Posts tagged ‘Isaiah’

July 4, 2014

843 Acres: We are busy. Crazy busy.

by Bethany

M’CheyneIs 66 (txt | aud, 5:28 min)
Matt 14 (txt | aud, 4:04 min)
Highlighted: Matt 14

Busy: Two years ago, Tim Kreider 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.”

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. [1] Yet he didn’t rush them away, saying, “Now isn’t a good time.” Instead, “he had compassion on them and healed their sick.” [2] 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 to love.

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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M’Cheyne Weekend Readings

Saturday, July 5: Jer 1 (txt | aud, 3:07 min) & Matt 15 (txt | aud, 4:28 min)
Sunday, July 6: Jer 2 (txt | aud, 5:51 min) & Matt 16 (txt | aud, 3:53 min)

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Footnotes

[1] Matthew 14:13 ESV | [2] Matthew 14:14 ESV

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July 3, 2014

843 Acres: The Deceitfulness of Riches

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Is 65 (txt | aud, 4:54 min)
Matt 13 (txt | aud, 8:13 min)

Jesus, The Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:22)

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.

Charles Spurgeon, Sown Among Thorns (an excerpt), 1888

Our Lord does not say “riches”, but “the deceitfulness of riches”. The two things grow together: riches are evermore deceitful. They deceive people in the getting of them, for people judge matters very unfairly when a prospect of gain is before them. The jingle of the charming guinea or of “the almighty dollar” makes a world of difference to the ear when it is hearing a case … Our line of conduct ought never to be ruled by gain or loss …

Riches are very deceitful when they are gained, for they breed in men and women vices which they do not themselves suspect. One man is purse-proud, but he thinks he is humble. He is a self-made man and worships him that made him. Is it not natural that a person should worship his maker? In his heart, he thinks: “I am somebody. I came up to London with half-a-crown in my pocket and now I could buy a whole street!” People ought to respect someone of that kind, ought they not, even though he may have made his money by very queer practices? It little matters how you make money nowadays; only get it, and you will have plenty of admirers and the deceitfulness of riches will enable you to admire yourself.

With pride comes a desire for wealthy society and vain company and, thus, again religion receives severe injury. There is apt to grow up in the mind an idolatry of this world and its treasures. “I don’t love money,” says one. “You know, it is not money that is the root of all evil, but the love of it.” Just so; but are you sure that you do not love it? Your thoughts run a good deal after it. You hug it rather closely and you find it hard to part with it. I will not accuse you, but I would have you awake to the fact that riches worm themselves into a person’s heart before he is well aware of it.

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July 2, 2014

843 Acres: The Problem with Forgiveness

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Is 64 (txt | aud, 2:02 min)
Matt 12 (txt | aud, 6:35 min)
Highlighted: Matt 12 

Beyond: Although the Lord is King, there is not even a hint of arrogance in him. There is no sense of indignation when he is spoken against. He does not retort, “How dare you speak to me like that! Do you know who you’re talking to?” On the cross, people mocked and spit on Jesus. But he prayed, “Father, forgive them.” In Christ, therefore, there is an enormous willingness to forgive. But can we put ourselves beyond his forgiveness?

Unforgiveable: Jesus says, “Therefore, I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.” [1] What is this “unforgiveable sin” that gets beyond even his infinite willingness to forgive? And how can we avoid it?

Resistance: Tim Keller explains, “There is no external sin that is too big to be forgiven. But if you resist the Holy Spirit, whose job it is to get you to say—without anger, without hopelessness, and without blame shifting—“I was wrong”, then that internal sin cannot be forgiven. There is a remedy for everything if you repent, but there is a remedy for nothing if you do not. With repentance, anything can be healed; without it, nothing can be.”

Prayer: Lord, Forgiveness is a huge problem—so huge that Jesus had to die on the cross. Your grace is costly, not cheap. Yet we have “a cosmic authority problem” that infects our hearts and desires. All sin is dangerous, but pride is particularly insidious because it keeps us from acknowledging all other sin. It keeps us from recognizing our brokenness before you and our need of you. It keeps us from receiving your mercy. It evidences that we do not have the Spirit, who convicts us of sin. [2] Therefore, we long for more of the Spirit so that we may repent of our pride and experience the fullness of your forgiveness. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Matthew 12:31-32 ESV | [2] See 1 John 1:8.

