Archive for ‘843 Acres’

July 28, 2014

843 Acres: We Take Up Our Crosses, Too

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Jer 24 (txt | aud, 2:04 min)
Mk 10 (txt | aud, 6:39 min)
Highlighted: Mk 10:45

Servants: If we want to become “somebodies” in the kingdom of heaven, then we must become “nobodies” here; we must become the servants of all – especially to those from whom we expect no praise or thanks. Here, in Mark 10, James and John ask Jesus, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you … Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” [1] Their question is logical, right? After all, Jesus came to serve people, right?

Cross-Bearing: He replied, in effect, “You like glory? You want the right and the left? Then drink my cup. Prepare to suffer and die. You want to be great? Then be a servant. You want to be first? Then choose to be last.” Why? “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” [2] This is a call to radical discipleship. It is a call to suffering and service. Many of us think that, since Jesus went to the cross, we do not have to suffer. But Christ calls us to share in his suffering if we want to share in his glory. As Paul wrote, “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” [3]

Serves: In our cross-bearing, however, Jesus serves us. “For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve.” He may call us to an incredibly difficult discipleship, but he serves us in it. This is what we consider during Lent; as we meditate on the sufferings of Christ, we take up our own crosses, knowing that Jesus now serves us. As the Scriptures promise, “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him.” [4]

Prayer: Lord, We confess that we often misunderstand your call to discipleship. We want the glory, but we fear the cross-bearing. Teach us that, although the cross-bearing may be difficult, it is through the cross that we gain glory and, therefore, you serve us that we may serve others. Give us courage, then, to share in your suffering so that we may share in your glory. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Mark 10:35, 37 ESV | [2] Mark 10:45 ESV  | [3] Romans 8:16-17 ESV (emphasis mine)  | [4] 2 Chronicles 16:9 ESV

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July 25, 2014

843 Acres: On the Life of the Mind, Guilt

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Jer 21 (txt | aud, 2:47 min)
Mk 7 (txt | aud, 4:23 min)
Highlighted: Mk 7:14-23

Guilt: Our consciences remind us what is true and encourage us to choose it. No matter how much we follow them, though, all of us have a nagging sense of guilt. Even Sir Kingsley Amis, who once replied, “It’s more that I hate Him,” when asked whether he he believed in God, 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.” [1]

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 law—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.” [2] Yet how could they wash their hearts?

Forgiveness: The blood of Christ cleanses the hearts of sinners. When Paul wrote to the Corinthians, he told them that they were guilty of 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.” [3] 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 hearts to recognize our sin and his mercy.

Prayer: Lord, We draw near to you through Christ, “in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from evil consciences.” [4] Yet we confess that, although we are forgiven, we still sin. Break our hearts for our sin. Then lift our heads to praise you that, in Christ, you forgive us. May we listen to our consciences and, instead of hiding in shame, run to your grace and give you glory. Amen.

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M’Cheyne Weekend Readings

Saturday, July 26: Jer 22 (txt | aud, 5:15 min) & Mk 8 (txt | aud, 4:40 min)
Sunday, July 27: Jer 23 (txt | aud, 7:07 min) & Mk 9 (txt | aud, 6:43 min)

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Footnotes

[1] Kingsley Amis. Memoirs. | [2] Mark 7:15, 20-22 ESV | [3] 1 Corinthians 6:11 ESV | [4] See Hebrews 10:22 ESV

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July 24, 2014

843 Acres TBT: Sorrows Before Jesus

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Jer 20 (txt | aud, 3:23 min)
Mk 6 (txt | aud, 6:52 min)

Mark 6:29, The Death of John the Baptist

When his disciples heard of [the death of John the Baptist], they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.

Jonathan Edwards, The Sorrows of the Bereaved Spread Before Jesus, sermon preached on the occasion of the funeral of William Williams, Edwards’s uncle and longtime pastor (September 1751) 

You have enjoyed great advantages for your souls’ good, under his ministry. That you had such a minister was your privilege and your honor. He has been an ornament to the town of Hatfield. And his presence and conversation among you has been both profitable and pleasant; for though it was such that it commanded AWE and RESPECT, yet it was, at the same time, HUMBLE and CONDESCENDING. It tended both to instruct and entertain those that he conversed with. As a wise man, and endued with knowledge, he showed out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom.

But now it has pleased a holy God to take him away from you. You will see his face and hear his voice no more in the land of the living. You will no more have the comfort and benefits of his presence with you, and the exercise of his ministry among you.

