August 15, 2014

843 Acres Reader’s Choice: The Same Event Happens to Us All

by Bethany

Reader: Delinda Merry: One of my favorite posts from the Park Forum (and it was very hard to chose just one) came in April, just a few days after Easter. We had just been through a meaningful and intentional observance of Holy Week, with a church wide dinner and communion on Maundy Thursday, a contemplative and sobering “Service of Shadows” on Good Friday, and, of course, a glorious celebration on Easter Sunday. Then – it was back into the trenches of the daily grind. This truly was encouragement for the weary. Even though I work at a church, I struggle with how the resurrection gives meaning to my daily work. Life is hard.

843 Acres Reader’s Choice: The Same Event Happens to Us All
Originally published as a Tuesday Tweetable on Tuesday, April 22, 2014.
Highlighted: Ecc 9

Discerning Brokenness

It is the same for all, since the same event (death) happens to the righteous and the wicked, to the good and the evil. #Ecc9

The hearts of the children of man are full of evil and madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead. #Ecc9

“Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” #Thomas

Imagining Redemption

Paul: “Christ is raised. Therefore, be steadfast, immovable, abounding … knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” #1Cor15

His resurrection gives meaning to our work. Therefore, eat your bread with joy, drink your wine with merriment, work with might. #Ecc9

The good life, the truly human life, is not based on a few great moments, but on many, many little ones. #Kushner

Praying ACTS

Lord, We #adore you for not letting death have the final word. In Christ, you solved the riddle of Ecclesiastes, fulfilling his longings.

Yet we #confess that we often do not know how to live in this already-but-not-yet state. Our work is not in vain, but what does that mean?

We #thank you that what was begun at the resurrection of Christ will continue until it is thoroughly finished, that we work as your hands.

Therefore, may we enjoy our bread, wine, and work, as we point to Christ as the bread, the wine, and the new creation. #supplication

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About Delinda: Delinda the Children’s Ministry Director at Redeemer Church of Knoxville in Tennessee.

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M’Cheyne Reading as Scheduled:

Jer 43 (txt | aud, 2:29 min)
Ps 19 (txt | aud, 1:41 min)

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August 14, 2014

843 Acres: Reader’s Choice: Capitalizing on Our Deep Fears and Insecurities

by Bethany

Reader: Jen Pollock Michel: I like this post for its emphasis on the motivations of the heart. Often, as Christians, we’re too contented with superficial change. We’re tempted to measure our transformation in terms of changed beliefs and behaviors. But God’s design for our transformation is much more profound: he wants us to do his will and want his will.

843 Acres: Reader’s Choice: Capitalizing on Our Deep Fears and Insecurities
Originally published on Tuesday, July 8.
Highlighted: Mt 18:21-35

Hearts: Morally virtuous behavior doesn’t necessarily arise out of a loving heart. Even when our actions seem good, our motives can be self-centered. In traditional moral training, for example, how do we encourage people to be honest? We often capitalize on their deep insecurities and fears of being rejected, caught, or judged—“Don’t lie or God will punish you, you’ll get caught, people will think you’re a terrible person.” But this type of training only restrains the heart; it doesn’t change it. Is there another way?

Parable: In a parable about forgiveness, Jesus talks about a servant who owes a massive debt—10,000 talents—to a king. [1] Since the average worker at this time earned about 1-2 talents per year, this servant is probably a regional political leader who has squandered an enormous sum—in modern terms, about $300 billion—through gross mismanagement or corruption. What does the king do? Initially, he orders the servant to be sold. But the servant begs, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.” The king cancels the debt, pities the servant, and lets him go. Later, however, the servant sees another who owes him a few bucks. He seizes him, chokes him, and demands repayment. When he begs, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you,” the servant refuses, tossing him in jail. The king hears about this and summons the servant: “You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?” Then he imprisons him.

King: Jesus is showing us that we are like this ungenerous, miserly servant when we do not forgive others in light of how much we have been forgiven. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t pursue justice or redress—after all, both vengeance and resignation are selfish. It does mean, however, that forgiving spirits arise from hearts that see how much they themselves have been forgiven.

