Archive for May, 2013

May 31, 2013

843 Acres: Your God Is a Consuming Fire

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Deut 4 (text | audio, 8:19 min)
Ps 86 (text | audio, 1:59 min)
Ps 87 (text | audio, 0:43 min)
Highlighted: Deut 4:24

Jealous: Richard Dawkins writes, “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it …” [1]. Dawkins is partly right; God is jealous and proud of it. As Moses says, “Take care, lest you forget the covenant of the Lord your God, which he made with you, and make a carved image, the form of anything that the Lord your God has forbidden you. For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God” [2]. But is Dawkins also right that God’s jealousy makes him unpleasant?

Complex: To be jealous is not necessarily to be envious. Jealousy can be a sign of passion and commitment; it can be more positive and complex than we imagine. For example, if you are married and you find out that your spouse is becoming intimate with someone besides you, should you not feel some passion or zeal? In fact, indifference would be a bad sign, not a good one, right? In other words, in any relationship, if you never get angry when you see something destroying your loved one, then do you really love them? Tim Keller says, “To accept whatever is wrong in the loved person is not to love them; it is to love yourself, to love your convenience” [3].

Loving: In The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis writes, “You asked for a loving God: you have one. The great spirit you so lightly invoked, the ‘lord of terrible aspect,’ is present: not a senile benevolence that drowsily wishes you to be happy in your own way, not the cold philanthropy of conscientious magistrate, nor the care of a host who feels responsible for the comfort of his guests, but the consuming fire Himself, the Love that made the worlds, persistent as the artist’s love for his work and despotic as a man’s love for a dog, provident and venerable as a father’s love for a child, jealous, inexorable, exacting as love between the sexes”.

Prayer: Lord, Thank you for being a jealous God, for loving us so much that you hate those things (like idol worship) that destroy us. As we look upon the cross, we see the essence of your passionate and complex love.  For Jesus was consumed by your consuming fire so that we would not be. Let us, therefore, love your jealousy, not despise it. Amen.

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M’Cheyne Weekend Texts (our reading plan)

Sat, June 1: Deut 5 (text | audio, 4:31 min) & Ps 88 (text | audio, 1:53 min)
Sun, June 2: Deut 6 (text | audio, 3:21 min) & Ps 89 (text | audio, 5:01 min)

Footnotes

[1] Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion. | [2] Deuteronomy 4:24 ESV | [3] Tim Keller. “The Fire of God.” Sermon. March 25, 1990.

May 30, 2013

843 Acres: The First Sin Was Not Eating the Apple

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Deutt 3 (text | audio, 4:31 min)
Ps 85 (text | audio, 1:11 min)
Highlighted Text: Ps 85:1, 10-13

Liar: “The first sin was not eating the apple,” says Tim Keller. “The first sin was believing that God was a liar.” As Scottish theologian John Murray reflected, “The denial is not then an attack upon God’s knowledge, nor merely upon his power. The tempter openly assails the integrity and veracity of God. In a word, it is the truthfulness of God that is impugned … God’s truth is his glory. The epitome of malignity is to assail this glory. That was the tempter’s strategy, and by acquiescence our first parents fell” [1].

Truthfulness: In contrast, the Psalmists celebrated the truthfulness and faithfulness of God: “Lord, you were favorable to your land; you restored the fortunes of Jacob … Steadfast love and faithfulness meet; righteousness and peace kiss each other. Faithfulness springs up from the ground, and righteousness looks down from the sky. Yes, the Lord will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase. Righteousness will go before him and make his footsteps a way” [2].

Discouragement: All of us, however, struggle to trust God and his faithfulness. How can we move from thinking like our first parents to thinking like the Psalmists? According to Thomas Brooks, one way that we can increasingly believe in God’s truthfulness and faithfulness is to repent of our being discouraged by our sins. He says that, when we are overly discouraged by our sins, we are not looking upon the glorious truth of the cross: “[The believers’ discouragement] springs from their ignorance of the richness, freeness, fullness, and everlastingness of God’s love; and from their ignorance of the power, glory, sufficiency, and efficacy of the death and sufferings of the Lord Jesus Christ; and from their ignorance of the worth, glory, fullness, largeness, and completeness of the righteousness of Jesus Christ; and from the ignorance of that real, close, spiritual, glorious, and inseparable union which exists between Christ and their precious souls” [3].

