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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