Posts tagged ‘Ezekiel’

October 15, 2014

843 Acres: Belief in Heaven Can Make Us Better Citizens of Earth

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Eze 48 (txt | aud, 5:37 min)
Ps 104 (txt | aud, 3:14 min)
Highlighted: Ez 48

Heaven: Perhaps it is inevitable to believe in heaven.  C.S. Lewis said, “Heaven is the remote music that we were born remembering” [1]. Yet is it dangerous to believe in heaven? Does it make us bad citizens of earth? John Lennon thought so: “Imagine there’s no heaven … Imagine all the people living for today” [2]. In other words, he argued, until we realize that this is our only reality, we will not work to make it better.

City: Ezekiel was exiled to Babylon in 597 BC. Speaking to both exiles and those who stayed in Judah, he predicted judgment and the fall of Jerusalem. After Jerusalem fell in 586 BC, 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” [3].

Response: Believing in heaven makes us better citizens of earth. In the years after the resurrection of Jesus, the gospel spread precisely because his followers believed in heaven. Two plagues swept through the Roman Empire—the Antonine Plague (165-180 AD) and the Plague of Cyprian (251-270 AD). 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” [4]. To flee was the rational response of the pagans. To stay was the rational response of the Christians.

Prayer: Lord, We confess we often keep people with bed bugs at a distance; how 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 [5]. 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. [6]

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Footnotes

[1] C.S. Lewis. See also Ecclesiastes 3:11 (“[The Lord] has set eternity in the hearts of men.” NIV1984).  |  [2] John Lennon. Imagine.  |  [3] Ezekiel 48:35 ESV  |  [4] (If you enjoy history, I highly recommend this short article.) Rodney Stark. Epidemics, Networks and the Rise of Christianity. January 2011. In this article, Stark quotes Cyprian’s beautiful statement: “… the just are dying with the unjust … Although this mortality has contributed nothing else, it has especially accomplished this for Christians and servants of God, that we have begun gladly to seek martyrdom while we are learning not to fear death. These are trying exercises for us, not deaths; they give to the mind the glory of fortitude; by contempt of death they prepare for the crown … our brethren who have been freed from the world by the summons of the Lord should not be mourned, since we know that they are not lost but sent before; that in departing they lead the way; that as travellers, as voyagers are wont to be, they should be longed for, not lamented … and that no occasion should be given to pagans to censure us deservedly and justly, on the ground that we grieve for those who we say are living with God.”  |  [5] See 1 Corinthians 15:23.  |  [6] For additional reflection on heaven and how belief in heaven makes us better citizens of earth, see Tim Keller. “Heaven.” 8 June 1997. Sermon on Revelation 21:21-22:5.

 

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October 14, 2014

843 Acres: A Loving Father

by Steven Dilla

M’Cheyne: Eze 47 (txt | aud, 3:53 min)
Ps 103 (txt | aud, 2:04 min)
Highlighted: Psalm 103.13

Breakdown: There are few ways to understate the brokenness of fatherhood in our culture. Princeton historian Lawrence Tone says, “The scale of marital breakdowns in the West since 1960 has no historical precedent that I know of. There has been nothing like it for the last 2,000 years, and probably longer.” According to the Washington Times [1], in 1960, 11% of kids grew up without a father, in 2012, the number was 33%. Paternal absence is so high — near pandemic — that we have barely began a public conversation on quality or character of fathers. Yet for many, it wasn’t a father’s absence, but the character and quality of his presence that left the deepest wounds.

Fatherhood: While Scripture uses many images for God, few of them create the mixed emotions of talking about God as Father. Yet it’s God’s fatherhood that gives the depth, intimacy, and love we desire most in our relationship with him. If God is only a teacher, we miss the relational depth we need. If he is only creator we lack intimacy with him (he is like a watchmaker). If he’s only a judge he can love the law, but isn’t required to love the one in his courtroom. The Christian view of God as Father does not simply take the characteristics of earthly fathers and polish them up a bit. God as our Father creates a new image of a good, true, and perfect Father.

Love: But where is this fatherhood rooted? The Bible says God is love. Not just that he has love or shows love, but that his very nature is love. 1 Corinthians 6 could be paraphrased like this:

Dad is patient. Dad is kind. Dad does not envy or boast. Dad is not arrogant. Dad is not rude. Dad does not insist on its own way. Dad is not irritable. Dad is not resentful. Dad does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Dad bears all things for his kids. Dad believes all things about his kids. Dad hopes all things for his kids. Dad endures all things for his kids. Dad’s love never ends.

Prayer: Father, thank you for your love. We approach your throne in prayer, not on or own merit, but because we are your children. Heal our wounds from the brokenness of fatherhood in our lives. Restore our hope in you as our perfect Father. Embrace us in your family and empower us to live by your grace this day.

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Footnotes

[1] http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/dec/25/fathers-disappear-from-households-across-america/?page=all

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October 13, 2014

843 Acres: The ‘So What’ of Immutability

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Eze 46 (txt | aud, 4:49 min)
Ps 102 (txt | aud, 2:31 min)
Highlighted: Ps 102

The What: The Psalmist praises God for his immutability—that is, his unchanging nature: “Even they will perish, but you endure; and all of them will wear out like a garment; Like clothing you will change them and they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will not come to an end.” Why does this matter? 

