April 9, 2014

843 Acres Lent: Planning Our Lives

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Prov 27 (txt | aud, 2:29 min)
2 Th 1 (txt | aud, 1:19 min)
Highlighted: Prov 27:1

Precious: Life is precious but precarious. We may not always have eyes that can see a child’s surprise at Christmas or legs that are able to run on the beach. We may not always be able to see snow falling, eat molten chocolate cake, or read great novels by the fire. Recognizing this, what do we do? How do we live today?

Tomorrow: In Proverbs, Solomon offers guidance, “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.” [1] And James wrote, “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.” [2]

Boasting: It is our boasting—not our planning—that displeases the Lord. After all, Jesus planned “tomorrow” when he set his face to Jerusalem: “He was determined to go to Jerusalem.” [3] Yet he also humbly submitted to his Father’s plan: “Not my will but yours be done.” [4] Similarly, Paul planned “tomorrow” when he embarked on his three missionary journeys. [5] Yet he told the Ephesians, “I will return to you again, if God wills.” [6] Thus, as we recognize that it is God—not us—who holds every minute of our precious yet precarious lives in his good and wise hands, let us treasure humble hearts that cling to “if God wills.”

Prayer: Lord, You decide how long we will live and what we will or will not accomplish. As we plan our precious yet precarious lives, give us strategic minds that plan and humble hearts that do not presume. Let us rest in the security of your providence that is stronger than chance or schedules. May your will—not ours—be done. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Proverbs 27:1 ESV | [2] James 4:13-17 ESV | [3] Luke 9:53 NASB | [4] Luke 22:42 NASB | [5] See Acts 27-28. | [6] Acts 18:21 NASB. See also 1 Corinthians 4:19

April 8, 2014

843 Acres Lent Tweetable Tuesdays: Pray Continually

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Prov 26 (txt | aud, 2:47 min)
1 Th 5 (txt | aud, 2:28 min)
Highlighted: 1 Th 5:16-18

Discerning Brokenness 

According to a 2010 Gallup poll, 92% of Americans say there is a God. 83% say he answers prayers. But what about “unanswered” prayers?

“Unanswered prayer forms a barrier that blocks desire to keep company w/God + poses serious threat to faith of trusting children.” #Yancey

“I do not doubt that God answers prayer. Rather, I struggle with the inconsistency of those apparent answers.” #Yancey

Imagining Redemption

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Th 5:16-18

In 1976 Joni Eareckson Tada became quadriplegic. She prays daily for healing. Also she paints w/her teeth + sings praise songs in elevators.

Tension: “My Father, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will but as you will” + “For the joy set before him, he endured the cross”

Praying ACTS

Lord, we #adore you for not answering Jesus’s prayer to take the cup from him, but instead you answered his deepest prayer-to redeem us.

We #confess that we doubt whether you answer our prayers, which often keeps us from praying and, in turn, experiencing your fullness.

Yet we are #thankful that you listen to our deepest desires. For we often do not know what to pray. Hear our prayers and hear our hearts.

As we pray continually, may we always pray, “Not as I will, but as you will.” For we struggle to know our own desires. #supplication

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April 7, 2014

843 Acres Lent: Clothed in Christ for Eternity

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Prov 25 (txt | aud, 2:59 min)
1 Th 4 (txt | aud, 2:18 min)
Highlighted: 1 Th 4:14

Specialness: Our need to deny death motivates us. Hoping to avoid its bitterness, we strive for immortality by pursuing lives of significance. This longing for “cosmic specialness,” as Ernest Becker puts it, leads us to create a “heroic self-image” that convinces us that our lives are meaningful and significant.

Mausoleum: Although our heroic self-image inspires greatness, it also instigates evil. In his forward to Becker’s The Denial of Death, Sam Keen writes, “Becker’s radical conclusion [is] that it is our altruistic motives that turn the world into a [mausoleum] … At what cost do we purchase the assurance that we are heroic? … [H]ow easily we will shed blood to purchase the assurance of our own righteousness.”

Immortality: The Thessalonians thought about death and immortality, too. Although they knew that Christ had risen, they seemed to believe that Christians who died before his return would be lost forever. Paul, therefore, wrote this letter to assure them that the dead would be resurrected to eternal life: “For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.” [1]

Living: Paul encourages the Thessalonians to live in light of their immortality. Rather than polishing their heroic self-image, they can encourage others and embrace grace. [2] Since the unchanging work of Christ secures their immortality, they can be unwavering—rejoicing “always”, praying “without ceasing”, and giving thanks in “all circumstances.” [3]

Righteousness: Knowing that we’ll receive eternal life frees us from our need to deny death, and knowing that we can rest in the righteousness of Christ frees us from our need to establish our own. We can release our heroic self-image when we see that Jesus is our hero. As Becker writes, the most remarkable thing about Christianity is “that it could take slaves, cripples, imbeciles, the simple and the mighty, and make them all secure heroes, simply by taking a step back from the world into another dimension, the dimension called heaven. Or we might better say that Christianity took creature consciousness—the thing man most wanted to deny—and made it the very condition for his cosmic heroism.”

