Posts tagged ‘Isaiah’

August 31, 2012

843 Acres Reader’s Choice: Are We Busier than Jesus?

by Bethany

Reader’s Choice* Perryn Pettus | Why I like this post: This devotional really convicted me when reading that the default response people often have to, “How are you?” is either “Busy,” or “So Busy,” or “Crazy busy.” If Jesus – who came to secure the kingdom of God – had time to love and serve others when they needed it most, I should too.

843 Acres: Are We Busier than Jesus?
Highlighted Text: Matthew 14:14
Full Text: Isaiah 66Matthew 14

Busy | Tim Kreider recently critiqued the modern busyness trend, where people’s default response to, “How are you?” is either, “Busy,” or “So busy,” or “Crazy busy.” He noticed that it is usually the self-imposed busy people, not the people pulling double shifts, who boast complain about their busyness. Why are they so busy? He writes, “Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy … I can’t help but wonder whether all this histrionic exhaustion isn’t a way of covering up the fact that most of what we do doesn’t matter” [1].

Important | Jesus was the most important person that ever walked the earth. It’s impossible to overstate his significance. His life is our substitute, his death is our atonement and his resurrection is our hope. Indeed, he’s the center of history. As H.G. Wells said, “I am a historian, I am not a believer, but I must confess as a historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history. Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in all history.”

Unhurried | Given that he came to announce and secure the kingdom of God, Jesus could have told people, “I’m crazy busy”, but he never did. When he heard that Herod beheaded John the Baptist, for example, he wanted to be alone, but the crowds followed him [2]. Yet he didn’t rush them away, saying, “Now isn’t a good time.” Instead, “he had compassion on them and healed their sick” [3]. Then he hosted a dinner party for them, feeding more than five thousand people with only five loaves and two fish. Although his calling was the ultimate calling of history, he was never too busy.

Prayer | Lord, We confess that sometimes our schedules are full because we want to hedge against emptiness, wondering whether our lives really matter. Yet we stand in awe of Jesus, who lived a meaningful yet unhurried life. Let us bear his image, stopping to serve others even when we have our own plans. For we know that our lives do matter because our patient living testifies that your kingdom, which is full of compassion for all who seek you, is coming “on earth as it is in heaven.” Amen.

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More about Perryn: Perryn has lived in New York for 4 years and enjoys discovering new restaurants around the city and spending time in Central Park.

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More about Reader’s Choice: This week and next, we’re featuring “Reader’s Choice” to promote our 843 new readers campaign. Different readers will share their favorite posts and why they liked them. We hope this blesses you … and perhaps encourages you to help us reach our goal!

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Help us reach 843 NEW READERS by Labor Day, SEPTEMBER 3! We now offer two ways to receive 843 ACRES by email: five times weekly – Monday through Friday (your friends can sign up HERE), and two times weekly – Monday and Thursday (your friends can sign up HERE). For more information on this campaign, click HERE.

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On the M’Cheyne reading plan, our reading today is Ezekiel 3 and Psalm 39.

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FAQs

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Footnotes

 [1] Tim Kreider. The “Busy” Trap. The New York Times. Opinion Pages. 30 June 2012.  |   [2] Matthew 14:13 ESV  |   [3] Matthew 14:14 ESV

August 29, 2012

843 Acres Reader’s Choice: An Asking, Seeking and Knocking Prayer

by Bethany

Reader’s Choice* Carolyn Kohly | Why I like this post: The Lord wants good things for his children whom he loves but so often I feel unworthy and even fearful  to come before him asking with faith and persistence. This prayer reminds me of God’s love, faithfulness, and ultimate sovereignty.

Reader’s Choice* Susanna Kohly | Why I like this post: This is a pleasant echo of Hebrews reminder to “approach the throne of grace with confidence”. We so often tend to approach his thrown in prayer based on the judgements, scaling of human standards but we learn that we are only hindered from receiving grace when we don’t take him at his word, trust his promises, lean on his unconditional love and have faith that he loves us and longs for us to come to him.

843 Acres: An Asking, Seeking and Knocking Prayer
Relevant Text: Matthew 7:7-11
Full Text: Isaiah 59Matthew 7

Lord, You are infinitely and unimaginably strong, righteous, good, wise and loving. Although we desperately need you, we confess that we don’t come to you as we ought. You extend to us the greatest invitation in the world – to feast at your banquet table – but we come up with all sorts of excuses for why we can’t accept it [1]. Therefore, awaken effectual inclinations in us to pray.

