Posts tagged ‘Psalm’

November 17, 2014

The Linchpin of Generous Words

by Steven Dilla

Daily Reading
Amos 6 (Listen – 2:22)
Luke 1.39-80 (Listen – 9:58)

Emotions run high during the holidays… people in the United States are more likely to feel their stress increase rather than decrease,” notes the American Psychological Association. [1] In this way, the human experience around Christ’s birth hasn’t changed since Mary responded to the angel’s announcement. Mary initially replied not with exuberant praise but simple obedience; “I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” Her unadorned submission stands in stark contrast to the deluge of joy-filled worship Luke records from her just eight verses later:

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.” [2]

Mary was overwhelmed in her first response, not only by the presence of an angel in front of her, but also by the immense pressure of the news that she would soon become an unwed mother. Her plans for her future——her marriage, social status, everything——would have vanished in an instant. She tells no one, rushing out of her town before anyone can see her body is changing, and walks into the house of Elizabeth.

Elizabeth’s generosity of spirit was the linchpin. Luke records, “And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” [3] This is when everything changes. God has affirmed her through the words of someone else. Mary wasn’t self-anointed——and there is such power in the affirmation of her trusted friend she immediately bursts into ardent worship, looking toward the future with profound hope [4].

It’s a risk to affirm something unseen in someone. Elizabeth’s words made no sense apart from her faith. Yet they were the very thing that led Mary to her need for a Savior and her faithful response to live into the journey to which God called her.

Prayer: Father, help us see what you see in people and give us courage to affirm them in your love and will for their lives. Use our lives, even if it costs us the vision we have for our future. We rejoice in you; you are our Savior.

___________________

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] http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2006/12/holiday-stress.pdf | [2] Luke 1.46-49 | [3] Luke 1.41-42 | [4] Luke 1.46-55

Tags: ,
November 14, 2014

The Justice of God

by Bethany

Daily Reading:
Amos 3 (Listen – 2:01)
Psalm 146-147 (Listen – 1:03)

Rwanda: As a young attorney at the Department of Justice, Gary Haugen took a leave of absence to direct the United Nations’ investigation of the Rwandan genocide. He saw human rights atrocities – burned piles of bodies, children hacked to death with machetes, the decaying body of a woman with her child’s corpse beneath her. Perhaps the most disorienting thing he discovered, however, was that those who were tasked with bringing about justice, e.g., the police, were the ones who had carried out the injustice that he saw. Who are you supposed to turn to when the justice-keepers become the justice-breakers?

Justice: Justice has two aspects – showing favor to the oppressed and enacting punishment for the perpetrators. The Psalmist praised the Lord for possessing these twin aspects of justice: “[The Lord] executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free; the Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous. The Lord watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin” [1].

Truth: Today, Haugen serves as President of the International Justice Mission, which seeks to reform the rule of law in the developing world [2]. In his book, The Good News About Injustice, Haugen says that the good news about injustice is that God cares about it. He writes, “Amid a world of injustice, oppression and abuse, we can know some simple truths about God if we study his Word. No matter what the circumstances, we can depend on what he has revealed about himself. In regard to injustice, our heavenly Father bids us to trust in four solid truths about his character: (1) God loves justice and, conversely, hates injustice, (2) God has compassion for those who suffer injustice – everywhere around the world, without distinction or favor, (3) God judges and condemns those who perpetrate injustice, and (4) God seeks active rescue for the victims of injustice” [3].

Prayer: Lord, You love justice and hate injustice. Yet we recognize that, as sinners, we perpetrate injustice. We may not murder, but Jesus teaches us that we commit murder if we are angry with our brothers [4]. Yet we praise him for bearing judgment for us. On the cross, justice kissed love. Therefore, cause us to cherish your justice and, in response, seek it. Amen.

 ___________________________________

Weekend Readings

Saturday: Amos 4 (Listen – 2:22); Psalms 148-50 (Listen – 2:40)
Sunday: Amos 5 (Listen – 2:22); Luke 1.1-48 (Listen – 9:48)

___________________

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] Psalm 146:7-9 ESV  |  [2] For more information on the International Justice Mission, see www.ijm.org. See also Wikipedia, International Justice Mission.  |  [3] Gary Haugen. The Good News About Injustice: A Witness of Courage in a Hurting World. InterVarsity Press. (1999), p. 69-70.  |  [4] See Matthew 5:21-26.

Tags: ,
November 13, 2014

God’s Willingness to Grant Our Prayers

by Steven Dilla

Daily Reading:
Amos 2 (Listen – 2:32)
Psalm 145 (Listen – 1:59)

God’s Willingness to Grant Our Prayers | by John Calvin
Throwback Thursday: Commentary on the Psalms (1557)

Psalm 145.17-19

The Lord is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works. The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them.