Prayer: Lord, We confess that we sometimes think that you are a liar. We hear the words of the evil one, saying, “Did God really say …?” Then we question your faithfulness and goodness. Yet we know that sin is built on lies. Therefore, we repent of our being discouraged by our sins. For we know that we gain freedom when our eyes are fixed on Jesus, not our sins. Oh, that we would know and believe this truth! Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] John Murray. “The Sanctity of Truth.” | [2] Psalm 85:1, 10-13 ESV | [3] Thomas Brooks. “Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices.”

May 29, 2013

843 Acres: Living in Micro-Apartments

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Deut 2 (text | audio, 5:15 min)
Ps 83 (text | audio, 1:40 min)
Ps 84 (text | audio, 1:23 min)

Micro-Units: City apartments are getting smaller and smaller. Last summer, Mayor Bloomberg announced that he was going to waive current building regulations to allow Manhattan to pilot its first “micro-unit” apartment building (250—370 square feet per unit) [1]. Similarly, San Francisco city codes were recently changed to allow developers to build apartments with less than 150 square feet of living space [2]. Why do we choose to put up with such tight quarters?

Involuntary: Many of us think that the city offers unique professional opportunities and, therefore, living in tiny apartments is a small sacrifice with (hopefully) big payoffs. Most of the world, however, lives in small spaces because it is their only choice. In Hong Kong, for example, about 100,000 people live in inadequate housing. “There’s nothing you can do about it,” says 67-year-old Leung Cho-Yin, who lives in a 16-square foot metal cage for $167/month. “I’ve got to live here. I’ve got to survive” [3].

Presence: For hundreds of years, the presence of the Lord was housed in a structure that was only 30 square feet—the Holy of Holies [4]. It did not matter how small it was, however, because the greatness of the Holy of Holies was not in its size: “How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts! My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God … For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness” [5].

Prayer: Lord, We confess that sometimes we complain about the size of our apartments because living in small spaces can be challenging. Forgive us, Lord, when try to find happiness in our homes more than in you. For whether we live in small or large spaces, our only hope and joy come from being in your presence. Let us, therefore, seek your face daily so that we may say, “Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere.” Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] NYC.gov. “Mayor Bloomberg Announces New Competition to Develop Innovative Apartment Model for Small Households.” Press Release. July 9, 2012. See also Oshrat Carmiel. “Manhattan to Get First ‘Micro-Unit’ Apartment Building.” Bloomberg. January 22, 2013. | [2] Eric Jaffe. “Micro-Apartments So Nice You’ll Wish Your Place Was This Small.” The Atlantic: Cities. November 19, 2012. See also KCBS. “A Look Inside San Francisco’s Micro-Apartments.” April 10, 2013. | [3] AP. “Hong Kong’s poor live in stacked metal cages.” CBS News. February 7, 2013. | [4] See 2 Chronicles 3:8; 1 Kings 6:20. | [5] Psalm 84:1-2, 10 ESV

May 28, 2013

843 Acres: The Real Problem

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Deut 1 (text | audio, 6:27 min)
Ps 81 (text | audio, 1:33 min)
Ps 82 (text | audio, 0:48 min)

Problem: On Friday, we read the Psalmist’s exhortation for us to remember God’s past provision so that we may continue to hope in him [1]. Our problem, however, is not just our memory; it is our heart’s approach to our memory. As Tim Keller says, “The real problem of the human heart is not disbelief in the existence of God or disbelief in the law of God. The real problem is that we don’t trust God. We don’t believe in his love, his good will or his grace. We believe God hates us. In spite of everything he has given us, we think that he is against us” [2].

Mistrust: To rescue the children of Israel from slavery in Egypt, God sent ten plagues and parted the Red Sea. In the wilderness, he guided them by a cloud and a pillar of fire and fed them with manna from the sky. Through Moses, God wrote the law with his own finger so that they might know how to love him and one another [3]. Within months of their having left Egypt, however, they forgot what God had done for them. When they arrived at the border of the Promised Land, they realized that other people – tall and intimidating people – were already living there. They were afraid and said, “Because the Lord hated us, he has brought us out of the land of Egypt, to give us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us” [4].

Cross: Our hearts say, “God hates us,” because part of us knows that he should. We constantly forget what he has done, take credit for his good gifts, rebel against his good law and mistrust him and his motives. Yet he does not hate us. What did he say to the children of Israel when they doubted his goodness? “Do not be in dread or afraid of them. The Lord your God who goes before you will himself fight for you” [5]. In Jesus, he has kept his promise: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” [6].