Prayer: Lord, Embracing our weakness and mortality is the condition for our receiving the strength and immortality of Christ. Therefore, may we come to you as weak and needy so that you may clothe us in him. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] 1 Thessalonians 4:14 ESV | [2] 1 Thessalonians 5:12-15 | [3] 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

April 4, 2014

843 Acres Lent: What Is a Christian

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Prov 22 (txt | aud, 2:45 min)
1 Th 1 (txt | aud, 1:19 min)
Highlighted: 1 Th 1:4, 9-10

Background: Paul planted a church in Thessalonica, the capital of Macedonia and a flourishing center of trade and philosophy. While the church was still new and the Christians were still young, there was so much opposition against Paul that he had to leave prematurely. So he sent Timothy to check on them and return with a report. In response to hearing how they were doing, Paul sent them this letter to remind them how and why they became Christians. In essence, he reminded them what a Christian was. What does he say?

Marks: He writes, “For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.” [1] First, they became Christians by the gospel—that is, not by some general message of love or morality, but by the good news of Jesus. Elsewhere, Paul refers to the gospel as “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” [2] Second, the gospel did not come only in words, but also in power. A Christian is someone in whom and through whom the gospel has become a power. [3]

Choice: Finally, Paul says that they are Christians because he has heard “how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.” [4] In other words, they sensed the totalitarian claims of Christ and understood that the issue was not what they were going to make of him, but what he was going to make of them. They saw that the true choice was not between Christ and freedom, but between Christ and slavery. For they began to see how everything but Christ would enslave them.

Prayer: Lord, May we know that we are Christians by our having received the gospel, by our having been empowered by it, and by our turning from idols to serve you, the true and living God. For we know that it is only in Christ that we experience true freedom. Therefore, increase our desire for you daily and remind us in your Word that we are your children and heirs to your promises. Amen.

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M’Cheyne Weekend Reading

Saturday, April 5: Prov 23 (txt | aud, 3:19 min) & 1 Th 2 (txt | aud, 2:30 min)
Sunday, April 6: Prov 24 (txt | aud, 3:11 min) & 1 Th 3 (txt | aud, 1:33 min)

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Footnotes

[1] 1 Thessalonians 1:4 ESV | [2] 2 Corinthians 4:6 ESV | [3] Romans 1:16 ESV | [4] 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10 ESV

April 3, 2014

843 Acres Lent: The Joy and Terror of the Abolition Movement

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Prov 21 (txt | aud, 3:00 min)
Col 4 (txt | aud, 2:07 min)

Proverbs 21:15

When justice is done, it is a joy to the righteous, but terror to evildoers.

Concerning the Abolition of Slavery from In Defense of Faith: The Judeo-Christian Idea and the Struggle for Humanity by David Brog

It would be difficult to overstate the enormity of this accomplishment [the abolition of slavery and the slave trade]. Any objective observer would have given this small band of religious misfits [William Wilberforce and others] little chance of changing the policy of an empire. Commenting on the abolitionists’ ultimate victory, no less an observer than Alexis de Tocqueville wrote: “If you pore over the histories of all peoples, I doubt that you will find anything more extraordinary or more beautiful.”

When the English abolitionists began their efforts, slavery was an accepted fact of life not only in England but throughout the world. The institution had existed since the dawn of human history, and few people had ever questioned its validity. As author Adam Hochschild has noted, on the day the Abolition Society first met in the Quaker print shop “well over three-quarters of all people alive were in bondage of one kind or another, not the captivity of striped prison uniforms, but of various systems of slavery or serfdom.” Beyond African slavery in America, this worldwide bondage included Russian serfdom, Indian debt bondage, African slavery in Muslim lands and in Africa itself, and the slavery practiced by certain American Indian tribes.

The institution of slavery was buttressed not only by its universality, but also by its profitability. Almost all of Britain’s slaves lived in its West Indian colonies, where they were essential to the cultivation of the Empire’s most valuable cash crops. England’s planters and shipping interests believed that abolition would destroy their lucrative enterprises, and they were ferocious in their opposition to it.

