July 30, 2014

843 Acres: Kindness Is Key

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Jer 26 (txt | aud, 4:00 min)
Mk 12 (txt | aud, 6:16 min)
Highlighted: Mk 12:1-12

Kindness: Psychologist John Gottman “can predict with up to 94 percent certainty whether couples … will be broken up, together and unhappy, or together and happy several years later.” What’s the key? Kindness, he says. “There’s a habit of mind that [the together and happy] have, which is this: they are scanning the social environment for things they can appreciate and say thank you for. They are building this culture of respect and appreciation very purposefully. [The broken up, the together and unhappy] are scanning the social environment for partners’ mistakes.”

Forebearance: In the parable of the tenants, a man leases his vineyard to tenants and then goes abroad. When the harvest arrives, he sends his servants one-by-one to collect fruit from the tenants. But they do not welcome the servants—they beat some and kill others. Jesus concludes, “He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally, he sent him to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ And they took him and killed him.” [1]

Love: In the face of their contempt, the landowner is kind. This is kindness—that God bore with great patience the rejection of his people, sending prophet-by-prophet until finally he sent his Son. John Piper says, “This love of God for his one and only Son was … an obstacle almost insurmountable. Could God, would God, overcome his cherishing, admiring, treasuring, white-hot, affectionate bond with his Son and deliver him over to be lied about and betrayed and abandoned and mocked and flogged and beaten and spit on and nailed to a cross and pierced with a sword like an animal being butchered. Would he really do that? Would he hand over the Son of his love? If he would, then whatever goal he is pursuing could never be stopped.”

Prayer: Lord, Your habit of mind is to scan our hearts for Christ. Yet we confess that we often show contempt for your kindness and forbearance, not knowing that your kindness is meant to lead us to repentance. [2] For on the cross we see that we are so sinful that Christ had to die and so loved that he chose to die. Forgive us for presuming on the riches of your kindness, and empower us to be kind to others. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Mark 12:6-8  | [2] Romans 2:4

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July 29, 2014

843 Acres: The Work We Do Today

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Jer 25 (txt | aud, 6:21 min)
Mk 11 (txt | aud, 4:03 min)
Highlight: Mk 11:1-11

Kingdom: God intended to rule the world through human beings, but – from the Garden of Eden to New York City – we can see that we fail to reflect his good and sovereign rule. [1] We may make music, but we also make bombs. We may build hospitals, but we also build torture chambers. Jesus, however, came to rescue and transform our royal calling. At the beginning of his ministry, he proclaimed, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand.” [2] Yet what does this look like today?

Royalty: Here, in Mark 11, Jesus proclaimed his sovereign rule twice. First, he rode into Jerusalem on a colt: “They brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it” – which was a clear nod to the prophecy of Zechariah, who said that the Messiah would come lowly and riding on a colt, that his kingdom would be marked by salvation and peace, and that he would reign from sea to sea. [3] Second, Jesus cleansed the temple: “He entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple” – which was a clear claim to his royalty because it was the kings of Israel who had authority over the temple. [4]

Building: Today, the kingdom of God that Jesus proclaimed reigns from sea to sea – that is, his sovereign authority extends to all nations. Yet we live in “the overlap of the ages,” when we can know and experience new resurrection life in Christ, but we must wait for the fullness of his reign to come to completion. During this time, we do not build God’s kingdom; God does. But we do build for his kingdom. By the Spirit, we seek gospel redemption in our hearts, communities and world – not with an attitude of triumph, but with an attitude of peace that rides on a donkey and confidence that proclaims his royalty.

Prayer: Lord, Creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of your kingdom. Even we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we eagerly wait for our adoption and redemption. For in this hope we were saved. [5] Today, when we build for your kingdom, give us an attitude of peace and confidence, as we bear your image in our vocations, relationships, decisions and lives. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1]See Genesis 1-2.  | [2]Mark 1:15 ESV  | [3]Mark 11:7 ESV & Zechariah 9:9-11.  | [4]Mark 11:15 ESV & e.g., David planned the temple, Solomon built it, Hezekiah and Josiah cleansed it, and Herod the Great rebuilt it.  | [5] Romans 8:18-30.

