Posts tagged ‘Leviticus’

April 23, 2013

843 Acres: Having All That Matters

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Lev 27 (text | audio, 4:58 min)
and Ps 34 (text | audio, 2:09 min)
Highlighted: Ps 34:8, 10

Having It All: These three little words leave most women feeling exhausted, inadequate, confused and guilty. What does “having it all” mean? It is even possible? Sheryl Sandberg writes, “Instead of pondering the question, ‘Can we have it all?’, we should be asking the more practical question, ‘Can we do it all?’ and again, the answer is no.” Oprah and Madeleine Albright are slightly more hopeful, saying that we can have it all—just not at the same time. Anne-Marie Slaughter takes a slightly different approach: “I still strongly believe that women can ‘have if all’ (and that men can, too). I believe that we can ‘have it all at the same time.’ But not today, not with the way America’s economy and society are currently structured.” None of them, however, mention happiness or joy in any of their books, articles or talks.

Balanced Schedules: It is possible to live our entire lives chasing after a balanced schedule and never find identity, purpose or meaning. In one of his parables, Jesus warns against hearing the gospel and then letting “the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches” choke the gospel until it “proves unfruitful” [1]. But what alternative is there? As a practical matter, we have to pursue financial stability, education, family, career and home, right?

Having All That Matters: These four little words are the promise of the gospel. In Psalm 34, David sings, “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! … [T]hose who seek the Lord lack no good thing” [2]. Did you catch that? “Those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.” Hundreds of years later, Paul explains what David means. He writes to the Romans, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” [3]. In Christ, God has given us all that matters—all things that pertain to life and godliness [4].

Prayer: Lord, Apart from Christ, life is like the Myth of Sisyphus—a meaningless, repetitive task that leads to absurdity [5]. We can schedule our lives like a Tetris game, but still end up without identity, purpose, meaning, freedom or joy. The resurrection of Christ shows us, however, that our lives have meaning [6]. Give us a vision to seek all that matters and to inspire those around us to do the same. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] See Matthew 13:1-23 | [2] Psalm 34:8, 10 ESV | [3] Romans 8:32 ESV | [4] 1 Peter 1:3 | [5] Wikipedia. The Myth of Sisyphus. | [6] See 1 Corinthians 15:58. See also. 843 Acres Reader’s Choice: “His Resurrection Gives Meaning to Our Work.” August 20, 2012.

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April 22, 2013

The Mask of Thwarted Plans

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Lev 26 (text | audio, 7:12 min)
and Ps 33 (text | audio, 2:12 min)
Highlighted: Ps 33:10-11

Thwarted: Last week, after the Boston Marathon bombings, Stephen Colbert mocked the terrorists, saying their intentions were thwarted by the very people they tried to hurt: “But here is where these cowards really don’t get. They attacked the Boston Marathon. An event celebrating people who run twenty-six miles on their day off … And when those bombs went off, there were runners who, after finishing a marathon, kept running for another two miles to the hospital to donate blood. So here’s what I know. These maniacs may have tried to make life bad for the people of Boston, but all they can ever do is show just how good those people are” [1].

Plans: In Psalm 33, the Psalmist sings, “The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples. The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations” [2]. Thousands of years ago, “lawless men” sought to silence the King of Glory, but God frustrated their plans. As Peter said, “Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know—this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it” [3].

Display: In Spectacular Sins, John Piper writes, “In the death of Christ, the powers of darkness did their best to destroy the glory of the Son of God. This is the apex of evil. But instead they found themselves quoting the script of ancient prophecy and acting the part assigned by God. Precisely in putting Christ to death, they put his glory on display—the very glory that they aimed to destroy. The apex of evil achieved the apex of the glory of Christ. The glory of grace” [4].

Prayer: Lord, Although much about the bombings in Boston remains a mystery to us, we know one thing—when we see terrorists try to spread fear and hatred and, instead, spread love and compassion, we see your glory. No plan of yours can be thwarted—not even when evil appears to have won. Give us a vision for spectacular sins that achieve the apex of Christ’s glory. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Ann Oldenburg. “Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert Salute Boston.” USA Today. April 17, 2013. | [2] Psalm 33:10-11 ESV | [3] Acts 2:22-24 ESV | [4] John Piper. Spectacular Sins.