Prayer: Lord, Although we’ve received your forgiveness through Jesus, we often do not forgive others. We insult them, withdraw our friendship, gossip, and slander. This makes us feel better in the short run, but it ruins us in the long term because it turns us into people who do not know your love. Open our eyes to love the cross so that our actions are rooted in changed, not restrained, hearts. Amen.

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About Jen: Jen Pollock Michel lives in Toronto with her family. She’s the author of Teach Us to Want: Longing, Ambition and the Life of Faith. She also regularly contributes to Christianity Today’s Her.meneutics blog and Today in the Word, a devotional publication of Moody Bible Institute. You can follow her on Twitter: @jenpmichel.

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M’Cheyne Reading as Scheduled:

Jer 42 (txt | aud, 3:59 min)
Ps 18 (txt | aud, 5:15 min)

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FAQs

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What is the reading plan this blog is based on? Click here.

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Footnotes

[1] Matthew 18:21-35 ESV

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August 13, 2014

843 Acres Reader’s Choice: Work and Rest

by Bethany

Reader: Tom Jewell: I appreciated all the Tuesday Tweetables because they were like a box of tiny bottle rockets; little thoughts, that when you light them up, they go shooting in all different directions, illuminating a huge, complicated topic, and a gracious, wonderful God. This one in particular seemed to put my work week in context, reminding me of an eternal perspective, and my place within it.

843 Acres Reader’s Choice: Work and Rest
Originally published as a Tuesday Tweetable on Tuesday, April 29, 2014.
Highlighted: Heb 4:9, 11

Discerning Brokenness

As we saw yesterday, we are like the Israelites – prone to wander and be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. goo.gl/6kWnl9

We hear the word, but “the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word and it proves unfruitful.” #busy goo.gl/hWvoAh

When we rest, we experience our unsettling humanity. The hilarious, irreverent, philosopher-of-the-people @louisck explains: goo.gl/CLulhO

Imagining Redemption

God calls us to work and to rest: “Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God.”

Our weekly rest points to our heavenly one: “There remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God … Let us therefore strive to enter.” #Heb4

Our rest reminds us that our labor is not an endless cycle of drudgery leading nowhere but a purposeful activity marked by worship and rest.

Praying ACTS 

Lord, We #adore you that our work is not in vain and that you have given us the Sabbath as a signpost of your faithful work for us.

Yet we #confess that life in the present world involved difficult work. As Hebrews teaches, it is an arduous journey with joys and sorrows.

#Thank you for setting aside a weekly routine – six days of work and one day of rest – as an exercise in spiritual awareness.

When work is frustrating, remind us of brokenness and restoration. When it goes well, remind us of your work through us. #supplication

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About Tom: Tom is a husband of thirty-one years and a father of two adult children. He and his wife live in North Orange County, where he is a landscape architect and serves as an elder at his Presbyterian church.
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M’Cheyne Reading as Scheduled:

Jer 41 (txt | aud, 3:25 min)
Ps 17 (txt | aud, 2:01 min)

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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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August 12, 2014

843 Acres: Reader’s Choice: Turning Down Turkish Delight

by Bethany

Reader: Sam Clifton: “How can we use money without craving it? Love something else more.” I used to be a compulsive overeater, so the Turkish Delight theme struck a chord (not to mention that I love all things Narnia). In the above quote, inserting any substance or action next to or in place of “money” would be a worthy mantra for anyone struggling with addiction. Even though God has delivered me from my compulsion by teaching me to love Him more, those two sentences work wonders as perspective adjusters.

843 Acres: Reader’s Choice: Turning Down Turkish Delight
Originally published on Monday, October 28.
Highlighted: 1 Tim 6:9-10

Narnia: Edmund might have been wary of the Queen of Narnia and her ominous questions about his family if he had not been fixated on eating the enchanted Turkish Delight: “anyone who once tasted it would want more and more of it, and would even, if they were allowed, go on eating it till they killed themselves.” [1] His inordinate desire for the sweet dessert caused him to betray his siblings, sulk about his unmet desires, and lie to himself about the true nature of the White Witch. Of course, when he took his first bite, he did not know all of this would happen. It was a slow process of becoming increasingly foolish.