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July 28, 2014

843 Acres: We Take Up Our Crosses, Too

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Jer 24 (txt | aud, 2:04 min)
Mk 10 (txt | aud, 6:39 min)
Highlighted: Mk 10:45

Servants: If we want to become “somebodies” in the kingdom of heaven, then we must become “nobodies” here; we must become the servants of all – especially to those from whom we expect no praise or thanks. Here, in Mark 10, James and John ask Jesus, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you … Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” [1] Their question is logical, right? After all, Jesus came to serve people, right?

Cross-Bearing: He replied, in effect, “You like glory? You want the right and the left? Then drink my cup. Prepare to suffer and die. You want to be great? Then be a servant. You want to be first? Then choose to be last.” Why? “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” [2] This is a call to radical discipleship. It is a call to suffering and service. Many of us think that, since Jesus went to the cross, we do not have to suffer. But Christ calls us to share in his suffering if we want to share in his glory. As Paul wrote, “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” [3]

Serves: In our cross-bearing, however, Jesus serves us. “For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve.” He may call us to an incredibly difficult discipleship, but he serves us in it. This is what we consider during Lent; as we meditate on the sufferings of Christ, we take up our own crosses, knowing that Jesus now serves us. As the Scriptures promise, “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him.” [4]

Prayer: Lord, We confess that we often misunderstand your call to discipleship. We want the glory, but we fear the cross-bearing. Teach us that, although the cross-bearing may be difficult, it is through the cross that we gain glory and, therefore, you serve us that we may serve others. Give us courage, then, to share in your suffering so that we may share in your glory. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Mark 10:35, 37 ESV | [2] Mark 10:45 ESV  | [3] Romans 8:16-17 ESV (emphasis mine)  | [4] 2 Chronicles 16:9 ESV

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July 25, 2014

843 Acres: On the Life of the Mind, Guilt

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Jer 21 (txt | aud, 2:47 min)
Mk 7 (txt | aud, 4:23 min)
Highlighted: Mk 7:14-23

Guilt: Our consciences remind us what is true and encourage us to choose it. No matter how much we follow them, though, all of us have a nagging sense of guilt. Even Sir Kingsley Amis, who once replied, “It’s more that I hate Him,” when asked whether he he believed in God, acknowledged his own sense of guilt: “One of the great benefits of organized religion is that you can be forgiven your sins, which must be a wonderful thing. I mean, I carry my sins around with me; there’s nobody there to forgive them.” [1]

Heart: The Pharisees tried washing away their guilty consciences by strictly observing the clean laws. In their obsession with obedience, however, they had forgotten the purpose of the law—namely, to show that sin does the same thing to the soul that dirt does to the body. Jesus explained that their problem was much deeper than they thought: “There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him … From within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.” [2] Yet how could they wash their hearts?

Forgiveness: The blood of Christ cleanses the hearts of sinners. When Paul wrote to the Corinthians, he told them that they were guilty of sins that Jesus said defiled a person, e.g., immorality, theft, murder. Yet he said, “you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” [3] How does this good news shape our daily lives? We pursue obedience and, when we inevitably falter, we confess our sins in the name of Jesus our Advocate. Then we praise God that he has given us a sense of godly regret that awakens our hearts to recognize our sin and his mercy.

Prayer: Lord, We draw near to you through Christ, “in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from evil consciences.” [4] Yet we confess that, although we are forgiven, we still sin. Break our hearts for our sin. Then lift our heads to praise you that, in Christ, you forgive us. May we listen to our consciences and, instead of hiding in shame, run to your grace and give you glory. Amen.