The Holy Spirit, by the mouth of David, tells us, that God will accommodate himself to the desires of all who fear him. This is a mode of expression of which it is difficult to say how much it ought to impress our minds. Who is man, that God should show complaisance to his will, when rather it is ours to look up to his exalted greatness, and humbly submit to his authority? Yet he voluntarily condescends to these terms, to [comply with] our desires. 

At the same time, there is a check to be put upon this liberty, and we have not a license of universal appetency, as if his people might forwardly clamor for whatever their corrupt desires listed, but before God says that he will hear their prayers, he enjoins the law of moderation and submission upon their affections, as we learn from John, — 

“We know that he will deny us nothing, if we seek it according to his will.” (1 John 5:14) 

For the same reason, Christ dictated that form of prayer, “Thy will be done,” setting limits round us, that we should not preposterously prefer our desires to those of God, nor ask without deliberation what first comes into our mouth. David, in making express mention of them that fear God, enjoins fear, reverence, and obedience upon them before holding out the favorable indulgence of God, that they might not think themselves warranted to ask more than his word grants and approves. 

God’s willingness to grant our prayers is not always so apparent that he answers them at the very moment they are made. We have, therefore, need of perseverance in this trial of our faith, and our desires must be confirmed by crying. The last clause — he will save them — is also added by way of correction, to make us aware how far, and for what end God answers the prayers of his people, namely, to evidence in a practical manner that he is the faithful guardian of their welfare. 

___________________

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] Abridged from pp. 255-56.

 

Tags: ,
November 12, 2014

The Greater Battle

by Steven Dilla

Daily Reading:
Amos 1 (Listen – 3:18)
Psalm 144 (Listen – 1:50)

Wartime: David’s words in Psalm 144, “Blessed be the LORD, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle,” are shocking in our modern world. Militaristic references to the Christian faith peaked somewhere after the great wars of the early 20th century. Hymns like the British-written, “Onward Christian Soldier” and children’s songs like the American-written, “I’m In The Lord’s Army” began rapidly decreasing in popularity as Americans processed the realities of Vietnam. Modern tragedies, like religious terrorism, have only intensified trepidation to war-related themes.

While the Word of God is the root of our deep longings for peace, and Scripture serves as the foundation to historic human rights frameworks, it is not adverse to viewing battle as a posture which is normative to faith. David’s had his battles against men, but it was the greater battle of David’s faith that stands as the most compelling part of his story. 

The True Enemy: The author of Ephesians reminds us that “we do not battle against flesh and blood.” Evil is consistently personified in Scripture because the ancients understood that evil wasn’t a passive force. The faithful have, for centuries, viewed evil as precise, cunning, and intensely personal. In light of such evil, the English clergyman Thomas Scott talked about the Christian’s need for readiness; “Happy are they whom the Lord teaches to fight the good fight of faith, and to whom He gives that noblest victory and rule, the conquest and dominion over their own spirits!”

Ephesians tells us that we are ready for spiritual battle only through putting on The Armor of God: truth, righteousness, the good news of peace with God, faith, salvation, prayer, and perseverance. These are not things we can spin up on our own——they are gifts of the Spirit——which is precisely why David thanks God for readying him. Only by God’s grace and sacrifice was the victory from the greatest war imparted to us, and only by God’s Spirit can we be equipped and ready to win the battle inside our hearts.

Prayer: Father, thank you for defeating the enemy we are powerless against.  Our battle is not against humankind; you have done all that is necessary to restore those relationships. Help us to extend your peace on earth. Strengthen us for the battle of our hearts, give us your Spirit, that we may live.

___________________

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.

 ___________________________________

Tags: ,
November 11, 2014

843 Acres: Our Greatest Need

by Steven Dilla

M’Cheyne: Joel 3 (txt | aud, 3:18 min)
Ps 143 (txt | aud, 1:37 min)
Highlighted: Joel 3.18

Water. ”Jerusalem is the only city of antiquity that wasn’t built near a great river,” notes Warren Wiersbe. “Rome had the Tiber; Nineveh was built near the Tigris and Babylon on the Euphrates; and the great Egyptian cities were built near the Nile.” [1] The hearts of the ancients would have leapt with joy at Joel’s prophecy about Jerusalem after God’s return to make all things right: “a fountain shall come forth from the house of the Lord.” Water is life’s most foundational need, and God wanted his people to trust in him rather than what they saw in front of them.

