Posts tagged ‘Hosea’

November 7, 2014

843 Acres: New Vision for Success

by Steven Dilla

M’Cheyne: Hos 13 (txt | aud, 2:35 min)
Ps 137-38 (txt | aud, 2:06 min)
Highlighted: Hosea 13.5-6

“It was I who knew you in the wilderness, in the land of drought; but when they had grazed, they became full, they were filled, and their heart was lifted up; therefore they forgot me.”

Success: “Any success will tend to swell my head—unconsciously even,” Flannery O’Connor reflected in her prayer journal. [1] Success drives us from the divine in subtle but significant ways; it’s far easier to seek and pray when life seems beyond control. But what if the problem is not simply how we react when we succeed, but the limited scope of what we view as successful? If we give ourselves wholly to the pursuit of accolade in our vocation, or admiration from our peers, or even what can be accomplished in a single lifetime, perhaps we aspire too small.

Vision: David Foster Wallace observed, “Our own present culture has harnessed [money, body, power, and intellect] in ways that have yielded extraordinary wealth and comfort and personal freedom.” Even the greatest success, Wallace says, yields only “the freedom to be lords of our own tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the center of all creation.” [2] The authors of the scriptures viewed any success that man could attain on his own as a small vision—no matter how grand it appears on Earth.

Impact: A Christian understanding of success views some earthly successes, and sufferings, as contributors for the greater success of God’s Kingdom. O’Connor contributed greatly to American literature, but her heart’s desire was for something far greater. In writing about O’Connor’s prayer journal for The New Yorker, Casey N. Cep observed, “The journal is chiefly an interior one, a record of a Christian who hoped the rightful orientation of her own life would contribute to righting the orientation of the world.” [3]

Prayer: Dear God, we want to give our lives to things which extend beyond ourselves. Give us vision for people the way you see them. Help us to see the potential in our industry — the ways in which our work can contribute to human flourishing. Expand our vision and give us focus, even in times of great difficulty, that we might join in the work of your Kingdom right here and now. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Flannery O’Connor, A Prayer Journal. Macmillan, 2013. | [2] David Foster Wallace, This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life. Hachette Book Group, 2009. | [3] Casey N. Cep. Inheritance and Invention: Flannery O’Connor’s Prayer Journal, The New Yorker. November 12, 2013.

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November 6, 2014

843 Acres: TBT: Revelation of God (Warfield)

by Steven Dilla

M’Cheyne: Hos 12 (txt | aud, 2:06 min)
Ps 135-36 (txt | aud, 4:37 min)
Highlighted: Psalm 135.13-14

Your name, O Lord, endures forever, your renown, O Lord, throughout all ages.

For the Lord will vindicate his people and have compassion on his servants.

Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield, The Biblical Idea of Revelation (1915)

The religion of the Bible thus announces itself, not as the product of men’s search after God, if haply they may feel after Him and find Him, but as the creation in men of the gracious God, forming a people for Himself, that they may show forth His praise. In other words, the religion of the Bible announces itself as the revealed religion, as the only revealed religion; and sets itself as such over against all other religions, which are represented as all products, in a sense in which it is not, of the art and device of man.

It is not, however, implied in this exclusive claim to revelation—which is made by the religion of the Bible in all the stages of its history—that the living God, who made the heaven and the earth, and the sea and all that in them is, has left Himself without witness among the peoples of the world. It is asserted indeed, that in the process of His redemptive work, God suffered for a season all the nations to walk in their own ways; but it is added that to none of them has He failed to do good, and give from heavens rains and fruitful seasons, filling their hearts with food and gladness.

It is quite obvious that there are brought before us in these several representations two species or stages of revelation, which should be discriminated to avoid confusion. There is the revelation, which God continuously makes to all men: by it His power and Divinity are made known. And there is the revelation, which He makes exclusively to His chosen people: through it His saving grace is made known.

Only in Eden has general revelation been adequate to the needs of man. Had man not fallen, heaven would have continued to [surround] him through all his history, as it lay about his infancy; every man would have enjoyed direct vision of God and immediate speech with Him. By slow steps and gradual stages He at once works out His saving purpose and molds the world for its reception, choosing a people for Himself and training it through long and weary ages, until at last when the fullness of time has come, He bares His arm and sends out the proclamation of His great salvation to all the earth.