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April 19, 2013

843 Acres: The Mask of the Sabbath

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Lev 23 (text | audio, 6:19 min)
and Ps 30 (text | audio, 1:28 min)
Highlighted: Lev 23:3

Sabbath: “The Sabbath,” writes Judith Shulevitz in the New York Times Magazine, “has become the holiday Americans are most likely never to take.” After detailing the history of the observance of the Sabbath, she laments, “So what do we do, today, with this remarkable heritage, which in the last century expanded to a generous two days, rather than just one? Much more than our ancestors could ever have imagined, and much, much less. We relax on a run and, in rare bursts of free time, we recreate. We choose from a dizzying array of leisure options and pursue them with an exemplary degree of professionalism and perfectionism … And yet there are important ways in which even our impressive recreational creativity fails to reproduce the benefits of the Sabbath. Few elective activities will ever rise to a higher status than work in our minds, and therefore cannot be relied upon to counterbalance our neurotic drive to achieve” [1]. What is the alternative?

Law: The Law commanded, “Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work. It is a Sabbath to the Lord in all your dwelling places” [2]. Observation of the Sabbath was taken seriously. In fact, under the Law, those who profaned it were to be put to death and those who worked on it were to be cut off from among the community [3].

Imagine: Imagine what a Sabbath in your city might look like. It would be, as Shulevitz puts it, a day of “organized nonproductivity”. It would not merely be a day of refraining from work, however, but also a day of shifting our thoughts. Can you picture your city resting from its busyness and selling into reflection? What would that do for your city? How might things change? Shulevitz wants to “bring back the Sabbath”, and who better to answer her call to action than us, the church?

Prayer: Lord, As we celebrate the Sabbath this weekend, let its seriousness and importance dwell in our souls. Show us how to observe it in a way that honors and glorifies you. Give us courage to rest from our work, knowing that you are the ultimate author of all that is accomplished. For you are the Lord in all our dwelling places, and we trust in you. Amen.

M’Cheyne Weekend Texts (our reading plan)

Sat, Apr 20: Lev 24 (text | audio, 3:03 min) and Ps 31 (text | audio, 3:16 min)
Sun, Apr 21: Lev 25 (text | audio, 7:40 min) and Ps 32 (text | audio, 1:29 min)

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Footnotes

[1] Judith Shulevitz. “Bring Back the Sabbath.” The New York Times Magazine. March 2, 2003. | [2] Leviticus 23:3 ESV | [3] See Exodus 31:14; Exodus 35:2; Numbers 15:32-36. I highlight the severity of the punishment for breaking the Sabbath to show its seriousness, not advocate its reinstitution.

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April 18, 2013

843 Acres: The Mask of the (Google) Earth

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Lev 22 (text | audio, 4:47 min)
and Ps 28 (text | audio, 1:12 min)
and Ps 29 (text | audio, 1:07 min)
Highlighted: Ps 29

Hello, World: Recently, Google Earth has gotten some laughs for its bizarre distortions based on inaccurate algorithms—here and here. But have you ever played around on it? From the comfort of your own home, you can explore hydrothermal vents and seafloors. If you want to climb Mount Everest or Mount Kilimanjaro, you can just open Google Maps. You only need Wi-Fi to visit the Grand Canyon.  Google Earth unlocks the sky, the ocean, the moon, the trees and Mars. So what?

Hello, Majesty. In Psalm 29, David sings, “Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness. The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord, over many waters. The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty … The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire. The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness … The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord sits enthroned as king forever” [1].

Hello, Accountability and Security. The greatness of Google Earth and Google Maps has, at least, two implications. First, one of the consequences of our being able to see the mighty hand of God in nature is that we will be held accountable. As Paul tells the Romans, “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse” [2]. Second, when we see his mighty hand in nature, we can trust that he is able to keep his unblushing promises about our joy, gladness, inheritance, etc. For he exercises “his eternal power and divine nature” to benefit his people. This is what David concludes in Psalm 29. After surveying the glory of nature, he says, “May the Lord give strength to his people! May the Lord bless his people with peace!” [3]

Hello, Lord. The earth and all that is in it is a “mask” by which you conceal your glory. When we see your mighty hand in nature, we can know your attributes and, as a result, we can trust your promises. This spring, as the weather turns from snow to flowers, open our eyes to give you glory and honor, knowing that the changing seasons show us your power. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Psalm 29:2-4, 7-8, 10 ESV | [2] Romans 1:20 ESV | [3] Psalm 29:11 ESV

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April 16, 2013

843 Acres: The Mask of Spiritual Sensitivity

by Bethany

M’CheyneLev 20 (text | audio, 4:34 min)
and Ps 25 (text | audio, 2:10 min)

Choices: Throughout the course of our lives, we make many life decisions—what vocational calling to pursue, whom to marry (or whether to marry), which home to buy or rent. We also make many daily decisions—what to watch on television, how to spend our leisure time, what to wear. Yet most of us are often unsure about the Lord’s will in these situations. How are we to proceed?

