Posts tagged ‘Ecclesiastes’

April 23, 2014

843 Acres: Finding Patience to Wait

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Ecc 10 (txt | aud, 2:16 min)
Ti 2 (txt | aud, 1:41 min)
Highlighted: Ti 2:13

Waiting: We are all in the waiting room—for a test result, for a baby, for a wedding day, for a job offer. Here, in Titus 2, we read that we are “waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” [1] How do we wait, though, without growing cynical, idolatrous, and despairing?

Eros: Perhaps the old word for patience—longsuffering—better describes how we experience waiting. In Love Within Limits, Lewis Smedes contrasts patience born of natural love (eros) with patience born of divine love (agape). He writes, “Erotic love has no power for longsuffering. Eros is desire … It can be frustrated when we do not get exactly and enduringly what we long for. It can be betrayed when people renege on a promise to fulfill our need. It can be burned out when what filled us for a season suddenly leaves us empty. Born from suffering, eros is destined for suffering. That erotic love does not have power to suffer long is its built-in tragedy. It must suffer, but it has no strength for longsuffering. Eros cannot wait.”

Agape: Agape, however, “has the power to be creatively weak. Because it is not driven by ardent need, it has power to wait. It gives power to accept life, to find goodness in living while we are victims of situations we despise. This is the only way to explain two attitudes we observe in Jesus toward his own horrible suffering. In Gethsemane, we hear him plead with God to be spared the cross that lay ahead … The next day, as he bears his cross to Calvary, he tells the weeping women who follow him: ‘Don’t cry for me.’ Here we see his power to affirm himself as the loving Lord and free Savior who chose to suffer, to be a victim of suffering. He was not a helpless victim of tragedy; he was a powerful person who chose to be weak. He had the strength to become a victim even while he affirmed his own life as free in obedience to love.”

Prayer: Lord, Longsuffering is not passive, but aggressive. It takes power of soul. Our only hope in waiting, therefore, is the power of your divine love that moves us toward one another and toward you. May we seek your face and find your love that we may be longsuffering. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Titus 2:13 ESV

April 22, 2014

843 Acres: Tuesday Tweetables: The Same Event Happens to Us All

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Ecc 9 (txt | aud, 3:01 min)
Ti 1 (txt | aud, 2:10 min)

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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April 21, 2014

843 Acres: Metrics of Success

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Ecc 8 (txt | aud, 2:27 min)
2 Tim 4 (txt | aud, 2:36 min)
Highlighted: 2 Tim 4:7-8

Success: On Wall Street, success is measured when the closing bell rings. On Capitol Hill, it’s measured when constituents cast their votes. When it comes to our lives, however, how do we measure success? How do we determine whether a life was well lived?

Failure: Paul’s second letter to Timothy was his last. He was aging and imprisoned; he knew that his life was drawing to a close. [1] Was his life successful? First, let’s consider whether he was well liked. During his thirty years of ministry, he was deserted, opposed, flogged, beaten, betrayed, imprisoned, shipwrecked, left for dead, and stoned. [2] According to tradition, a few days after he penned this letter, Nero beheaded him as a criminal. What about the churches he planted? Were they successful? According to John’s vision in Revelation, the church that Paul planted in Ephesus would be told, “I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.” [3] What about his apprentice, Timothy? According to tradition, Timothy was beaten, dragged, and stoned to death by an enraged mob. In other words, from all external appearances, Paul’s life doesn’t seem too successful—he wasn’t well liked by the cultural elite, the church he planted abandoned their first love, and his apprentice was killed by a mob.

Perspective: Yet Paul writes, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.” [4] In other words, Paul did not measure his success by externalities, but by the Lord. And knowing that Jesus—who also seemed like a failure to many—was his great redemption, Paul knew that his life was successful.