Prayer: Lord, Forgive us for thinking that you hate us. Establish your love in our hearts so that, when we question whether you are trustworthy, we remember, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things” [7]. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] 843 Acres. “Do We Remember to Use Our Memory?” May 24, 2013. | [2] Tim Keller. “The Grace of Law.” Sermon. May 13, 2007. | [3] Exodus 31:18 | [4] Deuteronomy 1:27 ESV | [5] Deuteronomy 1:29-30 ESV | [6] Romans 8:1 ESV | [7] Romans 8:32 ESV

May 24, 2013

843 Acres: Do We Remember How to Use Our Memory?

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Num 33 (text | audio, 5:48 min)
& Ps 78:1-39 (text | audio, 3:45 min)
Highlighted: Ps 78:5-7

Memories: “Once upon a time,” says science writer Joshua Foer, “this idea of having a trained, disciplined, cultivated memory was not nearly as alien as it would seem to us to be today.” Foer laments, “Over the last few millennia, we have invented a series of technologies – the alphabet, the scroll, the codex, the printing press, photography, the computer, the smart phone – that have made it easier and easier for us to externalize our memories, for us to essentially outsource this fundamental human capacity … Having little need to remember anymore, it sometimes seems that we’ve forgotten how” [1].

Futures: Remembering, however, is essential to our faith. In Psalm 78, for example, Asaph says that our memory is the key to our future ability to hope in God: “He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments” [2].

Spatiality: How can we increase our memory today so that we may hope in God tomorrow? Foer says that the difference between memory experts and the rest of us is that they exercise their spatial memory and navigation more than we do. In other words, they take “information that is lacking in context, significance or meaning, and transform it so that it becomes meaningful in light of all the other things they have in their minds.” In our relationship with God, therefore, we need to internalize his word and promises so that they are meaningful to us. How can we place them in our spatial memories? How can we “attach” them to things in our lives that we already know?

Prayer: Lord, “Our lives are the sum of our memories. How much are we willing to lose from our already short lives by losing ourselves in our Blackberries or our iPhones, by not paying attention to the human being across from us, by being so lazy that we are not willing to process deeply?” [3] How much are we willing to lose by not meditating on your word? We long to live hopeful lives. Therefore, make us people who remember to remember so that we may be people who hope in you. Amen.

M’Cheyne Weekend Texts (our reading plan)

Sat, May 25: Num 34 (text | audio, 3:19 min) and Ps 78:40-72 (text | audio, 3:42 min)
Sun, May 26: Num 35 (text | audio, 4:43 min) and Ps 79 (text | audio, 1:44 min)
Mon, May 27: Num 36 (text | audio, 2:16 min) and Ps 80 (text | audio, 1:49 min)

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Footnotes

[1] Joshua Foer. “Feats of Memory Anyone Can Do.” TED Talks. February 2012. | [2] Psalm 78:5-7 ESV | [3] Id. at [1].

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May 23, 2013

843 Acres: Who Do We Think We Are?

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Num 32 (text | audio, 5:36 min)
& Ps 77 (text | audio, 2:08 min)
Highlighted: Ps 77:7-15

Crisis: In A Free People’s Suicide, Os Guinness says that crises take us back to the basics: “All crises are judgments of history that call into question an existing state of affairs. They sift and sort the character and condition of a nation and its capacity to respond. The deeper the crisis, the more serious the sifting and the deeper the questions it raises. At the very least, a crisis raises the question, ‘What should we do?’ … Deeper crises raise the deeper question, ‘Where are we, and how did we get here?’ … But the deepest crises of all are those that raise the question, ‘Who do we think we are?’ when doubt and uncertainty have entered our own thinking” [1].

Questions: Crises not only sift and sort the character and condition of nations; they sift and sort our own characters and conditions, too. When things do not go as expected or hoped, we question the existing state of affairs. We question what we thought was true about ourselves – sometimes even whether we are still the beneficiaries of God’s promises. As Asaph asks, “Will the Lord spurn forever, and never again be favorable? Has his steadfast love forever ceased? Are his promises at an end for all time? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he in anger shut up his compassion?” [2]

Remembrances: With current circumstances in crisis, Asaph recalls the past wonders of God in history: “I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds. Your way, O God, is holy. What god is great like our God? You are the God who works wonders … You with your arm redeemed your people” [3].