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November 5, 2014

843 Acres: A Loving God

by Steven Dilla

M’Cheyne: Hos 11 (txt | aud, 1:52 min)
Ps 132-34 (txt | aud, 2:35 min)
Highlighted: Hosea 11.4

Contrast: American action movies are visually distinctive in part because of increased contrast levels. High contrast levels draw vivid detail from very familiar locations, thereby change how viewers experience them. (For example, Midtown in high contrast is Gotham.) Contrast, though, is not simply the juxtaposition of dark to light, but the intensification of both in order to create a picture previously unseen.

The book of Hosea demonstrates God’s love through the visceral metaphor of Hosea’s faithful pursuit of his adulterous wife. The narrative is a high contrast of God’s love with the things that most destroy it.

Perspective: The prophet draws his readers to see the intense contrast of God’s love against perhaps justified apathy (on the lover’s part) and fear (on the beloved’s part). Notably, the emotions we fear most—deep sacrifice, anger, jealousy, correction, and discipline—are the very emotions drawn out in the contrast of God’s love, which leads to the restoration of a beautiful and loving relationshipGod says, I led them with cords of kindness, with the bands of love, and I became to them as one who eases the yoke on their jaws, and I bent down to them and fed them. Far too often the idea of love is confused with unconditional positive regard— a vapid acceptance without requirement of sacrifice or ownership. Hosea draws us to a love far richer.

Love: As C.S. Lewis says, “You asked for a loving God: you have one. The great spirit you so lightly invoked, the ‘lord of terrible aspect’, is present: not a senile benevolence that drowsily wishes you to be happy in your own way, not the cold philanthropy of a conscientious magistrate, nor the care of a host who feels responsible for the comfort of his guests, but the consuming fire Himself, the Love that made the worlds, persistent as the artist’s love for his work and despotic as a man’s love for a dog, provident and venerable as a father’s love for a child, jealous, inexorable, exacting as love between the sexes.”

Prayer: Father, thank you for the intensity of your love and the relentlessness of your pursuit of your Church. Truly you have demonstrated your love for us in this, that while we were yet sinners you gave your life on our behalf. Thank you for not accepting our brokenness. Thank you for loving us so deeply you would send your son, who rescued us from danger, and interposed his precious blood. 

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November 4, 2014

843 Acres: The Greatest Forgiveness We Need

by Steven Dilla

M’Cheyne: Hos 10 (txt | aud, 2:51 min)
Ps 129-31 (txt | aud, 1:58 min)
Highlighted: Psalm 130.3-4

Unforgiveness is the fruit of dehumanization. Ignoring the humanity of the offender justifies revenge. “Of the seven deadly sins, anger is the most fun,” writes Frederick Buechner. “To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor the last toothsome morsel of the pain you’re giving back to them, in many ways, is a feast fit for a king. The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down at this feast is yourself.”

Forgiveness is the fruit of suffering. Ghanna’s President, John Dramani Mahama, wrote for the Times about the day Nelson Mandella was released from 27 years of imprisonment and forced labor. “We wondered what we would do if we were in his shoes. We all waited for an indescribable rage, a call for retribution that any reasonable mind would have understood. Twenty-seven years of his life, gone. Day after day of hard labor in a limestone quarry, chipping away at white rock under a bright and merciless sun — without benefit of protective eyewear — had virtually destroyed his tear ducts and, for years, robbed Mandela even of his ability to cry.”

President Mahama continues, “Yet, the man insisted on forgiveness. ‘To go to prison because of your convictions,’ [Mandela] said, ‘and be prepared to suffer for what you believe in, is something worthwhile. It is an achievement for a man to do his duty on earth irrespective of the consequences.’”

The greatest forgiveness we need is the fruit of God’s deepest suffering. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” penned Paul in the years when Christ’s crucifixion was still viscerally close memory for his followers. Yet, because of God’s deep love for us—because he loves humanity so deeply—Paul continued, “and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” In this breathe the Psalmist sings, ”If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.” That fear, better translated awe, is the natural response to Christ’s great forgiveness which is offered freely, relieving our darkest death at such terrible cost.

