Archive for July, 2012

July 31, 2012

The Love of God in the Warning

by Bethany

Highlighted Text: Mark 13:5-6, 23
Full Text: Jeremiah 27; Mark 13

Liberal | Ross Douthat (NYT) recently wrote,  “[The Episcopal Church] is flexible to the point of indifference on dogma, friendly to sexual liberation in almost every form, willing to blend Christianity with other faiths, and eager to downplay theology entirely in favor of secular causes. Yet instead of attracting a younger, more open-minded demographic with these changes, the Episcopal Church’s dying has proceeded apace … In the last decade, average Sunday attendance dropped 23 percent, and not a single Episcopal diocese in the country saw churchgoing increase” [1]. This is not, however, merely an Episcopal problem: “Practically every denomination – Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian – that has tried to adapt itself to contemporary liberal values has seen an Episcopal-style plunge.”

Warning | Adaption to contemporary liberal values, however, is not always detrimental. At the Jerusalem Council, for example, Paul and Peter were the “liberal” theologians, arguing against the circumcision of new Gentile converts [2]. Yet as the church contextualizes the gospel in changing cultures, Christ lovingly warns us in advance that things may be misleading: “See that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray’ … But be on guard; I have told you all things beforehand” [3].

Steadfast | How are we to handle these times? N.T. Wright writes, “We are the people called neither to take up arms and force the kingdom upon an unwilling world nor to run away into a private spirituality … We are the people called … into prayer and fasting, into betrayal and suffering, into the ambiguous and agonizing position of wrestling with the purposes of God, into knowing that we might have got it wrong, into wondering in anguish if maybe there’s a different way after all, into being misunderstood by friends and family, into fightings without and fears within … [We are called] to be alert, to see what the issues are and what stand must be taken, to do business with the one Jesus called Abba, Father, even if voices all around us, and even within us, tell us we might be getting it horribly wrong” [4].

Prayer | Lord, We long to be a church that welcomes all people into your presence, even as we stay committed to the truth of the gospel in our changing times. Teach us how to do this and guard us against teachings that may lead us astray. For the sake of your name. Amen.

____________________________________

Help us reach 843 NEW READERS by Labor Day, SEPTEMBER 3! We now offer two ways to receive 843 ACRES by email: five times weekly – Monday through Friday (your friends can sign up HERE), and two times weekly – Monday and Thursday (your friends can sign up HERE). For more information on this campaign, click 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.

____________________________________

Footnotes

[1] Ross Douthat. “Can Liberal Christianity Be Saved?” The New York Times. 14 July 2012.  |  [2] See Acts 15:1-35 (Paul and Peter argued against circumcision of the new Gentile converts in order to maintain the centrality of the gospel, i.e., salvation by faith alone). Also not that even Douthat acknowledges that liberals should be credited for teaching “that faith should spur social reform as well as personal conversion.”  |  [3] Mark 13:5-6, 23 ESV  |  [4] Mr. N.T. Wright. The Way of the Lord: Christian Pilgrimage Today (p. 87). Kindle Edition.

Tags: ,
July 30, 2012

The Love of God in the Offering

by Bethany

Highlighted Text: Mark 12:6-8
Full Text: Jeremiah 26; Mark 12

Obstacle | Tiffany & Co. has partnered with four artists to interpret “the meaning of true love” in a Soho street art installation. Each artist will display his or her design for two weeks at 97 Greene Street.  The first artist created a lamppost scene that had quotes about her love for the streets of Soho. On Friday, the second artist decorated the space with raindrop characters based on the ancient Greek definition of love. The last artists will wrap up the installation by September [1]. The most accurate meaning of true love, however, will not be included in the installation.

Tenants | We see true love in the parable of the tenants. A man leased his vineyard to tenants and then went abroad. When the harvest arrived, he sent servants one-by-one to collect fruit from the tenants, but they did not welcome the servants. Some they beat and some they killed. Jesus concluded, “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” [2].

Sacrifice | This is the meaning of true love – that God bore with great patience the rejection of His people, sending prophet after prophet until finally He sent His Son. John Piper said, “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” [3].

Prayer | Lord, This is true love – that you will not withhold from us any good thing because you did not spare your own Son but gave him up for us all [4]. Yet that image is grotesque and offensive – a body beaten, bloody, cursed and dead. On that cross, however, we see how much you would do for us to remove our sin and, thereby, fellowship with us. This is the meaning of true love. Amen.

