September 22, 2014

843 Acres: When Obedience Seems Foolish

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Eze 25 (txt | aud, 2:51 min)
Ps 73 (txt | aud, 2:27 min)
Highlighted: Ps 73

Success: In California, the state university system has ‘de-recognized’ InterVarsity on its 23 campuses. In Iraq and Syria, the Islamic State is beheading journalists and religious minorities and spreading terror throughout the region and the world. Why do the wicked seem to succeed while the faithful are oppressed? Why does obedience seem foolish?

Vain: When Asaph saw the success of the wicked“they have no pangs until death; their bodies are fat and sleek … violence covers them as a garment … they scoff and speak with malice; loftily they threaten oppression”—he questioned whether continuing to trust God was worth it: “In vain I have kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence.” In other words, “Why am I the fool who seeks God, obeys his commands, and sings his praises, when he rewards the wicked, not the righteous?”

Perspective: Then, however, he entered God’s presence, where his perspective was changed. He realized that his definition of ‘success’ was limited by time and circumstance, but that God was not limited by anything. He understood that, even if the wicked seem to success in the short run, they do not succeed in the long run. Then he sung, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

Prayer: Lord, Sometimes it seems foolish to trust you at your Word. When your opponents seem to succeed as your people struggle, it seems vain to give sacrificially, to not recant our faith, to reserve sex for marriage, to withhold our tongue from slander, or to do anything countercultural in obedience to you. In these times, though, when we are tempted to forsake you and desire to live apart from you, draw us into your presence to remember that there is nothing—not money, power, sex, or even physical freedom—that we desire more than we desire you. You are the strength of our hearts and our portion forever. Amen.

*****

To hear an interview with “Brother Victor” (pseudonymn for security purposes), who is on the ground in the Middle East and trusting in Christ in the midst of uncertain peril, listen here.

___________________

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.

 ____________________________________ 

Tags: ,
September 19, 2014

843 Acres: Cursing Those Who Do Evil

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Eze 22 (txt | aud, 4:47 min)
Ps 69 (txt | aud, 3:46 min)
Highlighted: Ps 69

Justice: When we read news of people committing great evils, how do we feel? Are we angry when they seem to get away with abuse, discrimination, or murder? If they are brought to justice, do we feel satisfaction?

Psalms: Imprecatory psalms are those that include curses against God’s enemies. Here, in Psalm 69, we read, “Pour out your indignation upon them, and let your burning anger overtake them.” [1] We often have problems with such sentiments because they’re hard to reconcile with Jesus’s teaching on loving our enemies and praying for those who persecute us. Yet the New Testament writers aren’t bashful about such imprecatory psalms. In fact, several of them even reference Psalm 69.

Fulfillment: In his letter to the church in Rome, for example, Paul quotes verse 22: “Let their own table before them become a snare; and when they are at peace, let it become a trap.” [2] Paul doesn’t condemn David’s words as being driven by personal vengeance. Instead, he sees them as reliable prophetic words of judgment that God brings on his enemies. Likewise, Luke references verse 21 when he writes about the death of Jesus: “Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), ‘I thirst.’ A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, ‘It is finished,’ and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” [3]

Prayer: Lord, You don’t call us to refrain from judging others because there is no judgment, but because we are not judges. You alone are Judge. Yes, you have empowered judges in the land to be your viceroys of justice in your creation, and we pray for them to be full of discernment, wisdom, and courage. Yet we also recognize that you alone have the power to bring ultimate, complete, and perfect justice. For your justice is not only full of righteousness, it is also full of love. On the cross, where we see Jesus citing imprecatory psalms, we also see him saying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Our only hope is in your loving justice. Amen.

___________________

For a reflection on faith and work from a former Justice of the Florida Supreme Court, seeSitting on the Bench as a Steward of Justice.”

 ____________________________________ 

M’Cheyne Weekend Readings:

Saturday, September 20: Eze 23 (txt | aud, 7:25 min) & Ps 70-71 (txt | aud, 3:17 min)
Sunday, September 21: Eze 24 (txt | aud, 4:13 min) & Ps 72 (txt | aud, 2:14 min)

___________________

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] Psalm 69:24 ESV | [2] Romans 11:9-10 | [3] John 19:28-30 ESV

Tags: ,
September 18, 2014

843 Acres TBT: Your Cruelty Is Our Glory

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Eze 21 (txt | aud, 5:30 min)
Ps 68 (txt | aud, 4:06 min)

David, Psalm 68:19 

Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears us up; God is our salvation. Our God is a God of salvation, and to God, the Lord, belong deliverances from death. 