Prayer: Lord, Our struggle to feel your favor is typical in our lives. We go through seasons when we wonder whether your promises are reliable and whether we are still your people. In this world, we will never rise above this struggle. Yet we cling to your Word as our hope to come through doubt and into faith. We make a conscious effort to set our minds to remember – not only what you have done in our time, but also what you have done in days of old. For we want to fight for faith and joy, knowing that we are your children. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Os Guinness. A Free People’s Suicide: Sustainable Freedom and the American Future. InterVarsity Press, 2012. | [2] Psalm 77:7-9 ESV | [3] Psalm 77:11-15

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May 22, 2013

843 Acres: The Fear of God in Modern Context

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Num 31 (text | audio, 6:22 min)
Ps 75 (text | audio, 0:59 min)
& Ps 76 (text | audio, 1:08 min)
Highlighted: Ps 76:8-9 

Predispositions: In Modem Man and His Categories of Thought, C.S. Lewis contrasts the type of people to whom the Apostles were called to preach and the type of people to whom we are called to preach. Those of the first century – the Jews, the Judaizing Gentiles and the Pagans – had certain predispositions: a belief in the supernatural, a consciousness of sin and a fear of divine judgment. “The world which we must try to convert,” he writes, “shares none of those predispositions. In the last hundred years the public mind has been radically altered” [1].

Proletarianism: He continues, “The Proletariat in all countries (even those with ‘Right’ governments) has been consistently flattered for a great many years. The natural result has now followed. They are self-satisfied to a degree perhaps beyond the self-satisfaction of any recorded aristocracy. They are convinced that, whatever may be wrong with the world, it cannot be themselves. Someone else must be to blame for every evil. Hence, when the existence of God is discussed, they by no means think of him as their Judge. On the contrary, they are his judges. If he puts up a reasonable defense, they will consider it and, perhaps, acquit him. They have no feelings of fear, guilt or awe. They think, from the very outset, of God’s duties to them, not their duties to him. And God’s duties to them are conceived not in terms of salvation, but in purely secular terms – social security, prevention of war, a higher standard of life” [2].

Protection: What does the fear of God look like? Asaph sings, “From the heavens you uttered judgment; the earth feared and was still, when God arose to establish judgment, to save all the humble of the earth” [3]. Here, we see two things that inspire the fear of God – his judgment and his kindness. We see the storm of his wrath that rages outside, but we sit silent in awe as he draws us into the cleft of his rock of salvation.

Prayer: Lord, You alone are Judge. In your presence, feelings of fear, guilt and awe, are fitting. In kindness, however, you use your judgment to save the humble. Therefore, we rejoice in our salvation, knowing that we find refuge from the storm of your wrath in Christ alone. Open our eyes to your judgment and your kindness that we may fear you. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] C.S. Lewis. “Modem Man and his Categories of Thought.” Present Concerns. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Ed. Walter Hooper. 1986. | [2] Id. | [3] Psalm 76:8-9 ESV

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May 21, 2013

843 Acres: The Riddle of Epicurus

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Num 30 (text | audio, 2:33 min)
& Ps 74 (text | audio, 2:29 min)
Highlighted: Ps 74:9-11

Riddle: Epicureanism (circa 207 BC) denied the existence of an omnipotent and sovereign God based on the existence of evil in the world. The Riddle of Epicurus was this: “God either wants to eliminate bad things and cannot, or can but does not want to, or neither wishes to nor can, or both wants to and can. If he wants to and cannot, then he is weak – and this does not apply to god. If he can but does not want to, then he is spiteful – which is equally foreign to god’s nature. If he neither wants to nor can, he is both weak and spiteful, and so not a god. If he wants to and can, which is the only thing fitting for a god, where then do bad things come from? Or why does he not eliminate them?” [1]

Confusion: When Asaph looked upon the ruins of Jerusalem, he had similar questions. He knew the character of God and his covenant promises, but he could not understand how God could abandon his people and allow Jerusalem and its temple to be destroyed: “We do not see our signs; there is no longer any prophet, and there is none among us who knows how long. How long, O God, is the foe to scoff? Is the enemy to revile your name forever? Why do you hold back your hand, your right hand? Take it from the fold of your garment and destroy them!” [2].

Person: It is not necessarily sinful to ask such questions. The heart can trust God and still be confused when it looks at the world. Yet we understand what Asaph could not – that the center of worship is not in a place, but a person. Ultimately, his prayer was not answered by philosophical reasoning. His prayer was answered in Jesus, who told the Samaritan woman, “The hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father … God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” [3].

Prayer: Lord, When we look at the world around us, we often question how your promises can be true. Yet we stake our lives on them for you are more constant than our circumstances. We confess that, like Asaph, we have incomplete information. Let us not judge you with our feeble sense, but instead trust you with our eyes of faith. Amen.

