Posts tagged ‘Jeremiah’

August 21, 2014

843 Acres: Redeeming Our Commute

by Bethany

Reader’s Choice: Perryn Pettus:  I’m an introvert. It’s freeing to know this about myself, but can too easily become a shield for protection of my personal space and time. This devotional struck me in a deep way, “When we talk to strangers, we stand to gain much more than the ‘me time’ we might lose.” Of course it’s an interesting study based on scientific facts, but the more interesting thing is, in order to truly know those around me—in an attempt to see into others like Jesus sees me—I must fight against the erroneous belief that the greatest pleasures are in solitude.

843 Acres: Redeeming Our Commute
Originally published on April 30, 2014
Highlighted: Heb 5:8-9

do not touch anyone. It’s no wonder, then, why “commuting is associated with fewer positive emotions than any other common daily activity”—after all, we’re told to be alone when we’re smack dab in the middle of community. Can commuting be redeemed?

Guide: Jesus learned obedience—not because he disobeyed, but because he needed to experience suffering and temptation first-hand to qualify as our sympathetic high priest. [1] He needed to suffer in order to be made “perfect” for the job. As Hebrews says,“Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him.” [2] His learning, however, took place in an incarnate life, not a classroom. Jesus did not come as an anthropologist to learn about us in a detached way. He came into the fabric of our everyday lives, in the commonness of our humanity. [3]

Choice: Commuting is part of our ordinary, daily lives. When we commute, however, we get to choose whether we will see people or see through them. Recently, Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton reported in the New York Times Magazine on a study showing that those who talked with strangers had a more positive commuting experience than those who sat in solitude. They concluded,  “Rather than fall back on our erroneous belief in the pleasures of solitude, we could reach out to other people. At least, when we walk down the street, we can refuse to accept a world where people look at one another as though through air. When we talk to strangers, we stand to gain much more than the ‘me time’ we might lose.”

Prayer: Lord, In becoming incarnate, Jesus broke down the wall of solitude between us and you. He saw into us, not through us—becoming our high priest and sympathizing with us in our weaknesses. Although we often fear engaging with strangers, may we not fall back on the erroneous belief in the pleasures of solitude. May we smile at others, reaching out to them as you have reached out to us. Amen. 

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About Perryn: Perryn has lived in New York City for 6 years and enjoys traveling to obscure spots in the outer boroughs to try new restaurants.

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M’Cheyne Reading as Scheduled:

Jer 50 (text | audio, 8:37 min)
Ps 28-29 (text | audio, 1:12 min )

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Footnotes

[1] The full meaning of “perfect” is not only “flawless,” but also “complete”. | [2] Hebrews 5:8-9 ESV | [3] Theology of Work. “Hebrews.”

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August 20, 2014

843 Acres: Reader’s Choice: Christopher Hitchens and Christian Unity

by Bethany

Reader’s Choice: Shelley Kemp: Thank you! This is excellent! There’s all kinds of disunity amongst true believers even down to feelings of superiority over eating organic foods (which I do for my health) and whether or not to immunize your children. Our sinful hearts major on the minors excessively while Paul’s heart for the Christians in Rome focused on unity as well and the law of love. Of course, Paul was following Christ’s example. We are breathtaking in our arrogance.

843 Acres: Reader’s Choice: Christopher Hitchens and Christian Unity
Originally published on May 16, 2014.
Highlighted: 1 Pet 3:8

Unity: Have you ever noticed that Jesus prayed specifically for us–you and me? In one of his last prayers, he said, “I do not ask for [the apostles] only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word.” [1] We are–“those who will believe in me through their word.” What did he pray for us? Unity: “that they be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us.” [2] Peter, too, wrote, “Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.” [3] What is at stake in our unity?

