Archive for April, 2012

April 30, 2012

Why should we take care how we hear?

by Bethany

Highlighted Text: Heb. 5:11
Full Text: Song. 5; Heb. 5

Noises | Horns honking, people yelling, jackhammers pounding, ambulances screaming – these are the sounds of New York … and usually right outside our windows at 7:00 am! According to the New York Academy of Medicine, the noise of Manhattan is putting New Yorkers at risk of hearing loss. Most of us, however, hardly notice the crowds and chaos anymore. Yet Columbia Professor Robyn Gershon cautions, “That’s the problem with noise. It sneaks up on you. It’s a hidden hazard and a hidden health outcome” [1].

Ears | This was a problem in the early church. Although God had spoken by the prophets “at many times and in many ways” and by the Son “in these last days” [2], the new believers were already letting the gospel go in one ear and out the other. They were satisfied with a superficial knowledge of the gospel and were failing to work out its truths into their lives. As the writer of Hebrews lamented, “We have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing” [3].

Growth | As a result of their dull hearing, even though they had been Christians for years, they were acting like babies. They were still eating baby food and living “unskilled in the word of righteousness” [4]. Their spiritual growth was stunted because they weren’t receiving the nutrition they needed. What was that nutrition? The daily practice of applying the gospel to their lives: “Solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil” [5].

Prayer | Lord, Forgive our dull hearing. Some of us have become so accustomed to hearing your word that the joy of living it out has lost its hold on our hearts. As a result, our love and faith have grown stunted. O Lord, knowing that Jesus told us to “take care” [6] how we hear, we pray that you would help us to receive the word actively, not passively, so that your word does not become ineffective in our lives and so that we can grow in discernment and obedience in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Samantha Gross. “New York City noise may be deafening.” 26 October 2010.  |  [2] See Heb. 1:1-2. See also 843 Acres, “Have you ever longed for God to speak?” 26 April 2012.  |  [3] Heb. 5:11 ESV (italicized because it is the Highlighted Text of the day)  |  [4] Heb. 5:13 ESV  |  [5] Heb. 5:14 ESV  |  [6] In the Parable of the Sower, Jesus emphasized the importance of paying attention to how we hear.  He told of a sower who dropped seed in four different soils, each resulting in different yields.  Jesus explained that the seed was the Word of God and the different soils were the people who heard it.  What accounted for the different yields was not whether they heard the Word, but how they heard it:“Take care then how you hear …” (Luke 8:18, ESV).

April 27, 2012

Why Enduring in Love Is Worth It

by Bethany

Highlighted Text: Heb. 2:1
Full Text: Song 2; Heb. 2

Virtue | A persistent theme in Paul’s letters is love. Yet he doesn’t speak of love as a feeling that comes naturally; he speaks of it as a virtue to be pursued. N.T. Wright observes, “At every single point in Paul’s catalogue of what love does, and what love doesn’t do, we want to say, ‘Yes, I see what you mean. However, left to my own inclinations, I would be small-minded, unkind, jealous, fussy, puffed up, shameless … there are some things I wouldn’t bear, many things I wouldn’t believe, several things I wouldn’t be able to hope for, and a whole multitude that I wouldn’t endure. Left to myself, doing what comes naturally, I would fail.’ But the point of love is that it doesn’t. That is why love is a virtue” [1].

Endure | Hebrews was written to believers who had been Christians for several years and needed encouragement to persevere in love and faith. The writer exhorts, “Therefore” – since God has spoken decisively and completely through Jesus[2]“we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it” [3]. In other words, “Do not neglect your great salvation! Pay attention to Jesus! Do not stop loving God and others!” [4]

Learn | Those of us who are not naturally loving people can be encouraged to know that love is a virtue to be pursued. Wright reflects, “[Love] is a language to be learned, a musical instrument to be practiced, a mountain to be climbed via some steep and tricky cliff paths” [5]. Yet, he argues, pursuing love is worth it: “It is one of the things that will last; one of the traits of character which provides a genuine anticipation of that complete humanness we are promised at the end. And it is one of the things, therefore, which can be anticipated in the present on the basis of the future goal, the telos, which is already given in Jesus Christ. It is part of the future which can be drawn down into the present” [6].