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July 1, 2014

843 Acres: Seeking Truth or Playing Games

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Is 63 (txt | aud, 3:21 min)
Matt 11 (txt | aud, 4:05 min)
Highlighted: Matt 11

Doubt: When Job questions the Lord, he assumes God’s existence and authority, saying, “Oh, that I knew where I might find him … I would lay my case before him and fill my mouth with arguments.” [1] The complaint of the average urban professional, though, looks less like Job and more like John the Baptist, who asks Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” [2] In other words, “I find your claims interesting. How do I know you are who you say you are?”

Generation: To evidence his divinity, Jesus says to tell John about his miracles. He then broadens his audience, saying, “But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’” [3]

Childishness: Jesus doesn’t say they are “like children” because he is against childlikeness—a quality that he lauds elsewhere—but because he is against childishness. They don’t care about seeking truth, but about playing games. Jesus did miracles for them. He spoke plainly to them. Yet they ignored the evidence because they wanted to play their own tune.

Prayer: Lord, You do not call us to blind belief; instead, you speak with us in the written Word and through the incarnate Word. In love, you sent Jesus, who spoke plainly about you and who performed miracles that we might believe. Yet even many who saw him with their eyes did not believe. They could not see the gospel as both the biggest dirge of all (“you are more sinful than you ever dared believe”) and the biggest party of all (“you are more loved than you ever dared hope”). The eyes of their hearts were closed. May that not be our testimony. Keep us open-hearted that we may reject the power of unbelief. For we know that no one is neutral; we interpret data according to what we think ultimate authority is. Therefore, root us in the gospel. Amen.

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READER’S CHOICE: Do you have a favorite 843 Acres reflection? Now’s your chance to see it again! In August, we’ll feature your favorite devotionals, so we need 20! Email us at info@theparkforum.org with (a) your name – first names only and pseudonymns are okay, (b) 40-50 word bio including your city, (c) one of your favorite 843 Acres, and (d) 40-50 words about why you like it. We always love this time of year, when our online community takes on somewhat of a new face! Submissions due by July 1.

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Footnotes

[1] Job 23:3-4 ESV | [2] Matthew 11:3 ESV | [3] Matthew 11:16-19 ESV

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June 30, 2014

843 Acres: I Have Come to Bring a Sword

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Is 62 (txt | aud, 2:16 min)
Matt 10 (txt | aud, 5:00 min)
Highlighted: Matt 10

Rebellion: When we try to oppose sin in our world or in our hearts, we face trouble – the world mocks our efforts and our hearts rebel against our aspirations. [1] John Owen wrote about the challenges we face in our fight against sin: “Sin is always acting, always conceiving, and always seducing and tempting … This battle will last more or less all our days … There is not a day but sin foils or is foiled, prevails or is prevailed upon. It will always be so while we live in this world. Sin will not spare for one day. There is no safety but in a constant warfare for those who desire deliverance from sin’s perplexing rebellion.” [2]

Sword: In a time when Galilee already had a powerful and dangerous ruler (Herod Antipas), Jesus was a revolutionary. When Jesus spoke of his purpose and mission, he often used war-like language. For example, here, in Matthew 10, he said, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” [3]

Souls: Yet he did not wield a sword of metal or ride into battle as a warrior-king. His sword was the truth and his battle was spiritual. This was even prophesied at his dedication. When Jesus was presented at the temple at only eight days old, an elderly prophet named Simeon told the young mother Mary, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” [4]

Prayer: Lord, When we come into your holy presence, you do not bring peace, but the sword, for you seek to kill the sin that entangles our affections. What pain this brings when we are in the grip of sin! Yet we praise you that, as we battle sin by the Spirit, you give us the fruit of a deeper and more abiding peace because it is rooted in being at peace with you. Therefore, let us not fear your sword that pierces our souls. Instead, let us embrace the killing of our sin so that we become broken-hearted, humble, tender and zealous Christians for the sake of your great name. Amen.