Love: Paul cautions Timothy about the dangers of loving money: “those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” [2] 

Expulsive: How can we use money without craving it? We love something else more. In The Expulsive Power of a New Affection, Thomas Chalmers argues, “The best way of casting out an impure affection is to admit a pure one; and by the love of what is good, to expel the love of what is evil.” [3] For Edmund, his desire for the Turkish Delight plunged him into, in Paul’s terms, “ruin and destruction.” When he came to love Aslan, however, his love for the enchanted dessert was expelled. Aslan restored Edmund to life and, as a result, forgiveness and joy replaced betrayal and lies. As Aslan told the other Pevensie children after Edmund’s life was restored, “Here is your brother and there is no need to talk to him about what is past.”

Prayer: Lord, Godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world and we can take nothing out of it. If we have food and clothing, then we will be content. By your Spirit, mortify our love for money and replace it with a love for you. Although we are wealthy, may we not live as the wealthy of this world. For their hope is in this world only. Instead, make us investors in self-giving deeds of mercy, in fruit that will last into eternity. Amen.

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About Sam: I am author Randy Alcorn’s staff editor. I live east of Portland, OR, in the midst of woods and waterfalls, where I love to roam with my monster American Bulldog. I’m married, have twin sons (one’s approaching his Podiatry Residency and has the cutest 2-year-old on the planet, one is an Electrical Engineer). Both are married to women I adore. Our daughter, who is a pastry chef, will be marrying her Jamaican mon on the beach near Montego Bay in November.
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M’Cheyne Reading as Scheduled:
Jer 40 (txt | aud, 3:45 min)
Ps 15-16 (txt | aud, 2:09 min)

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Footnotes

[1] C.S. Lewis. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. | [2] 1 Timothy 6:9-10 ESV | [3] Thomas Chalmers. “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection.”

 

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August 11, 2014

843 Acres: Reader’s Choice: Our Complicated, Conflicted Inner Lives

by Bethany

Reader: Linda “Nana” Kammerzelt: I have so many “favorites”, but this one came to mind because it was so “timely” … a “seasonable” mercy. I added the quotes to it as a reminder of the timing of it for me. Thank you again and again for “kind words of Grace”! Praising him with you for grace upon grace. Ephesians 3:20-21.

843 Acres: Reader’s Choice: Our Complicated, Conflicted Inner Lives Originally published on Tuesday, March 25, as a “Tuesday Tweetable.”

Discerning Brokenness

We have trouble understanding our dynamic, complicated, sometimes conflicting and warring emotions that we feel inside of us.

And it’s hard for others to understand them, too: “The heart knows its own bitterness, and no stranger shares its joy. Proverbs 14:10

We are complex beings – physical, moral, philosophical, emotional, relational, existential. #solitaryinnerlife

Imagining Redemption

Anxiety in a man’s heart weights him down, but a good word makes him glad. Proverbs 12:25

If a kind word from the outside makes us glad, but if no one else truly understands us, then what hope do we have?

By this we reassure our heart before him: “for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.” 1Jn3

Praying ACTS

Lord, We #adore you for being a wholehearted Savior, knowing us in our many facets and speaking to our hearts with kind words of grace.

For we #confess that anxiety and confusion and the complex realities of life enslave our hearts and that we have no hope apart from Christ.

We give you #thanks for sharing in our joys and struggles in Christ, who became incarnate and took on the weaknesses of humanity.

May we love the things that you have given us, but may we treasure Christ above them all so that our loves may be ordered. #supplication

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About Linda: I am a “Nana” in Middleton, Wisconsin (near Madison). I have read, and re-read your June 26th lesson, too, about “clearness is the Grace of Speech“. This is my desire as a grandmother, and I learn so much from you about clarity and kindness in communicating the Truth we Love.

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M’Cheyne Reading as Scheduled:
Jer 39 (txt | aud, 3:02 min)
Ps 13-14 (txt | aud, 1:43 min)

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August 8, 2014

843 Acres: Reader’s Choice: Christopher Hitchens and Christian Unity

by Bethany

Reader: Dan | This reading hit me as it was a great reminder that Unity in Christ and the roots of the Gospel should always be primary aim among believers rather than splitting hairs on the ‘non-essentials’ of the faith.  While we should always be discerning God’s Word for truth and its application in all areas of life, I’ve experienced far too many heated arguments and divisions in the church along lines that at the end of the day don’t really matter, that is, they aren’t core to the Gospel. They take our focus off the Great Commission and get distracted. It’s like going out to battle only to begin turning to fight those on your own side! It reminds me that I need a Kingdom-oriented eternal perspective to look past these arguments and seek Unity in Christ alone, for the sake of the Gospel.