Prayer | Lord, You are love [7] and, in Christ, you are making us to be loving people by your Spirit. Thank you for promising to continue working in us until the day of Christ because, honestly, that’s how long it will take! As we confess that we are prone to wander, we ask you to give us endurance in our love and faith [8]. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Wright, N. T. (2010-02-14). After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters (pp. 182-183). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition. For more information on N.T. Wright, see: here.  |  [2] See Heb. 1. See also 843 Acres, “Have you ever longed for God to speak?” 26 April 2012; John Piper, “In These Last Days, God Has Spoken by a Son.” 31 March 1996.  |  [3] Heb. 2:1 ESV |  [4] See Heb. 2:3  |  [5] Id. at 1.  |  [6] Id. at 1.  |  [7] See 1 John 4:8.  |  [8] There is a great verse in Robert Robinson’s hymn, “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing” (1758) that encourages endurance: “O to grace how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be! Let Thy goodness, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to Thee. Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love; here’s my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for Thy courts above.”

April 26, 2012

Have you ever longed for God to speak?

by Bethany

Highlighted Text: Heb. 1:1-2
Full Text: Song. 1; Heb. 1

Speak! | Have you ever longed for God to speak? Have you ever said, “O God, do not keep silent! Do not hold your peace or be still! O Lord, be not far from me! How I long to hear your voice! If only you would talk with me and not be silent!” [1]

Past | God has always longed for His people to know Him and, therefore, has always been generous in His communications. As the writer in Hebrews taught, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets” [2]. He didn’t just speak in one way; He spoke through history, poetry and imagery. He didn’t just speak by one person; He spoke through people like Moses, Isaiah and David.

Jesus | Then Jesus Christ came into the world as God’s final and best communication. As the writer of Hebrews continued, “ … but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son” [3]. Jesus was not, however, a mere way or prophet; he is “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” [4]. Everything he was and said and did – including his death and resurrection – is God’s ultimate word to us.

Inexhaustible | What are we really saying, therefore, when we get frustrated that God doesn’t seem to be speaking in ways that we want? Are we saying that we’ve exhausted the life and teaching of Jesus Christ so much that we need something different and more than him? Has he become not enough for us? [5]

Prayer | Lord, What people is there that has a god so near to them as you are to us? [6] Thank you for being so generous in your communications with us over the years. When we long to hear your voice, let us open and read and meditate on your word so that the person of Jesus Christ becomes alive in our hearts. Open our ears and eyes to be sensitive to your Spirit, who focuses our thoughts and hearts on the inexhaustible fountain of your word. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] See Ps. 83:1; 35:22; 28:1; 29:3-9; 68:33; 95:7  |  [2] Heb. 1:1 ESV  |  [3] Heb. 1:1-4 ESV  |  [4] Heb. 1:3 ESV  |  [5] For an extended sermon on this topic, see John Piper. “In These Last Days, God Has Spoken by a Son.” 31 March 1996.  |  [6] Deut. 4:7

April 25, 2012

Forgiveness Is Divine

by Bethany

Highlighted Text: Philemon 6
Full Text: Ecc. 12; Philemon

Getting Forgiveness | Onesimus needed to be forgiven. He was a bondservant who stole from his employer, Philemon, and then fled when he couldn’t afford to pay him back [1]. When he was on the run, however, he met Paul and then Jesus [2]. Following his conversion, he needed to reconcile his relationship with Philemon. So Paul wrote a letter to Philemon on Onesimus’ behalf and told Onesimus to deliver to Philemon [3]. Pastor Mark Dever writes, “Can you imagine the former slave standing in the doorway as his former employer opens the door – needing forgiveness, helpless to repay, cared for only by someone far away in prison?” [4]

Giving Forgiveness | When the door opened, there stood Onesimus. Before him was Philemon, who was a wealthy and prominent church leader and friend of Paul. In Onesimus’ hands, however, was a letter asking Philemon to welcome Onesimus back into his home. Yet how could Philemon do this? Not only would he struggle with trusting Onesimus again, he would also risk being seen as weak (by his culture that didn’t value forgiveness as a virtue) and easy on crime (by his other servants who might take advantage of his mercy). Paul knew, however, that forgiving Onesimus would cost Philemon something and, therefore, he wrote, “If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge it to my account” [5]. In other words, “Indebtedness must be taken into account and, therefore, I will settle the bill.”