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M’Cheyne Weekend Readings

Saturday, July 26: Jer 22 (txt | aud, 5:15 min) & Mk 8 (txt | aud, 4:40 min)
Sunday, July 27: Jer 23 (txt | aud, 7:07 min) & Mk 9 (txt | aud, 6:43 min)

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Footnotes

[1] Kingsley Amis. Memoirs. | [2] Mark 7:15, 20-22 ESV | [3] 1 Corinthians 6:11 ESV | [4] See Hebrews 10:22 ESV

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July 24, 2014

843 Acres TBT: Sorrows Before Jesus

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Jer 20 (txt | aud, 3:23 min)
Mk 6 (txt | aud, 6:52 min)

Mark 6:29, The Death of John the Baptist

When his disciples heard of [the death of John the Baptist], they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.

Jonathan Edwards, The Sorrows of the Bereaved Spread Before Jesus, sermon preached on the occasion of the funeral of William Williams, Edwards’s uncle and longtime pastor (September 1751) 

You have enjoyed great advantages for your souls’ good, under his ministry. That you had such a minister was your privilege and your honor. He has been an ornament to the town of Hatfield. And his presence and conversation among you has been both profitable and pleasant; for though it was such that it commanded AWE and RESPECT, yet it was, at the same time, HUMBLE and CONDESCENDING. It tended both to instruct and entertain those that he conversed with. As a wise man, and endued with knowledge, he showed out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom.

But now it has pleased a holy God to take him away from you. You will see his face and hear his voice no more in the land of the living. You will no more have the comfort and benefits of his presence with you, and the exercise of his ministry among you.

Therefore, now go to Jesus, the Supreme Heard of the church, and Bishop of souls. Your pastor is dead, and will not live again until the last day. But Christ, the chief Shepherd, though he was dead, is now alive! And behold, he lives forevermore. He ever lives to provide for his church, and to guide and feed his flock. Go to that Jesus whom your deceased pastor preached, and to whom he earnestly invited you while he lived, and give thanks for the many blessings you enjoyed in him. Remember how you have received and heard, and hold fast, that no man take your crown …

All you that have an interest in JESUS, now go to him on this occasion, and tell him of your bereavement, and beg of him that he would not depart from you; but that he would make up his loss in his own immediate presence … that you may have of the presence and blessing of JESUS with you.

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July 23, 2014

843 Acres: The Inconvenient Authority of Christ

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Jer 19 (txt | aud, 2:57 min)
Mk 5 (txt | aud, 4:53 min)
Highlighted: Mk 5:1-20

Denial: Whatever “the postmortems reveal about the [current economic] crisis, one culprit is abundantly clear: denial,” writes HBS Professor Richard Tedlow in Denial: Why Business Leaders Fail to Look Facts in the Face. He says that denial is, “the unconscious calculus that, if an unpleasant reality were true, it would be too terrible, so therefore it cannot be true.” Or, as Winston Churchill put it, “Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing ever happened.”

Response: The authority of Jesus is an inconvenient truth. When Jesus went to Gerasenes, a madman came running at him from the mountain. The man was bloodstained and scarred. He had demonic strength—even chains and shackles couldn’t bind him. Yet he called out to Jesus, who drove out the man’s demons and sent them into 2,000 pigs that, in turn, rushed down into the sea and drowned. Immediately, the man was calm and lucid. Yet no one praised Jesus. In one of the saddest moments of the gospels, the people asked him to leave. Mark writes, “They were afraid … and they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region.” [1]

Willful: Jesus was too powerful and, even worse, too costly. After all, he sent their income (the pigs) into the sea. They stumbled over the spectacular truth that this man Jesus had authority even over demons because it was inconvenient. They picked themselves up and hurried off as if nothing happened. They ignored (or denied) the greater reality that Jesus wielded his extraordinary authority to show compassion on the sick. Instead of seeing his authority as a refuge, they saw it as a threat.