843 Acres: Reader’s Choice: Christopher Hitchens and Christian Unity
Originally published on Friday, May 16
Highlighted: 1 Pet 3:8

Unity: Have you ever noticed that Jesus prayed specifically for us—you and me? In one of his last prayers, he said, “I do not ask for [the apostles] only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word.” [1] We are—“those who will believe in me through their word.” What did he pray for us? Unity: “that they be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us.” [2] Peter, too, wrote, “Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.” [3] What is at stake in our unity?

Observation: While Christopher Hitchens was undergoing various cancer treatments, he journaled his thoughts about dying. These thoughts were published posthumously in a short book of essays called Mortality. In one essay, Hitchens—a renowned atheist—offers an insightful observation on Christian unity: “If I were to announce that I had suddenly converted to Catholicism, I know that [two fundamentalist evangelicals] would feel I had fallen into grievous error. On the other hand, if I were to join either of their Protestant evangelical groups, the followers of Rome would not think my soul was much safer than it is now …” [4]

Disunity: The debate he observes is not merely Catholic vs. Protestant; it’s also Presbyterian (PCA, PCUSA, etc.) vs. Baptist (SBC, CBF, etc.) vs. Methodist (EMC, UMC, etc.) and more. To be sure, there are important doctrinal differences between these groups that should be taken seriously—sometimes very seriously. Yet how we talk—our tone, sympathy, and love—about those with whom we disagree, though, can tell us about our own views on unity. Do we have hearts that long to pray with Jesus, saying, “Make us one, just as the Son and the Father are one, that we together may be in the Christ”?

Prayer: Lord, Freud coined the phrase—“the narcissism of minor differences”—and we confess that our sinful human nature seeks to make major differences out of minor ones because we are prideful. There are, of course, some differences that cannot be overcome. Where we can, however, give us “unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind”. For when Jesus prayed for us, he told us what is at stake in our unity: “that the world may believe that you have sent me.” [5] Amen.

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About Dan: Originally from Minnesota, Dan moved to Boston for College and has yet to turn back. He spends his days working at an investment bank on their Equity Derivatives team. He seeks to be an ambassador for Christ in the areas of influence the Lord has placed him both inside and outside the workplace.

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M’Cheyne Weekend Reading as Scheduled:

Friday, August 8: Jer 36 (txt | aud, 5:44 min) & Ps 9 (txt | aud, 2:19 min)
Saturday, August 9: Jer 37 (txt | aud, 3:25 min) & Ps 10 (txt | aud, 2:33 min)
Sunday, August 10: Jer 38 (txt | aud, 5:19 min) & Ps 11-12 (txt | aud, 2:02 min)

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Footnotes

[1] John 17:20 ESV | [2] John 17:21 | [3] 1 Peter 3:8 | [4] Hitchens also writes about how Christians engaged with him as he was dying. Although he wasn’t always accurate in his assessment ofChristian theology, his voice about how he was treated during this time is important (and painful) to hear. (One notable exception was his friend Frances Collins, who was lovely, he said.) | [5] John 17:21

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August 7, 2014

843 Acres: Reader’s Choice: We Always Do What We Most Want to Do

by Bethany

Reader: Grace: The morning that I read this devotional I was battling with the desire to, by my own means, jump-start my productivity. By this, I mean to take one of my friend’s pain pills. (I have a degenerative disc disease and various other spinal issues and, being 31, the doctors don’t want to give me very much pain medication, for fear of addiction). I knew that I could stand to go without her meds, but the desire for the seemingly “easy route” was strong in me. (The voices within me were literally having a fight.) I’ll add that I do have pain meds for my back, but they are pretty puny, never relieving all my pain. On one hand, I knew that the Lord calls us to rely on Him – He is the maker of all things, surely I can rely on Him to get me through my day! And I also know that taking pain meds in and of itself is not sinful. But my desire to take matters into my own hands was very strong. Then I sat down at my desk and read your email – I took it as confirmation that I needed to put my prayers in His hands and move forward. With God’s help, that day, I overcame my unholy desires. It was also good to read this devotional because there are many times that my strongest desires (often unholy) win over God’s holy desires for my life. It is nice to read that it happens to others, too, even as they try to resist.

