thorns … You need the promise to the repentant thief. You need to know, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’ You need forgiveness. You need … a Father, a Savior. You need to become like the one who loves you. You need the better love of Jesus” [6].

Prayer: Lord, What wondrous love is this! Your love for us is neither permissive nor manipulative. How desperately we need your love so that we can live as Paul, loving others as you do. Give us the crown of thorns and the better love of Jesus. Amen.

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About Jessica: Jessica loves working for The Park Forum because she loves working with her friend Bethany Jenkins. She is an Associate Community Group Director at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. She’s a Philly girl at heart and is an avid follower of the Philadelphia Eagles.

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M’Cheyne Reading as Scheduled:

Jer 48 (txt | aud, 7:11 min)
Ps 25 (txt | aud, 2:10 min)

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Footnotes

[1] Carl Rogers. On Becoming a Person. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1961. | [2] Carl Rogers. On Becoming a Person. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1961. | [3] Carl Rogers. On Becoming a Person. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1961. | [4] 1 Corinthians 4:14 ESV | [5] 2 Corinthians 7:9-10 ESV | [6] David Powlison. God’s Love: Better than Unconditional. 2001.

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August 18, 2014

843 Acres: Reader’s Choice: The Fall of the Deceiver-of-the-Whole Earth

by Bethany

Reader: Susan Houg: My favorite posts recently have been those featuring Peterson quotes on the book of The Revelation (Reversed Thunder), especially this one. The balance between pietism and involvement presents such a challenge to the modern American church.

843 Acres: Reader’s Choice: The Fall of the Deceiver-of-the-Whole Earth
Originally published on Tuesday, June 10.
Highlighted: Rev 12

Temptations: Two extremes often tempt us. One calls us to charge forward into the public square and demand the kingship of Christ in current political schemes. The other calls us to abandon political systems altogether and, instead, settle for a private faith and saving souls. Where is the balance?

Pregnancy: In John’s vision, the world wakes up from its slumber and sings praises to God at the sound of the seventh trumpet. [1] Then the temple and the ark appear in the skies—visible evidence that God’s rule connects with our salvation. Eugene Peterson writes, “A fusion of lightning, thunder, earthquake, and hail marks a scene change (nobody leave your seats!) and a woman appears in the sky theater.” And she is pregnant. The praises of the people are drowned out by the cries of the woman in labor.

Rescue: “The birth-giving woman and the death-dealing dragon,” he writes, “are the light-year limits of the best and worst we can imagine. The moment the child appears, the dragon lunges. We shut our eyes, too terrified to witness the outrage. And then, at the last possible moment, there is rescue. The infant—who John describes as “the one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron”—is seized and lifted to the throne of God. [2] The mother escapes to a place of safety.

War: “The immediate consequence of the birth is not Christmas carols,” Peterson continues, “but a great war spread across the heavens. The marvelous Michael, captain of the angels, joins battle with the dragon and his demon horde … The dragon and his hosts, no match for Michael and his angels, fall out of the sky in a heap … The terrorizing names—Great Dragon, Ancient Serpent, Devil, Satan, Deceiver-of-the-Whole-Earth—are a pile of dirty laundry on the ground.”

Prayer: Lord, The child that is rescued is the one who will rule the world as it never has been ruled before. He is Jesus—who debated publicly in the synagogues, but who rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, not a stallion. In the end, he will establish a politics that will end all politics. In this age, therefore, give us a strong vision of him sitting on the throne so that, like Christ, we can engage in the public square with humility. For our hope is in the victory of Christ, not the kingdom of man. Amen.

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About Susan: Susan is a resident of northern California (Marble Mountain Wilderness), near Medford, Oregon.  Our Etna, CA is a favorite jumping off and on point for PCT hikers. I’m a retired public school teacher and current singer/songwriter in a local Berean Church.

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M’Cheyne Reading as Scheduled:

Jer 47 (txt | aud, 1:15 min)
Ps 23-24 (txt | aud, 1:52 min)

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Footnotes

[1] Revelation 11 | [2] Revelation 12:5 ESV

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