Instruction: In Psalm 25, David comes to the Lord with his fear [1], loneliness [2], guilt [3] and confusion [4], through prayer [5]. He praises the Lord for guiding him: “Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way. All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies” [6]. How does God guide us—that is, how does he “mask” his instruction? John Piper says, “The Bible describes the ordinary guidance of God as the development of spiritual sensitivity. In other words, the prerequisite of divine guidance is not the quest for messages, but the quest for holiness. Guidance is the product not of ecstatic heights, but of spiritual depth” [7].

Will: How God guides us, however, is different than how we guide each other. As Elisabeth Elliot writes, “The more we pay for advice, the more we are likely to listen to it. Advice from a friend, which is free, we may take or leave. Advice from a consultant we have paid much for personally, we are more likely to accept, but it is still our choice; we can take it or leave it. But the guidance of God is different. First of all, we do not come to God asking for advice, but for God’s will and that is not optional. And God’s fee is the highest one of all; it costs everything. To ask for the guidance of God requires abandonment. We no longer say, ‘If I trust you, you will give me such and such.’ Instead, we must say, ‘I trust you. Give or withhold from me whatever you choose.’ As John Newton says, ‘What you will. When you will. How you will’” [8].

Prayer: Lord, Instruct us by developing our spiritual sensitivity. Make us humble and courageous so that we abandon our conditions of obedience. We trust you. Give or withhold whatever you choose. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] See Psalm 25:2, 19 | [2] See Psalm 25:16 | [3] See Psalm 25:7-8, 11, 18 | [4] See Psalm 25:4-5, 8-12 | [5] See Psalm 25:20, 16, 7, 11, 18 | [6] Psalm 25:8-10 ESV | [7] John Piper. “The Goodness of God in the Guidance of Sinners.” January 10, 1988. (emphasis added) | [8] Elisabeth Elliot. God’s Guidance: Finding God’s Will for Your Life. See also Tim Keller. “Your Plans; God’s Plans.” December 12, 2004. (one of the most helpful sermons on the guidance of the Lord).

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April 15, 2013

843 Acres: The Mask of The Bowery Mission

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Lev 19 (text | audio, 5:10 min)
and Ps 23 (text | audio, 0:44 min)
and Ps 24 (text | audio, 1:08 min)
Highlighted: Lev 19:9, 10, 18

Poor: There are approximately 46.2 million people in living in poverty in the United States—that is, almost 15% of our national population [1]. The national poverty rate for children under 18 years old is 21.9%. In New York City, there are 1.4 million people living in poverty, which is 19.2% of the city’s population. With all of this poverty, how do we know that God cares about the poor?

Law: Some people think that only Jesus—not the God of the Old Testament—has something to say about caring for the poor. But this is not true. The Old Testament law is not merely an instruction manual; it is a revelation of the heart of God. In fact, the law reveals God’s love and care for the poor. Here, in Leviticus 19, for example, it reads: “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest … You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God” [2]. What should be our motivation for caring for the poor? It continues, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord” [3].

Bowery: Today, what “masks” does God use to conceal his love and care for the poor? In New York City, he uses organizations like the Bowery Mission, which feeds, clothes and houses, people caught in cycles of poverty, hopelessness and dependencies. Last year, 600 volunteers per month worked with the Bowery Mission and more than 34,000 donors contributed [4]. Through these volunteers and donors, God was able to care for the poor. He gave them food, clothing, work, skills, friends and hope.

Prayer: Lord, Your law commands us not to keep all of our earnings and, instead, to give generously to those in need. Yet we confess that we have loved ourselves much and loved our neighbors little—even though your law commands us to love our neighbors as ourselves. Forgive us, Lord, for we ourselves are poor in spirit. Open our eyes to see how we can be “the masks of God” when we feed, clothe and house the poor. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] The United States Census Bureau. “Income, Poverty and Health Insurance in the United States: 2011—Highlights.” | [2] Leviticus 19:9, 10 ESV | [3] Leviticus 19:18 ESV | [4] The Bowery Mission Annual Report 2012.