Thomas Brooks, Heaven on Earth (1654) 

Suffering times are times when the Lord is pleased to give his people some sense of his favor. When they are in sufferings for righteousness’s sake, for the gospel’s sake, then usually God causes his face to shine upon them. Now they shall hear the best news from heaven when they hear worst from earth. God loves to smile most upon his people when the world frowns most …

It was God’s lifting up the light of his countenance that made the martyrs to sing in the fire, to clap their hands in the flames, and to tread upon hot burning coals as upon beds of roses. This made Vincentius say, when he felt the flame come to his beard, ‘What a small pain is this, compared to the glory to come? What is a drop of vinegar put into an ocean of wine? What is it for one to have a rainy day, that is going to take possession of a kingdom?’ The smiles of God made Santus sing under dreadful sufferings, ‘I am a Christian’; and this made the Christians to sing, in Tertullian’s time, ‘your cruelty is our glory’ …

Now there are these special reasons to be given why the Lord is pleased in suffering times to visit his people with his loving-kindness and to lift up the light of his countenance upon them.

(1) That their patience and constancy under the cross may be invincible … Persecution brings death in one hand and life in the other; for while it kills the body, it crowns the soul …

(2) For the confirmation of some, for the conversion of others, and for the greater conviction and confusion of their adversaries, who wonder, and are like men amazed, when they see the comfort and courage of the saints in times of suffering … Hegesippus reports an observation of Antoninus the emperor, that the Christians were most courageous and confident always in earthquakes, while his own heathen soldiers were at such accidents most fearful and dispirited …

(3) For the praise of his own grace, and for the glory of his own name. God would lose much of his own glory if he did not stand by his people, and comfort them, and strengthen them, in the day of their sorrows …

___________________

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.

 ____________________________________ 

Tags: ,
September 17, 2014

843 Acres: Evangelical Churches in NYC

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Eze 20 (txt | aud, 8:27 min)
Ps 66-67 (txt | aud, 2:26 min)
Highlighted: Ps 66

Praise: This weekend, Redeemer celebrates its 25th anniversary. Over the years, God has seen fit not only to grow Redeemer, but also to begin at least 100 churches in center city, including Trinity Grace, Apostles, Metropolitan Faith, Dwell, and more. For these blessings, we sing, “Shout for joy to God, all the earth! Sing the glory of his name.” [1] With praise, though, there is caution.

History: In “Our Place in the Story,” Tim Keller briefly recounts the evangelical history of NYC. After highlighting how the evangelical awakening, which emphasized conversion through hearing the gospel proclaimed, affected the churches in the 1700s, Keller moves to the 1880s, when evangelical churches were unsure how to reach the new Catholic immigrants and were being superseded as social gathering places by the city itself.

Split: To stay relevant, the Protestant churches moved uptown and built stately buildings, like First Baptist at 79th and Brick Pres on Park Avenue. But the decline didn’t stop and, eventually, there was a split. The Presbyterians pursued Liberalism, relegating the preaching of the gospel and seeking conversion through “loving action, social reform, and education.” The Baptists pursued Fundamentalism, developing “a very combative stance toward the city” and focusing on “materialism and moral evils.”

Call: “In a short newsletter article,” Keller continues, “it is impossible to avoid over-generalization. Yet it is not hard to see that, by the second half of the 20th century, the old kind of Protestant evangelicalism—true to historic orthodox doctrine, yet also intellectually robust and socially engaged—was weak or vanished in New York City. And now it is growing back … However, we too face the issue of a culture that is not interested in what we have to say. How do we reach them? We must not make the same mistake again. We must not respond with either withdrawal nor with assimilation to the spirit of the age.”