Prayer: Father, we stand stunned at your grace. Too often we find ourselves like the unforgiving debtor. You have relieved us of our greatest debt, help us to extend your forgiveness to those who have hurt us.

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November 3, 2014

843 Acres: Sowing and Weeping

by Steven Dilla

M’Cheyne: Hos 9 (txt | aud, 3:05 min)
Ps 126-28 (txt | aud, 1:55 min)
Highlighted: Psalm 126.6, 127.1

Sowing: There are few images in the Psalms as dark as that of the man “who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing,” in Psalm 126. In an agrarian culture, a weeping sower has been overcome by the unlikelihood of success. He weeps because seed is a costly investment to plant in hard soil. He weeps because the people he loves the most will go through pain when no fruit is born. He weeps because the most important parts of the process seem out of his hands. 

Building: Christians have friends and family members we pray will come to know God. We do our best to invest our faith in them, but sometimes it is deflected by a hardness that is difficult to describe, either in origin or depth. Yet Psalm 126 is a Psalm of ascent—a song focused not on the despair of hard soil, but the promise of a God who restores all things. The reason for this ascent may be found, in part, in the first verse of Psalm 127, “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.” We find assurance that God is not only sowing with us, but cares far more than we ever could for the lives of those for whom we pray. God not only longs to draw them close to himself, he also has done everything necessary for them to thrive in relationship with him.

Home: Psalm 126.6 presents a paradox— that although the man “goes out weeping,” he “shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.” Sheaves are fruitfulness en masse. The man rejoices because the soil was softened in a way he couldn’t do on his own. He rejoices because what was once lifeless is now flourishing and feeding others. He rejoices because it was out of his hands, and now he sees he can trust the one in whose hands bear every good and perfect thing.

Prayer: God, our hearts break for those who do not know you. Give us strength to sow, even if we do so while weeping. Give us perseverance to walk with them each day. Most of all, give us faith in you — faith that you love them far more deeply than we ever could, and faith that you word does not go out and return void. We pray this in Jesus name.

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October 31, 2014

843 Acres: Three Practical Suggestions for Bible Reading

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Ho 5-6 (txt | aud, 3:39 min)
Ps 119:145-76 (txt | aud, 2:54 min)
Highlighted: Ps 119

Here are three practical suggestions for consistent success in Bible reading. 

Time: First, find the time. In our culture, the default response to, “How are you?” is usually either, “Busy,” “So busy,” or “Crazy busy” [1]. Yet it only takes about 90 hours to read through the Bible. This means that if we replace our average daily television watching, which Nielsen reports is 4 hours and 39 minutes [2], with Bible reading, we could read the entire Bible in less than 3 weeks.

It helps to set aside the same time every day. In fact, seeking God in the morning may solve our busyness problem. In What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast, Laura Vanderkam writes, “The madness of mornings is a key reason most of us believe we have no time” [3]. As the Psalmist sings, “I rise before dawn and cry for help; I hope in your words. My eyes are awake before the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promise” [4].

Plan: Second, find a Bible-reading plan. One feature of 843 Acres is that it follows the well-known and well-respected M’Cheyne Bible Reading Plan, which has been recommended by people like John Stott, Charles Spurgeon, and Ravi Zacharias. Over the course of one year, we read through the entire New Testament, the Psalms, the Proverbs and half of the Old Testament. 

Meditate: Finally, find at least one word, phrase or verse on which to meditate each time you read. In each 843 Acres reflection, we feature a “highlighted” verse and include it in full in italics within the reflection itself. We do this because we know that, even with a good plan, Bible reading can be a chore instead of a discipline of joy. We want our readers to think deeply about at least one thing they have read so that they can meditate on it throughout the day.

Prayer: Lord, We need the instruction, guidance and encouragement of the Word every day because we face problems, temptations, and pressures every day. We need to seek your face, hear your voice, feel your touch, and know your power daily. Therefore, help us to set ourselves in the way of gospel allurement by reading the Bible daily. Amen.

