Archive for August, 2012

August 31, 2012

843 Acres Reader’s Choice: Are We Busier than Jesus?

by Bethany

Reader’s Choice* Perryn Pettus | Why I like this post: This devotional really convicted me when reading that the default response people often have to, “How are you?” is either “Busy,” or “So Busy,” or “Crazy busy.” If Jesus – who came to secure the kingdom of God – had time to love and serve others when they needed it most, I should too.

843 Acres: Are We Busier than Jesus?
Highlighted Text: Matthew 14:14
Full Text: Isaiah 66Matthew 14

Busy | Tim Kreider recently critiqued the modern busyness trend, where people’s default response to, “How are you?” is either, “Busy,” or “So busy,” or “Crazy busy.” He noticed that it is usually the self-imposed busy people, not the people pulling double shifts, who boast complain about their busyness. Why are they so busy? He writes, “Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy … I can’t help but wonder whether all this histrionic exhaustion isn’t a way of covering up the fact that most of what we do doesn’t matter” [1].

Important | Jesus was the most important person that ever walked the earth. It’s impossible to overstate his significance. His life is our substitute, his death is our atonement and his resurrection is our hope. Indeed, he’s the center of history. As H.G. Wells said, “I am a historian, I am not a believer, but I must confess as a historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history. Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in all history.”

Unhurried | Given that he came to announce and secure the kingdom of God, Jesus could have told people, “I’m crazy busy”, but he never did. When he heard that Herod beheaded John the Baptist, for example, he wanted to be alone, but the crowds followed him [2]. Yet he didn’t rush them away, saying, “Now isn’t a good time.” Instead, “he had compassion on them and healed their sick” [3]. Then he hosted a dinner party for them, feeding more than five thousand people with only five loaves and two fish. Although his calling was the ultimate calling of history, he was never too busy.

Prayer | Lord, We confess that sometimes our schedules are full because we want to hedge against emptiness, wondering whether our lives really matter. Yet we stand in awe of Jesus, who lived a meaningful yet unhurried life. Let us bear his image, stopping to serve others even when we have our own plans. For we know that our lives do matter because our patient living testifies that your kingdom, which is full of compassion for all who seek you, is coming “on earth as it is in heaven.” Amen.

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More about Perryn: Perryn has lived in New York for 4 years and enjoys discovering new restaurants around the city and spending time in Central Park.

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More about Reader’s Choice: This week and next, we’re featuring “Reader’s Choice” to promote our 843 new readers campaign. Different readers will share their favorite posts and why they liked them. We hope this blesses you … and perhaps encourages you to help us reach our goal!

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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.

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On the M’Cheyne reading plan, our reading today is Ezekiel 3 and Psalm 39.

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FAQs

How can I make a tax-deductible donation? Click here.
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What is the reading plan this blog is based on? Click here.

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Footnotes

 [1] Tim Kreider. The “Busy” Trap. The New York Times. Opinion Pages. 30 June 2012.  |   [2] Matthew 14:13 ESV  |   [3] Matthew 14:14 ESV

August 30, 2012

843 Acres Reader’s Choice: Why Did God Make Promises?

by Bethany

Reader’s Choice* C. Chin | Why I like this post: In our world where contracts, vows, and promises are easily broken, it is of encouragement that God makes and keep promises not for our glorification but for His purpose.  It humbles me and reminds me that His promises are for people who believe on His word.

843 Acres: Why Did God Make Promises?
Highlighted Text: Luke 24:44
Full Text: Genesis 1Luke 24

Need for Promises |  In the beginning, God spoke into nothingness and created life. Creation was meant to live in perfect harmony with Him [1]. Made “in His own image” [2], Adam and Eve enjoyed His ultimate good – an unbroken, personal relationship with Him [3]. Yet, they were unsatisfied. Rather than enjoying everything He had given them, they wanted the one thing He had not – the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden [4]. Thus, they engaged in a foolish cost-benefit analysis [5], embracing sin and pushing God away. As He looked upon them – hidden and ashamed, yet bearing His image – He loved them and longed for restoration. But how could His holiness coexist with their unholiness [6]?

Made and Kept |  God planned the grace of our forgiveness before eternity [7]. Century after century, although His people repeatedly rejected Him, He made promises of salvation, using many images to communicate with them [8]. In Jesus, God kept those promises. As Jesus told His disciples, the Scriptures were written about and fulfilled in Him: “[A]ll things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled” [9].

