Friday, August 29, 2014

Redemption in Him Alone

Bethany post: 843 Acres: Reader’s Choice: Hope for Troubled Souls: Everybody Worships


Reader: Brad Elledge: This devotional struck me because it so reflected my life experience. We were fresh out of B-School: from Chicago, Wharton, Harvard, Northwestern and part of a corporate planning staff where ambition ran like a bull market. “We all aim to be the King of France, running our own empires,” remarked our Chief of Staff.  Five years and three moves later, having worshipped at the altar of career glory, I was burnt out and empty realizing, having given it everything, my career wasn’t loving me back. It had literally sucked the life out of me. There had to be more than the endless cycle of beating sales quota, sacrificing for the next promotion … so in a moment of weakness, I accepted a friends invitation to go to church. And those strange people would invite me to a meal out of mere kindness and free me from my loneliness and self-sufficiency. They represented Christ and I was captivated by the alternative. Our redemption, truly, is found in Him alone. And with that redemption comes the true riches: friendships that span decades, family, community, knowing and serving the one true God. It is not about us … it’s about Him.
843 Acres: Reader’s Choice: Hope for Troubled Souls: Everybody WorshipsOriginally published on May 20, 2013.Highlighted: Ps 73:25-26
Worship: “Everybody worships,” said David Foster Wallace in 2005. “The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing … is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough … Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths … Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you in your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. But the insidious thing about these forms of worship is … they’re unconscious” [1]. 
Troubled: In 2008, Wallace committed suicide. He was 46 and best known for Infinite Jest (1996), a novel that “perceives American society as self-obsessed, pleasure-obsessed and entertainment-obsessed” [2]. The next year, he received a MacArthur grant, “the so-called genius award”. The NYT chief book critic once said, “[He] can do practically anything if he puts his mind to it. He can do sad, funny, silly, heartbreaking and absurd with equal ease; he can even do them all at once”. His obituary, however, read, “In contrast to the lively spirit of his writing, [he] was … consumed with his work and its worth, perpetually at odds with himself … a titanically gifted writer with an equally troubled soul”.
Injustice: In Psalms, we find several troubled souls. In Psalm 73, for example, Asaph is troubled because he wonders whether God cares about injustice. Yet he takes his confusion and emotions into the sanctuary, where he finds what Wallace intimated—that God alone will not eat him alive: “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” [3].
Prayer: Lord, We confess that, when we look upon our imperfect and broken world, our souls are troubled. Yet we know that our redemption is found in you alone. Therefore, let our hearts rejoice that you are our strength and portion forever. Amen.
____________________________________
About Brad: Brad grew up in the Napa Valley before it was big time wine country. He migrated to Chicago for B-School and pursued a corporate career with stops in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Phoenix, Tucson (where he met the Lord), and Knoxville, TN. He now manages a manufacturing plant with 100 employees (his “flock”) in North Dallas. With his ‘noble soul’ wife of 30 years, Eileen, they have raised 4 children, 2 “domestics” & 2 “imports” (adopted Vietnamese). They now reside in Frisco, TX, where they attend Grace Church.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Prone to Wander

843 Acres: Reader’s Choice: Prone to Wander, Lord, We Feel It
Originally published on April 28, 2014Highlighted: Heb 3:12-14
Exodus: When God rescued the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt and led them through the Red Sea, they were full of celebration. With one voice, they sang, “I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously … The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.” [1] Three days later, however, they complained about the way He gave them food and water. They said that they would rather be slaves again than depend on Him. Then, a few weeks later, they worshipped handmade idols, saying, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” [2] How did they fall away from the Lord so quickly?
Caution: Looking back on these events, the Psalmist warned, “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts … when your fathers put me to the test and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work. For forty years I loathed that generation and said, ‘They are a people who go astray in their heart, and they have not known my ways.” [3]Hundreds of years later, the writer of Hebrews quoted the Psalmist and expanded the message: “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called, ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence to the end.” [4]
Gospel: The Hebrews were slaves to Egypt; we are slaves to sin. They were released by the plague of the firstborn son; we are released by the death of the firstborn son of God. On the cross, the work of God is on display far greater than during the Exodus. How much more, then, must we cling to belief!
Prayer: Lord, We confess that, like the Hebrews, we can turn quickly from celebration to sin. Yet we do not have the strength to endure in faith. Therefore, we beg you to increase our faith. As we look to the cross, help us to remember your work and to exhort one another daily so that we will not be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we admit that we are prone to wander. Amen.