Therefore, now go to Jesus, the Supreme Heard of the church, and Bishop of souls. Your pastor is dead, and will not live again until the last day. But Christ, the chief Shepherd, though he was dead, is now alive! And behold, he lives forevermore. He ever lives to provide for his church, and to guide and feed his flock. Go to that Jesus whom your deceased pastor preached, and to whom he earnestly invited you while he lived, and give thanks for the many blessings you enjoyed in him. Remember how you have received and heard, and hold fast, that no man take your crown …

All you that have an interest in JESUS, now go to him on this occasion, and tell him of your bereavement, and beg of him that he would not depart from you; but that he would make up his loss in his own immediate presence … that you may have of the presence and blessing of JESUS with you.

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July 23, 2014

843 Acres: The Inconvenient Authority of Christ

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Jer 19 (txt | aud, 2:57 min)
Mk 5 (txt | aud, 4:53 min)
Highlighted: Mk 5:1-20

Denial: Whatever “the postmortems reveal about the [current economic] crisis, one culprit is abundantly clear: denial,” writes HBS Professor Richard Tedlow in Denial: Why Business Leaders Fail to Look Facts in the Face. He says that denial is, “the unconscious calculus that, if an unpleasant reality were true, it would be too terrible, so therefore it cannot be true.” Or, as Winston Churchill put it, “Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing ever happened.”

Response: The authority of Jesus is an inconvenient truth. When Jesus went to Gerasenes, a madman came running at him from the mountain. The man was bloodstained and scarred. He had demonic strength—even chains and shackles couldn’t bind him. Yet he called out to Jesus, who drove out the man’s demons and sent them into 2,000 pigs that, in turn, rushed down into the sea and drowned. Immediately, the man was calm and lucid. Yet no one praised Jesus. In one of the saddest moments of the gospels, the people asked him to leave. Mark writes, “They were afraid … and they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region.” [1]

Willful: Jesus was too powerful and, even worse, too costly. After all, he sent their income (the pigs) into the sea. They stumbled over the spectacular truth that this man Jesus had authority even over demons because it was inconvenient. They picked themselves up and hurried off as if nothing happened. They ignored (or denied) the greater reality that Jesus wielded his extraordinary authority to show compassion on the sick. Instead of seeing his authority as a refuge, they saw it as a threat.

Prayer: Lord, We praise you because, in Christ, your authority is not a threat, but a refuge. Yet we confess that your authority sometimes seems inconvenient. When obedience seems costly, we often choose to live according to our own authority. Forgive us and, by your Spirit, open our eyes and melt our hearts so that denial has no place in our lives. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Mark 5:15, 17 ESV

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July 22, 2014

843 Acres: The Riddle of the Gospel

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Jer 18 (txt | aud, 3:35 min)
Mk 4 (txt | aud, 5:26 min)

Confusing: Did Jesus use parables to confuse people intentionally? Here, in Mark 4, when he explains the purpose of parables to his disciples, he says, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, so that ‘they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven.’” [1]. Did parables contain mysteries for those on the inside, while they hardened those on the outside?

Understanding: First, Luke specifically writes that Jesus tells parables to people with the apparent suggestion that the parables are to be understood by them. Moreover, ‘outsiders’—such as the lawyer who hears the Parable of the Good Samaritan and the chief priests and Pharisees who hear the Parable of the Tenants—understand the parables they hear. [2] So what does Jesus mean by this riddle?

Riddle: Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart write, “Most likely the clue so this saying lies in a play on words in Jesus’s native Aramaic. The word methal which was translated as parabolem in Greek was used for a whole range of figures of speech in the riddle, puzzle, parable category, not just for the story variety called ‘parables’ in English. Probably verse 11 meant that the meaning of Jesus’s ministry (the secret of the kingdom) could not be perceived by those on the outside; it was like a methal, a riddle, to them. Hence his speaking in mathelin (parables) was part of the methal (riddle) of his whole ministry to them. They saw, but they failed to see; they heard—and even understood—the parables, but they failed really to appreciate the whole thrust of Jesus’s ministry.”

Prayer: Lord, Why did people hear the parables and fail to see your ministry? Were their hearts hardened to your grace? Were they stubborn in their sin? Did they fail to know the Scriptures? O Lord, let that not be us! Open our eyes to see and our ears to hear so that we may turn and be forgiven. Unlock the secret of the kingdom so that your ministry is not a riddle to us. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Mark 4:10-12 ESV | [2] See Matthew 21:45; Luke 10:25-37; 15:3; 18:9; 19:11.

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July 21, 2014

843 Acres: We Always Do What We Most Want to Do

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Jer 17 (txt | aud, 4:43 min)
Mk 3 (txt | aud, 4:03 min)
Highlighted: Jer 17:9

Conflict: Our desires often conflict. We may want a paycheck, but we also want to relax. We may want to lose weight, but we also want to eat chocolate. In practice, how do we reconcile these competing desires? Jonathan Edwards answers, “Free moral agents always act according to the strongest inclination they have at the moment of choice.” In other words, we always do what we most want to do. This, of course, presents a significant problem for us. For Jeremiah tells us, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick.” [1] What hope, then, do we have?