____________________________________

Help us reach 843 NEW READERS by Labor Day, SEPTEMBER 3! We now offer two ways to receive 843 ACRES by email: five times weekly – Monday through Friday (your friends can sign up HERE), and two times weekly – Monday and Thursday (your friends can sign up HERE). For more information on this campaign, click 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.

____________________________________

Footnotes

[1] Charlotte Cowles. “Tiffany & Co. Won’t Settle for Just Any Old Scaffolding.” New York Magazine. 19 July 2012 (includes an image of the first installation). See also Seija Rankin. “We’ve Got The First Look at Tiffany’s Brand-New Street Art (!) Installation.” Refinery29. 26 July 2012 (for an image of the second installation).  |  [2] Mark 12:6-8  |  [3] John Piper. “God Did Not Spare His Own Son.” Desiring God. 18 August 2002.  |  [4] See Romans 8:32.

Tags: ,
July 27, 2012

On the Life of the Mind: Greatness

by Bethany

Highlighted Text: Mark 9:35-36
Full Text: Jeremiah 23; Mark 9

Olympics | There resides in all of us a desire for greatness. For athletes, that desire will be showcased for the next 16 days at the Olympics, where more than 10,000 participants from 204 countries will compete in 26 different sports for 2,100 medals [1]. This is the world’s foremost sports competition and everyone will celebrate those who compete [2]. As Jesse Owens once said, “For a time, at least, I was the most famous person in the entire world” [3].

Distortion | Jesus never criticized anyone’s quest for greatness. In fact, God made us in His image and He wants our lives to be meaningful and significant – whether we are runners, bankers or pastors [4]. Yet something happened that distorted our pursuit of greatness. John Piper says that it has been corrupted into a longing not merely to be great, but “to be known as great” and “to be greater than someone else” [5].

Children | On the way to Capernaum, the disciples were arguing with one another about who was the greatest. Jesus “said to them, ‘If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.’ And he took a child and put him in the midst of them” [6]. Jesus wanted them to see that “the measure of true greatness is to what degree the impulse of self-exaltation has been crucified” [7]. This is why he brought a child among them: “[Children] pretty much take for granted that you will take care of them. They don’t make a big deal out of the fact that you pour your life out for them. And so, children prove, more clearly than any other kind of people, whether you are truly great or not – whether you live to serve or live to be praised” [8].

Prayer | Lord, Thank you for giving us a desire for true greatness. We confess, however, that we do not pursue it by being the last of all and the servant of all. Instead, we long to be known as great and greater than others. Forgive us and, by your Spirit, crucify our impulse of self-exaltation. For we know that the rewards of earthly greatness are fleeting. Even Owens, who returned as a gold-decorated athlete, ended up filing for bankruptcy and being prosecuted for tax evasion [9]. In Christ, however, our pursuit of humility and service that seeks your praise alone has rewards that will last forever. Amen.

____________________________________

Help us reach 843 NEW READERS by Labor Day, SEPTEMBER 3! We now offer two ways to receive 843 ACRES by email: five times weekly – Monday through Friday (your friends can sign up HERE), and two times weekly – Monday and Thursday (your friends can sign up HERE). For more information on this campaign, click 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.

____________________________________

Footnotes

[1] See Wikipedia:2012 Summer Olympics; ESPN: “London to feature largest medals.” 27 July 2011.  |  [2] As Mary Lou Retton, winner of the all-around in gymnastics at the 1984 games, once said, “For athletes, the Olympics are the ultimate test of their worth.”  |  [3] Owens won four gold medals in track and field at the 1936 games.  |  [4] I am not attempting to say that pursuing greatness in athletics by excellency in sport and pursuing greatness in the kingdom of heaven by service to others are mutually exclusive. We can do both; we can glorify God and serve others in our pursuit of excellency in sport (or any other type of work). For more on this topic, see The Center for Faith and Work at Redeemer Presbyterian Church. And, of course, who can forget Eric Liddell’s famous quote in Chariots of Fire: “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.”  |  [5] John Piper. “Receiving Children in Jesus’ Name.” 23 February 1992. (emphasis mine)  |  [6] Mark 9:35-36 ESV  |  [7] Id. at 5.  |  [8] Id. See also Luke 14:13-14 for how the poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind also prove this.  |  [9] Wikipedia: Jesse Owens: Post Olympics.

