Posts tagged ‘Daniel’

October 27, 2014

843 Acres: Freedom Is Not a Lack of Restrictions

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Dn 12 (txt | aud, 2:21 min)
Ps 119:49-72 (txt | aud, 2:02 min)
Highlighted: Ps 119

Freedom: When we think about freedom, we almost always think about it in its negative sense—freedom from. In his 1958 lecture, “Two Concepts of Liberty,” Isaiah Berlin distinguished between negative and positive freedom. “Negative freedom, as Berlin defines it, is freedom from—in essence, freedom from interference and constraint. Positive freedom is freedom for—in essence, freedom for excellence according to whatever vision and ideals define that excellence” [1]. What happens when we divorce the two freedoms and only think about freedom in its negative sense?

Essence: True freedom includes both the negative and the positive sense. As Os Guinness writes, “Neither positive nor negative freedom is complete without the other. They each describe complementary sides of the same full freedom, which always rests on two conditions: the complete absence of any abuse of power, which is the essence of negative freedom, and a vision of a positive way of life, which is the essence of positive freedom. In a free society understood in this way, free citizens are neither prevented from doing what they should (the denial of positive freedom) nor forced to do what they shouldn’t (the denial of negative freedom)” [2]. For example, he says, the American Revolution was both freedom from the British and freedom for the American experiment.

Bounds: The Psalmist celebrates full freedom: “Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways … I will keep your law continually, forever and ever, and I shall walk in a wide place, for I have sought your precepts” [3]. In other words, he is seeking freedom from the ensnarement of worthless things that demand his worship and freedom for the joy of running in the statutes of God and seeking the Lord with his whole heart. This is true freedom.

Prayer: Lord, We confess that true freedom is not a lack of restrictions; it is finding the right restrictions that fit our being. Like fish that find true freedom within the confines of the fish bowl and die when “liberated” from those constraints, we, too, seek true freedom within the loving confines of your statutes. For that is where we find true freedom—freedom from living as slaves to sin and freedom for living as children of God. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Os Guinness. A Free People’s Suicide: Sustainable Freedom and the American Future. (To see a 45-minute video of Guinness speaking on this book at Socrates in the City in NYC, click here.) | [2] Id. | [3] Psalm 119:37, 45 ESV

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October 24, 2014

843 Acres: Repentance in a New Light

by Steven Dilla

M’Cheyne: Dn 9 (txt | aud, 5:36 min)
Ps 117-118 (txt | aud, 3:00 min)
Highlighted: Dan. 9.4-5

Disconnect: When Martin Luther pounded the 95 Theses into the door of All Saints Church in Wittenberg, Germany he began with the simple but profound statement that, “the entire life of believers [is] to be one of repentance.” Luther’s actions began the Protestant Reformation, abandoning the then-current practice of indulgences for a lifestyle of repentance. Repentance requires a sometimes painful examination of our lives and submission to a standard outside of ourselves. Because of this, just a few hundred years later, and downstream from the movement which Luther’s words and sacrificial actions began, the idea of repentance ranges anywhere from foreign to offensive for many.

Immovable: The prayer that consumes most of Daniel 9 is, “aflame with the purifier of sincere repentance,” says F.M. Wood. Daniel cries out, “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments,  we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules.” The contrast between a broken people and a God who is immovable in faithfulness could not be stronger. Because God’s faithfulness cannot be shaken or diminished he is able to both establish a standard for life and offer forgiveness without compromise, albeit at great cost to himself.

