Archive for April, 2013

April 30, 2013

843 Acres: The Mask of Psalm 42

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Num 7 (text | audio, 9:54 min)
and Ps 42 (text | audio, 1:40 min)
and Ps 43 (text | audio, 0:47 min)
Highlighted: Ps 42:3, 9

Happiness: Our longing to be happy is not bad. In fact, C.S. Lewis says it is required: “It is a Christian duty for everyone to be as happy as he can.” What happens, however, when we are not happy? When things happen (or do not happen) that make us sad? Is it inconsistent to be a Christian and also to have feelings of sorrow, confusion and/or depression?

Depression: In Psalm 42, the psalmist struggles with depression: “My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, ‘Where is your God?’” [1]. He continues: “I say to God, my rock: ‘Why have you forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?’” [2]. How does this psalm teach us to confront our feelings of sorrow, confusion and/or depression?

Preaching: “Have you realized,” writes D. Martin Lloyd-Jones, “that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them, but they start talking to you … Now this man’s treatment [in Psalm 42] was this; instead of allowing this self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself. “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? … Self, listen for a moment, I will speak to you.’ You have to take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, preach to yourself, question yourself … And then you must go on to remind yourself of God, who God is, what God is, what God has done, and what God has pledged Himself to do. Then, having done that, end on this great note: defy yourself, and defy other people, and defy the devil and the whole world, and say with this man, ‘I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance, who is also the health of my countenance and my God’” [3].

Prayer: Lord, Thank you for inspiring psalms like Psalm 42 that do not conclude with an all-wrapped-up-in-a-bow ending. As we preach to ourselves, may we cling to your word, not our circumstances. Teach us to say, “Why are you cast down, O my soul? Put your hope in God!” May we not be like chaff that blows in the wind, but like trees that drink your water. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Psalm 42:3 ESV | [2] Psalm 42:9 ESV | [3] D. Martin Lloyd-Jones. Spiritual Depression.

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April 29, 2013

843 Acres: Terrify No More

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Num 6 (text | audio, 4:09 min)
and Ps 40 (text | audio, 2:31 min)
and Ps 41 (text | audio, 1:30 min)
Highlighted: Ps 40:1-3

Pit: Sometimes things seem like they cannot get any worse. A few weeks ago, as many of us were weeping over the murders committed by Kermit Gosnell, two bombs were set off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Then we learned about the massive fertilizer plant explosion in Texas. The Onion read, “‘Maybe next time we have a week, they can try not to pack it completely to the brim with explosions, mutilations, death, manhunts, lies, weeping, and the utter uselessness of our political system,’ said basically every person in America who isn’t comatose or a complete sociopath” [1].

Rescue: We do not know what situation inspired David to write Psalm 40, but we do know that he was in “a pit of destruction” [2]. He was desperate and helpless, sinking deeper and deeper every time he tried to climb out. God seemed distant, but he was—in fact—near. David sang, “I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord” [3].

Imagine: The victims of Gosnell and the Tsarnaev brothers, along with those who died in the Texas explosion, will not return to us. As a result, our hearts are weak with grief, despair and anger. This, however, need not be the end of the story. Imagine a world in which death has lost its sting. Where pits are not ends, but opportunities for God’s rescue. Where justice reigns: “O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more” [4].

Prayer: Lord, This age is full of mystery because violence and perversion are all around us. “Strengthen our hearts according to your promises. Give us patience to wait upon your final act of justice, when everything will be made right. In that day, we will watch as you make terror the victim, a story never to appear on another front page” [5]. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] “Jesus, This Week.” The Onion. April 18, 2013. | [2] Psalm 40:2 ESV | [3] Psalm 40:1-3 ESV | [4] Psalm 10:17-18 ESV | [5] Taken from Marshall Segal. “Why Gosnell, God? Why Boston?” Desiring God. April 18, 2013.

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April 26, 2013

843 Acres: The Mask of Unmet Desires

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Num 3 (text | audio, 7:06 min)
and Ps 37 (text | audio, 3:58 min)

Advertising: The average person living in a city sees up to 5,000 advertisements per day [1]. In New York, ad messages are on subway turnstiles, cab televisions and airport security line trays—not to mention on Facebook, Google and Hulu. What happens when we consume so much advertising? Seth Godin writes, “A journalist asked me, Most people have a better standard of living today than Louis XIV did in his day. So why are so many people unhappy? What you have doesn’t make you unhappy. What you want does. And want is created by us, the marketers. Marketers trying to grow market share will always work to make their customers unhappy” [2].

Desires: David sings, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” [3]. How do we distinguish, however, between the desires of our heart and the wants created by marketers? Does the promise of Psalm 37:4 mean that God is going to give us everything we want?

Augustine: Prior to his conversion, Augustine lived a pagan and sensual life. His mother, however, loved the Lord. She begged God not to send her son to Rome because it was a city full of debauchery and sin. She could not imagine that her son would find God in Rome. In the end, Augustine moved to Rome and, when he left, “she clasped [him] tight in her embrace, willing either to keep [him] back or to go with [him]” [4]. Did God give her the desire of her heart? No … and yes. No, God did not prevent Augustine from moving to Rome. In a deeper sense, however God did give her the desire of her heart. For it was in Rome that Augustine came to know God. He confesses, “But thou, taking thy own secret counsel and noting the real point to her desire, didst not grant what she was then asking in order to grant to her the thing that she had always been asking” [5].