Prayer: Lord, Although we see praises for your mighty works in Psalm 66, we also know that the people who saw those miracles—the turning the sea into dry land and the walking through the waters on foot—worshipped idols just three months later. Therefore, in light of our praise to you for your work in our city, we admit that we’re apt to forget you. May we love our city to life, as we cling to both engagement and holiness. 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] Psalm 66:1 ESV

Tags: ,
September 16, 2014

843 Acres: Bull and Bear Times

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Eze 19 (txt | aud, 2:01 min)
Ps 64-65 (txt | aud, 2:36 min)
Highlighted: Ps 65

Markets: The Charging Bull is a Wall Street icon. Sitting just two blocks south of the Exchange, it symbolizes aggressive financial optimism and success. The statue, though, wasn’t borne of a prosperous Bull Market, but of an adverse Bear Market. Its creator installed it after the 1987 stock market crash to honor “the strength and power of the American people.”

Abundance: Most of us long for ‘Bull’ times—healthy bodies, strong relationships, and stable salaries. Here, in Psalm 65, for example, David thanks God for a fruitful harvest: “You visit the earth and water it; you greatly enrich it; the river of God is full of water … You crown the year with your bounty; your wagon tracks overflow with abundance” [1].

Endurance: It is good to give thanks to God for his gifts. And yet … “Many a man can bear affliction,” says Charles Spurgeon, “but few men can endure prosperity; and I have marked it, and you must have marked it, too, that the most perilous thing in all the world is to step suddenly from obscurity to power.” In other words, our ‘wallets’ might thrive in ‘Bull’ times, but our hearts rarely do. Why?

Daily: The book of Proverbs highlights one reason. Agur prays, “Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.” [2] In other words, in ‘Bull’ times, we’re tempted to forget him and trust in our own strength, capability, and giftedness.

Prayer: Lord, In Psalm 65, we see that the main thing for which David thanks you is not the harvest, but your faithfulness to your covenant promises. [3] Since Christ is the fulfillment of those promises, we sing with David, “We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, the holiness of your temple!” [4] Therefore, we don’t place our hope in ‘Bull’ or ‘Bear’ times—whether we have plenty or few. Give us only what is needful for us so that we may remember and trust you. 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] See Psalm 65:9-12 ESV | [2] Proverbs 30:8-9 ESV | [3] Psalm 65:1-8 | [4] Psalm 65:4 ESV

Tags: ,
September 15, 2014

843 Acres: Shock Yourself or Sit Alone?

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Eze 18 (txt | aud, 4:57 min)
Ps 62-63 (txt | aud, 2:29 min)
Highlighted: Ps 62

Alone: This summer, Science featured a study showing just how unpleasant people think it is to sit alone with nothing to do but think. Participants were asked to rate the pleasantness of a number of stimuli, including an electric shock, and asked how much they’d pay (up to $5) to experience (or not) each stimulus. They were then asked to sit alone with their thoughts, but told that they could shock themselves if they wanted. Among those who thought the shocks were particularly unpleasant and would pay to avoid them, 67% of men and 25% of women nonetheless shocked themselves instead of sitting alone with their thoughts. “Without such training,” the researchers reflected, “people prefer doing to thinking, even if what they are doing is so unpleasant that they would normally pay to avoid it. The untutored mind does not like to be alone with itself.”

Silent: Yet, in Psalm 62, we see David sitting and waiting on the Lord. “For God alone, my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation … For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.” [1] What does David know that we may not?

Self-Forgetfulness: One reason we seek ways to avoid idleness, the researchers said, is because sitting alone with our thoughts often leads to unpleasant ruminating or self-criticism. Here in Psalm 62, though, David’s not being self-critical; in fact, there’s no hint he’s even thinking about himself at all. Instead, he’s fixed on God: “He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God.” [2] And he’s calling others into God’s salvation: “Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.” [3]

Prayer: Lord, In our idle moments, we confess that we are quick to pick up a book, put on music, or check social media. In fact, like those in the study, we would sometimes rather be electrically shocked than be alone. Yet we have no fear of being alone for those are times when we receive your Spirit and power. For our hope is in you. Therefore, may we pour out our hearts to you—for in Christ, there is salvation, not condemnation. 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] Psalm 62:1, 5 ESV | [2] Psalm 62:6-7 ESV | [3] Psalm 62:8 ESV

Tags: ,
September 12, 2014

843 Acres: Perscutions by ISIS

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Eze 15 (txt | aud, 1:14 min)
Ps 56-57 (txt | aud, 2:35 min)
Highlighted: Ps 56-57

ISIS: In Iraq, ISIS is systematically slaughtering Christians and other religious minorities. Amnesty International now describes northern Iraq as “blood-soaked killing fields.” How are we to view these persecutions and atrocities?