Observation: While Christopher Hitchens was undergoing various cancer treatments, he journaled his thoughts about dying. These thoughts were published posthumously in a short book of essays called Mortality. In one essay, Hitchens–a renowned atheist–offers an insightful observation on Christian unity: “If I were to announce that I had suddenly converted to Catholicism, I know that [two particular fundamentalist evangelicals] would feel I had fallen into grievous error. On the other hand, if I were to join either of their Protestant evangelical groups, the followers of Rome would not think my soul was much safer than it is now …” [4]

Disunity: The debate he observes is not merely Catholic vs. Protestant; it’s also Presbyterian (PCA, PCUSA, etc.) vs. Baptist (SBC, CBF, etc.) vs. Methodist (EMC, UMC, etc.) and more. To be sure, there are important doctrinal differences between these groups that should be taken seriously–sometimes very seriously. Yet how we talk–our tone, sympathy, and love–about those with whom we disagree, though, can tell us about our own views on unity. Do we have hearts that long to pray with Jesus, saying, “Make us one, just as the Son and the Father are one, that we together may be in the Christ”?

Prayer: Lord, Freud coined the phrase–“the narcissism of minor differences”–and we confess that our sinful human nature seeks to make major differences out of minor ones because we are prideful. There are, of course, some differences that cannot be overcome. Where we can, however, give us “unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind”. For when Jesus prayed for us, he told us what is at stake in our unity: “that the world may believe that you have sent me.” [5] Amen.

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About Shelley: Shelley is a Christ-following, homeschooling mom who primarily loves to write to encourage her family in the Lord. She lives outside of Philadelphia; has borderline chronic fatigue syndrome and feels extremely thankful for her husband, Mark, who always lightens her heart and causes her to look to Christ no matter how brain-foggy the day starts.

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M’Cheyne Reading as Scheduled:

Jer 49 (txt | aud, 6:45 min)
Ps 26-27 (txt | aud, 1:06 min)

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Footnotes

[1] John 17:20 ESV | [2] John 17:21 | [3] 1 Peter 3:8 | [4] Hitchens also writes about how Christians engaged with him as he was dying. Although he wasn’t always accurate in his assessment ofChristian theology, his voice about how he was treated during this time is important (and painful) to hear. (One notable exception was his friend Frances Collins, who was lovely, he said.) | [5] John 17:21

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August 19, 2014

843 Acres: Unconditional Love vs Contraconditional Love

by Bethany

Reader’s Choice: Jessica Hong: I love this post because I loved learning the term “contraconditional” love. Contrary to what I deserve, God loves me. He loves me so much that he would never leave me nor forsake me. He loves me so much that He seeks to renew me in the beautiful and glorious image of Christ.

843 Acres: Unconditional Love vs Contraconditional Love
Originally published on September 18, 2013.
Highlighted: 2 Cor 7:9-10

Love: In 1961, psychologist Carl Rogers popularized the term, “unconditional positive regard,” suggesting that we must love our children for who they are, not for what they do [1]. In 2004, TV personality Phil McGraw argued that what children want or need should be offered contingently until they “behave according to your wishes” [2]. Supernanny agreed: “The best rewards are attention, praise and love,” and these should be held back “when the child behaves badly until she says she is sorry” [3].

Grief: In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul called out their conflicts, divisions and immorality. He did not write these things to make them feel “ashamed,” but to “admonish” them as “beloved children” [4]. When he heard that his letter grieved them, he wrote again, saying, “I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death” [5]. Paul did not have an “unconditional positive regard” for the Corinthians nor did he withhold his love from them until they behaved according to his wishes; his love was neither permissive nor manipulative.

Contraconditional: God’s love is something more than unconditional. As David Powlison has written, “God does not accept me just as I am; He loves me despite how I am; He loves me just as Jesus is; He loves me enough to devote my life to renewing me in the image of Jesus. This love is much, much, much better than unconditional! Perhaps we could call it ‘contraconditional’ love … Contrary to my due, He loves me. And now I can begin to change, not to earn love but because of love … You need something better than unconditional love. You need the crown of thorns … You need the promise to the repentant thief. You need to know, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’ You need forgiveness. You need … a Father, a Savior. You need to become like the one who loves you. You need the better love of Jesus” [6].