Tags: ,
July 26, 2012

On the Life of the Mind: Desire

by Bethany

Highlighted Text: Mark 8:34-36
Full Text: Jeremiah 22; Mark 8

Desires | As our consciences guide us [1], our desires often come into conflict. We may want to eat chocolate cake, but we also want to lose weight. We may want to sleep late and relax at home, but we also want a paycheck. How do we reconcile these competing desires? Jonathan Edwards wrote, “Free moral agents always act according to the strongest inclination they have at the moment of choice” [2]. In other words, we always do what we most want to do.

Gethsemane | As we saw a few weeks ago, Jesus had competing desires in the garden [3]. Although he wanted the cup to pass, he wanted to partake in the Father’s will even more. Therefore, he chose the latter and let himself be killed in order to accomplish the salvation of his people. In response, what does he call us to do? Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” [4].

Truth | In our daily decisions, we are confronted with the question: What do you want more – the whole world or your soul? When we thoughtlessly choose fleeting pastimes over daily prayer, what are we saying about what we really want? When we effortlessly spend money on our own creature comforts and reluctantly give to widows and orphans, what do our actions reveal about the kingdom for which we really long? Jesus is saying, in effect, “Desire my kingdom to come ‘on earth as it is in heaven’ more than you desire the fleeting pastimes and creature comforts of this world. For those things will soon pass away and become worthless. But my kingdom will last forever.”

Prayer | Lord, We agree with Jim Elliot, who said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” Yet we confess that we have been foolish. When confronted with competing desires, our choices often reveal that our hearts prefer earthly treasures more than heavenly ones. Therefore, sanctify us by your Spirit by giving us new hearts and new desires. Amen.

____________________________________

Help us reach 843 NEW READERS by Labor Day, SEPTEMBER 3! We now offer two ways to receive 843 ACRES by email: five times weekly – Monday through Friday (your friends can sign up HERE), and two times weekly – Monday and Thursday (your friends can sign up HERE). For more information on this campaign, click 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.

 ____________________________________

Footnotes

[1] See 843 Acres. “On the Life of the Mind: Conscience.” 24 July 2012.  |  [2] Jonathan Edwards. The Freedom of the Will.  |  [3] See 843 Acres. “Praying in Gethsemane.” 16 July 2012.  |  [4] Mark 8:34-36 ESV

Tags: ,
July 25, 2012

On the Life of the Mind: Guilt

by Bethany

Highlighted Text: Mark 7:15, 20-22
Full Text: Jeremiah 21; Mark 7

Guilt | As we saw yesterday, our consciences remind us what is true and encourage us to choose it [1]. No matter how much we follow our consciences, however, all of us have a nagging sense of guilt. Even Sir Kingsley Amis, who once replied, “It’s more that I hate Him,” when he was asked whether he was an atheist, 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” [2].

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 laws – 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” [3]. Yet how could they wash their hearts?

Forgiveness | The blood of Christ cleans the hearts of sinners. When Paul wrote to the Corinthians, he told them that they were guilty of the 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” [4]. 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 heart to recognize His amazing mercy.

Prayer | Lord, We draw near to you through Christ, “in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from evil consciences” [5]. Yet we confess that, although we are forgiven, we still sin. Yet we praise you that, in Christ, you are forgiving. Therefore, we listen to our consciences and, instead of hiding in shame, we run to your grace and give you glory. Amen.

____________________________________

Help us reach 843 NEW READERS by Labor Day, SEPTEMBER 3! We now offer two ways to receive 843 ACRES by email: five times weekly – Monday through Friday (your friends can sign up HERE), and two times weekly – Monday and Thursday (your friends can sign up HERE). For more information on this campaign, click 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.

 ____________________________________

Footnotes

[1] 843 Acres. “On the Life of the Mind: Conscience.” 24 July 2012.  |  [2] Kingsley Amis. Memoirs.  |  [3] Mark 7:15, 20-22 ESV  |  [4] 1 Corinthians 6:11 ESV  |  [5] See Hebrews 10:22 ESV.

Tags: ,
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 164 other followers