Trust His Promises: First, God’s immutability matters because it is the foundation of our ability to trust his promises. Although God has made promises, they have little or no relevance to us today if he has changed—that is, it doesn’t matter that he once promised to work out everything for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose if he has changed. Yet he does not change and, therefore, we can trust that his promises are valid today—even though they were spoken to a different people living in different circumstances at different times.

Trust His Goodness: Second, God’s immutability matters because it is the foundation of our ability to trust his goodness. Not only does he make promises, his promises are good. As we experience our difficult and trying circumstances, we need hope that he will keep his promises and that they will be good. Since God has been good in the past and has not changed, then we know he will be good in the future—even if we question his idea of “good.”

Trust His Future: Finally, God’s immutability matters because it is the foundation of our ability to embrace courage. When we know that God will work for our good and that he has promised us a heavenly home, then there is nothing in the future through which he will not sustain us. Thus, we are not anxious because we know that he has not changed in his willingness and ability to provide for us. Let us, therefore, be fearless in the face of opposition and peaceful in the face of trials.

Prayer: Lord, You are the same yesterday, today, and forever. Yet, we often think that you are like us, whimsical in your promises, judgments, and desires. Forgive us for our flippant treatment of your immutability. Cause us to trust in your changelessness so that we can rest in your promises, your character, and your future for us. Amen.

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October 10, 2014

843 Acres: Weight of the World

by Steven Dilla

M’Cheyne: Eze 43 (txt | aud, 4:43 min)
Ps 95-96 (txt | aud, 2:33 min)
Highlighted: Psalm 95:3

Atlas: It may be partially as survival mechanism, but urbanites find near-perverse delight in the idiosyncrasies of city life. Pastor Taylor Field of Graffiti Church in Manhattan recently shared one of his favorite urban contrasts, found in a 7 ton bronze statue of the god Atlas. Although immense, and depicted with defined muscle, the figure of Atlas strains under the weight of the world, which rests on his shoulders. Because it is placed outside one of the entrances to Rockefeller Center, the 45 foot tall statue seems dwarfed by the scale of the buildings which surround it. Writing for The New Yorker, Adam Gopnik observes, “The tall building is the symbol of all that we hope for — height, reach, power, and a revolving restaurant with a long wine list — and all that we cower beneath.”

Rockefeller: Gopnik explains the ornate design of Rockefeller Center and its impressive artwork: “It was not that Rockefeller, in a burst of civic generosity, decided to go all out. It was that everyone then was expected to go all out… All the things that make Rockefeller Center immediately winning—the statues of Prometheus and Atlas, the molded glass bas-reliefs—were just part of what you were expected to do.” Expectations can be immensely heavy. We often find ourselves, like Atlas, crushed by the weight of the world.

Christ: Tucked humbly behind the alter inside St. Patrick’s Cathedral — just a few hundred feet from Rockefeller’s statue of Atlas on Fifth Avenue — is a significantly smaller statue of Jesus. The Christ stands, but a child, effortlessly holding the world in the palm of his hand. The Psalmist writes, “In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. …Oh come, let us worship and bow down.” The best reason to find ourselves kneeling is not because we’re buckling under the weight of the world, but because we’re falling in worship and submission to the one who holds it effortlessly in his hands.

Prayer: Father, we confess the pride that leads us try and live with burdens for which we were not designed to carry. Truly our lives, and everything in them, are yours. We are stunned, Father, by the gentle embrace of your grace. Our lives are restored by your kindness that leads us to repentance. May we grow in trust as we respond to your love for us.

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M’Cheyne Weekend Readings:

Saturday, October 11: Eze 44 (txt | aud, 5:21 min) &  Ps 97-98 (txt | aud, 2:11 min)
Sunday, October 12: Eze 45 (txt | aud, 4:52 min) & Ps 99-101 (txt | aud, 2:29 min)

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October 9, 2014

843 Acres TBT: Woe to Him at Whose Sin God Winks

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Eze 42 (txt | aud, 2:54 min)
Ps 94 (txt | aud, 2:00 min) 

Psalm 94:12-15

Blessed is the man whom you discipline, O Lord, and whom you teach out of your law, to give him rest from days of trouble, until a pit is dug for the wicked. For the Lord will not forsake his people; he will not abandon his heritage; for justice will return to the righteous, and all the upright in heart will follow it.

Thomas Brooks, Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices (1652)

It is the greatest judgment in the world to be left to sin, upon any pretense whatever. O unhappy man! when God leaves you to yourself, and does not resist you in your sins. Woe, woe to him at whose sins God does wink. When God lets the way to hell be a smooth and pleasant way, that is hell on this side of hell, and a dreadful sign of God’s indignation against a man; a token of his rejection, and that God does not intend good unto him. That is a sad word, ‘Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone’ (Hosea 4:17); he will be unteachable and incorrigible; he has made a match with mischief, he shall have his bellyful of it; he falls with open eyes; let him fall at his own peril. And that is a terrible saying, ‘So I gave them up unto their own hearts’ lusts, and they walked in their own counsels’ (Psalm 81:12). A soul given up to sin is a soul ripe for hell, a soul hastening to destruction!

Ah Lord! this mercy! I humbly beg, that whatever you give me up to, you will not give me up to the ways of my own heart; if you will give me up to be afflicted, or tempted, or reproached, I will patiently sit down, and say, It is the Lord; let him do with me what seems good in his own eyes. Do anything with me, lay what burden you will upon me, so you do not give me up to the ways of my own heart.

Augustine says, ‘It is a human thing to fall into sin, devilish to persevere therein, and divine to rise from it. Deliver me, O Lord, from that evil man—myself!’

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