Tension: Jen Pollock Michel writes: “This is the double vision of prayer: we see God and we see ourselves. This is also the double vision of holy desire. As those redeemed in Christ, we begin wanting holiness, yet recognize that our desires continue in qualities of being human. Saved though we are, we bring to our desires a limited range of understanding. We want from God and yet fail to grasp the height, depth, breadth, and width of God’s holy purposes for our lives and for the world. We are growing in goodness and yet are capable of persisting in myopic selfishness.”

Throne: Our hope is in being in the presence of God. Jeremiah continues, “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind.” [2] Michel notes, “Holy desire is formed in the throne room. We have to see God rightly and understand that holiness is not a trifle. It is awesome. It is terrifying. It will undo us. It will not suffer the greed and impatience and mistrust of unholy desire. And it will also commission us, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ Holy desire will be conscripted. We will be put to work. To pray in the throne room of God is to take up a willingness to be sent.”

Prayer: Lord, We confess that our hearts are deceitful and sick. We do what we do not want to do even as we lament that, at a deep level, we do—indeed—want to do it. The real work takes place not on the ground of our behaviors, but in the soil of our desires. In that, Lord, we have no hope apart from you. Therefore, teach us to want. Make holy our desires. Amen.

*****

Note: To read a book review of Michel’s Teach Us to Want, click here.

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Footnotes

[1] Jeremiah 17:9 ESV | [2] Jeremiah 17:10 ESV

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July 18, 2014

843 Acres: Your Work Is Not in Vain

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Jer 14 (txt | aud, 4:07 min)
Mt 28 (txt | aud, 2:37 min)

Commissioned: Jesus walked the way of suffering and then died on the cross. After he was killed, his body was prepared for burial and laid in a tomb. Three days later, when everyone was celebrating the Feast of First Fruits, Jesus was raised as the first fruits of our resurrection. [1] He then appeared to his disciples, saying, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” [2]

Meaningful: This “great commission” shows us that we are not merely forgiven in Christ; we are commissioned in him, too. We are the ones through whom Calvary’s victory is lived out in the world. Thus, when Paul writes of Jesus’s resurrection, he doesn’t say, “Christ is raised. Therefore, be assured that there is life after death”—even though that is true. Instead, he says, “Christ is raised. Therefore, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” [3] In other words, his resurrection propels us to live today.

Work: How does his resurrection connect with our work not being in vain? Wright explains, “In the Lord, your labor is not in vain. When God’s new world is finally revealed, what you have done to bring healing and hope, beauty and joy to your bit of the world will shine out as a glorious part of the rich tapestry of the new creation. And the wounds and scars which result from announcing Jesus’s lordship in a world where other lords guard their territory with tanks, bombs, and laws will be the sign that we have fought Jesus’s battles with Jesus’s weapons.”

Prayer: Lord, You call us to make disciples of all nations, living out the gospel in our lives. In Christ’s resurrection, we know that our work is not in vain. Therefore, we are your hands and feet to bring the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven, knowing that you are making our work into a glorious tapestry that will be unfurled at the end of this age. Give us, then, a vision of that future kingdom so that we might endure today. Amen.

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M’Cheyne Weekend Readings

Saturday, July 19: Jer 15 (txt | aud, 4:00 min) & Mk 1 (txt | aud, 5:08 min)
Sunday, July 20: Jer 16 (txt | aud, 3:49 min) & Mk 2 (txt | aud, 3:58 min)

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Footnotes

[1] 1 Corinthians 15:23 | [2] Matthew 28:16-20 | [3] See 1 Corinthians 15

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July 17, 2014

843 Acres TBT: The Fountain of Life Opened Up

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Jer 13 (txt | aud, 3:51 min)
Mt 27 (txt | aud, 8:22 min)

Matthew 27:46, 50

And about the ninth hour, Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” … And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.

John Flavel, The Fountain of Life Opened Up (1671)

How inflexible and severe is the justice of God! No abatement! No sparing mercy; no, not to his own Son? This creates a double impression on the heart.

(1) Just and deep indignation against sin; Oh cursed sin! It was you who used my dear Lord so; for your sake he underwent all of this. If your vileness had not been so great, his sufferings had not been so many. Cursed sin! You were the knife that stabbed him; you the sword that pierced him … When the believer considers and remembers that sin put Christ to all that shame and ignominy, and that he was wounded for our transgressions, he is filled with hatred of sin and cries out, “O sin, I will revenge the blood of Christ upon thee! Thou shalt never live a quiet hour in my heart.” And,

(2) It produces a humble adoration of the goodness and mercy of God, to exact satisfaction for our sins, by such bloody stripes … When that surpassing love breaks out in its glory upon the souls, how is the soul transported and ravished with it! Crying out, what manner of love is this! Here is a love large enough to go round the heavens, and the heaven of heavens! Who ever loved after this rate, to lay down his life for enemies! O love unutterable and inconceivable! How glorious is my love in his red garments! Sometimes the fruit of his death are there gloriously displayed; even his satisfaction for sin, and the purchase his blood made of the eternal inheritance: And this begets thankfulness and confidence in the soul, Christ is dead, and his death has satisfied for my sin. Christ is dead, therefore, my soul shall never die. Who shall separate me from the love of God?