Prayer: Lord, We praise you for making our success rooted in your love, not our achievements. Yet we confess that we often seek after those things that we think make us successful—popular opinion, professional reward, or influential relationships. Yet it is fighting the good fight, finishing the race, and keeping the faith that matter. Reform our hearts so that we take greater joy in being called your children than in accomplishing great things. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] 2 Timothy 4:4:6, ESV | [2] See 2 Corinthians 11:16-33 | [3] Revelation 2:2-7, ESV | [4] 2 Timothy 4:7-8 ESV

April 18, 2014

843 Acres Lent: How Great Is Our God

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Ecc 5 (txt | aud, 2:56 min)
2 Ti 1 (txt | aud, 2:20 min)
Highlighted: 2 Ti 1:8-9

Jerusalem: A few years ago, I traveled to Israel and Jordan with my parents. When we visited the Garden of Gethsemane, I entered the church on its grounds—the Church of All Nations—to pray. As I thanked Jesus for his sacrifice and the redemption of all people, I became very aware that behind me was the most contested piece of real estate in the world—the Temple Mount. Muslims, Jews, and Christians all claim it as rightfully theirs.

Nations: During my short time in the Middle East, I saw some of the brokenness between the Israelis and the Palestinians. As I prayed, I was so overwhelmed with sadness for this conflicted land that I wanted to sing. Since there is no talking allowed in the church, though, I used my headphones to listen to music. The first song that played was “How Great Is Our God” by Chris Tomlin. When I heard the chorus, “How great is our God—sing with me, How great is our God—and all will see, How great, how great is our God,” tears began streaming down my face. I felt like I—praying in the Church of All Nations—was calling out to all nations to “sing with me” for “all will see.” It was then that I experientially realized that Jesus’s desire is for all nations—no matter how much war is between them—to know him. This is why he chose to die—to break down the barrier between him and us and the one between us and each other. [1]

Gospel: How does he do this? Through unmerited favor in Christ, who is righteousness for all who believe: “ … God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace …” [2]

Prayer: Lord, In Christ, you reconcile your people to you in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility between us. This is why Jesus died. This is why he chose to die. To break down the dividing wall between you and us and the one between one another. Today, as we reflect on the offering of his body, we pray that all the nations will see that Jesus is Lord. We pray that they might know how great our God is. Amen.

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M’Cheyne Weekend Readings:

Saturday, April 19: Ecc 6 (txt | aud, 1:47 min) & 2 Ti 2 (txt | aud, 3:00 min)
Sunday, April 20: Ecc 7 (txt | aud, 3:24 min) & 2 Ti 3 (txt | aud, 2:01 min)

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 Lent - logo

We invite you to join us and the Women’s Bible Society to a Lenten Bible Listening Event on Thursday morning, April 10th.
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Footnotes

[1] See Ephesians 2:15-16 | [2] 2 Timothy 1:8-9 ESV

April 17, 2014

843 Acres Lent #TBT: Fleas in the Hiding Place

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Ecc 4 (txt | aud, 2:15 min)
1 Ti 6 (txt | aud, 3:01 min)

Solomon: Ecclesiastes 4:1-2

Behold, the tears of the oppressed, and they had no one to comfort them! On the side of their oppressors there was power, and there was no one to comfort them. And I thought the dead who are already dead more fortunate than the living who are still alive.

Corrie ten Boom: The Hiding Place

Corrie and her sister Betsie were put in concentration camps for rescuing Jews. Here, they have just moved barracks and discovered that fleas are everywhere. Corrie says that she has no idea how she can live in such a place.

“Corrie!” Betsie said excitedly. “He’s given us the answer! Before we asked, as He always does! In the Bible this morning. Where was it? Read that part again!” …

“Oh yes: ‘Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus.’”

“That’s it, Corrie! That’s His answer. ‘Give thanks in all circumstances!’ That’s what we can do. We can start right now to thank God for every single thing about this new barracks!”

I stared at her, then around me at the dark, foul-aired room.

“Such as?” I asked …

“Thank You,” Betsie went on serenely, “for the fleas and for—“

The fleas! This was too much. “Betsie, there’s no way even God can make me grateful for a flea.”

“Give thanks in all circumstances,” she quoted. “It doesn’t say, ‘in pleasant circumstances.’ Fleas are part of this place where God has put us.”

 And so we stood between piers of buns and gave thanks for fleas. But this time I was sure Betsie was wrong.