Prayer: Lord, What wondrous love is this! Your love for us is neither permissive nor manipulative. How desperately we need your love so that we can live as Paul, loving others as you do. Give us the crown of thorns and the better love of Jesus. Amen.

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About Jessica: Jessica loves working for The Park Forum because she loves working with her friend Bethany Jenkins. She is an Associate Community Group Director at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. She’s a Philly girl at heart and is an avid follower of the Philadelphia Eagles.

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M’Cheyne Reading as Scheduled:

Jer 48 (txt | aud, 7:11 min)
Ps 25 (txt | aud, 2:10 min)

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Footnotes

[1] Carl Rogers. On Becoming a Person. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1961. | [2] Carl Rogers. On Becoming a Person. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1961. | [3] Carl Rogers. On Becoming a Person. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1961. | [4] 1 Corinthians 4:14 ESV | [5] 2 Corinthians 7:9-10 ESV | [6] David Powlison. God’s Love: Better than Unconditional. 2001.

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August 18, 2014

843 Acres: Reader’s Choice: The Fall of the Deceiver-of-the-Whole Earth

by Bethany

Reader: Susan Houg: My favorite posts recently have been those featuring Peterson quotes on the book of The Revelation (Reversed Thunder), especially this one. The balance between pietism and involvement presents such a challenge to the modern American church.

843 Acres: Reader’s Choice: The Fall of the Deceiver-of-the-Whole Earth
Originally published on Tuesday, June 10.
Highlighted: Rev 12

Temptations: Two extremes often tempt us. One calls us to charge forward into the public square and demand the kingship of Christ in current political schemes. The other calls us to abandon political systems altogether and, instead, settle for a private faith and saving souls. Where is the balance?

Pregnancy: In John’s vision, the world wakes up from its slumber and sings praises to God at the sound of the seventh trumpet. [1] Then the temple and the ark appear in the skies—visible evidence that God’s rule connects with our salvation. Eugene Peterson writes, “A fusion of lightning, thunder, earthquake, and hail marks a scene change (nobody leave your seats!) and a woman appears in the sky theater.” And she is pregnant. The praises of the people are drowned out by the cries of the woman in labor.

Rescue: “The birth-giving woman and the death-dealing dragon,” he writes, “are the light-year limits of the best and worst we can imagine. The moment the child appears, the dragon lunges. We shut our eyes, too terrified to witness the outrage. And then, at the last possible moment, there is rescue. The infant—who John describes as “the one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron”—is seized and lifted to the throne of God. [2] The mother escapes to a place of safety.

War: “The immediate consequence of the birth is not Christmas carols,” Peterson continues, “but a great war spread across the heavens. The marvelous Michael, captain of the angels, joins battle with the dragon and his demon horde … The dragon and his hosts, no match for Michael and his angels, fall out of the sky in a heap … The terrorizing names—Great Dragon, Ancient Serpent, Devil, Satan, Deceiver-of-the-Whole-Earth—are a pile of dirty laundry on the ground.”

Prayer: Lord, The child that is rescued is the one who will rule the world as it never has been ruled before. He is Jesus—who debated publicly in the synagogues, but who rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, not a stallion. In the end, he will establish a politics that will end all politics. In this age, therefore, give us a strong vision of him sitting on the throne so that, like Christ, we can engage in the public square with humility. For our hope is in the victory of Christ, not the kingdom of man. Amen.

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About Susan: Susan is a resident of northern California (Marble Mountain Wilderness), near Medford, Oregon.  Our Etna, CA is a favorite jumping off and on point for PCT hikers. I’m a retired public school teacher and current singer/songwriter in a local Berean Church.