Persecution: David was no stranger to persecution. In Psalms 56 and 57, he was running from Saul, who wanted to kill him because God had anointed him as king in Saul’s place. He described Saul and his 3,000 men in Psalm 57: “My soul is in the midst of lions; I lie down amid fiery beasts—the children of man, whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords.” [1] In Psalm 56, he wrote, “All day long, they injure my cause; all their thoughts are against me for evil. They stir up strife, they lurk; they watch my steps, as they have waited for my life.” [2]

Trust: How did David face these life-threatening circumstances? First, he acknowledged his real emotions: “When I am afraid …” and cried out in lament: “You have … put my tears in your bottle.” [3] Then he looked up: “In God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?” [4] Many years later, Jesus echoed David’s thoughts: “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” [5] In other words, both David and Jesus were saying that there are things more valuable than safety—namely, being in relationship with God.

Prayer: Lord, We do not pretend to understand the fears and emotions of our brothers and sisters abroad, as they face death daily in the hands of their oppressors. Yet we long to pray for them. Therefore, we plead for you to give them great assurance of faith that they belong to you so that they may not faint nor falter in your service, but go through it resolutely and bravely. Lift your countenance upon your people that they may not repent of being called yours. And make your name great. As Diocletian, who greatly persecuted the church, observed, “the more he sought to blot out the name of Christ, the more it became legible.” And as David pled for justice to be done against his oppressors, we, too, pray for justice: “For their crime will they escape? In wrath, cast down the peoples, O God!” [6] Amen.

___________________

M’Cheyne Weekend Readings:

Saturday, September 13: Eze 16 (txt | aud, 10:03 min) & Ps 58-59 (txt | aud, 2:59 min)
Sunday, September 14: Eze 17 (txt | aud, 4:01 min) & Ps 60-61 (txt | aud, 2:01 min)

___________________

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] Psalm 57:4 ESV | [2] Psalm 56:5-6 ESV | [3] Psalm 56:3, 8 ESV | [4] Psalm 56:11 ESV | [5] Matthew 10:28 ESV | [6] Psalm 56:7 ESV

Tags: ,
September 11, 2014

843 Acres: Memoir of 9/11 in NYC

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Eze 14 (txt | aud, 3:54 min)
Ps 55 (txt | aud, 2:24 min)
Highlighted: Ps 32:7

Today, we have a guestblogger, Lolita Jackson, who is a survivor of both 9/11 and the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. She worked for Morgan Stanley on the 70th floor of the South Tower.

On the morning of 9/11, I was in a meeting on the 70th floor of the South Tower. As I was admiring the view of the North Tower, I heard the first plane crash and then saw a fireball explode and papers fly everywhere. Since most of us had experienced the 1993 bombing, we knew what to do – leave. We gathered in the middle of the floor, did a headcount, and headed to the stairs.

From that moment, God was very real to me – guiding my footsteps. I was with my dear friend and colleague, Tom. At the 59th floor, we were told to leave the stairwell and take elevators to 44. When we got to the elevators, Tom wanted to step away quickly to call to his wife. I was about to go with him when I heard a voice – “Don’t go!” So we separated and agreed to meet on 44.

Three minutes later, our building was hit. It moved seven feet and felt like it was going to collapse. That was the only moment when I thought I might die. Yet, a sudden peace washed over me. Never had I felt so deeply that, if I died, I’d be in heaven. Then the building righted itself. I knew absolutely I’d survive and calmly made my way out. After walking a few feet, I looked back and was paralyzed at the sight of fire and debris. In the chaos, however, God spoke through a friend – “You should go home now.” It was 9:52 am. I jumped on the last train through the Fulton Street station that day and the North Tower fell 11 minutes later.