Months later, Corrie realized that the fleas kept the guards away, which meant they could read their secret Bible in the open.

And thus began the closest, most joyous weeks of all the time in Ravensbruck. Side by side, in the sanctuary of God’s fleas, Betsie and I ministered the Word of God to all in the room. We sat by deathbeds that became doorways of heaven. We watched women who had lost everything grow rich in hope. The knitters of Barracks 28 became the praying heart of the vast diseased body that was Ravensbruck, interceding for all in the camp-guards, under Betsie’s prodding, as well as prisoners. We prayed beyond the concrete walls for the healing of Germany, of Europe, of the world—as Mama had once done from the prison of a crippled body.

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 Lent - logo

We invite you to join us and the Women’s Bible Society to a Lenten Bible Listening Event on Thursday morning, April 10th.
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April 16, 2014

843 Acres Lent: Does Heaven Make Us Better Citizens on Earth?

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Ecc 3 (txt | aud, 3:02 min)
1 Ti 5 (txt | aud, 2:59 min)
Highlighted: Ecc 3:11

Heaven: C.S. Lewis said, “Heaven is the remote music that we were born remembering.” Ecclesiastes says, “For God has set eternity on the hearts of men.” [1] Is it dangerous, however, to believe in it? Does it make us bad citizens of earth? John Lennon certainly thought so: “Imagine there’s no heaven … Imagine all the people living for today.” In other words, he sang, until we realize that this is our only reality, we will not work to make it better.

Exile: Ezekiel was exiled to Babylon in 597 BC. Speaking to both exiles and those who remained in Judah, he predicted judgment and the fall of Jerusalem. After the city fell in 586BC, however, he prophesied hope and restoration. The last words of his prophecy end with a picture of heaven and hope: “The name of the city from that time on shall be, THE LORD IS THERE.” [2]

Staying: Believing in heaven makes us better citizens of earth. In the years after the resurrection of Jesus, the gospel spread precisely because his followed believed in heaven. Two plagues swept through the Roman Empire. In the course of about a hundred years, about 25-35% of its population was wiped out. Although no one knew how to stop these plagues, everyone knew that they spread by contact. As a result, people left the cities in droves. Even family members abandoned sick relatives. But the Christians stayed. They cared for their own and others. Many of them died. Why did they stay? Because they believed in heaven. Contrasting the flight of the famous physician Galen, historian Ronald Stark writes, “Galen lacked belief in life beyond death. The Christians were certain that this life was but a prelude. For Galen to have remained in Rome to treat the afflicted would have required bravery far beyond that needed by Christians to do likewise.” [3] To flee was the pagans’ rational response; to stay was the Christians’.

Prayer: Lord, We confess that we often keep away from people with bed bugs—much less the plague! Forgive us and lift our eyes to see the empty cross and the glorified Christ, who is the first fruits of our resurrection. Remind us that this life is a prelude so that we joyfully risk our lives for the sake of glorifying your name and loving others. Amen.

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 Lent - logo

We invite you to join us and the Women’s Bible Society to a Lenten Bible Listening Event on Thursday morning, April 10th.
Click 
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Footnotes

[1] Ecclesiastes 3:11 | [2] Ezekiel 48:35 | [3] Rodney Stark. Epidemics, Networks and the Rise of Christianity. January 2011.

April 15, 2014

843 Acres Lent Tweetable Tuesdays: Pursuing True Pleasure

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Ecc 2 (txt | aud, 3:51 min)
1 Ti 4 (txt | aud, 1:55 min)
Highlighted: Ecc 2

Discerning Brokenness

I said in my heart, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure; enjoy yourself.” But behold, this also was vanity. Ecc 2:1

Whatever my eyes desired, I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure. Ecc 2:10

I considered all that my hands had done & the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity & a striving after wind. Ecc 2:11

Imagining Redemption 

For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? Mark 8:36

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven. Matt 6:19-21

When we’re young, we pursue success for its own sake. When I was young, I admired clever ppl. Now that I’m old, I admire kind ppl. #Kushner

Praying ACTS

Lord, We #adore you for you give us all that matters – namely, you. Chasing after pleasure apart from you is a fool’s errand.