These crops were the source of enormous revenue not only for the businessmen who grew and shipped them but also for the British crown which taxed their sale. The implications of abolition thus extended beyond economics to geopolitics. The unilateral abolition of slavery threatened a crucial source of revenue at the very time that Britain was locked into a bitter global rivalry with France. Defenders of the Empire thus joined with vested economic interests in determined resistance to such reform.

It turns out that those who predicted that abolition would result in enormous economic losses were not exaggerating. The fiscal impact of abolition was so great, in fact, that historian Seymour Drescher characterized the British abolition of slavery as voluntary “econocide.”

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April 2, 2014

843 Acres Lent: Praying at Burger King

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Prov 20 (txt | aud, 3:10 min)
Col 3 (txt | aud, 3:00 min)
Highlighted: Col 3:2

Message: From the moment we wake up, almost everything in our lives tells us not to seek God. The message, of course, is not explicit. The enemy is subtle, filling our lives with enough activity and prosperity to keep thoughts of God at bay. As Screwtape told Wormwood, “It is funny how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds; in reality, our best work is done by keeping things out.” [1] Yet Paul says, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” [2] How do we do this in our packed and busy lives?

Conscious: In Praying at Burger King, Richard Mouw writes, “A Christian friend once asked me about [why I pray before eating in public]. ‘Isn’t it a bit artificial to do that kind of thing? I mean, sitting in a booth at Burger King, with noisy kids running around—can you really get yourself into a praying mood?’ My answer was that I seldom find myself in a praying mood while sitting in a restaurant. But I typically don’t pray because I am feeling especially ‘spiritual.’ If I had to wait for those moods to set in, I wouldn’t pray very often! It is precisely because the praying mood doesn’t come naturally to me that I make it a habit to pray in restaurants.”

Acknowledge: He continues, “My restaurant prayers are opportunities for me to pause and remind myself that there is indeed a God whose mercy reaches out to me even when I am sitting in a fast-food booth with noisy kids running past me. I don’t need to be in any special kind of mood to give myself that kind of reminder. In fact, it’s generally not a good practice to wait for a certain mood before acknowledging another person’s presence. If I am hurrying through a crowded mall and suddenly meet someone I know, I greet the person, even though I haven’t had time to get into an especially friendly mood. The person is there, and I owe it to her to acknowledge her presence. How much more important to acknowledge God’s presence—even in a Burger King.”

Prayer: Lord, We confess that we rarely acknowledge your presence because our minds are set on earthly things. Therefore, we pray that you would awaken our hearts and eyes to see you more and more every day. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] C.S. Lewis. The Screwtape Letters. | [2] Colossians 3:2 ESV

April 1, 2014

843 Acres Lent: Ignorance of the Law Is No Excuse

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Prov 19 (txt | aud, 3:13 min)
Col 2 (txt | aud, 3:15 min)
Highlighted: Prov 19:8

Discerning Brokenness

American jurisprudence: “Ignorance of the law is no excuse.” No one is exculpated simply because they are unaware of what the law says.

If anyone sins “in any of the Lord’s commands, even though they do not know it, they are guilty & will be held responsible.” Leviticus 5:17

Sinning is not merely about our intentions. It is objective, not subjective. It is against his laws, not our consciences or perceptions.

Imagining Redemption

The Lord longs for us to know his law: “Whoever gets sense loves his soul; he who keeps understanding will discover good.” Proverbs 19:8

So God sent Jesus as the word incarnate to fulfill what the law could not – “to be just and the one who justifies” Romans 3:26

Paul: I received mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief. I received mercy that in me, Jesus might display his perfect patience. 1Tim1

Praying ACTS 

Lord, We #adore you for justice is not partial or subjective. In that, we have hope because you are fair and just.

Yet we #confess that our sin is primarily an offense to you, not us, and therefore we are held responsible for un/intentional sins.

We give you #thanks, though, for the loving and atoning sacrifice of Jesus, who provided for us what we could not provide for ourselves.