Prayer: Lord, We praise you because, in Christ, your authority is not a threat, but a refuge. Yet we confess that your authority sometimes seems inconvenient. When obedience seems costly, we often choose to live according to our own authority. Forgive us and, by your Spirit, open our eyes and melt our hearts so that denial has no place in our lives. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Mark 5:15, 17 ESV

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July 22, 2014

843 Acres: The Riddle of the Gospel

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Jer 18 (txt | aud, 3:35 min)
Mk 4 (txt | aud, 5:26 min)

Confusing: Did Jesus use parables to confuse people intentionally? Here, in Mark 4, when he explains the purpose of parables to his disciples, he says, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, so that ‘they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven.’” [1]. Did parables contain mysteries for those on the inside, while they hardened those on the outside?

Understanding: First, Luke specifically writes that Jesus tells parables to people with the apparent suggestion that the parables are to be understood by them. Moreover, ‘outsiders’—such as the lawyer who hears the Parable of the Good Samaritan and the chief priests and Pharisees who hear the Parable of the Tenants—understand the parables they hear. [2] So what does Jesus mean by this riddle?

Riddle: Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart write, “Most likely the clue so this saying lies in a play on words in Jesus’s native Aramaic. The word methal which was translated as parabolem in Greek was used for a whole range of figures of speech in the riddle, puzzle, parable category, not just for the story variety called ‘parables’ in English. Probably verse 11 meant that the meaning of Jesus’s ministry (the secret of the kingdom) could not be perceived by those on the outside; it was like a methal, a riddle, to them. Hence his speaking in mathelin (parables) was part of the methal (riddle) of his whole ministry to them. They saw, but they failed to see; they heard—and even understood—the parables, but they failed really to appreciate the whole thrust of Jesus’s ministry.”

Prayer: Lord, Why did people hear the parables and fail to see your ministry? Were their hearts hardened to your grace? Were they stubborn in their sin? Did they fail to know the Scriptures? O Lord, let that not be us! Open our eyes to see and our ears to hear so that we may turn and be forgiven. Unlock the secret of the kingdom so that your ministry is not a riddle to us. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Mark 4:10-12 ESV | [2] See Matthew 21:45; Luke 10:25-37; 15:3; 18:9; 19:11.

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July 21, 2014

843 Acres: We Always Do What We Most Want to Do

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Jer 17 (txt | aud, 4:43 min)
Mk 3 (txt | aud, 4:03 min)
Highlighted: Jer 17:9

Conflict: Our desires often conflict. We may want a paycheck, but we also want to relax. We may want to lose weight, but we also want to eat chocolate. In practice, how do we reconcile these competing desires? Jonathan Edwards answers, “Free moral agents always act according to the strongest inclination they have at the moment of choice.” In other words, we always do what we most want to do. This, of course, presents a significant problem for us. For Jeremiah tells us, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick.” [1] What hope, then, do we have?

Tension: Jen Pollock Michel writes: “This is the double vision of prayer: we see God and we see ourselves. This is also the double vision of holy desire. As those redeemed in Christ, we begin wanting holiness, yet recognize that our desires continue in qualities of being human. Saved though we are, we bring to our desires a limited range of understanding. We want from God and yet fail to grasp the height, depth, breadth, and width of God’s holy purposes for our lives and for the world. We are growing in goodness and yet are capable of persisting in myopic selfishness.”

Throne: Our hope is in being in the presence of God. Jeremiah continues, “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind.” [2] Michel notes, “Holy desire is formed in the throne room. We have to see God rightly and understand that holiness is not a trifle. It is awesome. It is terrifying. It will undo us. It will not suffer the greed and impatience and mistrust of unholy desire. And it will also commission us, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ Holy desire will be conscripted. We will be put to work. To pray in the throne room of God is to take up a willingness to be sent.”

Prayer: Lord, We confess that our hearts are deceitful and sick. We do what we do not want to do even as we lament that, at a deep level, we do—indeed—want to do it. The real work takes place not on the ground of our behaviors, but in the soil of our desires. In that, Lord, we have no hope apart from you. Therefore, teach us to want. Make holy our desires. Amen.

*****

Note: To read a book review of Michel’s Teach Us to Want, click here.