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M’Cheyne Reading as Scheduled:

Jer 47 (txt | aud, 1:15 min)
Ps 23-24 (txt | aud, 1:52 min)

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FAQs

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Footnotes

[1] Revelation 11 | [2] Revelation 12:5 ESV

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August 15, 2014

843 Acres Reader’s Choice: The Same Event Happens to Us All

by Bethany

Reader: Delinda Merry: One of my favorite posts from the Park Forum (and it was very hard to chose just one) came in April, just a few days after Easter. We had just been through a meaningful and intentional observance of Holy Week, with a church wide dinner and communion on Maundy Thursday, a contemplative and sobering “Service of Shadows” on Good Friday, and, of course, a glorious celebration on Easter Sunday. Then – it was back into the trenches of the daily grind. This truly was encouragement for the weary. Even though I work at a church, I struggle with how the resurrection gives meaning to my daily work. Life is hard.

843 Acres Reader’s Choice: The Same Event Happens to Us All
Originally published as a Tuesday Tweetable on Tuesday, April 22, 2014.
Highlighted: Ecc 9

Discerning Brokenness

It is the same for all, since the same event (death) happens to the righteous and the wicked, to the good and the evil. #Ecc9

The hearts of the children of man are full of evil and madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead. #Ecc9

“Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” #Thomas

Imagining Redemption

Paul: “Christ is raised. Therefore, be steadfast, immovable, abounding … knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” #1Cor15

His resurrection gives meaning to our work. Therefore, eat your bread with joy, drink your wine with merriment, work with might. #Ecc9

The good life, the truly human life, is not based on a few great moments, but on many, many little ones. #Kushner

Praying ACTS

Lord, We #adore you for not letting death have the final word. In Christ, you solved the riddle of Ecclesiastes, fulfilling his longings.

Yet we #confess that we often do not know how to live in this already-but-not-yet state. Our work is not in vain, but what does that mean?

We #thank you that what was begun at the resurrection of Christ will continue until it is thoroughly finished, that we work as your hands.

Therefore, may we enjoy our bread, wine, and work, as we point to Christ as the bread, the wine, and the new creation. #supplication

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About Delinda: Delinda the Children’s Ministry Director at Redeemer Church of Knoxville in Tennessee.

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M’Cheyne Reading as Scheduled:

Jer 43 (txt | aud, 2:29 min)
Ps 19 (txt | aud, 1:41 min)

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August 14, 2014

843 Acres: Reader’s Choice: Capitalizing on Our Deep Fears and Insecurities

by Bethany

Reader: Jen Pollock Michel: I like this post for its emphasis on the motivations of the heart. Often, as Christians, we’re too contented with superficial change. We’re tempted to measure our transformation in terms of changed beliefs and behaviors. But God’s design for our transformation is much more profound: he wants us to do his will and want his will.

843 Acres: Reader’s Choice: Capitalizing on Our Deep Fears and Insecurities
Originally published on Tuesday, July 8.
Highlighted: Mt 18:21-35

Hearts: Morally virtuous behavior doesn’t necessarily arise out of a loving heart. Even when our actions seem good, our motives can be self-centered. In traditional moral training, for example, how do we encourage people to be honest? We often capitalize on their deep insecurities and fears of being rejected, caught, or judged—“Don’t lie or God will punish you, you’ll get caught, people will think you’re a terrible person.” But this type of training only restrains the heart; it doesn’t change it. Is there another way?

Parable: In a parable about forgiveness, Jesus talks about a servant who owes a massive debt—10,000 talents—to a king. [1] Since the average worker at this time earned about 1-2 talents per year, this servant is probably a regional political leader who has squandered an enormous sum—in modern terms, about $300 billion—through gross mismanagement or corruption. What does the king do? Initially, he orders the servant to be sold. But the servant begs, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.” The king cancels the debt, pities the servant, and lets him go. Later, however, the servant sees another who owes him a few bucks. He seizes him, chokes him, and demands repayment. When he begs, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you,” the servant refuses, tossing him in jail. The king hears about this and summons the servant: “You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?” Then he imprisons him.

King: Jesus is showing us that we are like this ungenerous, miserly servant when we do not forgive others in light of how much we have been forgiven. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t pursue justice or redress—after all, both vengeance and resignation are selfish. It does mean, however, that forgiving spirits arise from hearts that see how much they themselves have been forgiven.