Sometimes we feel so close to you that we can just ask you for things. Other times, however, you seem distant so we must seek you. There are also times when you seem behind closed doors. Yet no matter how close or far you may seem, you promise to hear our asking, reward our seeking and answer our knocking: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened” [2].

You keep these promises because we come to you through Jesus, who died to give us acceptance by and access to you. He has given us the right to become your children [3]. Therefore, although we may feel shy or unworthy to pray, Christ removes our timid doubts [4] and reminds us that we are coming to our Father, who always gives us good things: “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” [5]. Therefore, Lord, we turn to you and not another to hear us and give us good things – whether that means that you give us what we ask or something better than what we ask. Your will, not ours, be done.

We take you at your word. Although we may not fully understand how you answer our prayers, we trust your promises. Therefore, we pray. We ask, seek and knock, because we long for your unending goodness to come to us, our families, our church, our nation and our world. Let us, therefore, make new and fresh commitments to set aside time for prayer alone and together, knowing that you invite us to your banquet table that is full of eternal blessings for your great name’s sake. Amen.

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More about Carolyn:  Carolyn lives in New York and is a full-time nanny. She’s been reading The Park Forum since 2009 and is an avid traveler and foodie.

More about Susanna:  Susanna has been reading The Park Forum since 2009. She’s a New Yorker that somehow ended up in Los Angeles. She rides her bike to work and loves the sun. She believes public transportation makes people happier and dreams of building a subway system in southern California.

(We are featuring Carolyn and Susanna together today because they are a sister pair of 843 Acres readers.)

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More about Reader’s Choice: This week and next, we’re featuring “Reader’s Choice” to promote our 843 new readers campaign. Different readers will share their favorite posts and why they liked them. We hope this blesses you … and perhaps encourages you to help us reach our goal!

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Help us reach 843 NEW READERS by Labor Day, SEPTEMBER 3! We now offer two ways to receive 843 ACRES by email: five times weekly – Monday through Friday (your friends can sign up HERE), and two times weekly – Monday and Thursday (your friends can sign up HERE). For more information on this campaign, click HERE.

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On the M’Cheyne reading plan, our reading today is Ezekiel 1 and Psalm 37.

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 FAQs

How can I make a tax-deductible donation? Click here.
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What is the reading plan this blog is based on? Click here.

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Footnotes

[1] See Luke 14:18-20.  |  [2] Matthew 7:7-8 ESV  |  [3] See John 1:12.  |  [4] Martin Luther. The Sermon on the Mount, translated by Jaroslav Pelikan, Vol. 21 of Luther’s Works, [Concordia, 1956], p.234.)  |  [5] Matthew 7:7-11 ESV  |  [FN] For additional reflection on asking, seeking and knocking see John Piper, Ask Your Father in Heaven (31 December 2006).

August 28, 2012

843 Acres Reader’s Choice: On Outlandish Expectations and Strong Senses of Entitlement

by Bethany

Reader’s Choice* Tim Noble | Why I like this post: I am a millennial and I hate it when I fail at things.  But that’s because I forget that Christ’s victory over death far surpasses my inability to succeed at daily tasks.  Looking for my personal justification in the covenantal love expressed on the cross releases me from my “outlandish expectations.”

843 Acres: On Outlandish Expectations and Strong Senses of Entitlement
Highlighted Text: Heb. 12:3
Full Text: Is. 5Heb. 12

Millennials | Millennials comprise the largest generation since the baby boomers [1]. What are they like? Pew Research says that they are “confident, self-expressive, liberal, upbeat and open to change” [2]. Several years ago, however, Ron Alsop wrote in The Wall Street Journal, “[T]hese young people have great – and sometimes outlandish – expectations … an unusually strong sense of entitlement” [3]. He continued, “Where do such feelings come from? Blame it on doting parents, teachers and coaches. Millennials are truly ‘trophy kids,’ the pride and joy of their parents. The millennials were lavishly praised and often received trophies when they excelled, and sometimes when they didn’t, to avoid damaging their self-esteem.”