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Imago Dei Work

Hannah R. Anderson post: Made for More: Home + Work

One day, shortly after transitioning from being an ESL instructor to being a stay-at-home mom, I was filling out one of those ubiquitous medicals forms at our doctor’s office. After listing my name, date of birth, address, and insurance info, I came to a field that had the option to either fill in my employer’s name or check a box that said “Don’t Work.” Having a strong commitment to intellectual honesty (and an even stronger philosophical disposition), I approached the receptionist to ask for clarification.
Instead she offered me a slightly puzzled look and then quickly replied, “Oh, you don’t work.”
Anyone who has been in a similar position understands how humbling, how demeaning this can feel. Whether you’re a stay-at-home mom or have ever been unemployed or underemployed, you know how these situations strike at your core sense of self. Just think about the ingenious ways stay-at-home moms describe their work in light of the marketplace by using terms like “domestic engineers” and “house managers.” It’s as if something about your very humanity is at stake, as if your identity as a productive human being is in question.
It feels this way because it is.

Not Just a Paycheck

We struggle to understand what it means to work as image bearers, at least in part, because in Western society we tend to think of “work” in terms of receiving a paycheck for a specific job. But when we define “work” in terms of salary and position instead of in terms of gifting and service, we communicate that anyone who does not draw a salary or work in the marketplace is somehow less human. And we end up elevating those who work in professional positions above than those who work in more mundane callings.
This creates a unique tension for many women when they are forced to choose between being “at home” or “working.” When the Industrial Revolution moved men and women away from family-based businesses to highly specialized jobs in cities and factories, as a society, we began to define “work” as whatever happened away from the home. (Insert joke about women who stay at home and eat bonbons and watch soap operas all day.) Frustratingly, the gender wars of the last several decades have only intensified this divide as both conservatives and progressives continue to argue about a woman’s role in the “workforce.” And as we do, we continue to define a woman’s work by where she works instead of in whose image she works.
When God made us in his image, he commissioned men and women to rule over creation together. And not only are we to rule together, the very things that embody this rule—reproducing and stewarding the earth—must also be accomplished in dependence on each other. These are not two distinct commands but one command with internal tension and intrinsic interconnectedness. In other words, God did not create the marketplace and the home to compete with each other but to depend on each other; and when we insist on pitting them against each other, we end up failing at both.

Rule Over

As women, we must recognize that imago dei work is larger than either that of the home or the marketplace, both encompassing and transcending them. And as image bearers, we rule over both. We do not enslave ourselves to cultural expectations of domesticity but rule over domesticity, using it to cultivate a place where every member—every image bearer—can flourish. Neither are we slaves to the marketplace, conforming to mechanistic structures of input and output; instead we exercise our personal gifting, as Peter says, “to serve one another.” We use our gifting to serve our families and those around us well.
A prime example of this is the woman described in Proverbs 31. When Lemuel’s mother advises him about the type of woman he should marry, she describes a woman who would make his family successful because she works sacrificially and does “not eat the bread of idleness.” She is the type of woman who knows how to leverage the marketplace to care for her family; and at the same time receives public praise because she cares for the needs of others. And yet, this passage is not some starry-eyed attempt to “have it all” but a beautiful description of finding the convergence, the delicate interplay, the holistic union of both nurturing our homes and exercising our unique gifting.
Undoubtedly there will be seasons of life when we must emphasize one over the other. (Quite frankly, there will be many times when you must weed your garden or change a dirty diaper or do something that will not directly capitalize on your MBA.) But we must stop assuming that our homes and our gifts are separate. Being women who work imago dei means being women who are productive and sacrificial wherever we are because our God is productive and sacrificial everywhere he is. And working imago dei means working like him.