Prayer: Lord, Although we’ve received your forgiveness through Jesus, we often do not forgive others. We insult them, withdraw our friendship, gossip, and slander. This makes us feel better in the short run, but it ruins us in the long term because it turns us into people who do not know your love. Open our eyes to love the cross so that our actions are rooted in changed, not restrained, hearts. Amen.

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About Jen: Jen Pollock Michel lives in Toronto with her family. She’s the author of Teach Us to Want: Longing, Ambition and the Life of Faith. She also regularly contributes to Christianity Today’s Her.meneutics blog and Today in the Word, a devotional publication of Moody Bible Institute. You can follow her on Twitter: @jenpmichel.

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M’Cheyne Reading as Scheduled:

Jer 42 (txt | aud, 3:59 min)
Ps 18 (txt | aud, 5:15 min)

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FAQs

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What is the reading plan this blog is based on? Click here.

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Footnotes

[1] Matthew 18:21-35 ESV

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August 13, 2014

843 Acres Reader’s Choice: Work and Rest

by Bethany

Reader: Tom Jewell: I appreciated all the Tuesday Tweetables because they were like a box of tiny bottle rockets; little thoughts, that when you light them up, they go shooting in all different directions, illuminating a huge, complicated topic, and a gracious, wonderful God. This one in particular seemed to put my work week in context, reminding me of an eternal perspective, and my place within it.

843 Acres Reader’s Choice: Work and Rest
Originally published as a Tuesday Tweetable on Tuesday, April 29, 2014.
Highlighted: Heb 4:9, 11

Discerning Brokenness

As we saw yesterday, we are like the Israelites – prone to wander and be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. goo.gl/6kWnl9

We hear the word, but “the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word and it proves unfruitful.” #busy goo.gl/hWvoAh

When we rest, we experience our unsettling humanity. The hilarious, irreverent, philosopher-of-the-people @louisck explains: goo.gl/CLulhO

Imagining Redemption

God calls us to work and to rest: “Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God.”

Our weekly rest points to our heavenly one: “There remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God … Let us therefore strive to enter.” #Heb4

Our rest reminds us that our labor is not an endless cycle of drudgery leading nowhere but a purposeful activity marked by worship and rest.

Praying ACTS 

Lord, We #adore you that our work is not in vain and that you have given us the Sabbath as a signpost of your faithful work for us.

Yet we #confess that life in the present world involved difficult work. As Hebrews teaches, it is an arduous journey with joys and sorrows.

#Thank you for setting aside a weekly routine – six days of work and one day of rest – as an exercise in spiritual awareness.

When work is frustrating, remind us of brokenness and restoration. When it goes well, remind us of your work through us. #supplication

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About Tom: Tom is a husband of thirty-one years and a father of two adult children. He and his wife live in North Orange County, where he is a landscape architect and serves as an elder at his Presbyterian church.
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M’Cheyne Reading as Scheduled:

Jer 41 (txt | aud, 3:25 min)
Ps 17 (txt | aud, 2:01 min)

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FAQs

How can I make a tax-deductible donation? Click here.
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August 12, 2014

843 Acres: Reader’s Choice: Turning Down Turkish Delight

by Bethany

Reader: Sam Clifton: “How can we use money without craving it? Love something else more.” I used to be a compulsive overeater, so the Turkish Delight theme struck a chord (not to mention that I love all things Narnia). In the above quote, inserting any substance or action next to or in place of “money” would be a worthy mantra for anyone struggling with addiction. Even though God has delivered me from my compulsion by teaching me to love Him more, those two sentences work wonders as perspective adjusters.

843 Acres: Reader’s Choice: Turning Down Turkish Delight
Originally published on Monday, October 28.
Highlighted: 1 Tim 6:9-10

Narnia: Edmund might have been wary of the Queen of Narnia and her ominous questions about his family if he had not been fixated on eating the enchanted Turkish Delight: “anyone who once tasted it would want more and more of it, and would even, if they were allowed, go on eating it till they killed themselves.” [1] His inordinate desire for the sweet dessert caused him to betray his siblings, sulk about his unmet desires, and lie to himself about the true nature of the White Witch. Of course, when he took his first bite, he did not know all of this would happen. It was a slow process of becoming increasingly foolish.