Long Delay |  Yet, why wait thousands of years to send Jesus? Why promise salvation rather than just provide it when it was needed? Without His promises, we would not have understood Jesus as Messiah. By delaying, He taught us about Israel’s persistent rebellion and His long-suffering forgiveness through the sacrificial system. Without the Old Testament, we were tempted to see Jesus as a mere therapist, good example, or hero. Yet, these are not His deepest attributes. The truest part of Jesus was that He solved the greatest mystery of all time – namely, how God could punish the guilty and forgive iniquity [10].

Prayer |  Lord, Over the course of thousands of years, you gave us an epic display of your love, grace, mercy and patience, as you made promises to your rebellious people and kept those promises in Jesus, who is the center of history. How we needed your promises! How we long to be restored to you. Keep our hearts tethered to you, as we continue to hope in your promises until the return of Jesus. Amen.

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More about C. Chin: C. Chin has over 17 years in financial services and currently works for a NfP in an advisory role.

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More about Reader’s Choice: This week and next, we’re featuring “Reader’s Choice” to promote our 843 new readers campaign. Different readers will share their favorite posts and why they liked them. We hope this blesses you … and perhaps encourages you to help us reach our goal!

____________________________________

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.

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On the M’Cheyne reading plan, our reading today is Ezekiel 2 and Psalm 38.

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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.

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Footnotes

 [1]  Jonathan Edwards’ The End for Which God Created the World provides an excellent theological foundation concerning the reason for creation. Since Edwards’ essay was written to philosophers of his time, however, it is very difficult to read. John Piper has written an excellent work, God’s Passion for His Glory, that accompanies the full text of the essay and has hundreds of footnotes of explanation. I highly recommend it.  |  [2] Genesis 1:27 NASB  |  [3]  When God looked upon His creation of Adam and Eve, He said it was “very good.” For an extended reflection on the concept of friendship with God, see Billy Graham’s The Journey, chapter 3 (“The Great Design”).  |  [4]  Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-6  |  [5]  Genesis 3:1-7  |   |  [6]  The frequent Biblical analogy to show that holiness cannot coexist with unholiness is that light cannot coexist with darkness. Once a light shines in the darkness, there is no more darkness; the light has overcome it. Similarly, once holiness shines in unholiness, the holiness overcomes the unholiness; the unholiness has been extinguished. See, e.g., Luke 11, John 1, John 12, 1 Corinthians 6.  |  [7] 1 Timothy 1:9  |  [8]  As we will see in the advent readings, God used the covenant, the law, the temple, the sacrifices, etc., to communicate His promise of salvation in ways that we could understand.  |  [9]  Luke 24:44 NASB  |  [10] Exodus 34:6-7 (announcing His character to Moses, the Lord said that He was, “The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished … NASB).

August 29, 2012

843 Acres Reader’s Choice: An Asking, Seeking and Knocking Prayer

by Bethany

Reader’s Choice* Carolyn Kohly | Why I like this post: The Lord wants good things for his children whom he loves but so often I feel unworthy and even fearful  to come before him asking with faith and persistence. This prayer reminds me of God’s love, faithfulness, and ultimate sovereignty.

Reader’s Choice* Susanna Kohly | Why I like this post: This is a pleasant echo of Hebrews reminder to “approach the throne of grace with confidence”. We so often tend to approach his thrown in prayer based on the judgements, scaling of human standards but we learn that we are only hindered from receiving grace when we don’t take him at his word, trust his promises, lean on his unconditional love and have faith that he loves us and longs for us to come to him.

843 Acres: An Asking, Seeking and Knocking Prayer
Relevant Text: Matthew 7:7-11
Full Text: Isaiah 59Matthew 7

Lord, You are infinitely and unimaginably strong, righteous, good, wise and loving. Although we desperately need you, we confess that we don’t come to you as we ought. You extend to us the greatest invitation in the world – to feast at your banquet table – but we come up with all sorts of excuses for why we can’t accept it [1]. Therefore, awaken effectual inclinations in us to pray.

Sometimes we feel so close to you that we can just ask you for things. Other times, however, you seem distant so we must seek you. There are also times when you seem behind closed doors. Yet no matter how close or far you may seem, you promise to hear our asking, reward our seeking and answer our knocking: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened” [2].