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M’Cheyne Weekend Readings:

Saturday, November 1: Ho 7 (txt | aud, 2:18 min) & Ps 120-122 (txt | aud, 1:57 min)
Sunday, November 2: Ho 8 (txt | aud, 2:04 min) & Ps 123-125 (txt | aud, 1:54 min)

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Footnotes

[1] See Tim Kreider. The “Busy” Trap. The New York Times. Opinion Pages. 30 June 2012.  |  [2] Brian Stelter. “Youths Are Watching, but Less Often on TV.” The New York Times. 8 February 2012.  |  [3] Vanderkam, Laura (2012-06-12). What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast: A Short Guide to Making Over Your Mornings–and Life (Kindle Location 96). Penguin Group. Kindle Edition.  |   [4] Psalm 119:147-148 ESV

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October 30, 2014

843 Acres TBT: The Silken Fetter

by Steven Dilla

M’Cheyne: Hos 3-4 (txt | aud, 3:41 min)
Ps 119.121-44 (txt | aud, 2:17 min)
Highlighted: Hos 3.5

Charles Spurgeon, The Silken Fetter (1869)

The goodness of God to us should suggest aspiration as well as adoration. If He has treated us so as never any other did. If He has dealt with us in tenderness surpassing thought, then will we serve Him if He will but condescend to accept the sacrifice. There was never such a God as He. Oh, what an honor to be His servants! With tears of joy bedewing our eyes, we ask, “My God, may we be permitted to serve You? Is there anything of service or of suffering which You can condescend to allot to such as we are? Your goodness constrains us with Your fear—we are bound by it to be Yours forever.”

Brethren, the greatness of God’s goodness should suggest to us great service. The continuance of that goodness should move us to persevere in honoring Him. The disinterestedness of the love of God should make us ready for any self-denials. And above all, the singularity and specialty of His goodness towards His elect should determine us to be singular and remarkable in our consecration to His cause. Each Believer is so remarkably a debtor to his Lord that he should not be content to render mere ordinary tribute, but should be panting and sighing that he may attain to eminence in holy labor. He owes more than others—He should render a worthier return.

We should also fear the Lord and His goodness in the sense of affection—an affection combined with the fears peculiar to holy jealousy. Has the Lord done so much for us? Then how we ought to tremble lest we should grieve so kind a God! If you have a master for whom you do not care because he is ungenerous or tyrannical, you will be little careful to please him, except so far as your sense of duty might demand. But when you are serving a kind and generous person who has been your benefactor from your youth up, you would not, for all the world, vex him either by negligence or fault. No father commands the obedience of his children like the parent whose affection to his children has been most manifest and undoubted.

Our gracious God wins the deepest affection of His people and they become jealous lest by anything done or undone they should grieve His Holy Spirit. Oh, that blessed, holy fear, that sacred jealousy of sin! I wish we all had more of it.

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October 29, 2014

843 Acres: Love or Loathe the Bible

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Ho 2 (txt | aud, 3:51 min)
Ps 119:97-120 (txt | aud, 2:11 min)
Highlighted: Ps 119

Authority: “Americans may love the Bible or loathe it,” wrote Ann Monroe in Mother Jones. “But for the most part, they read it the same (when they read it at all): as the manifesto of a God who has a lot of laws and a definite inclination to punish those who don’t follow them” [1]. We may think that an authoritative text precludes intimacy, but a personal relationship requires someone who talks back. A one-sided relationship is exploitive, not personal. How can we pursue a relationship with God in which our will is crossed and our thoughts are contradicted? 

Wisdom: The Psalmist celebrated the Word for its authority and ability to cross and contradict us. For the Lord’s wisdom transcends the wisdom of those from whom we traditionally seek it: “Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day … I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the aged, for I keep your precepts” [2].

Discipline: In Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, Donald Whitney writes, “No Spiritual Discipline is more important than the intake of God’s Word. Nothing can substitute for it. There is simply no healthy Christian life apart from a diet of the milk and meat of Scripture. The reasons for this are obvious. In the Bible God tells us about himself, and especially about Jesus Christ, the incarnation of God. The Bible unfolds the Law of God to us and shows us how we’ve all broken it. There we learn how Christ died as a sinless, willing Substitute for breakers of God’s Law and how we must repent and believe in him to be right with God. In the Bible we learn the ways and will of the Lord. We find in Scripture how to live in a way that is pleasing to God as well as best and most fulfilling for ourselves. None of this eternally essential information can be found anywhere else except the Bible. Therefore if we would know God and be godly, we must know the Word of God – intimately” [3].