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April 12, 2013

843 Acres: The Mask of the Weather

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Lev 16 (text, audio, 6:06 min)
and Ps 19 (text | audio, 1:41 min)
Highlighted: Ps 19:1-2

Spring: On February 2, 2013, Punxsutawney Phil was roused from his slumber and asked, Will there be an early spring? He confirmed that there would be. Now, however, after a long winter, a county prosecutor in Ohio has indicted Phil for “misrepresenting an early spring” [1]. Mike Gmoser said, “I woke up and the wind was howling, the snow was flying, and I said to myself, ‘Phil, you let us down.’ It popped into my head that this must be criminal in some way. Punxsutawney, here I come.” Gmoser is seeking the death penalty.

Weather: The Lord—not Punxsutawney Phil—controls the weather. Some people may look to weather forecasters to predict the weather, but no one looks to them to create it. In the Bible, there is no doubt that God is the one in charge of the snow, wind, rain and sun. As David sings in Psalm 19, the weather is a “mask of God” that declares who he is: “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky aboveproclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge” [2].

Sovereign: The weather, therefore, is the handiwork of God. He chooses the weather—even the snow and rain—to declare his glory, pour out his speech and reveal his knowledge. Notwithstanding humanity’s contribution to global warming, the Lord is sovereign over all creation. As he told Job, “Have you entered the storehouses of the snow, or have you seen the storehouses of the hail? … Has the rain a father, or who has begotten the drops of dew? From whose womb did the ice come forth, and who has given birth to the frost of heaven? … Can you lift up your voice to the clouds, that a flood of waters may cover you? Can you send forth lightnings, that they may go and say to you, ‘Here we are’?”

Prayer: Lord, Forgive us for speaking loosely about the weather, which is your handiwork. May our lips praise you for how you have concealed your work in the heavens, the sky, the day and the night. Open our eyes to see your glory in nature—even when there is “bad” weather. May we praise you for your mighty sovereign hand. Amen.

M’Cheyne Weekend Texts (our reading plan)

Sat, Apr 13: Lev 17 (text | audio, 2:44 min) & Ps 20 (text | audio, 0:56 min) & Ps 21 (text | audio, 1:27 min)
Sun, Apr 14: Lev 18 (text | audio, 3:49 min) & Ps 22 (text | audio, 3:27 min)

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Footnotes

[1] Cassandra Garrison. “Lawyer Sues Groundhog Punxsutawney Phil, Seeks Death Penalty for Being Dirty Liar.” Metro. March 22, 2013. | [2] Psalm 19:1-2 ESV

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April 11, 2013

843 Acres: The Mask of Government

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Lev 15 (text | audio, 5:12 min)
and Ps 18 (text | audio, 5:15 min)
Highlighted: Ps 18:46-48, 49

Authority: The government is one of God’s “masks” in which he conceals his goodness to us. As Paul wrote to the Roman Christians, “There is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God … for [the one who is in authority] is God’s servant for your good” [1]. Paul wrote this to people who were living under the oppressive Roman Empire—the same government that would decapitate him just ten years later. Clearly, therefore, the Lord gives authority to sinners. In fact, is there any other kind?

Fallen: We should recognize the fallen nature of our leaders. C.S. Lewis wrote, “I am a democrat [a proponent of democracy] because I believe in the Fall of Man. I think most people are democrats for the opposite reason … they [think] mankind so wise and good that everyone deserve[s] a share in the government. The danger of defending democracy on those grounds is that they’re not true … I find that they’re not true without looking further than myself … The real reason for democracy is just the reverse. Mankind is so fallen that no man can be trusted with unchecked power over his fellows. Aristotle said that some people were only fit to be slaves. I do not contradict him. But I reject slavery because I see no men fit to be masters” [2].

Pray: How can we pray then for our leaders—even in their fallen state? Psalm 18 is a corporate song of praise. David originally sang it, but it eventually became a psalm sung by the entire Israelite community, giving thanks to God for giving them a monarchy under David and for protecting David from his foes: “The Lord lives, and blessed be my rock, and exalted be the God of my salvation—the God who gave me vengeance and subdued peoples under me, who delivered me from my enemies … For this I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations, and sing to your name” [3].