Love: Paul cautions Timothy about the dangers of loving money: “those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” [2] 

Expulsive: How can we use money without craving it? We love something else more. In The Expulsive Power of a New Affection, Thomas Chalmers argues, “The best way of casting out an impure affection is to admit a pure one; and by the love of what is good, to expel the love of what is evil.” [3] For Edmund, his desire for the Turkish Delight plunged him into, in Paul’s terms, “ruin and destruction.” When he came to love Aslan, however, his love for the enchanted dessert was expelled. Aslan restored Edmund to life and, as a result, forgiveness and joy replaced betrayal and lies. As Aslan told the other Pevensie children after Edmund’s life was restored, “Here is your brother and there is no need to talk to him about what is past.”

Prayer: Lord, Godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world and we can take nothing out of it. If we have food and clothing, then we will be content. By your Spirit, mortify our love for money and replace it with a love for you. Although we are wealthy, may we not live as the wealthy of this world. For their hope is in this world only. Instead, make us investors in self-giving deeds of mercy, in fruit that will last into eternity. Amen.

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About Sam: I am author Randy Alcorn’s staff editor. I live east of Portland, OR, in the midst of woods and waterfalls, where I love to roam with my monster American Bulldog. I’m married, have twin sons (one’s approaching his Podiatry Residency and has the cutest 2-year-old on the planet, one is an Electrical Engineer). Both are married to women I adore. Our daughter, who is a pastry chef, will be marrying her Jamaican mon on the beach near Montego Bay in November.
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M’Cheyne Reading as Scheduled:
Jer 40 (txt | aud, 3:45 min)
Ps 15-16 (txt | aud, 2:09 min)

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Footnotes

[1] C.S. Lewis. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. | [2] 1 Timothy 6:9-10 ESV | [3] Thomas Chalmers. “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection.”

 

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August 11, 2014

843 Acres: Reader’s Choice: Our Complicated, Conflicted Inner Lives

by Bethany

Reader: Linda “Nana” Kammerzelt: I have so many “favorites”, but this one came to mind because it was so “timely” … a “seasonable” mercy. I added the quotes to it as a reminder of the timing of it for me. Thank you again and again for “kind words of Grace”! Praising him with you for grace upon grace. Ephesians 3:20-21.

843 Acres: Reader’s Choice: Our Complicated, Conflicted Inner Lives Originally published on Tuesday, March 25, as a “Tuesday Tweetable.”

Discerning Brokenness

We have trouble understanding our dynamic, complicated, sometimes conflicting and warring emotions that we feel inside of us.

And it’s hard for others to understand them, too: “The heart knows its own bitterness, and no stranger shares its joy. Proverbs 14:10

We are complex beings – physical, moral, philosophical, emotional, relational, existential. #solitaryinnerlife

Imagining Redemption

Anxiety in a man’s heart weights him down, but a good word makes him glad. Proverbs 12:25

If a kind word from the outside makes us glad, but if no one else truly understands us, then what hope do we have?

By this we reassure our heart before him: “for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.” 1Jn3

Praying ACTS

Lord, We #adore you for being a wholehearted Savior, knowing us in our many facets and speaking to our hearts with kind words of grace.

For we #confess that anxiety and confusion and the complex realities of life enslave our hearts and that we have no hope apart from Christ.

We give you #thanks for sharing in our joys and struggles in Christ, who became incarnate and took on the weaknesses of humanity.

May we love the things that you have given us, but may we treasure Christ above them all so that our loves may be ordered. #supplication

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About Linda: I am a “Nana” in Middleton, Wisconsin (near Madison). I have read, and re-read your June 26th lesson, too, about “clearness is the Grace of Speech“. This is my desire as a grandmother, and I learn so much from you about clarity and kindness in communicating the Truth we Love.