You keep these promises because we come to you through Jesus, who died to give us acceptance by and access to you. He has given us the right to become your children [3]. Therefore, although we may feel shy or unworthy to pray, Christ removes our timid doubts [4] and reminds us that we are coming to our Father, who always gives us good things: “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” [5]. Therefore, Lord, we turn to you and not another to hear us and give us good things – whether that means that you give us what we ask or something better than what we ask. Your will, not ours, be done.

We take you at your word. Although we may not fully understand how you answer our prayers, we trust your promises. Therefore, we pray. We ask, seek and knock, because we long for your unending goodness to come to us, our families, our church, our nation and our world. Let us, therefore, make new and fresh commitments to set aside time for prayer alone and together, knowing that you invite us to your banquet table that is full of eternal blessings for your great name’s sake. Amen.

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More about Carolyn:  Carolyn lives in New York and is a full-time nanny. She’s been reading The Park Forum since 2009 and is an avid traveler and foodie.

More about Susanna:  Susanna has been reading The Park Forum since 2009. She’s a New Yorker that somehow ended up in Los Angeles. She rides her bike to work and loves the sun. She believes public transportation makes people happier and dreams of building a subway system in southern California.

(We are featuring Carolyn and Susanna together today because they are a sister pair of 843 Acres readers.)

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More about Reader’s Choice: This week and next, we’re featuring “Reader’s Choice” to promote our 843 new readers campaign. Different readers will share their favorite posts and why they liked them. We hope this blesses you … and perhaps encourages you to help us reach our goal!

____________________________________

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.

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On the M’Cheyne reading plan, our reading today is Ezekiel 1 and Psalm 37.

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 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.

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Footnotes

[1] See Luke 14:18-20.  |  [2] Matthew 7:7-8 ESV  |  [3] See John 1:12.  |  [4] Martin Luther. The Sermon on the Mount, translated by Jaroslav Pelikan, Vol. 21 of Luther’s Works, [Concordia, 1956], p.234.)  |  [5] Matthew 7:7-11 ESV  |  [FN] For additional reflection on asking, seeking and knocking see John Piper, Ask Your Father in Heaven (31 December 2006).

August 28, 2012

843 Acres Reader’s Choice: On Outlandish Expectations and Strong Senses of Entitlement

by Bethany

Reader’s Choice* Tim Noble | Why I like this post: I am a millennial and I hate it when I fail at things.  But that’s because I forget that Christ’s victory over death far surpasses my inability to succeed at daily tasks.  Looking for my personal justification in the covenantal love expressed on the cross releases me from my “outlandish expectations.”

843 Acres: On Outlandish Expectations and Strong Senses of Entitlement
Highlighted Text: Heb. 12:3
Full Text: Is. 5Heb. 12

Millennials | Millennials comprise the largest generation since the baby boomers [1]. What are they like? Pew Research says that they are “confident, self-expressive, liberal, upbeat and open to change” [2]. Several years ago, however, Ron Alsop wrote in The Wall Street Journal, “[T]hese young people have great – and sometimes outlandish – expectations … an unusually strong sense of entitlement” [3]. He continued, “Where do such feelings come from? Blame it on doting parents, teachers and coaches. Millennials are truly ‘trophy kids,’ the pride and joy of their parents. The millennials were lavishly praised and often received trophies when they excelled, and sometimes when they didn’t, to avoid damaging their self-esteem.”

Glory | If Alsop is right, we have a huge opportunity to put God’s glory on display in our culture. In Hebrews 11, the writer lists the many Old Testament figures that chose faith over fear – e.g., Noah, Abraham, Moses [4]. All of them were persecuted, but none of them received what was promised – namely, their final perfection [5]. In light of their lives, the writer exhorts us, “[L]et us also lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely … looking to Jesus … who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross” [6]. He continues, “Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted” [7].

Context | In other words, we can show God’s glory in our culture by clinging to Christ, not our self-esteem, for endurance [8]. Our “outlandish expectations” and “strong senses of entitlement” are tethered to the age to come, not this age! We don’t need cultural trophies because Christ himself is our trophy. We endure adversity by knowing that after the cross comes the crown. When we view the world like this, we won’t grow weary. Instead, we’ll endure until we come “to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and … to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant” [9].

Prayer | Lord, You have given us new hearts and new identities. We don’t need to be coddled by this world because you’re on our side! [10] Give us a confidence that is unshakable so that we can endure adversity with joy because we know what’s coming. Let us consider Jesus, who endured immeasurable adversity for our sake, so that we will not grow faint of heart. Amen.

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More about Tim: Tim has been reading The Park Forum for 2 years.  In his spare time, Tim likes to try new restaurants with his wife, Kyo, or go on runs through Central Park.