Glory | If Alsop is right, we have a huge opportunity to put God’s glory on display in our culture. In Hebrews 11, the writer lists the many Old Testament figures that chose faith over fear – e.g., Noah, Abraham, Moses [4]. All of them were persecuted, but none of them received what was promised – namely, their final perfection [5]. In light of their lives, the writer exhorts us, “[L]et us also lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely … looking to Jesus … who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross” [6]. He continues, “Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted” [7].

Context | In other words, we can show God’s glory in our culture by clinging to Christ, not our self-esteem, for endurance [8]. Our “outlandish expectations” and “strong senses of entitlement” are tethered to the age to come, not this age! We don’t need cultural trophies because Christ himself is our trophy. We endure adversity by knowing that after the cross comes the crown. When we view the world like this, we won’t grow weary. Instead, we’ll endure until we come “to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and … to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant” [9].

Prayer | Lord, You have given us new hearts and new identities. We don’t need to be coddled by this world because you’re on our side! [10] Give us a confidence that is unshakable so that we can endure adversity with joy because we know what’s coming. Let us consider Jesus, who endured immeasurable adversity for our sake, so that we will not grow faint of heart. Amen.

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More about Tim: Tim has been reading The Park Forum for 2 years.  In his spare time, Tim likes to try new restaurants with his wife, Kyo, or go on runs through Central Park.

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More about Reader’s Choice: This week and next, we’re featuring “Reader’s Choice” to promote our 843 new readers campaign. Different readers will share their favorite posts and why they liked them. We hope this blesses you … and perhaps encourages you to help us reach our goal!

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Help us reach 843 NEW READERS by Labor Day, SEPTEMBER 3! We now offer two ways to receive 843 ACRES by email: five times weekly – Monday through Friday (your friends can sign up HERE), and two times weekly – Monday and Thursday (your friends can sign up HERE). For more information on this campaign, click HERE.

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On the M’Cheyne reading plan, our reading today is Lamentations 5 and Psalm 36.

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FAQs

How can I make a tax-deductible donation? Click here.
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What is the reading plan this blog is based on? Click here.

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Footnotes

[1] Most people consider the Millennials to be those individuals born between 1980 and 2001.  |  [2] Pew Research Center. Millennials: A Portrait of Generation Next (various resources).  | [3] Ron Alsop. “The Trophy Kids Go to Work.” The Wall Street Journal. 21 October 2008.  |  [4] See Hebrews 11 (which is often referred to as The Roll Call of the Faithful).  |  [5] See   Hebrews 11:40 (noting that those who have gone before us “should not be made perfect” apart from us).  |  [6] Hebrews 12:1, 2.  |  [7] Hebrews 12:3 ESV  |  [8] The way that our culture views “self-esteem” is largely counter to the biblical perspective on how we should view ourselves. Yes, we should affirm people, but the problem lies in how we are affirming them or on what basis are we affirming them. For additional thoughts on this topic, see Sam Crabtree, “Is It God-Centered to Praise People?” 13 March 2012; Jonathan Parnell, “How Should We Think About Self-Worth.” 1 March 2012.  |  [9] See Hebrews 12:18-29.  |  [10] See Psalm 118:6Hebrews 13:6Romans 8:31.

August 24, 2012

843 Acres Reader’s Choice: On Whether God Keeps His Promises

by Bethany

Reader’s Choice* Mary Beth Hritz | Why I like this post: I like this post because every day, if I’m lucky, my world ends in some way because I come to an end of myself. This is also, however, where my life begins. For I can experience endings and beginnings with freedom since I exist forever and God’s promises can be trusted because my heart is already at home in Him.

843 Acres: On Whether God Keeps His Promises
Highlighted Verse: 2 Peter 3:8-9
Full Reading: Isaiah 222 Peter 3

Myth | As it turns out, the Mayans never thought that the world was going to end this year [1]. Archeologist William Saturno recently debunked the apocalypse myth when he discovered the oldest known Mayan calendar in existence. Although 10 percent of the world’s population apparently subscribed to the myth, Saturno found hieroglyphs that show the Mayan calendar reaches far beyond 2012.

Delay | Unlike the Mayans, we – as Christians – don’t guess the date or hour when the world will end [2], but sometimes our belief in the second coming seems no less mythical than the Mayan calendar. After all, it’s been over two thousand years since Jesus left his disciples, saying, “I am with you always, to the end of the age” [3]. Peter knew, however, that some would ask, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation” [4].