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M’Cheyne Reading as Scheduled:
Jer 39 (txt | aud, 3:02 min)
Ps 13-14 (txt | aud, 1:43 min)

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August 8, 2014

843 Acres: Reader’s Choice: Christopher Hitchens and Christian Unity

by Bethany

Reader: Dan | This reading hit me as it was a great reminder that Unity in Christ and the roots of the Gospel should always be primary aim among believers rather than splitting hairs on the ‘non-essentials’ of the faith.  While we should always be discerning God’s Word for truth and its application in all areas of life, I’ve experienced far too many heated arguments and divisions in the church along lines that at the end of the day don’t really matter, that is, they aren’t core to the Gospel. They take our focus off the Great Commission and get distracted. It’s like going out to battle only to begin turning to fight those on your own side! It reminds me that I need a Kingdom-oriented eternal perspective to look past these arguments and seek Unity in Christ alone, for the sake of the Gospel.

843 Acres: Reader’s Choice: Christopher Hitchens and Christian Unity
Originally published on Friday, May 16
Highlighted: 1 Pet 3:8

Unity: Have you ever noticed that Jesus prayed specifically for us—you and me? In one of his last prayers, he said, “I do not ask for [the apostles] only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word.” [1] We are—“those who will believe in me through their word.” What did he pray for us? Unity: “that they be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us.” [2] Peter, too, wrote, “Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.” [3] What is at stake in our unity?

Observation: While Christopher Hitchens was undergoing various cancer treatments, he journaled his thoughts about dying. These thoughts were published posthumously in a short book of essays called Mortality. In one essay, Hitchens—a renowned atheist—offers an insightful observation on Christian unity: “If I were to announce that I had suddenly converted to Catholicism, I know that [two fundamentalist evangelicals] would feel I had fallen into grievous error. On the other hand, if I were to join either of their Protestant evangelical groups, the followers of Rome would not think my soul was much safer than it is now …” [4]

Disunity: The debate he observes is not merely Catholic vs. Protestant; it’s also Presbyterian (PCA, PCUSA, etc.) vs. Baptist (SBC, CBF, etc.) vs. Methodist (EMC, UMC, etc.) and more. To be sure, there are important doctrinal differences between these groups that should be taken seriously—sometimes very seriously. Yet how we talk—our tone, sympathy, and love—about those with whom we disagree, though, can tell us about our own views on unity. Do we have hearts that long to pray with Jesus, saying, “Make us one, just as the Son and the Father are one, that we together may be in the Christ”?

Prayer: Lord, Freud coined the phrase—“the narcissism of minor differences”—and we confess that our sinful human nature seeks to make major differences out of minor ones because we are prideful. There are, of course, some differences that cannot be overcome. Where we can, however, give us “unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind”. For when Jesus prayed for us, he told us what is at stake in our unity: “that the world may believe that you have sent me.” [5] Amen.

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About Dan: Originally from Minnesota, Dan moved to Boston for College and has yet to turn back. He spends his days working at an investment bank on their Equity Derivatives team. He seeks to be an ambassador for Christ in the areas of influence the Lord has placed him both inside and outside the workplace.

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M’Cheyne Weekend Reading as Scheduled:

Friday, August 8: Jer 36 (txt | aud, 5:44 min) & Ps 9 (txt | aud, 2:19 min)
Saturday, August 9: Jer 37 (txt | aud, 3:25 min) & Ps 10 (txt | aud, 2:33 min)
Sunday, August 10: Jer 38 (txt | aud, 5:19 min) & Ps 11-12 (txt | aud, 2:02 min)

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Footnotes

[1] John 17:20 ESV | [2] John 17:21 | [3] 1 Peter 3:8 | [4] Hitchens also writes about how Christians engaged with him as he was dying. Although he wasn’t always accurate in his assessment ofChristian theology, his voice about how he was treated during this time is important (and painful) to hear. (One notable exception was his friend Frances Collins, who was lovely, he said.) | [5] John 17:21

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