Yet we #confess that we often want to gain the whole world, lay up for ourselves treasures on earth, pursue success for it’s own sake.

We give you #thanks for answering the quest of Ecclesiastes by raising Jesus from the dead. In his life, we have life.

Thus, make us kind. Change our hearts to want treasures in heaven. May we not forfeit our soul for the vanity of this age. #supplication

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 Lent - logo

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April 25, 2012

Forgiveness Is Divine

by Bethany

Highlighted Text: Philemon 6
Full Text: Ecc. 12; Philemon

Getting Forgiveness | Onesimus needed to be forgiven. He was a bondservant who stole from his employer, Philemon, and then fled when he couldn’t afford to pay him back [1]. When he was on the run, however, he met Paul and then Jesus [2]. Following his conversion, he needed to reconcile his relationship with Philemon. So Paul wrote a letter to Philemon on Onesimus’ behalf and told Onesimus to deliver to Philemon [3]. Pastor Mark Dever writes, “Can you imagine the former slave standing in the doorway as his former employer opens the door – needing forgiveness, helpless to repay, cared for only by someone far away in prison?” [4]

Giving Forgiveness | When the door opened, there stood Onesimus. Before him was Philemon, who was a wealthy and prominent church leader and friend of Paul. In Onesimus’ hands, however, was a letter asking Philemon to welcome Onesimus back into his home. Yet how could Philemon do this? Not only would he struggle with trusting Onesimus again, he would also risk being seen as weak (by his culture that didn’t value forgiveness as a virtue) and easy on crime (by his other servants who might take advantage of his mercy). Paul knew, however, that forgiving Onesimus would cost Philemon something and, therefore, he wrote, “If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge it to my account” [5]. In other words, “Indebtedness must be taken into account and, therefore, I will settle the bill.”

Saving Forgiveness | Yet extending forgiveness is worth more than merely receiving back a payment owed. Philemon’s own appreciation of his salvation was at stake. As Paul wrote, “I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ” [6]. In other words, by sharing his faith – in the form of forgiveness – with Onesimus, Philemon himself would gain a fuller understanding of what Christ had done for him on the cross.

Prayer | Lord, We – like Onesimus – come before you with nothing to offer but a sinful record. We sin against you and then run away from you. Yet Christ is our letter of justification. We stand on his record. As we recognize this, help us to forgive others and, thereby, gain a fully understanding of your forgiveness. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] See Philemon 14, 18.  |  [2] See Philemon 11, 16.  |  [3] See Philemon 12.  |  [4] Dever, Mark; John MacArthur (2005-11-30). The Message of the New Testament: Promises Kept (p. 401). Good News Publishers/Crossway Books. Kindle Edition.  |  [5] Philemon 18 ESV  |  [6] Philemon 6 ESV

April 24, 2012

How often do you think about death?

by Bethany

Highlighted Text: Ecc. 11:9
Full Text: Ecc. 11; Tit. 3
Photo of the Day: #TPFperspective

Past | How often do you think about death? Apparently, people who think about it too much may have a mental health condition, e.g., depression, bipolar disorder [1]. In the first century, however, Seneca the Younger taught that thinking about death was an essential part of life: “What man can you show me who places any value on his time, who reckons the worth of each day, who understands that he is dying daily? For we are mistaken when we look forward to death; the major portion of death has already passed. Whatever years behind us are in death’s hands” [2]. Indeed, we cannot get back the years that have passed. They belong to the past; they are dead.

Future | Recently, we have thought about the future – last week, we reflected on eternity [3] and, yesterday, we thought about “faith in future grace” that looks back to the cross of Christ and forward to his return [4]. Yet, in our meditations, there has been an elephant in the room – our pending judgment. The Teacher in Ecclesiastes warned, “For all these things God will bring you into judgment” [5]. If all of us will be judged [6], therefore, is thinking about death a sign of depression or a sign of wisdom? Was Moses mentally ill when he prayed, “Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom”? [7].