843 Acres: Reader’s Choice: We Always Do What We Most Want to Do
Originally published on Monday, July 21.
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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About Grace: Married for 11 years, with a 3-year-old son. She is an office manager and legal secretary at a law office. My walk the Lord began when I was a child, God was not welcomed or praised in my home, but I had a beautiful picture of Jesus that gave me peace when I needed it. In the past year, I have grown closer to the Lord than ever before, having the full understanding of His desire to become one with us. (John 17:22-23)

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M’Cheyne Reading as Scheduled:

Jer 35 (txt | aud, 3:37 min)
Ps 7-8 (txt | aud, 3:13 min)

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Footnotes

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

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August 6, 2014

843 Acres: Reader’s Choice: Seeking Truth or Playing Games

by Bethany

READER: Brad Elledge: The hook for me in this devotional is stated in Doubt, a dagger in the heart of one’s professional conceit. Before coming to Christ at age 28, I was the ultimate skeptic, rationalizing the situationally principled pursuit of my personal agenda. Although I genuinely longed for enduring truth, when confronted with it, I couldn’t accept it. Long story short, in the end, it was miracles that convinced me He is who He says he is. The search was over. And being born again, grace abounds, humility blooms in place of arrogance & defensiveness, and like little children, we are reared up in his image. Thanks for the reminder of God’s gracious pursuit of us despite our “childishness”.

843 Acres: Reader’s Choice: Seeking Truth or Playing Games
Originally published on Tuesday, July 1.
Highlighted: Matt 11

Doubt: When Job questions the Lord, he assumes God’s existence and authority, saying, “Oh, that I knew where I might find him … I would lay my case before him and fill my mouth with arguments.” [1] The complaint of the average urban professional, though, looks less like Job and more like John the Baptist, who asks Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” [2] In other words, “I find your claims interesting. How do I know you are who you say you are?”

Generation: To evidence his divinity, Jesus says to tell John about his miracles. He then broadens his audience, saying, “But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’” [3]

Childishness: Jesus doesn’t say they are “like children” because he is against childlikeness—a quality that he lauds elsewhere—but because he is against childishness. They don’t care about seeking truth, but about playing games. Jesus did miracles for them. He spoke plainly to them. Yet they ignored the evidence because they wanted to play their own tune.

Prayer: Lord, You do not call us to blind belief; instead, you speak with us in the written Word and through the incarnate Word. In love, you sent Jesus, who spoke plainly about you and who performed miracles that we might believe. Yet even many who saw him with their eyes did not believe. They could not see the gospel as both the biggest dirge of all (“you are more sinful than you ever dared believe”) and the biggest party of all (“you are more loved than you ever dared hope”). The eyes of their hearts were closed. May that not be our testimony. Keep us open-hearted that we may reject the power of unbelief. For we know that no one is neutral; we interpret data according to what we think ultimate authority is. Therefore, root us in the gospel. Amen.

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M’Cheyne Reading as Scheduled:
Jer 34 (txt | aud, 4:46 min)
Ps 5-6 (txt | aud, 1:56 min)

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About Brad: Brad grew up in the Napa Valley before it was big time wine country.  He migrated to Chicago for B-School and pursued a corporate career with stops in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Phoenix, Tucson (where he met the Lord), and Knoxville, TN. He now manages a manufacturing plant with 100 employees (his “flock”) in North Dallas. With his ‘noble soul’ wife of 30 years, Eileen, they have raised 4 children, 2 “domestics” & 2 “imports” (adopted Vietnamese). They now reside in Frisco, TX, where they attend Grace Church. 