___________________

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Footnotes

[1] Lactantius, De Ira Deorum, 13.19 (Frag. 374, Usener). | [2] Psalm 74:9-11 ESV | [3] John 4:21, 24 ESV

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May 20, 2013

843 Acres: Hope for Troubled Souls

by Bethany

843 Acres: Hope for Troubled Souls
M’CheyneNum 29 (text | audio, 5:08 min)
& Ps 73 (text | audio, 2:27 min)

Worship: “Everybody worships,” said David Foster Wallace in 2005. “The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing … is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough … Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths … Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you in your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. But the insidious thing about these forms of worship is … they’re unconscious” [1].

Troubled: In 2008, Wallace committed suicide. He was 46 and best known for Infinite Jest (1996), a novel that “perceives American society as self-obsessed, pleasure-obsessed and entertainment-obsessed” [2]. The next year, he received a MacArthur grant, “the so-called genius award” [3]. The NYT chief book critic once said, “[He] can do practically anything if he puts his mind to it. He can do sad, funny, silly, heartbreaking and absurd with equal ease; he can even do them all at once” [4]. His obituary, however, read, “In contrast to the lively spirit of his writing, [he] was … consumed with his work and its worth, perpetually at odds with himself … a titanically gifted writer with an equally troubled soul” [5].

Injustice: In Psalms, we find several troubled souls. In Psalm 73, for example, Asaph is troubled because he wonders whether God cares about injustice. Yet he takes his confusion and emotions into the sanctuary, where he finds what Wallace intimated—that God alone will not eat him alive: “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” [6].

Prayer: Lord, We confess that, when we look upon our imperfect and broken world, our souls are troubled. Yet we know that our redemption is found in you alone. Therefore, let our hearts rejoice that you are our strength and portion forever. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] David Foster Wallace. “Transcription of the 2005 Kenyon Commencement Address.” May 21, 2005. | [2] Bruce Weber. “David Foster Wallace, Influential Writer, Dies at 46.” New York Times. Obituary. September 15, 2008. | [3] Id. | [4] Id. | [5] Id. | [6] Psalm 73:25-26 ESV

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May 17, 2013

843 Acres: How Great Our Dilemma

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Num 26 (text | audio, 7:40 min)
& Ps 69 (text | audio, 3:46 min)
Highlighted: Ps 69:5

Lord,

How great is our dilemma! For silence best becomes us in your presence, but love inflames our hearts and causes us to speak. Were we to stay quiet, the stones would cry out; yet if we speak, what shall we say? For the nearer we approach the throne, the less sure our words become. Teach us to know what we cannot know, for no one – apart from the Spirit – knows the things of God. Yet we yearn to know the unknowable, to comprehend the incomprehensible, to touch and taste the unapproachable. Deep calls to deep, and we long to return to you. Let faith support us where reason fails. [1]

There is an infinitely high wall that separates us from you. Our sin is a great obstacle to knowing and enjoying you. Therefore, have mercy on us this morning. For our iniquity is vast. You are a great God and we are great sinners. We confess the words of David, “O God, you know my folly; the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you”  [2]. We cannot hide from you. Our sins are laid bare before your eyes.

In our unworthiness, however, there is opportunity. For there is a fitness in us for the display of your grace. The greatness of our sin makes us the perfect platforms for the greatness of your mercy to be displayed. Let the greatness of your love be seen in us. The power with which you restrain yourself is great indeed. So we creep down at the foot of your throne, crouching low and crying, “O God, do not break us. We are bruised reeds. Oh! Do not tread on our little lives. They are but as the withering grass. Will you hunt us? Will you come out? Will you watch us? Because we are so little and because the greatness of your mercy can be shown in us even though we are so insignificant, we plead that you would have mercy on us.” [3]

In Jesus, in whose name we plead, we have the final answer to our dilemma. We come to you through his blood and mediation. In him, your steadfast love is good. Turn to us, according to your abundant mercy. Save us and build up your people so that your name will dwell among us.

Amen.

 M’Cheyne Weekend Texts (our reading plan)

Saturday, May 18: Num 27 (text, audio, 3:11 min) & Ps 70 (text | audio, 0:39 min) & Ps 71 (text | audio, 2:47 min)
Sunday, May 19: Num 28 (text | audio, 3:54 min) & Ps 72 (text | audio, 2:14 min)

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Footnotes

[1] This paragraph is filled with paraphrased references to A.W. Tozer’s The Knowledge of the Holy. | [2] Psalm 69:5 ESV | [3] See Charles Spurgeon. “Effective Prayer.” From Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Vol. 12, No. 700. (for more examples of prayer like this).

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