Cause us to crave more knowledge about how to live holy and righteous lives that are living sacrifices, pleasing to you. Amen. #supplication

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March 31, 2014

843 Acres Lent: King of the Cosmos and the Heart

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Prov 18 (txt | aud, 2:27 min)
Col 1 (txt | aud, 3:47 min)
Highlighted: Col 1:15-23

Cosmos: There is a natural and moral order and uniformity to the world that testifies to the reality that God is king of the cosmos, e.g., the universal law of gravitation, the consistency of the boiling point of water, the inherent conscience of humanity. Here, in his letter to the Colossians, Paul writes about God as king of the cosmos: “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things and in him all things hold together.” [1]

Hearts: Yet Paul does not stop by talking about God as king of the cosmos. He continues to talk about God as king over “you.” In other words, the reality is that God is king of the cosmos and the reality can be that he is king in your heart, too. He continues, “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation—if you continue your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.” [2]

Prayer: Lord, At the end of this already-but-not-yet age, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord. It matters a great deal to us, therefore, whether we bow and confess in worship of you or in exile from you. Do not just be Lord of the universe; be Lord of our hearts, too. May your Spirit reign within us, reconciling us to you and cleansing us from accusation. May we continue in the faith that we have heard and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel—a hope that is based on Christ’s righteousness, not our own. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Colossians 1:15-17 ESV | [2] Colossians 1:21-23

March 28, 2014

843 Acres Lent: The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Prov 15 (txt | aud, 3:40 min)
Phil 2 (txt | aud, 3:20 min)
Highlighted: Phil 2:3-4

Others: Paul writes, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” [1] The mindset we should have, he says, is that of Christ—the king who humbled himself. What does such a mindset look like?

Self-Forgetfulness: In his fantastic booklet The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness, Tim Keller writes, “Don’t you want to be the kind of person who, when they see themselves in a mirror or reflected in a shop window, does not admire what they see but does not cringe either? … Wouldn’t you like to be the skater who wins the silver, and yet is thrilled about those three triple jumps that the gold medal winner did? To love it the way you love a sunrise? Just to love the fact that is was done? For it not to matter whether it was their success or your success. Not to care if they did it or you did it. You are as happy that they did it as if you had done it yourself—because you are just so happy to see it.”

Gospel-Humility: “You will probably say that you do not know anybody like that,” he continues. “But this is the possibility for you and me if we keep on going where Paul is going. I can start to enjoy things that are not about me. My work is not about me, my skating is not about me, my romance is not about me, my dating is not about me. I can actually enjoy things for what they are … They are not just a way of filling up the emptiness. Wouldn’t you want that? This is off our map. This is gospel-humility, blessed self-forgetfulness. Not thinking more of myself as in modern cultures, or less of myself as in traditional cultures. Simply thinking of myself less.”

Prayer: Lord, We confess that we tend to think too high or too low of ourselves rather than just thinking about ourselves less. May we not look to our own interests, but to the interests of others, so that we may enjoy things for what they are. Give us the mindset of Christ, who made himself low that we may know you. Amen.

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M’Cheyne Weekend Readings:

Saturday, March 29: Prov 16 (txt | aud, 3:25 min) & Phil 3 (txt | aud, 2:53 min)
Sunday, March 30: Prov 17 (txt | aud, 3:11 min) & Phil 4 (txt | aud, 2:52 min)

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Footnotes

[1] Philippians 2:3-4 ESV

March 27, 2014

843 Acres Lent #TBT: Three Kinds of Men (Lewis)

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Prov 14 (txt | aud, 3:43 min)
Phil 1 (txt | aud, 3:41 min)

Paul: Philippians 1:21

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

C.S. Lewis: “Three Kinds of Men” in Present Concerns

There are three kinds of people in the world. The first class is of those who live simply for their own sake and pleasure, regarding Man and Nature as so much raw material to be cut up into whatever shape may serve them. In the second class are those who acknowledge some other claim upon them—the will of God, the categorical imperative, or the good of society—and honestly try to pursue their own interests no further than this claim will allow. They try to surrender to the higher claim as much as it demands, like men paying a tax, but hope, like other taxpayers, that what is left over will be enough for them to live on … But the third class is of those who can say like St. Paul that for them “to live is Christ.” These people have got rid of the tiresome business of adjusting the rival claims of Self and God by the simple expedient of rejecting the claims of Self altogether. The old egoistic will has been turned round, reconditioned, and made into a new thing. The will of Christ no longer limits theirs; it is theirs. All their time, in belonging to Him, belongs also to them, for they are His.

And because there are three classes, any merely twofold division of the world into good and bad is disastrous. It overlooks the fact that the members of the second class (to which most of us belong) are always and necessarily unhappy. The tax which moral conscience levies on our desires does not in fact leave us with enough to live on … The Christian doctrine that there is no “salvation” by works done according to the moral law is a fact of daily experience. Back or on we must go. But there is no going on simply by our own efforts. If the new Self, the new Will, does not come at His own good pleasure to be born in us, we cannot produce Him synthetically.

The price of Christ is something, in a way, much easier than moral effort—it is to want Him … Begging is our only wisdom, and want in the end makes it easier for us to be beggars. Even on those terms the Mercy will receive us.

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