Archive for January, 2010

January 31, 2010

[843 Acres] Awe and the iPad

by Mattie

The net chatter has been getting louder for weeks about the anticipated release of the Apple Tablet (which we now know is called the iPad). Every major news outlet has buzz on it (I like David Pogue’s thoughts; or watch the promo vid), and I find myself wanting one. Bad. Then I’m reminded of Jesus’ admonition:

“Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” [Luke 12:15, NIV]

Yet, I’d like to think that my attraction to the iPad is less about greed and more about an expression of the wonder and awe with which humanity has been blessed. My fascination with remarkable new technology reminds me of the delight the Psalmist takes in God’s creation:

Those who live at the ends of the earth stand in awe of your wonders. From where the sun rises to where it sets, you inspire shouts of joy. [Psalm 65:8, NLT]

Being drawn to beauty, function, and form is a gift from God. Do I need an iPad? Certainly not. Can I see God’s incredible design in this magnificent new technology? Certainly.

January 29, 2010

[Morning Walk] The Greatest Letter Ever Written: Romans 1

by Bethany

Today’s Readings: Esther 6, Romans 1

Even though I may not know you, I know your biggest problem. It is not your stock portfolio, your micro-managing boss, your toddler’s temper-tantrum, or your cancer. It’s not that you don’t feel loved, don’t have a job, don’t have a baby, or don’t have plans for the weekend.

Our Ultimate Problem: God is righteous and we are not.

In the first two chapters of Romans (1:18-3:20), Paul is a prosecuting attorney. He argues that all of humanity is condemned because God is righteous and we are not. As a result, there is real guilt over every human heart because of sin and, since God is holy and cannot be in the presence of sin, there is real condemnation because of that sin.

As Paul writes,

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth … Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. 1:18, 32, ESV.

God is angry at our unrighteousness. He hates the way that we suppress and manipulate the truth to justify ourselves. We are sinners in the hands of an angry God.

This is our problem.

Our Ultimate Hope: God gives to us what he demands from us.

But God did not leave us alone with our problem. He rescued us from his wrath. Through faith in Jesus, we are made righteous and able to live in his presence forever. This is what he longs for because he loves us. This is the gospel.

And Paul was not ashamed to preach it. His thesis reads:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” 1:16-17, ESV.

The gospel is the power of God for salvation, which comes through faith in Jesus Christ. It is strong and merciful to save. It penetrates our hearts.

Our Daily Lives.

If we know and love and live on the essence of the gospel as a daily reality, we are filled with joy and hope. After all, if our ultimate problem has been miraculously solved, then what else remains?

January 28, 2010

[843 Acres] President Obama’s Influences: Stories and Statistics

by amyjuliabecker

Anne E. Kornblut and Michael A. Fletcher report on the array of sources that influence President Obama in their recent story, “In Obama’s Decision-Making, a Wide Range of Influences” (Washington Post). In particular, they report that Obama reads at least ten of the thousands of letters he receives every day. In addition, “Aides say time and time again, at meetings, Obama brings up these stories, which sometimes affect policy.”

Obama insists upon data to substantiate arguments, and Kornblut and Fletcher report that he doesn’t let anecdotal evidence override statistics. But it was the role of stories in Obama’s daily decision making that caught my attention. On countless occasions, Jesus allowed the stories of real people to influence his course of action. To cite one example, he stopped what he was doing to heal a little girl and hear the story of a woman who had been bleeding for years (Mark 5:21-43).

President Obama is as flawed as any of us. He is not Jesus. But the fact that he is attentive to the real lives of real Americans may help him cultivate Jesus’ compassion for people, compassion that translated into sacrificial service for the whole world.

January 28, 2010

[Morning Walk] Hearing Vs. Understanding the Truth

by Perryn Pettus

Today’s Readings: Esther 5, Acts 28

Written by 843 Acres writer Perryn Pettus.

As a little girl, I wasn’t allowed to leave the dinner table until I had eaten everything on my plate, even the vegetables. I had to taste one of each dish that my mom had cooked. And, I had a strict bed time of 8:00 PM. I didn’t understand any of these rules during my childhood. Although my parents never ceased explaining why they enacted these rules, I would not believe. I heard them tell me the reasons, but I didn’t understand.