Reminder | Yet Peter answered, “But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” [5]. What evidence do we have that the Lord will make good on His promise to return? Jesus Christ. One thousand years before Jesus was murdered on a cross, David prophesied, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”Yet that was not the final word for David or Jesus. David’s psalm ends, “All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship; before him shall bow all who go down to the dust, even the one who could not keep himself alive. Posterity shall serve him; it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation; they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn, that he has done it” [6].

Prayer | Lord, We praise you because you are a promise-keeper, which we know because all of your promises find their Yes in Jesus [7]. We confess, however, that we grow impatient with you. Forgive us, Lord, and remind us that you’re not slow in keeping your promises, as we understand slowness. Instead, your seeming delay in returning is rooted in a deep love for us – that we might repent and turn to your great mercy. Amen.

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More about Mary Beth: Mary Beth practiced law for 23 years and is a member of Redeemer and lives in Connecticut with her husband George, who was our Reader’s Choice yesterday.

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More about Reader’s Choice: This week and next, we’re featuring “Reader’s Choice” to promote our 843 new readers campaign. Different readers will share their favorite posts and why they liked them. We hope this blesses you … and perhaps encourages you to help us reach our goal!

____________________________________

Help us reach 843 NEW READERS by Labor Day, SEPTEMBER 3! We now offer two ways to receive 843 ACRES by email: five times weekly – Monday through Friday (your friends can sign up HERE), and two times weekly – Monday and Thursday (your friends can sign up HERE). For more information on this campaign, click HERE.

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On the M’Cheyne reading plan, our reading today is Lamentations 1 and Psalm 32.

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FAQs

How can I make a tax-deductible donation? Click here.
How can I get these devotionals in my inbox? Click here.
What is the reading plan this blog is based on? Click here.

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Footnotes

[1] See John Noble Wilford. “Painted Maya Walls Reveal Calendar Writing.” The New York Times. 10 May 2012. New Mayan Discovery: The World Isn’t Ending! 10 May 2012. The Daily Beast.; Andrew Couts. Apocalypse never: Newly discovered Mayan calendar further disproves doomsday myth. 10 May 2012. Digital Trends.; John Noble Wilford. Painted Maya Walls Reveal Calendar Writing. The New York Times. 10 May 2012.  |  [2] See Matthew 24:36Mark 13:32.  |  [3] Matthew 28:20 ESV  |  [4] 2 Peter 3:4 ESV  |  [5] 2 Peter 3:8-9 ESV  |  [6] Psalm 22:29-31 ESV  |  [7] 2 Corinthians 1:20

August 22, 2012

843 Acres Reader’s Choice: The Lord’s Prayer Expanded

by Bethany

Reader’s Choice* Allison Florczak | Why I like this post: Growing up in church, I learned the Lord’s Prayer and recited it frequently, and sadly stopped thinking about the words I was saying. Upon reading this post, I realized how beautifully written and perfectly constructed this prayer really is. If we can just take a minute to really think about what we are saying or reading – it takes on a whole new meaning.

Reader’s Choice* Carmen Marin | Why I like this post: We become complacent in our daily lives and take things for granted…including our God and His Word. When we have the opportunity to read a post like this we are also granted the opportunity to refresh and renew our commitment to our Lord and learn to listen to Him with greater passion.

843 Acres: The Lord’s Prayer Expanded
Highlighted Verses: Matthew 6:9-13
Full Readings: Isaiah 58Matthew 6

Lord | Our Father in heaven.” | We proclaim that you’re our Father. Together, with those who have gone before us, we are your children. In Christ, we call you Father, as we seek you together. Unlike us, you’re in heaven, where you have perfect perspective. Our ways are not your ways. Here, sin and death reign. In heaven, however, Christ is king and he lives to intercede for us.

You | “Hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” |May your name be holy, may your kingdom come, and may your will done. May all that we do – how we relate to you, our families, our friends, our possessions – glorify your name. Set us apart as people who bear your name, Christ-ians. Make us holy, as you are holy. Make your gracious rule reign in our hearts. Let us not fear what those around us fear; instead, let us fear you so that we run to you. Let us obey your commands as a response to your abundant grace in Christ. We also pray that your name be treated as holy in our cities, as our good works are lights that shine your glory [1].