Hope | When Christians stand in judgment, God will open the books of our lives and use our sins to glorify Christ. He will open the last page – Christ’s final hours on the cross – as the public proclamation of our faith and union with Christ. None will be saved by works [8]. Yet our works – if we are in Christ – will display a born-again and regenerated heart that humbly longs for more holiness [9]. As we saw yesterday, our condemnation is past [10]; our names are in the book of life [11] and the One who began a good work in us will be faithful to complete it at the day of Christ [12].

Prayer | Lord, Today, we see your glory. and, therefore, we know that we are unable to stand before your throne. Yet we praise your infinite grace for calling us to be co-heirs with Christ. Let us look back at the years that have passed and forward to the years that remain, knowing that our entire hope lies in Christ and resting on his perfect record. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] See T.C. Vollmer, M. Whitmann, C. Schweiger, W. Hiddemann. “Preoccupation with death as predictor of psychological distress in patients with haematologic malignancies.” European Journal of Cancer Care. Vol. 20, Is. 3, pp. 403-411. May 2011. See also Gallup. One in 10 Teens Thinks Often About Own Death. 29 June 2004.  |  [2] Seneca. Epistles, Vol. I. “On Saving Time.”  |  [3] 843 Acres, He Set Eternity on All Hearts. 16 April 2012.; 843 Acres, What Currency Counts Beyond the Grave? 17 April 2012.; 843 Acres, How the Love of Money Disguises Itself. 18 April 2012.; 843 Acres, Our Days Pass Like Shadows. 19 April 2012.; 843 Acres, An Elevator Pitch for Christianity. 20 April 2012.  |  [4] 843 Acres, Avoiding the Debtor’s Ethic. 23 April 2012.  |  [5] Ecc. 11:9 ESV  |  [6] See Rom. 14:10; 2 Cor. 5:10.  |  [7] Ps. 90:12 ESV  |  [8] See Is. 64:6.  |   [9] See James 2:14-26.  |  [10] See Rom. 8:3  |  [11] See Rev. 20:12  |  [12] See Phil. 1:6

April 23, 2012

Avoiding the Debtor’s Ethic

by Bethany

Highlighted Text: Tit. 2:11-13
Full Text: Ecc. 10; Tit. 2
Photo of the Day: #TPFperspective

Jesus | Last week, we reflected on eternity and, today, we consider our hope for eternity. Our hope rests on looking back at Christ’s work and looking forward to his return. As Paul wrote Titus, “The grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” [1].

Warning | When looking back, however, John Piper warns, “There is an impulse in the fallen human heart – all our hearts – to forget that gratitude is a spontaneous response of joy to receiving something over and above what we paid for. When we forget this, what happens is that gratitude starts to be misused and distorted as an impulse to pay for the very thing that came to us ‘gratis.’ This terrible moment is the birthplace of the ‘debtor’s ethic’” [2].

Nullification | What’s so wrong with the debtor’s ethic? Piper continues, “The debtor’s ethic says, ‘Because you have done something good for me, I feel indebted to do something good for you.’ This impulse is not what gratitude was designed to produce. God meant gratitude to be a spontaneous expression of pleasure in the gift and the good will of another. He did not mean it to be an impulse to return favors” [3]. In other words, the debtor’s ethic nullifies grace.

Grace | How should we look back and look forward? Piper says, “True gratitude exults in the riches of God’s grace as it looks back on the benefits it has received. By cherishing past grace in this way, it inclines the heart to trust in future grace … Gratitude exults in the past benefits of God and says to faith, ‘Embrace more of these benefits for the future, so that my happy work of looking back on God’s deliverance may continue’” [4].

Prayer | Lord, Thank you for Christ’s work on the cross. Yet guard us against thinking that we “owe” you something as debtors. Jesus paid our debt. Instead, let us look back at the grace of the cross and say, “That is the grace that I grasp for faith tomorrow. I am in Christ because of his grace, not my work.” Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Tit. 2:11-15 ESV  |  [2] John Piper. Future Grace. p. 32  |  [3] Id. 32  |  [4] Id. 38

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