Prayer: Lord, We confess that many of us have lost hope in our leaders. Yet you have appointed them for our good. We give you thanks for giving us our government and for protecting it for so many years. Give us a vision for the redemption of our leaders, as you long for the people to come to you know. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Romans 13:1, 4, 6 | [2] C.S. Lewis, “Equality,” in Present Concerns (reprint: Mariner Books, 2002), p. 17. [3] Ps 18:46-48, 49

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April 10, 2013

843 Acres: The Mask of Our Forgiveness

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Lev 14 (text | audio, 8:04 min)
and Ps 17 (text | audio, 2:01 min)
Highlighted: Lev 14:6, 8

Forgiveness: When someone seriously wrongs us, we have two options: (a) we can seek revenge, or (b) we can forgive the wrongdoer. Revenge, the first option, makes the wrongdoer suffer for the transgression. Forgiveness, the second option, requires us to absorb the offense; we pay the debt because we refuse to make the wrongdoer pay it. If the offense is particularly hurtful, forgiveness is an extremely painful process. When we forgive others, however, how are we “masks of God”?

Law: In Leviticus 13, the Law tells us that an unclean person must be sent outside the camp. But the Lord did not leave that person without hope. The next chapter, Leviticus 14, tells us how a person can be readmitted into the community. First, the priest must examine the unclean person and, if their disease is gone, they are to bring two living birds, cedarwood, scarlet yarn and hyssop, to the priest. The priest then kills one bird over fresh water and takes the other bird “with the cedarwood and the scarlet yarn and the hyssop, and dip[s] them and the live bird in the blood of the bird that was killed over the fresh water” [1]. The once unclean person then washes his clothes, shaves his hair and bathes in water. Then, according to the Law, “He shall be clean … [and] may come into the camp” [2].

Masks: Hundreds of years later, God offered Jesus as a sacrifice to make his people clean. By his blood, he cleansed us from our sins so that we could be brought into the camp, i.e., the covenant community [3]. He paid the debt that we owed. Therefore, when we forgive others, we become “living sacrifices” [4], absorbing their debt to bring them into community. We are “masks” that show—even on a small scale—what the all-loving, all-merciful and all-kind forgiveness of God is like.

Prayer: Lord, We are humbled to think that your forgiveness of our sins was so costly. It included blood and death so that we might be brought into fellowship with you and one another. Forgive us for taking your grace so lightly. Today, we praise you for opportunities to forgive others when they have wronged us. For those are times when we can show how great and awesome your forgiveness is. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Leviticus 14:6 | [2] Leviticus 14:8 | [3] See Hebrews 10:22, 1 John 5:6. | [4] Romans 12:1

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April 9, 2013

843 Acres: The Mask of Bad Consequences

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Lev 13 (text | audio, 9:24 min)
Ps 15 (text | audio, 0:43 min)
Ps 16 (text | audio, 1:26 min)
Highlighted: Psalm 16:1-4

Decisions: “Good and evil,” wrote C.S. Lewis, “both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance. The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which, a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of. An apparently trivial indulgence in lust or anger today is the loss of a ridge of railway line or bridgehead from which the enemy may launch an attack otherwise impossible” [1]. How are these consequences—especially bad ones—God’s “masks” that show us his love?

Sorrows: In Psalm 16, David says, “Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge. I say to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.’ As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight. The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply” [2]. The bad consequences that flow from our bad decisions—like running after other gods—are not necessarily punitive measures. If not punitive, then, what are they?

Consequences: The Word tells us that God disciplines those whom he loves: “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives” [3]. In other words, when our “trivial indulgences in lust or anger” lead to “sorrows”, those are the “masks of God” that show us his love. It is a good thing that our sin leads ultimately to sorrow, not satisfaction, so that we long to return to God.

Prayer: Lord, Running after other gods is dangerous because we become like what we worship. Yet we confess that we have run after gods. We have worshipped money, sex and power. Forgive us, Lord, and turn our hearts back to you. Today, when we make sinful decisions, we pray that we would recognize their bad consequences so that we will see our sin for what it is, hate it, and then turn to you. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] C.S. Lewis. Mere Christianity. | [2] Psalm 16:1-4 ESV | [3] Proverbs 3:12. cf. Hebrews 12:6.

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