Prayer: Lord, We are inundated with advertisements, telling us what to want. Quite often, we even pray in accordance with those wants. O Father, who knows our deepest desires, do not listen to our words, but to our hearts. For we want what you want. Cause us to delight in you so that our deepest desire would be for your secret counsel to reign and our true prayers to be answered. Amen.

M’Cheyne Weekend Texts (our reading plan)

Sat, Apr 27: Num 4 (text | audio, 6:45 min) and Ps 38 (text | audio, 2:09 min)
Sun, Apr 28: Num 5 (text | audio, 5:11 min) and Ps 39 (text | audio, 1:49 min)

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 Footnotes

[1] Louise Story. “Anywhere the Eye Can See, It’s Likely to See an Ad.” The New York Times. January 15, 2007. | [2] Seth Godin. “Destroying Happiness.” Seth’s Blog. August 19, 2008. | [3] Psalm 37:4 ESV | [4] St. Augustine. Confessions and Enchiridion. Page. 72 | [5] Id. at 73.

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April 25, 2013

843 Acres: The Mask of Weekends and Vacations

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Num 2 (text | audio, 3:57 min)
and Ps 36 (text | audio, 1:23 min)
Highlighted: Ps 36:7-9

Wired: Do you get rest on weekends? When you return from vacation, do you feel rejuvenated or exhausted? Most of us never fully disconnect. We may leave the office physically, but our mobile devices keep us there mentally. Smart phones have become our syringes of choice, giving us our daily fix of information.

Disconnect: Recently, in the Harvard Business Review blog, Tony Schwartz wrote, “I needed a vacation, but what I needed most of all was a period of total digital disconnection. My brain felt overloaded and I needed time to clear it out” [1]. He went away on vacation—without his laptop, iPad or cell phone. On the plane, he did not read newspapers, answer emails or surf the Internet. Instead, he read a book. On his vacation, when he felt the need to Google something, he let it pass. The more he did that, the weaker the urge became: “By mid-week, that impulse was evaporated, and I realized how much richer and more satisfying any experience is when it’s not interrupted.” He read books and played tennis, and, “By the end of the nine days, I felt empowered and enriched. With my brain quieter, I was able to take back control of my attention. In the process, I rediscovered some deeper part of myself.”

Faith: It is an act of faith to disconnect. Schwartz put down his laptop, notebook and cell phone, because he had faith that “most everything can wait.” Yet there is a stronger faith that enables us to disconnect—a trust that God is in control. David sings, “How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light” [2].

Prayer: Lord, We must disconnect from the frenzy of the world if we want to connect to your abiding promises. Yet it is only by knowing your deep promises that we have the power and faith to disconnect from the world. What hope do we have? Give us your Spirit and increase our belief so that we say, No, to our daily fix of information and, Yes, to the abundance of your house and the river of your delights. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Tony Schwartz. “What Happens When You Really Disconnect.” HBR Blog Network. April 19, 2013. | [2] Psalm 36:7-9 ESV

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April 24, 2013

843 Acres: The Mask of Imprecatory Psalms

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Num 1 (text | audio, 4:00 min)
and Ps 35 (text | audio, 3:21 min)
Highlighted: Ps 35:4

Win: What must we do in order to prepare to meet God? Does how we live matter—is there no difference between living like Mother Theresa and living like Adolf Hitler? According to Rob Bell, the author of Love Wins, the answer is a rhetorical question: “Does God punish people for thousands of years with infinite, eternal torment for things they did in their few finite years of life?” Ultimately, he argues, “History is not tragic, hell is not forever and love—in the end—wins and all will be reconciled to God” [1].

Assumptions: Tim Keller, however, thinks that Bell is making some cultural and theological assumptions. Two years ago, at the Gospel Coalition conference, Keller piggy-backed on Stephen Um’s comment that his Korean grandfather would have had a harder time accepting God’s love than his judgment. Keller reflected, “The assumption is that all thoughtful people think it’s awful that God would judge a whole lot of folks and send them to hell—when the answer is, ‘No, some modern Western people do.’” Then, he challenged Bell’s assumption that God’s holiness and love are mutually exclusive: “It’s pitting the different attributes of God against each other; it’s like the love of God wins, but the holiness of God does not win. Well, no, on the cross, all the attributes win” [2].

Imprecatory: Imprecatory psalms are those psalms that invoke judgment, curses or calamity. For example, in Psalm 35, David says, “Let [those who contend with me and fight against me] be put to shame and dishonor who seek after my life!” [3]. Where there is a love for life and righteousness, there is a hatred for anything that threatens to take away that life and righteousness. There is not indifference.

Prayer: Lord, Although imprecatory psalms are still mysterious to us in many ways, we know that your holy anger is rooted in your magnificent love. On the cross, you show us how much you hate sin and evil because of how much you love righteousness and justice. Most of all, you show us how much you love us. Teach us how to connect our lives today with our lives to come, as we prepare to meet you. Let us love what you love and, therefore, hate what you hate. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Rob Bell. Love Wins. | [2] Video. | [3] Psalm 35:4 ESV

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