Us | Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” | We long to join you in making your name great, your kingdom come and your will done. Therefore, we pray for health, forgiveness and holiness. We need forgiveness daily because we’re sinners daily and we can’t thrive with guilt. Yet we don’t deserve your forgiveness, which means that we are called to show forgiveness to others when it isn’t merited either. Therefore, we plead through Jesus, our redeemer. We long to fight for holiness. We don’t want to keep on sinning. So we pray that you remove us from temptation. Guard us from sin and the deception of the Evil One. Let us walk in holiness for your name’s sake.

Amen | We agree with you that your name should be loved and cherished. For as many as are the promises of God, they are Amen in Christ; therefore, also through him is our Amen to the glory of God through us.

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More about Allison:  Allison has been reading The Park Forum since 2009.  She currently lives in Dallas, TX with her husband, Chris, where she works in the Marketing industry and attends Northwest Bible Church.  Allison is an avid foodie and also enjoys reading and Zumba.

More about Carmen:  Carmen has been reading The Park Forum since 2009.  She currently lives in Lighthouse Point, FL and attends Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale.  Carmen loves sewing and crafting and with the news of becoming a Grandma is getting all kinds of ideas for things to make…so excited!!! God is so Good!

(We are featuring Carmen and Allison together today because they are mother/daughter 843 Acres readers.)

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More about Reader’s Choice: This week and next, we’re featuring “Reader’s Choice” to promote our 843 new readers campaign. Different readers will share their favorite posts and why they liked them. We hope this blesses you … and perhaps encourages you to help us reach our goal!

____________________________________

Help us reach 843 NEW READERS by Labor Day, SEPTEMBER 3! We now offer two ways to receive 843 ACRES by email: five times weekly – Monday through Friday (your friends can sign up HERE), and two times weekly – Monday and Thursday (your friends can sign up HERE). For more information on this campaign, click HERE.

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On the M’Cheyne reading plan, our reading today is Jeremiah 51 and Psalm 30.

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FAQs

How can I make a tax-deductible donation? Click here.
How can I get these devotionals in my inbox? Click here.
What is the reading plan this blog is based on? Click here.

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Footnotes

[1] 843 Acres. “The Sermon on the Mount Was Not Tranquil.” 25 June 2012.

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July 4, 2012

Are We Busier than Jesus?

by Bethany

Highlighted Text: Matthew 14:14
Full Text: Isaiah 66; Matthew 14

Busy | Tim Kreider recently critiqued the modern busyness trend, where people’s default response to, “How are you?” is either, “Busy,” or “So busy,” or “Crazy busy.” He noticed that it is usually the self-imposed busy people, not the people pulling double shifts, who boast complain about their busyness. Why are they so busy? He writes, “Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy … I can’t help but wonder whether all this histrionic exhaustion isn’t a way of covering up the fact that most of what we do doesn’t matter” [1].

Important | Jesus was the most important person that ever walked the earth. It’s impossible to understate his significance. His life is our substitute, his death is our atonement and his resurrection is our hope. Indeed, he’s the center of history. As H.G. Wells said, “I am a historian, I am not a believer, but I must confess as a historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history. Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in all history.”

Unhurried | Given that he came to announce and secure the kingdom of God, Jesus could have told people, “I’m crazy busy”, but he never did. When he heard that Herod beheaded John the Baptist, for example, he wanted to be alone, but the crowds followed him [2]. Yet he didn’t rush them away, saying, “Now isn’t a good time.” Instead, “he had compassion on them and healed their sick” [3]. Then he hosted a dinner party for them, feeding more than five thousand people with only five loaves and two fish. Although his calling was the ultimate calling of history, he was never too busy.

Prayer | Lord, We confess that sometimes our schedules are full because we want to hedge against emptiness, wondering whether our lives really matter. Yet we stand in awe of Jesus, who lived a meaningful yet unhurried life. Let us bear his image, stopping to serve others even when we have our own plans. For we know that our lives do matter because our patient living testifies that your kingdom, which is full of compassion for all who seek you, is coming “on earth as it is in heaven.” Amen.

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FAQs

How can I make a tax-deductible donation? Click here.
How can I get these devotionals in my inbox? Click here.
What is the reading plan this blog is based on? Click here.