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READER’S CHOICE: Do you have a favorite 843 Acres reflection? Now’s your chance to see it again! In August, we’ll feature your favorite devotionals, so we need 20! Email us at info@theparkforum.org with (a) your name – first names only and pseudonymns are okay, (b) 40-50 word bio including your city, (c) one of your favorite 843 Acres, and (d) 40-50 words about why you like it. We always love this time of year, when our online community takes on somewhat of a new face! Submissions due by July 1.

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Footnotes

[1]See Matthew 10:16-25 and Romans 7:7-25.  | [2] John Owen. The Mortification of Sin. Abridged by Richard Rushing. The Banner of Truth Trust. 2004. pp. 7-8.  | [3]Matthew 10:34 ESV  | [4]Luke 2:35-36 ESV

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June 27, 2014

843 Acres: Sharing the Hope That Is Within

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Is 59 (txt | aud, 3:54 min)
Matt 7 (txt | aud, 3:29 min)
Highlighted: Matt 7

Public Faith: This year, the ministry focus of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan has been “Public Faith: Sharing the Hope That’s Within.” Tim Keller writes, “We want to be a church that’s relationally winsome, accessible, respectful, humble and loving in our posture, yet at the same time, clear and even brave in letting the people around us … know about the hope that we’ve got inside us through Jesus Christ.” Does this mean that we stand on street corners and proclaim the gospel or talk to everyone on the subway about Jesus? Not necessarily.

Discernment: One of the first things we learn about witnessing is not to tell everything. Witnessing is not blabbing. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.” [1] Here, pearls symbolize the great value of the message of the kingdom of heaven. [2] Jesus cautions us not to proclaim the gospel to those who continually and adamantly reject it.

Witness: Eugene Peterson writes, “Witness, apparently, does not mean telling everything we see and hear, breathlessly and indiscriminately. Reticence is as much as part of witness as expression. Jesus, descending the Mount of Transfiguration with the three disciples, instructed them, ‘tell no one the vision’ [3], not because it must never be known, for it came to be known, but because that was not the right time. There are numerous instances in Jesus’s life when he forbade those who were healed to tell about it. This was not because they had been initiated into a secret society, but because they were being trained in the exacting and difficult Christian skill of witness, in which there is ‘a time to keep silence, and a time to speak’ [4].”

Prayer: Lord, We long to have a public faith that is winsome, accessible, respectful, humble, and loving. To do this, though, takes the timing of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, give us discernment to know when to speak and when to stay silent—but let our silence not be rooted in fear or timidity, but in strategy, wisdom, and love. Amen.

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READER’S CHOICE: Do you have a favorite 843 Acres reflection? Now’s your chance to see it again! In August, we’ll feature your favorite devotionals, so we need 20! Email us at info@theparkforum.org with (a) your name – first names only and pseudonymns are okay, (b) 40-50 word bio including your city, (c) one of your favorite 843 Acres, and (d) 40-50 words about why you like it. We always love this time of year, when our online community takes on somewhat of a new face! Submissions due by July 1.

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M’Cheyne Weekend Readings

Saturday, June 28: Is 60 (txt | aud, 3:55 min) & Matt 8 (txt | aud, 4:17 min)
Sunday, June 29: Is 61 (txt | aud, 2:23 min) & Matt 9 (txt | aud, 5:13 min)

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Footnotes

[1] Matthew 7:6 ESV | [2] See also Matthew 13:45-46 | [3] Matthew 17:9 | [4] Ecclesiastes 3:7

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June 26, 2014

843 Acres TBT: The Prayer of the Lord (Watson)

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Is 58 (txt | aud, 3:15 min)
Matt 6 (txt | aud, 4:55 min)

Jesus, Matthew 6:9-13

 Pray then like this:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

Thomas Watson, The Lord’s Prayer (1692)

The introduction to the Lord’s Prayer is, “Pray then like this.” Our Lord Jesus, in these words, gave to his disciples and to us a directory for prayer … [T]he Lord’s prayer is the pattern of our prayer … The meaning is, let this be the rule and model according to which you frame your prayers.

“We ought to examine our prayers by this rule.” (Calvin) Not that we are tied to the words of the Lord’s Prayer. Christ does not say, “Pray these words” but “Pray like this”: that is, let all your petitions agree with and represent the things contained in the Lord’s prayer; and may we make all our prayers consonant and agreeable to this prayer.