Tom was on an elevator when the plane hit our building. The cable snapped and he died. Had I gone with him, I would’ve died, too. That realization changed me forever. Although it took me two years to fully embrace that God had kept me safe, I eventually did. Today, I’m still in awe that I’m alive and haven’t lost the sense of joy in knowing that, even if I weren’t alive, I’d be in His presence. As David sang, “You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.” [1]

___________________

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] Psalm 32:7 ESV

Tags: ,
September 10, 2014

843 Acres: Zamperini and Every Careless Word

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Eze 13 (txt | aud, 4:07 min)
Ps 52-54 (txt | aud, 2:36 min)
Highlighted: Ps 52

**Spoiler Alert: If you have not yet read Unbroken and prefer to avoid its ending, you may not want to read the below devotional.**

Invitation: When Billy Graham came to Los Angeles in September 1949, Olympian and war hero Louis Zamperini was in a broken marriage, had plans to kill his former POW captor, and found solace in alcohol. But his wife coaxed him to hear Graham. The evangelist preached on John 8, focusing on what Jesus wrote in the sand—perhaps the sins of the religious leaders seeking to condemn the adulterous woman. “Darkness doesn’t hid the eyes of God,” Graham said. “God takes down your life from the time you were born to the time you die. And when you stand before God on the great Judgment Day, you’re going to say, ‘Lord, I wasn’t such a bad fellow.’ … And you’re going to hear the words that you said. And your own words, and your own thoughts, and your own deeds are going to condemn you.”

Conviction: “Louis felt indignant rage flaring in him,” writes Hillenbrand. “I am a good man, he thought. I am a good man. Even has he had this thought, he felt the lie in it … With the urgency of a bolting animal, he wanted to run.” The Spirit convicted him with the words of Jesus: “people will give account for every careless word they speak” [1]. As the Psalmist shows, we are hopeless in our flesh: “You love words that devour, O deceitful tongue” [2].

Repentance: The Spirit convicts us to invite us. It’s his kindness that leads us to repentance for it points us to Christ, the Word. Within a few days, Zamperini went from indignation to repentance. “Resting in the shade and the stillness,” Hillenbrand writes, “Louis felt profound peace. When he thought of his history, what resonated with him now was not all that he had suffered, but the divine love that he believed had intervened to save him. He was not the worthless, broken, forsaken man that [his captor] had striven to make of him. In a single, silent moment, his rage, his fear, his humiliation, and helplessness fell away. That morning, he believed, he was a new creation. Softly, he wept.”

Prayer: Lord, We confess that we have spoken careless words, and we will give account for them. Oh how we fall on your mercies and, indeed, on the cross! No human can tame the tongue. Give us your Spirit to refine our tongues and, indeed, our hearts. 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] Matthew 12:36-37 ESV | [2] Psalm 52:4 ESV

 

Tags: ,
September 9, 2014

843 Acres: The Psychology of a Criminal

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Eze 12 (txt | aud, 4:19 min)
Ps 51 (txt | aud, 2:10 min)
Highlighted: Ps 51

Guilt: Crime and Punishment is an exploration of criminal psychology. In the novel, Raskolvikov kills his pawnbroker and her sister. Dostoyevsky doesn’t focus on the actual repercussions of the murder itself, but on the way it forces Raskolnikov to deal with tormenting guilt. His inner world is filled with doubt, deliria, fear, and despair. His mental torture keeps him alienated from others. The novel shows that it’s not just sin that destroys; it’s our guilt from sin, too. How can we live under God’s mercy when we feel sin’s guilt so strongly?

Plot: While his troops were at war, David slept with the wife of one of his soldiers. When she got pregnant, he tried to cover it up by recalling the soldier from battle. But that didn’t work. So he sent the soldier back to the front lines with a sealed letter containing his death sentence. The soldier was killed.

Serious: Nathan confronted David, who immediately confessed. Then Nathan said, “The Lord has taken away your sin” [1]. In response, David wrote Psalm 51. Here, we see how seriously David took sin. He dwelled on it: “my sin is always before me.” He recognized that his sin was against God: “Against you, you only, have I sinned.” He vindicated God, not himself: “You are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.” He drew attention to his sinful nature rather than using it as an excuse: “I was sinful at birth.”

Pleading: He also recognized that his sin could separate him from God: “Do not cast me from your presence.” Then he turned helplessly to the mercy and love of God: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love.” He then pled for renewal: “Create in me a pure heart … renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Then finally he praised God: “my mouth will declare your praise.” And he sought to tell others of God’s goodness to him: “I will teach transgressors your ways.”

Prayer: Lord, Our sin—and the guilt that results—isolates us from you. In ourselves, we are left in mental torture and tormenting guilt. In Christ, though, you say, “The Lord has taken away your sin.” For on the cross, we see how seriously you have taken our sin and how seriously you have taken your love. May we live in the freedom of obedience, as we find our refuge in you. 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 Samuel 12:13

Tags: ,
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 155 other followers