____________________________________

Footnotes

 [1] Tim Kreider. The “Busy” Trap. The New York Times. Opinion Pages. 30 June 2012.  |   [2] Matthew 14:13 ESV  |   [3] Matthew 14:14 ESV

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July 3, 2012

When Good Things Become Dangerous

by Bethany

Relevant Text: Matthew 13:22
Full Text: Isaiah 65; Matthew 13

Good | Most of our lives are filled with good, not bad, things. We eat dinner with friends, exercise at the gym, take the kids to the park, work at the office and volunteer with charitable organizations. We read books or newspapers and connect with our family or friends online. These are all good things, but they can be dangerous, too.

Choke | In the Parable of the Sower, Jesus warned about the danger of good, not bad, things. He said that some seeds “fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them.” Then he explained, “As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful” [1]. In other words, “weeds of worry and illusions about getting more” caused the news of the kingdom to have no effect on its hearers [2].

Value | That seems to happen so quickly. In one moment, we read about Jesus proclaiming the kingdom, performing miracles and calling us to participate in his redemptive work. In the next, our minds wander to the litany of good things on our schedule and the kingdom seems distant. How can we bridge that gap?

Reckon | Abraham Kuyper said, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, ‘Mine!’” [3] In other words, the things in our daily lives are tethered to our calling to bring the kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. Yet, as Jesus warned, if we want to bear fruit, we must look at those good things with eyes of faith, not worry or illusion. How can we do that? How can we pray that, in our planning and purchasing, His name be made holy and our hearts be guarded against the deceitfulness of riches?

Prayer | Lord, May we never seek your gifts more than we seek you. [4] We admit that we are easily enticed by “the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches” and, therefore, we ask for simple and discerning hearts. As we consider the good things in our lives today, give us your grace that trains us to “renounce ungodliness and worldly passions” and, instead, “live self-controlled, upright and godly lives”[5], as we wait for the return of Christ. Amen.

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FAQs

How can I make a tax-deductible donation? Click here.
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What is the reading plan this blog is based on? Click here.

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Footnotes

[1] Matthew 13:22 ESV  |  [2] Matthew 13:22 The Message (Andrew Peterson translation).  |  [3] Abraham Kuyper. “Sphere Sovereignty,” in James Bratt, “Abraham Kuyper: A Centennial Reader.” Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1990 (pp. 448).  |  [4] Matthew 13:44-46 ESV (“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.”)  |  [5] See Titus 2:11-14.

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July 2, 2012

How God Uses Us to Bring His Kingdom on Earth

by Bethany

Highlighted Text: Matthew 12:25-28
Full text: Isaiah 64; Matthew 12

Responses | As we saw last week, when Jesus went around Galilee [pic [1]] announcing the arrival of the kingdom of God, people were filled with great joy because he was going around cleansing lepers, healing paralytics, calming storms, expelling demons, raising the dead and restoring sight to the blind [2]. But not everyone was happy. The Pharisees, for example, accused him of being in cahoots with the Devil: “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons” [3].

Division | Jesus responded, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself … But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” [4]. In other words, “It makes no sense that Satan would work against himself and, if I’m not working under his authority, then I must be working under God’s.” These are the only two options because this is the only real battle – God vs. Satan, good vs. evil, healing vs. injury, generosity vs. jealousy, etc. [5]

Means | Have you ever realized that we are God’s appointed means by which He answers our prayer, “May your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven”? [6] It is through us – our daily decisions, activities and conversations – that God brings His kingdom on earth and declares it to be full of goodness, healing and generosity. We are His hands and feet “to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” [7]. As Jesus told his disciples, “Whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father” [8].

Prayer | Lord, We confess that we have been a kingdom divided against itself. Instead of using our lives to proclaim forgiveness and healing, we have sometimes embraced bitterness and injury. Forgive us, Lord, and give us great joy as the Spirit works in us to answer your great call on our lives. Glorify your name in our decisions, activities and conversations, so that others may see your kingdom on earth as it is in heaven and give glory to God. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] This photograph was taken by Bethany Jenkins at the Sea of Galilee on her recent trip to the Holy Land. She is currently in the process of creating a 5-day email course that explores the spiritual significance of various sites in the Holy Land. If you would like to receive this course when it becomes available (later this summer), you can sign up: here  |  [2] See 843 Acres. “The Proclamation of the New King.” 28 June 2012. 843 Acres. “Lift Your Voice! It’s the Year of Jubilee!” 29 June 2012.  |  [3] Matthew 12:24 ESV  |  [4] Matthew 12:25-28 ESV  |  [5] See Ephesians 6:2.  |  [6] See 843 Acres. “The Lord’s Prayer Expanded.” 26 June 2012.  |  [7] Isaiah 61:1-2 ESV; Luke 4:18-19 ESV  |  [8] John 14:12 ESV