Life. Water isn’t just about what a person has to drink, it’s foundational to life and culture. International non-profits like charity: water work to bring clean water to the hundreds of millions of people who still lack access to it. Their founder, Scott Harrison, often speaks of the broad impact water has on realities of life as broad as healthcare, education, economics, and gender equality. For example, the responsibility of walking miles to a well each day falls disproportionately on women, accounting for some 40 billion hours of annual labor in Africa alone. [2]

Dependance. Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, we see ancient Israel turning to Baal. These weren’t mere wanderings of distraction; the name Baal often refers to the pagan god of thunder and rain. To them, it seemed Baal had once responded to their performance quid pro quo, it was pragmatism vs. promise. The Israelites hadn’t overtly rejected their God, they were just leveraging everything they had to maintain control rather than grow in faith.

The heart of idolatry is a rhythm of living where people turn to God only after exhausting their own resources, energy, and ideas. “In the kingdom, Jerusalem will have a river that proceeds from the temple of God,” Wiersbe concludes. [3] Water flows to us from the Temple because Jesus’ blood flowed for us from the cross. It was always supposed to be this way—our deepest needs found flowing from the Throne of God.

Prayer. Father, we know you are good beyond what we can imagine and delight in supplying every need. More than that, we know that you are our greatest need. Thank you for pursuing us with such mighty love and sacrifice. Help us this day to see you as our provider, our portion, and our hope.

___________________

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] Warren W. Wiersbe, “Joel,” in The Bible Exposition Commentary/Prophets, p. 340. | [2] http://www.charitywater.org/whywater/ | [3] See Rev. 22.1-3

Tags: ,
November 10, 2014

843 Acres: Hope In the Tragedy of Materialism

by Steven Dilla

M’Cheyne: Joel 2 (txt | aud, 5:26 min)
Ps 142 (txt | aud, 0:53 min)
Highlighted: Joel 2.23

Materialism is one of humanity’s longest-standing ideologies. Its presence has ebbed and flowed for at least 800 years before Christ — transcending Chinese Dynasties, growing through European philosophies, rooting in the west through Industrial Revolution, and expressing itself most recently through shining screens offering click-to-order satisfaction. There is immense pressure to express our identities through what we wear, where we travel, even how we present ourselves online. The insidious voice of materialism whispers to us, now more than ever, that there is nothing beyond the substance of this world—so we better make the most of it.

Emptiness is the word most often used to describe what is felt deep in the soul after material is gained and found wanting. Robert Wilson spent five decades on Wall Street, earning $800 million at the hedge fund he founded. He was Chairman of the Board of the City Opera and a board member at both the Metropolitan Opera and Whitney Museum. Throughout his lifetime he invested over half a billion dollars philanthropically. His story should be the quintessential New York story, yet tragically Mr. Wilson was found dead the day before Christmas Eve last year. The note he left the police stated his intent to jump from the balcony of Central Park West apartment. Mr. Wilson had the power and privileges that come with money. To top it off he was phenomenally generous, investing in good things throughout the city and country. But none of it satisfied. It’s all material, and it can be catastrophic to discover the emptiness of materialism too late.

Yet there is glorious hope. “How often do we receive joyfully enough the gift, without rejoicing in the Giver?” asks J.P. Lange. “Joy in God is the right kind of joy. From Him comes every blessing.” [1] The prophets and psalmists knew then what is all-the-more difficult to see now: that real joy, real hope, real success and meaning are found in God. Not from God, material that can be accepted and enjoyed, but in God, in his being. Christ is the prize. Joel says, “rejoice in the Lord,” not because of the Lord, in him. This leads Christians to radical joy and generosity—knowing that nothing can separate us from what maters most, the love of God.

Prayer. Father, only you can change the longings of our hearts. Drive them from satisfaction in things and into joy in you, in your Church, in expressing the fruit of your Spirit daily, and in receiving the grace you have lavished upon us.

___________________

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] Lange, J. P., Schaff, P., Schmoller, O., & Forsyth, J. (2008). A commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Joel (p. 26). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Tags: ,
November 7, 2014

843 Acres: New Vision for Success

by Steven Dilla

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

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

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

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

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

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

___________________

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

Tags: ,
November 6, 2014

843 Acres: TBT: Revelation of God (Warfield)

by Steven Dilla

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

___________________

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.

 ___________________________________

Tags: ,
November 5, 2014

843 Acres: A Loving God

by Steven Dilla

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

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

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

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

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

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

___________________

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.

 ___________________________________

Tags: ,
November 4, 2014

843 Acres: The Greatest Forgiveness We Need

by Steven Dilla

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

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

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

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

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

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

___________________

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.

 ___________________________________

Tags: ,
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 163 other followers