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Footnotes

[1] Jeremiah 17:9 ESV | [2] Jeremiah 17:10 ESV

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July 18, 2014

843 Acres: Your Work Is Not in Vain

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Jer 14 (txt | aud, 4:07 min)
Mt 28 (txt | aud, 2:37 min)

Commissioned: Jesus walked the way of suffering and then died on the cross. After he was killed, his body was prepared for burial and laid in a tomb. Three days later, when everyone was celebrating the Feast of First Fruits, Jesus was raised as the first fruits of our resurrection. [1] He then appeared to his disciples, saying, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” [2]

Meaningful: This “great commission” shows us that we are not merely forgiven in Christ; we are commissioned in him, too. We are the ones through whom Calvary’s victory is lived out in the world. Thus, when Paul writes of Jesus’s resurrection, he doesn’t say, “Christ is raised. Therefore, be assured that there is life after death”—even though that is true. Instead, he says, “Christ is raised. Therefore, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” [3] In other words, his resurrection propels us to live today.

Work: How does his resurrection connect with our work not being in vain? Wright explains, “In the Lord, your labor is not in vain. When God’s new world is finally revealed, what you have done to bring healing and hope, beauty and joy to your bit of the world will shine out as a glorious part of the rich tapestry of the new creation. And the wounds and scars which result from announcing Jesus’s lordship in a world where other lords guard their territory with tanks, bombs, and laws will be the sign that we have fought Jesus’s battles with Jesus’s weapons.”

Prayer: Lord, You call us to make disciples of all nations, living out the gospel in our lives. In Christ’s resurrection, we know that our work is not in vain. Therefore, we are your hands and feet to bring the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven, knowing that you are making our work into a glorious tapestry that will be unfurled at the end of this age. Give us, then, a vision of that future kingdom so that we might endure today. Amen.

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M’Cheyne Weekend Readings

Saturday, July 19: Jer 15 (txt | aud, 4:00 min) & Mk 1 (txt | aud, 5:08 min)
Sunday, July 20: Jer 16 (txt | aud, 3:49 min) & Mk 2 (txt | aud, 3:58 min)

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Footnotes

[1] 1 Corinthians 15:23 | [2] Matthew 28:16-20 | [3] See 1 Corinthians 15

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July 17, 2014

843 Acres TBT: The Fountain of Life Opened Up

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Jer 13 (txt | aud, 3:51 min)
Mt 27 (txt | aud, 8:22 min)

Matthew 27:46, 50

And about the ninth hour, Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” … And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.

John Flavel, The Fountain of Life Opened Up (1671)

How inflexible and severe is the justice of God! No abatement! No sparing mercy; no, not to his own Son? This creates a double impression on the heart.

(1) Just and deep indignation against sin; Oh cursed sin! It was you who used my dear Lord so; for your sake he underwent all of this. If your vileness had not been so great, his sufferings had not been so many. Cursed sin! You were the knife that stabbed him; you the sword that pierced him … When the believer considers and remembers that sin put Christ to all that shame and ignominy, and that he was wounded for our transgressions, he is filled with hatred of sin and cries out, “O sin, I will revenge the blood of Christ upon thee! Thou shalt never live a quiet hour in my heart.” And,

(2) It produces a humble adoration of the goodness and mercy of God, to exact satisfaction for our sins, by such bloody stripes … When that surpassing love breaks out in its glory upon the souls, how is the soul transported and ravished with it! Crying out, what manner of love is this! Here is a love large enough to go round the heavens, and the heaven of heavens! Who ever loved after this rate, to lay down his life for enemies! O love unutterable and inconceivable! How glorious is my love in his red garments! Sometimes the fruit of his death are there gloriously displayed; even his satisfaction for sin, and the purchase his blood made of the eternal inheritance: And this begets thankfulness and confidence in the soul, Christ is dead, and his death has satisfied for my sin. Christ is dead, therefore, my soul shall never die. Who shall separate me from the love of God?

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