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June 29, 2012

Lift Your Voice! It’s the Year of Jubilee!

by Bethany

Relevant Text: Matthew 9:35
Full Text: Isaiah 61; Matthew 9

Jubilee | The Law that the Lord gave Moses instructed the Israelites to work for six years and then celebrate the Sabbath Year, when they were to rest from their work and depend on Him to provide for them. Then, every seven times seven years – that is, every forty-nine years – they were to celebrate the Year of Jubilee, when they were to forgive all debts and release all slaves [1]. This was a magnificent year, full of great hope and joy.

Fulfilled | More than a thousand years later, Jesus went to the synagogue in Nazareth and read from the scroll of Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” [2]. All eyes were fixed on him and he said, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” [3].

Kingdom | His message was clear: the Year of Jubilee was here and he was ushering it in. The kingdom of God that he was announcing would be a kingdom of forgiveness and release. It would be a kingdom of celebration, where people would experience God’s grace and give Him glory with great joy [4]. As we saw yesterday, Jesus cleansed lepers, healed servants, calmed storms and expelled demons. Today, in Matthew 9, we read that he healed paralytics, raised the dead, stopped hemorrhages and restored sight to the blind. Matthew summarized, “Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction” [5].

Prayer | Lord, You are king who loves a party, where people are happy because they experience your forgiveness, release and healing. Therefore, when we pray as Jesus taught us, “Your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven,” we long to be people who throw great parties of great joy in your name. We want to point out signs of renewal in our midst and be people who spread forgiveness and release for your glory. We want to declare that the Year of Jubilee is here in the person of Jesus, our king and redeemer. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] See Leviticus 25.  |  [2] Isaiah 61:1-2 ESV; Luke 4:18-19 ESV  |  [3] Luke 4:21 ESV  |  [4] See Matthew 9:8.  |  [5] Matthew 9:35 ESV

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June 28, 2012

The Proclamation of the New King

by Bethany

Relevant Text: Matthew 8:27
Full Text: Isaiah 60; Matthew 8

Hopes | What hopes do you have for this election year? What kind of White House might get you excited to participate in government? Can you imagine a political culture that inspires its citizens to live as better neighbors, workers, parents and friends?

Miracles | When Jesus came to Galilee, he didn’t merely proclaim the kingdom of God with words; he also did mighty acts to show what it was like. He said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand” [1]. Then, as we see here in Matthew 8, he cleansed lepers, healed servants, calmed storms and drove out demons.

Rumors | This was the character of the kingdom of God. In the midst of an oppressive government, the alternative kingdom of God would heal people and calm storms. Such joy accompanied his works that rumors about him spread throughout Galilee and even as far as cities in the Decapolis like Amman, Jordan (63 miles away) and Damascus, Syria (135 miles away)! [2] As people saw him perform these miracles, they marveled: “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?” [3].

Callings | Today, God calls us to be citizens of His kingdom in our cities. We are to commit ourselves to deeds and words that say, as Jesus’ deeds and words did, that there is another ruler and another way of organizing the world. As Tom Wright reflects, “You commit yourself to the work of healing and liberation, both actual and symbolic. You commit yourself to freeing slaves, to loosening the bonds of debt, to bringing good news to the poor. And you commit yourself to doing those things, not as a grand social action which you will implement by your own energy and ingenuity, but in the power, and with the weapons, of the kingdom of God: by prayer and fasting, by truth and righteousness, by the gospel of peace, by faith, by salvation, by the word of God” [4].

Prayer | Lord, You reign as king and, at the end of this age, every knee will bow at your throne. Until then, however, by the power of your Spirit, we proclaim with words and deeds that your kingdom is coming. Therefore, let us seek you and, in our seeking, live to further your kingdom of healing and joy. Amen.

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Footnotes

 [1] Mark 1:15 ESV  |  [2] See Matthew 4:25 (mentioning that crowds followed Jesus “from Galilee and the Decapolis … and from beyond the Jordan” – 8 of the 10 cities of the Decapolis were not in Israel, including Amman and Damascus).  |  [3] Matthew 8:27  |  [4] Tom Wright. The Way of the Lord: Christian Pilgrimage Today (p. 54). Kindle Edition.


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