Tertullian calls it, “a breviary and compendium of the gospel.” It is like a heap of massive gold. The exactness of this prayer appears in the dignity of the Author. A piece of work has commendation from its artifices, and this prayer has commendation from its Author; it is the Lord’s Prayer. As the moral law was written with the finger of God, so this prayer was dropped from the lips of the Son of God. “The voice is not that of a man, but that of God. The exactness of the prayer appears in the excellence of the matter. It is “as silver tried in a furnace, purified seven times.” (Psalm 12:6) Never was prayer so admirably and curiously composed as this …

The matter of it is admirable. (1) For its comprehensiveness. It is short and pithy, a great deal said in a few words. It requires most art to draw the two globes curiously in a little map. This short prayer is a system or body of divinity. (2) For its clearness. It is plain and intelligible to every capacity. Clearness is the grace of speech. (3) For its completeness. It contains the chief things that we have to ask or God has to bestow.

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READER’S CHOICE: Do you have a favorite 843 Acres reflection? Now’s your chance to see it again! In August, we’ll feature your favorite devotionals, so we need 20! Email us at info@theparkforum.org with (a) your name – first names only and pseudonymns are okay, (b) 40-50 word bio including your city, (c) one of your favorite 843 Acres, and (d) 40-50 words about why you like it. We always love this time of year, when our online community takes on somewhat of a new face! Submissions due by July 1.

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June 25, 2014

843 Acres: The Ultimate Countercultural Text

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Is 57 (txt | aud, 3:37 min)
Matt 5 (txt | aud, 6:46 min)
Highlighted: Matt 5

Countercultural: Some say that the core of what it means to be “countercultural” is to be authentic. Others insist that we need to stridently fight “the culture wars” in the public square. But what does the gospel say?

Kingdom: The Sermon on the Mount is the ultimate countercultural sermon (Matthew 5-7). It is a practical ethic for living in this present age. John Stott writes, “The followers of Jesus are so different—different from both the nominal church and the secular world, different from the religious and the irreligious. The Sermon on the Mount is the most complete delineation anywhere in the New Testament of the Christian counter-culture. Here is a Christian value-system, ethical standard, religious devotion, attitude to money, ambition, lifestyle and network of relationships—all of which are totally at variants with those in the non-Christian world. And this Christian counter-culture is the life of the kingdom of God, a fully human life indeed, but lived out under the divine rule.”

Perfect: How are we to live? Here, in Matthew 5, we see that Jesus calls his followers to be “the salt of the earth” that influence the world for good and “the light of the world” that openly live out their testimony. Instead of lessening the requirements of the law, he heightens them, saying, for example, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” [1] We are to turn the other cheek, to love our enemies, to have integrity even without taking oaths. And to “be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” [2]

Prayer: Lord, How our hearts are convicted, Father! Forgive us for not living in accordance with the gospel. By the power of the Spirit, work the gospel into our hearts so that we see what it cost you to purchase our lives—the death of your Son. On the cross, Christ freed us from living according to the law of this age. Open our eyes to see his beauty so that we cling to you with courageous and trusting hearts that love righteousness. Amen.

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A new simple, direct, question-focused Bible study is coming out on the Sermon on the Mount. It releases on Tuesday, July 1. If you want to delve more deeply into how to live counterculturally, I highly recommend it: The Sermon on the Mount by Jen Wilkin.

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Footnotes

[1] Matthew 5:27-28 ESV | [2] Matthew 5:48 ESV

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June 24, 2014

843 Acres: Satan Presents the Bait and Hides the Hook

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Is 56 (txt | aud, 2:05 min)
Matt 4 (txt | aud, 3:29 min)
Highlighted: Matt 4

Darkness: Evil cannot be reduced to its biological, sociological, or psychological aspects. We cannot “fix” it at its most fundamental level. The biblical doctrine of evil says that it emanates from spiritual forces of darkness that are deep and complex. How do these forces take us down? What’s their strategy?

Bait and Hook: In Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices, Thomas Brooks exposes several of the devil’s schemes. One of his strategies, Brooks says, is “to present the bait and hide the hook.” He writes, “Satan’s first device to draw the soul into sin is to present the bait—and hide the hook; to present the golden cup—and hide the poison; to present the sweet, the pleasure, and the profit that may flow in upon the soul by yielding to sin—and to hide from the soul the wrath and misery that will certainly follow the committing of sin.”