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Footnotes

[1] Job 23:3-4 ESV | [2] Matthew 11:3 ESV | [3] Matthew 11:16-19 ESV

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August 5, 2014

843 Acres: Reader’s Choice: Obedience or Virtue

by Bethany

Reader: Bryce Bennett*: I know someone who tithed so much (even though he was a poor farmer) that his sons and daughter grew up thinking that it was normal to give away far more than 10% of one’s belongings. This man lived a life of stewarding the things, relationships, property, money … all that God gave him. Rather than living to get more money and possessions, he lived to give what little he had away to others he knew could use it. This man’s example was caught by his kids, who taught me the power of giving – also giving way more than 10%. One of these family members took this a step further when he started a company and a foundation at the same time. The purpose of the company was to meet the needs of the world’s poor by providing safe, reliable and affordable electricity. And the goal of the foundation was to give away most all his salary and profit from the company to others. This man lives on 1% and gives the other 99% away. His has passed the $100 million mark.  And he keeps on giving, because he loves to do so. He told me, “On my last day, if I have a dollar in my bank account, I am a happy man, because I will have given it all away in my lifetime.” These family members are not perfect, none of us are, but they have taught me the power of stewardship, the power of giving, and the freedom that comes from not chasing after money.

843 Acres: Reader’s Choice: Obedience or Virtue
Originally published on Wednesday, July 9.
Highlighted: Matt 19:16-30

Eternity: What sort of people must we be in the present if we are going to be a part of God’s new kingdom in the future? How does that future reality shape how we live today? What is the way to eternal life?

Obedience: The rich young man ran to Jesus, asking, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” He was thinking that the new kingdom was reserved for loyal, law-abiding Jews. Jesus replied, “Keep the commandments … You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man had kept these, but felt like something was missing.

Character: Jesus continued, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” This was the real challenge: to have a new identity with new affections, not new laws. N.T. Wright comments, “You can divide theories about human behavior into two: either you obey rules imposed from the outside, or you discover the deepest longings of your own heart and try to go with them. Most of us wobble between the two.” [1]

Virtue: Wright continues, “[Jesus] is inviting us to something not so much like rule-keeping on the one hand or following our own dreams on the other, but a way of being human to which philosophers ancient and modern have given a particular name … The New Testament invites its readers to learn how to be human in this particular way, which will both inform our moral judgments and form our characters so that we can live by their guidance. The name for this way of being human, this kind of transformation of character, is virtue.”

Prayer: Lord, The way of salvation unto eternal life is not through rule-keeping or dream-following. [2] Rather it is through becoming new people of virtue in Christ through the Spirit, who works in us both to will and work for his good pleasure. Make us people who possess a Christian character that is both “radically different from ‘the way of the world’ and claims to make sense of all human life in a way that nothing else does.” Amen.

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About Bryce: Due to the nature of his work, “Bryce Bennett” is a pseudonym. He lives in the Washington, D.C. area, with his family.

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M’Cheyne Readings as Scheduled:

Jer 33 (txt | aud, 4:46 min)
Ps 3-4 (txt | aud, 1:56 min)

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FAQs

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Footnotes

[1] Wright, N. T. (2010-02-14). After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters. Harper Collins, Inc. Kindle Edition. | [2] “Dream” is used in the sense of personal, self-seeking dreams, not dreams that God may use to speak to His people, e.g., Joseph.

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August 4, 2014

843 Acres: Reader’s Choice: We are busy. Crazy busy.

by Bethany

Reader’s Choice: Benjamin Liong Setiawan | Why I like this post: It cuts right into my extroverted heart. Busyness tends to be a badge of honor in our culture and I’m certainly guilty of that response. Deep down I know that sometimes keeping myself busy, even if I tell myself it’s “for others,” stems from escapism or avoidance. Jesus struck the perfect balance of making time to genuinely love people because he understood the importance of spending quality, unhurried time with his Father.

843 Acres: Reader’s Choice: We are busy. Crazy busy.
Originally published on July 4, 2014.
Highlighted: Matt 14

BusyTwo years ago, Tim Kreider 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.”

Important: Jesus was the most important person that ever walked the earth. It’s impossible to understate 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. [1] Yet he didn’t rush them away, saying, “Now isn’t a good time.” Instead, “he had compassion on them and healed their sick.” [2] 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 to love.

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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About Ben: See Styling Fashion Campaigns That Speak.

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M’Cheyne Readings as Scheduled:

Jer 32 (txt | aud, 7:34 min)
Ps 1-2 (txt | aud, 2:05 min)

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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] Matthew 14:13 ESV | [2] Matthew 14:14 ESV

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