Thankfully, as an adult, I don’t live in the same contrarian mindset. I now know why they placed these rules on my siblings and me. As I grew older, I slowly began to understand the depth and impact of these seemingly nonsensical rules. I didn’t stay in the same place with my reasoning and logic and, today, I even agree with these constraints.

In Acts 28, the Jews came to Paul’s house to hear him preach and hear his views. He preached day and night to explain to the people about the kingdom of God and of Jesus, while some believed him and some didn’t.

In Acts 28:24-27, we see what happened when Paul preached the gospel: “Some were convinced by what he said, but others would not believe. They disagreed among themselves and began to leave after Paul had made this final statement: “The Holy Spirit spoke the truth to your forefathers when he said through Isaiah the prophet:

‘Go to this people and say,
“You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.”
For this people’s heart has become calloused;
they hardly hear with their ears,
and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.’

God is merciful to open our eyes, ears, and hearts to His truth if we turn to Him. Just as I can see how my eyes and ears have been opened to perceive differently than I did as a child, I also see and hear God’s truth differently. Pray that you will not be one who turned and walked away because you disagreed with God’s word. Turn to Him so that your heart may be always understanding and perceiving the beauty of His truth!

January 27, 2010

[843 Acres] THE Super Bowl Ad

by Neal

Google “Super Bowl Ad” this year and you won’t find links about frivolous humor but rather plenty on CBS’ decision to air a Focus on the Family anti-abortion ad featuring Tim Tebow. I’m not going to share my opinion that abortion is wrong, that CBS should indeed air the ad, and that Focus on the Family was right to pay millions for the spot (oops, I guess I did). Instead, I’m going to declare my love for Tim Tebow. Again.

It’s popular to hate him but I love him. I love that Tebow stands behind his beliefs. He’s a Heisman trophy winner about to enter the NFL and he spends his free time doing missions work in Asia as well as in prisons (this video is a must see). He lives his faith. It’s unmistakable. From the bible verses on his face to doing a Super Bowl ad against abortion, there’s nothing lukewarm about his faith. How many of us Christians can say that?

What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. James 2:14-17, NIV.

January 27, 2010

[Morning Walk] Pushing Through Fear: Esther 4

by belgraham

Written by guest author B.L. Graham.

Today’s Passages: Esther 4, Acts 27

A childhood friend of mine died at the age of thirty due to complications from anorexia. When I heard, I was devastated. Just three months earlier, the Lord asked me to tell her that He loved her and wanted to offer her love, forgiveness, and redemption. But I did not. Instead, I was filled with fear because I did not know how she felt about God since I had not seen her in years.

Rather than experiencing the Lord’s redemption, I experienced deep regret. I sought out a counselor, who compassionately said that God’s will was done in her life with or without me. But Mordecai’s words in Esther 4 suggest that divine sovereignty does not absolve us of human responsibility.

In this chapter, we find Esther in the unenviable position of influence with the king. Threatened with an edict of extinction, Mordecai urged her to enter the king’s presence to beg for mercy for her people.  Esther knew royal protocol and she knew that entering the king’s presence without a summons warranted the death penalty – even for the queen.  Fear gripped Esther and she refused. Mordecai responded and said:

Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish.  And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this? Esther 4:12-15, NIV.

In that moment, Mordecai reminded Esther that, no matter their respective positions, God was their only hope for deliverance.  Following royal protocol would not save Esther.  Being queen would not save Esther.  Only God would save Esther.  She had been placed in the royal court at that moment to do the Lord’s work. With that reminder, she knew that God was her only hope and agreed to go before the King no matter the outcome.

I have also experienced the Lord’s patience. I did not perish in my disobedience. Although I was restored after failure, the scar remains to remind me of the cost of my disobedience and pushes me through fear into action. Is there a fear you need to push through to respond obediently to the Lord’s call?

January 26, 2010

[843 Acres] Are Christians Wimps?

by amyjuliabecker

The final line of a recent article in The Economist reads,

[C]orruption and hypocrisy are the price that societies pay for being led by alpha males (and, in some cases, alpha females). The alternative, though cleaner, is leadership by wimps (“The Psychology of Power“).

This article reports on a scientific study that demonstrates that people who think they deserve to be in positions of power are more likely to abuse that power. They break rules even as they think those rules should apply to others. They feel entitled to get whatever they want. People who find themselves in power but don’t think they deserve it, however, hold themselves to a higher moral standard than they apply to others.