Repentance: Daniel’s prayer seeks repentance for national abandonment of the Covenant—it cut to the deepest part of the prophetic heart in his day. For modern Christians, our wounds run no less shallow and may feel intensely more personal. In many ways, repentance is the process of revealing our deepest hurts and asking God to restore us where nothing else can. The full process of repentance in Christ is re-humanizing, brimming with grace, and overflowing with love. It leaves us stunned by the grace that renews us. We walk away with a new name – one that speaks not of our pain, but of our journey and interaction with a God who is, as Nehemiah says, “ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love – a God who does not forsake us.” [2]

Prayer: Lord, thank you for being slow to anger and abounding in love. Like Adam hiding in the garden we find hurt and shame driving us from the one who can heal us. Restore us, O Lord, let us see the joy of your salvation. Give us life and heal us through the power of your Son, Jesus. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Wood, F. M. (1972). Daniel. In H. F. Paschall & H. H. Hobbs (Eds.), The Teacher’s Bible commentary (p. 532). Nashville: Broadman and Holman Publishers. | [2] Neh 9.17

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October 23, 2014

843 Acres TBT: The Sympathy of Jesus (Newton)

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Dn 8 (txt | aud, 4:39 min)
Ps 116 (txt | aud, 1:49 min)

Psalm 116:6, 10 

The Lord preserves the simple … I believed, even when I spoke: “I am greatly afflicted.”

John Newton, Letters of John Newton (1776) 

To Mrs. Thornton.

My Dear Madam, … Though I feel grief, I trust the Lord has mercifully preserved me from impatience and murmuring, and that in the midst of all the pleadings of flesh and blood, there is a something within me that aims to say without reserve or exception, “Not my will, but thine be done.”

It is a comfortable consideration, that he with whom we have to do, our great High Priest, who once put away our sins by the sacrifice of himself, and now forever appears in the presence of God for us, is not only possessed of sovereign authority and infinite power, but wears our very nature, and feels and exercises in the highest degree those tendernesses and commiserations, which I conceive are essential to humanity in its perfect state. The whole history of his wonderful life is full of inimitable instances of this kind. His bowels were moved before his arm was exerted; he condescended to mingle tears with mourners, and wept over distresses which he intended to relieve. He is still the same in his exalted state; compassions dwell within his heart … he still feels for his people …

With the eye, and the ear, and the heart of a friend, he attends to their sorrows. He accounts their sighs, puts their tears in his bottle, and when our spirits our overwhelmed within us, he knows our path, and adjusts the time, the measure of our trials, and every thing that is necessary for our present support and seasonable deliverance … Still more, besides his benevolent, he has an experimental sympathy. He knows our sorrows, not merely as he knows all things, but as one who has been in our situation and who, though without sin himself, endured, when upon earth, inexpressibly more for us than he will ever lay upon us …

What, then, shall we fear, or of what shall we complain? When all our concerns are written upon his heart, and their management, to the very hairs of our head, are under his care and providence; when he pities us more than we can do ourselves, and has engaged his almighty power to sustain and relieve us. However, as he is tender, he is wise also; he loves us, but especially with regard to our best interests.

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October 22, 2014

843 Acres: On Freedom and Dominion

by Steven Dilla

M’Cheyne: Dn 7 (txt | aud, 5:10 min)
Ps 114-115 (txt | aud, 2:17 min)
Highlighted: Dan 7.14

Freedom: “Throughout history, through all ages, all human beings have always sought two kinds of freedom, but today we’re after a third kind as well,” observes Tom Wolfe. The two foundational freedoms are those from tyranny (freedom of expression, religion, and political determination) and want (freedom of economic opportunity, class mobility, etc). “Today we are seeking, and even expecting, a third kind of freedom that is unprecedented… freedom from religion.” Wolfe says it’s no longer freedom of religion, but from it, adding, “That has never, ever been sought before. It’s the final freedom.”[1]

Enslavement: Where does freedom from all commitments and obligations lead? Over 150 years ago Scottish pastor Thomas Chalmers recorded the natural enslavement of the human heart: “It is thus, that the boy ceases, at length, to be a slave of his appetite, but it is usually because the more mature taste has brought it into subordination. For example, the youth may cease to idolize sensual pleasure, but it is because the idol of wealth has gotten the ascendancy but even the love of money may cease to have mastery over the heart because it’s drawn into the world of ideology and politics and he is now lorded over by a love of power or moral superiority in his new politics.”[2] The pathway far too many people perceive as that of freedom is really one of submission to shifting affections.