Prayer: Lord, We need more than just words to survive. We need the Word himself. Since the Bible is the essential place to find him, we turn to it and long for a more disciplined intake of it. Make it our meditation all the day. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Ann Monroe. “Does the Bible Tell Me So?” Mother Jones. November/December 1997.  |  [2] Psalm 119:97-100 ESV  |  [3] Donald S. Whitney. Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life. Colorado Springs, CO. NavPress. p. 26

 

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October 28, 2014

843 Acres: God Sows

by Steven Dilla

M’Cheyne: Hos 1 (txt | aud, 2:06 min)
Ps 119.73-96 (txt | aud, 15:42 min)
Highlighted: Hos 1.4, 11

Jezreel: It can be easy, in the spectacle of Hosea’s call from God to marry a pagan temple prostitute, to overlook the significance of the couple’s children. Yet God used each child’s name to introduce a new message to his people. The firstborn was named Jezreel, after the field which hosted one of Israel’s greatest tragedies — a wicked royal couple murdering a man to take his vineyard for themselves (1 Kings 21.1-16). Their actions reverberated through generations of ancient Israeli royalty, each departing from God and using their power to serve themselves. The very mention of “Jezreel” surfaced the painful emotions associated with the lasting effects of national waywardness.

Chosen: In the midst of this pain God also delivered a message of hope to his people. In Hebrew the name Jezreel means, “God Sows.” An ancient Near Eastern sower would hand-select his seed, sometimes leveraging all he had to purchase precisely what he wanted to cultivate. The sower would then place the seed in hot water, boiling off contaminants which would kill the seed when its shell opened. The seed was then moved to cool water where it would sit while the sower prepared the field. The cool water fortified the outside of the shell as the sower worked to remove thorns and rocks which would stunt growth. Finally, the sower would load the seed in his satchel, walk into the field and place it in the ready soil for the growth process to begin.

Pursued: The message God had for his people was one of redemption — and it is no different for us today. When we come to Christ there is natural pain felt from our waywardness. Yet we are not left alone. God chose us, and sacrificed greatly to purchase us. He refines his children, through sometimes painful experiences, burning off sin that threatens to destroy us. He fortifies through community, building his people up through his Church. Then he roots his children, in prepared places, to bear fruit for the benefit of others.

Prayer: Father, thank you that you are a God who sows. Thank you for giving us the message of Hosea which demonstrates your ceaseless pursuit even in the face of waywardness. Give us hope in your guiding hand, especially when you use difficulty to refine us. Help us to see the ground you’ve prepared for us and give us the privilege of bearing the fruit of your Spirit where we are planted. Amen.

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November 8, 2012

Community as Discipline: Who We Are

by Bethany

Highlighted Text: Psalm 139:1, 13-16
M’Cheyne Text: Hosea 14; Psalm 139

Lived: What are we making of our lives? What are we doing with them? Our lives are not our own. They are trusts given to us for a set period of time. When we get up in the morning and face the day, do we ask questions like these – How can I live meaningfully today? What should I make of the day? What do I hope to achieve by the end of it?

Created: David praised the Lord, “O Lord, you have searched me and known me! … For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them” [1].

Encouraged: In community, we come together as people who are fearfully and wonderfully made by our Lord. We gather together as His people in order to fill our hearts with hope in God and encourage one another in Him. As the writer of Hebrews exhorted his readers, “Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” [2].

Prayer: Lord, Our lives are precious and given to us by you. You fearfully and wonderfully made us to glorify and enjoy you forever. Therefore, let us fill our hearts with hope in you, as we meet together to direct our wavering hearts to hope and trust in you. Let us spend our unique lives meaningfully today, reminding one another that we were made by you in the depths of the earth for a set number of days that you have appointed. Amen.

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Audio: Bible Listening (3.59 minutes total)

·      Hosea 14 (1:38 minutes) – here

·      Psalm 139 (2:21 minutes) – here

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Footnotes

[1] Psalm 139:1, 13-16 ESV  |  [2] Hebrews 10:23-25 ESV

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