Saving Forgiveness | Yet extending forgiveness is worth more than merely receiving back a payment owed. Philemon’s own appreciation of his salvation was at stake. As Paul wrote, “I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ” [6]. In other words, by sharing his faith – in the form of forgiveness – with Onesimus, Philemon himself would gain a fuller understanding of what Christ had done for him on the cross.

Prayer | Lord, We – like Onesimus – come before you with nothing to offer but a sinful record. We sin against you and then run away from you. Yet Christ is our letter of justification. We stand on his record. As we recognize this, help us to forgive others and, thereby, gain a fully understanding of your forgiveness. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] See Philemon 14, 18.  |  [2] See Philemon 11, 16.  |  [3] See Philemon 12.  |  [4] Dever, Mark; John MacArthur (2005-11-30). The Message of the New Testament: Promises Kept (p. 401). Good News Publishers/Crossway Books. Kindle Edition.  |  [5] Philemon 18 ESV  |  [6] Philemon 6 ESV

April 24, 2012

How often do you think about death?

by Bethany

Highlighted Text: Ecc. 11:9
Full Text: Ecc. 11; Tit. 3
Photo of the Day: #TPFperspective

Past | How often do you think about death? Apparently, people who think about it too much may have a mental health condition, e.g., depression, bipolar disorder [1]. In the first century, however, Seneca the Younger taught that thinking about death was an essential part of life: “What man can you show me who places any value on his time, who reckons the worth of each day, who understands that he is dying daily? For we are mistaken when we look forward to death; the major portion of death has already passed. Whatever years behind us are in death’s hands” [2]. Indeed, we cannot get back the years that have passed. They belong to the past; they are dead.

Future | Recently, we have thought about the future – last week, we reflected on eternity [3] and, yesterday, we thought about “faith in future grace” that looks back to the cross of Christ and forward to his return [4]. Yet, in our meditations, there has been an elephant in the room – our pending judgment. The Teacher in Ecclesiastes warned, “For all these things God will bring you into judgment” [5]. If all of us will be judged [6], therefore, is thinking about death a sign of depression or a sign of wisdom? Was Moses mentally ill when he prayed, “Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom”? [7].

Hope | When Christians stand in judgment, God will open the books of our lives and use our sins to glorify Christ. He will open the last page – Christ’s final hours on the cross – as the public proclamation of our faith and union with Christ. None will be saved by works [8]. Yet our works – if we are in Christ – will display a born-again and regenerated heart that humbly longs for more holiness [9]. As we saw yesterday, our condemnation is past [10]; our names are in the book of life [11] and the One who began a good work in us will be faithful to complete it at the day of Christ [12].

Prayer | Lord, Today, we see your glory. and, therefore, we know that we are unable to stand before your throne. Yet we praise your infinite grace for calling us to be co-heirs with Christ. Let us look back at the years that have passed and forward to the years that remain, knowing that our entire hope lies in Christ and resting on his perfect record. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] See T.C. Vollmer, M. Whitmann, C. Schweiger, W. Hiddemann. “Preoccupation with death as predictor of psychological distress in patients with haematologic malignancies.” European Journal of Cancer Care. Vol. 20, Is. 3, pp. 403-411. May 2011. See also Gallup. One in 10 Teens Thinks Often About Own Death. 29 June 2004.  |  [2] Seneca. Epistles, Vol. I. “On Saving Time.”  |  [3] 843 Acres, He Set Eternity on All Hearts. 16 April 2012.; 843 Acres, What Currency Counts Beyond the Grave? 17 April 2012.; 843 Acres, How the Love of Money Disguises Itself. 18 April 2012.; 843 Acres, Our Days Pass Like Shadows. 19 April 2012.; 843 Acres, An Elevator Pitch for Christianity. 20 April 2012.  |  [4] 843 Acres, Avoiding the Debtor’s Ethic. 23 April 2012.  |  [5] Ecc. 11:9 ESV  |  [6] See Rom. 14:10; 2 Cor. 5:10.  |  [7] Ps. 90:12 ESV  |  [8] See Is. 64:6.  |   [9] See James 2:14-26.  |  [10] See Rom. 8:3  |  [11] See Rev. 20:12  |  [12] See Phil. 1:6

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