Dominion: It isn’t the vivid imagery of Daniel’s visions that are most offensive to many today, but the threat that, “[God’s] dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away.” It is anathema, in a culture which perceives freedom as limitless self-determination, to think of God as the final authority to whom we have obligation. Yet it is only in God we have the opportunity for true freedom. The rest of Daniel’s prophecies, and all of Scripture, reveal a God who loves humanity so mightily he will not settle for enslavement masquerading as freedom. It is only under God’s lavish grace and rule that we find true freedom from enslaves us most deeply.

Prayer: Lord, too often we are like little children struggling to pull away from their parent’s hand. Forgive us for thinking our better life is away from you, like the child away from their parent, without you we would only be lost. Renew our hearts for you. Guide our lives in your ways. Show us freedom through your love.

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Footnotes

[1] Harvard Class Day, 1988. As quoted by Timothy Keller, The Freedom of the Christian. Timothy Keller Sermon Archive, 1998. | [2] http://www.amazon.com/Expulsive-Power-New-Affection-ebook/dp/B003TZLQ9M/

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October 21, 2014

843 Acres: God’s Sovereignty as an Excuse to Sin or Trust?

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Dn 6 (txt | aud, 5:48 min)
Ps 112-113 (txt | aud, 1:51 min)

Sovereignty: Our manipulative subconsciouses frequently tell us that our sins are inconsequential because God is sovereign. We think, I should have prayed about that situation before I jumped into it. But then we quickly justify ourselves, Don’t worry. God is sovereign, even when you don’t seek him first. Yes, this is true that God is sovereign, gracious, and forgiving. Yet his sovereignty is not intended to give us an excuse to sin or to take sin lightly. What, then, is it for?

Conspiracy: As the new king of the massive Median-Persian Empire [1], Darius recognized that Daniel “possessed an extraordinary spirit” and decided to give him charge over the kingdom [2]. Jealous officials, however, feigned interest in Darius’ decision in order to destroy Daniel. Knowing that Daniel worshiped God, they convinced Darius to issue an injunction prohibiting anyone from praying to any god or man besides the king for thirty days—punishable by being cast into the lions’ den [3].

Risk: When Daniel heard about the injunction, he could have used God’s sovereignty as an excuse to obey the statute and disobey the Lord. He could have said to himself, “Surely the Lord did not call me into this position merely to lose it so quickly? What is thirty days anyway? I can pray when the exile is over, when it’s safe.” Yet he did not. Instead, he used God’s sovereignty as a reason to take a risk by continuing to honor God—praying three times a day, kneeling towards Jerusalem [4] and giving thanks to God [5].

Praise: When the officials caught him, they turned him over to Darius, who was forced to throw Daniel in the lions’ den. Daniel was calm as he faced his punishment, while Darius was distraught [6] – he fasted, refused entertainment and could not sleep [7]. Yet Daniel survived and even Darius recognized that his survival was due to God’s sovereignty: “ … He is the living God and enduring forever … His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed … His dominion will be forever … ” [8]

Prayer: Lord, You are sovereign. Yet we often use your sovereignty as license to sin rather than trust. Prepare us to take risks of obedience, as we trust you, believe in you, and put our faith in you. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] At sixty-two years old, Darius reigned over the Median-Persian Empire, which was the largest kingdom ever known at this point in world history, stretching to the Atlantic Ocean and past modern-day Libya, east towards India and north towards Turkey. Its massive expanse required efficient organization and, thus, Darius appointed bureaucratic officials (e.g., Daniel) to keep the kingdom intact.  |  [2]  Daniel 6:3 NASB  |  [3]  Daniel 6:7 NASB  |  [4]  He faced Jerusalem because it was a reminder of God’s promises to Israel, a reminder of the prophecies of Jeremiah and a reminder of the presence of God.  |  [5]  See Daniel 6:10  |  [6]  Daniel 6:16  |  [7] Daniel 6:19  |  [8] Daniel 6:26-27

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