Why? These researches postulate that those in power who consider themselves undeserving are simply giving off signals of submissiveness to those who deserve to be in charge.

In Philippians 2:3, Paul writes, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” Is humility the same as wimpy leadership? To the writers of the Economist, apparently so. But a Christian understanding of leadership is one of powerful humility, women and men who retain a sense of their own inadequacy and yet accept the responsibilities of leadership at the same time.

January 26, 2010

[Morning Walk] The Defense’s Case-in-Chief: Acts 26

by Bethany

Today’s Readings: Esther 3, Acts 26

Presumption of Innocence. Ever since 1895, when the Supreme Court formally established the presumption of innocence, every accused criminal has been “innocent until proven guilty.” See Coffin v. United States, 156 U.S. 432. Although it can be debated whether the fact finder actually observes this presumption, there is no doubt that it has produced an essential legal corollary – namely, reasonable doubt.

Reasonable Doubt. In a criminal trial, the prosecution bears the burden of proof to show that the defendant has committed the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Accordingly, the prosecution must present evidence. The defense, however, need not present any evidence at all – even the defendant need not testify. Yet, most defense attorneys do, in fact, put on a case because they know that it is their one opportunity to bear witness to what happened.

Case-in-Chief. Jesus would have been a great defense attorney. When he described the last days to his disciples, he told them to see their indictments and trials as strategic opportunities to bear witness to the gospel: “But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. This will be your opportunity to bear witness” (Luke 21:12-13).

Paul’s Defense. As a lawyer, Paul took this to heart. For more than two years, Paul was imprisoned based on false charges. Yet, because of this, he was able to share his testimony with the whole Jewish council and three of the highest political officials in Palestine (Felix, Festus, and Agrippa). Even King Agrippa knew that Paul was using his defense to share the gospel rather than to prove his own innocence. For he asked Paul, “In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?” (Acts 26:28, ESV). Paul responded, “Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am – except for these chains.” (Acts 26:29, ESV).

Strategic Opportunities. Paul was more concerned with Christ being preached than he was with proclaiming his innocence. What are you more concerned about when you’re unfairly judged – your own good name or the good name of the Savior, Christ Jesus the Lord?

January 25, 2010

[Morning Walk] Is life the sum of our choices? [Esther 2]

by Bethany

Today’s Readings: Esther 2, Acts 25

I wish I could understand the double layers of history – the factual one that we see and the spiritual one that the Lord sees. For example, I think I’ll meet Iraqi Christians in heaven who will tell me that they only became Christians because the U.S. invaded – wrongly or rightly.

The book of Esther exemplifies a realistic view of how we see history in contrast with how the Lord views it. It is the only book in the Bible that does not mention God. Yet, He is working. There is a string of “coincidences” that, if they had not happened, the Jewish people would not have been spared.

Esther had to become queen in order to be in the position to convince the king that the Jewish people should not be killed, as was Haman’s plan. How did Esther come to be queen?

King Ahasuerus got drunk, bragged about Queen Vashti’s beauty to his fellow friends, and then asked Vashti to display her beauty before the drunken crowd. Yet, in an act of radical bravery, the queen refused (1:12). The king became enraged and banished her from his presence, making her an example to all women in the province so that all men would be master of their own household.

To replace Queen Vashti, the king set up a beauty contest for all the young virgins in the province to win his affection. There were only four options for any woman: (1) she could not please the king and be banished, (2) she could please the king and become a concubine, (3) she could greatly please the king and become a wife, or (4) she could please the king the most and become the new queen.

Although she was a Jewish orphan, Esther pleased the king the most: “ … the king loved Esther more than all the women, and she won grace and favor in his sight more than all the virgins, so that he set the royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti.” v. 17, ESV

If the king would not have gotten drunk, then Vashti would not have been requested nor had the opportunity to refuse and then be dismissed. If Esther would not have been pretty, then she would not have been there to answer the king’s call and replace Vashti.

Lots of ordinary decisions are the sum of major things. When God works in ordinary ways, we think He isn’t working, but He is. His silence is not absence. He is keeping his promises even when it seems like He is not.

January 24, 2010

[843 Acres] Grace and Truth

by Bethany

Amy Julia has a new blog post on Christianity Today, Iris Robinson, Jesus Loves You More Than You Will Know.

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