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More about Reader’s Choice: This week and next, we’re featuring “Reader’s Choice” to promote our 843 new readers campaign. Different readers will share their favorite posts and why they liked them. We hope this blesses you … and perhaps encourages you to help us reach our goal!

____________________________________

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.

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On the M’Cheyne reading plan, our reading today is Lamentations 5 and Psalm 36.

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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] Most people consider the Millennials to be those individuals born between 1980 and 2001.  |  [2] Pew Research Center. Millennials: A Portrait of Generation Next (various resources).  | [3] Ron Alsop. “The Trophy Kids Go to Work.” The Wall Street Journal. 21 October 2008.  |  [4] See Hebrews 11 (which is often referred to as The Roll Call of the Faithful).  |  [5] See   Hebrews 11:40 (noting that those who have gone before us “should not be made perfect” apart from us).  |  [6] Hebrews 12:1, 2.  |  [7] Hebrews 12:3 ESV  |  [8] The way that our culture views “self-esteem” is largely counter to the biblical perspective on how we should view ourselves. Yes, we should affirm people, but the problem lies in how we are affirming them or on what basis are we affirming them. For additional thoughts on this topic, see Sam Crabtree, “Is It God-Centered to Praise People?” 13 March 2012; Jonathan Parnell, “How Should We Think About Self-Worth.” 1 March 2012.  |  [9] See Hebrews 12:18-29.  |  [10] See Psalm 118:6Hebrews 13:6Romans 8:31.

August 27, 2012

843 Acres Reader’s Choice: When Suffering Seems Senseless

by Bethany

Reader’s Choice | This week, we’re featuring “Reader’s Choice” to promote our 843 new readers campaign. Different readers will share their favorite posts and why they liked them. We hope this blesses you … and perhaps encourages you to help us reach our goal!

Reader: Nate Sung | Why I like this post: Today’s devotional nails how we Christians should approach suffering.  As Oswald Chambers wrote, “God places His saints where they will bring the most glory to Him, and we are totally incapable of judging where that may be.”

843 Acres: When Suffering Seems Senseless
Highlighted Text: Job 37:13
Full Text: Job 372 Cor. 7

Purpose | Human beings are resilient. We can put up with a great deal of suffering, as long as we know the reason for it. If we don’t know the reason, however, we can easily become impatient and frustrated. As Nietzsche argued, “What really raises one’s indignation against suffering is not suffering intrinsically, but the senselessness of suffering” [1]. Yet life is full of seemingly purposeless suffering. The suffering of Job, from his perspective, seemed senseless. He didn’t know what was happening between God and Satan and he was all caught up in the mistaken belief that the righteous prospered and the wicked suffered [2].

Source | Even though Job didn’t know the purpose of his suffering, he knew its author. When fire consumed his livestock and wind killed his children, he said: “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” [3]. His final friend to speak, Elihu, pushed Job beyond seeing God as the cause of his suffering only and into seeing Him as the source of mercy in his suffering as well: “He loads the thick cloud with moisture … Whether for correction or for his land or for love, he causes it to happen” [4].

Trust | Knowing that God is sovereign and, at the same time, loving and merciful, we can be patient in our suffering as we trust Him – even when we don’t understand or even agree with Him. As James wrote, Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful” [5]. Thus, like Job, we can find comfort and security and hope and truth in God and His sovereign mercy.

Prayer | Lord, You are the author of mercy – whether it comes in the form of prosperity or adversity. We confess that our eyes often see wrongly in the midst of our suffering. Yet, because we trust You (and we long to trust You more and more every day), we’ll wait for your goodness and patiently persevere in Christ. Thus, even if we don’t understand you right now, let us one day look back on today and say, “Now, we see. Now, it all makes sense. Nothing was wasted. We stand in awe of the fabric of your glorious ways.” Amen.

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More about Nate: Nate is a NY Giants and Yankees fan currently living behind enemy lines in Dallas.

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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.

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On the M’Cheyne reading plan, our reading today is Lamentations 4 and Psalm 35.

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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] Nietzsche. On the Genealogy of Morals.  |  [2] Moreover, since Job is limited in his own time, he does not know that, through the testimony of his suffering, God is preparing a people ready to receive the righteous and innocent Messiah who would suffer greatly.  |  [3] Job 1:21  |  [4] Job 37:11, 13 ESV  |  [5] Jms. 5:11 ESV

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