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July 16, 2014

843 Acres: On the Life of the Mind, Desire

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Jer 12 (txt | aud, 2:56 min)
Mt 26 (txt | aud, 9:05 min)
Highlighted: Mt 26:36-46

Cup: When Jesus announced the kingdom of God, his followers imagined him as their triumphant ruler, and they talked about sitting on either side of his throne. But he himself knew that things weren’t going to be like that. Yes, the kingdom would come, but it would come through suffering, not subjugation.

Evil: In the garden, Jesus shrank from the cup of suffering: “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” [1] N.T. Wright reflects, “If there was another way, Jesus would grasp it eagerly. Everything inside him recoiled from the cup that was held out to him. This is no heroic scene, with a brave martyr going fearlessly to his death … This was the place where the kingdom was to be battled over in tears and in the face of disloyalty. It was not just human adversaries Jesus was facing—soldiers, guards, even one of his own friends turned traitor. It was the concentration of all those unseen forces that opposed the kingdom of God because they knew it to be the powerful opponent of their own kingdom-dreams.” [2]

Battle: Today, we pray in the garden, struggling for the kingdom of God in our hearts. On our knees, we tell him what we want—world peace, healed bodies, hopes realized, tears dried. We do not hide these things from him. Yet we pray, “Not as I will, but as you will.” When what we want is different from what he wants, this is an extremely difficult prayer because the Enemy is real. We may want that expensive item, but it would leave no room for us to tithe. We may want to marry that person, but they do not trust in Christ. We do not hide our desires; we surrender them. We pray in the garden, “Not as I will, but as you will,” and then we obey in faith. We take him at his word, that his promises and plans are good.

Prayer: Lord, Thank you for Jesus’s prayer in the garden because it reminds us that “the real battle must be won on our knees in advance.” [3] Give us endurance to struggle in prayer, especially when we are afraid of what it means to obey. Help us to admit our desires, but—when they conflict with your will—to delight in your will over our desires. Amen.

*****

Book Recommendation: For a fantastic new book that is an extended reflection on desire, check out Teach Us to Want by Jen Pollock Michel. Book review by Bethany Jenkins at TGC: here.

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Footnotes

[1] Matthew 26:39 ESV | [2] N.T. Wright. The Way of the Lord: Christian Pilgrimage Today (pp. 89-90). Kindle Edition.  | [3] Id.

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July 15, 2014

843 Acres: What Matters Is the Life

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Jer 11 (txt | aud, 4:09 min)
Mt 25 (txt | aud, 5:16 min)

Life: One of the most ironic things about obituaries is how little they mention death. “The cause of death, of course, is always life,” writes Pete Hamill in his forward to The Obits. “We humans die, a fact to unremarkable that in these tightly rendered portraits of the recently dead, the technical reason for death is almost always covered in a single sentence. What matters is the life, and how it was lived.”

Righteous: In Matthew 25, Jesus says that, at the end of this age, when all of us have passed from this life to the next, he will separate the righteous and the unrighteous. Who will be the righteous? By illustration, he says that the righteous will be those who have invested, not hoarded, their resources [1] and those who have fed the hungry, given drink to the thirsty, welcomed the stranger, clothed the naked, and visited the sick and the prisoner. [2] In other words, what matters is the life, and how it was lived.

Actions: Christian faith is more than cognitive belief that the person of Jesus exists. [3] It is a deep and abiding trust that clings to and relies upon Jesus as Lord. Believers are those who treasure God and seek to live out his word. For the point of hearing the word is not simply to know it, but to do it. As James writes, “Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” Or as Martin Luther says, “We are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone.” Saving and justifying faith is accompanied by actions—that is, “a faith working through love.” [4]

Prayer: Lord, Thank you for not just saying that you are love, but for coming in person to show us that you are. We praise you for giving us an understanding that, even though all of us will die (unless you tarry), this life matters. May we be people who incarnate Christ to others by investing our resources, feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, welcoming the stranger, clothing the naked, and visiting the sick and the prisoner. Make us doers of the word, not hearers only. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Matthew 25:23 ESV | [2] Matthew 25:33-36 | [3] For “even the demons believe—and shudder.” James 2:19 ESV | [4] See Gal. 5:6 ESV

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