Temptation and Accusation: Tim Keller recently referred to this strategy as temptation and accusation. On the way into sin, Satan tempts us. He makes us overconfident in God’s love, saying, “It’s okay if you do this. God will still love you.” He makes God one-dimensional—only love—and plays down his holiness, saying, “Well, yes, it’s probably wrong, but others are doing it.” On the way out of sin, though, he accuses us. He again makes God one-dimensional—only holy—saying, “Look what you’ve done. You’re a failure. God cannot use you now.”

Weapons: Here, in Matthew 4, Satan does this with Jesus. He manipulates Scripture to tempt Jesus, saying, in effect, “God loves you. He doesn’t want you to starve or be thrown down without rescue or be denied the kingdoms that are yours.” This, of course, is true. But Satan is hiding the hook—what he offers must come by sinful means. “Make bread for yourself. Be rescued and receive kingdoms without going to the cross.” How does Jesus fight him? With “the sword of the Spirit, the word of truth,” saying three times, “It is written …”

Prayer: Lord, Make us wise to evil schemes. And give us courage to embrace the truth. We can avoid temptation by realizing that Jesus had to die for us—that is how sinful we are and how holy you are. We can avoid accusation by realizing that Jesus chose to die for us—that is how much he loves us. Amen.

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READER’S CHOICE: Do you have a favorite 843 Acres reflection? Now’s your chance to see it again! In August, we’ll feature your favorite devotionals, so we need 20! Email us at info@theparkforum.org with (a) your name – first names only and pseudonymns are okay, (b) 40-50 word bio including your city, (c) one of your favorite 843 Acres, and (d) 40-50 words about why you like it. We always love this time of year, when our online community takes on somewhat of a new face! Submissions due by July 1.

___________________

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June 23, 2014

843 Acres: A Beginning, Not an Ending

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Is 55 (txt | aud, 2:11 min)
Matt 3 (txt | aud, 2:33 min)
Highlighted: Matt 3

Jordan: There are two key Old Testament moments that point to the Jordan River. First, Elisha tells a high-ranking government official named Naaman to wash in the Jordan to be healed of his leprosy. He does and becomes a new man with a new identity. Second, Joshua leads the Hebrews from the wilderness to the Promised Land over the Jordan. They cross and become a new people with a new identity. Is it any surprise, then, that John the Baptist comes baptizing at the same spot—the Jordan River?

Jesus: Matthew writes, “Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him … And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.’” [1] When Jesus was baptized in the Jordan, the streams of history converged. “This was the moment,” writes N.T. Wright, “that would ever after define the people of God. The new covenant people were to be known as Jesus’s people.”

Beginning: His act of baptism, however, was not an ending; it was a beginning. It marked the start of his public ministry, not the consummation of it. And the same goes for us. “Baptism is our common beginning,” Wright continues. “It defines us as the covenant family of the one true God. With every Eucharist, as we say the Creed, we repeat the words that were spoken at our baptism, when, like Naaman coming up out of the water and finding himself cured, we declare that there is no God in all the earth except this one. And then, as we feast together at the family table, we discover that the God who called us into pilgrimage, and defined us as his sons and daughters in the waters of baptism, signifying our sharing in the death and resurrection of Jesus, now gives us the appropriate food to strengthen us on our way.”

Prayer: Lord, Baptism is our beginning. As we will read tomorrow, immediately after Jesus was baptized, he was tempted. This is our story, too. By the Spirit, we become new people with new identities, but then we have to live in our bodies and in this world. Therefore, we pray that you would root us firmly in our new identity in Christ. Amen.

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READER’S CHOICE: Do you have a favorite 843 Acres reflection? Now’s your chance to see it again! In August, we’ll feature your favorite devotionals, so we need 20! Email us at info@theparkforum.org with (a) your name – first names only and pseudonymns are okay, (b) 40-50 word bio including your city, (c) one of your favorite 843 Acres, and (d) 40-50 words about why you like it. We always love this time of year, when our online community takes on somewhat of a new face! Submissions due by July 1.

___________________

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] Matthew 3:13, 16-17 ESV

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