There is God's Favor - There in the Mundane

Jonathan Parnell: Blessings Beyond Our Dreams

We live in the land of dreamers.
You’ve seen this before: The biggest impact, as the spiel goes, comes from the biggest dreams, and therefore, if you want your life to really count, you need to broaden the horizons in your mind. Our deficiencies are mainly in our expectations, not our competencies. Think bigger. Invest your best in what yields the maximum payoff. And then, if really true to form, there will come a string of words like “greatness,” “leadership,” and “influence” — all focused on you and the good you could be doing.
When it’s sincere and given the right qualifications, big-dream messages like this are wonderfully inspiring. We shouldn’t shun the practical wisdom of good old-fashioned industry; we should seek to listen, to learn, to grow. And at the same time, when advice like this is at its worst, and when we are at our most na├»ve, we’ll digest faux-Christian precepts as if they were Scripture and mistake the favor of God to be in all that’s new and flashy. Implicit in it all — if our hearts are dark enough to hear it (and they are) — is not so much an encouragement that we strive to make the world a better place, but that we strive to be rock stars. That’s the Kool-Aid. That’s the dark side.
And if we’re not careful, we’ll think that God mainly cares about us gaining followers and doing action, that mainly he just doesn’t want you to sell yourself short, or waste your energy on low-impact drivel. We’ll think that God’s real blessing is found in our giftedness, in what we’re able to build and where we’re able to go.
But that’s not true.

Getting to the Great

Undeniably, God wants us to do great things in his name, except it really matters how we define “great,” and what we’re actually looking for in it.
“Great” probably isn’t as glorious as you imagine, and rest assured, you won’t be the more blessed having arrived there. In fact, for those men who want to change the world, what you might need most is a wife who wants you home for dinner.
Men who want to change the world need a wife who wants them home for dinner.
Somewhere in the stuff like that is where you’ll find God’s blessing.
Like in an infant whose diaper needs changing, and a toddler who lives for your attention — a toddler, not an audience. The real blessing isn’t found behind shiny platforms, but in the garbage bag that must be taken out, the one that has a little hole in the bottom, that leaks a trail of some unidentified substance from the kitchen to the front door, demanding an extra five minutes of your time to retrace your steps on hands and knees with a paper towel, wiping up the mess, leaving the living room a better place.
There is God’s favor, there in the mundane, when we’re stuck between two worlds, seated with Jesus in the heavenly places and bent down here cleaning floors. There is where God smiles on his children.

When You Know

The greatest blessings in life aren’t found in being a great leader, or a great communicator, or a great pastor. The greatest blessings are found in being human before the face of God — a human forgiven and righteous in Christ. Didn’t he say that to us? “Do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20).
This kind of blessing is much more quiet than the glitz we think we crave, indeed so quiet that we usually miss it, and we’d only long for it if it were gone. It’s the deep blessing that too easily evades us, the blessing that knows what it feels like to be woken up before sunrise by the sounds of a summer thunderstorm — thunder so loud that it makes you stretch your hand over your heart to feel how fast it’s beating, and then look beside you at a woman more precious than jewels, and then hear, from the doorway of your bedroom, in the froggy voice of a frightened four-year-old, “Daddy, I’m scale’wd.” So you pull back the covers and let him listen to the thunder with you for a while, thinking, as he buries his head in the pillow, here is a soul — a soul! God, make him a great man.
And you know in that moment that the greatness you’re asking for is some semblance of the emotion you feel right then. No one else might get it, but you know. Here, where you never expected it, here is greatness, here is leadership, here is influence.
Then you whisper, praying in this land of dreamers: Bless him like this.

“The greatest blessings are found in being human before the face of God.”

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Grace Has a Beautiful and Violent Way of Crushing Us

Excerpt from Matt Smethurst post: Debate Worth Having: How Singlehanded is God's Grace?

Did you hear about the Calvinism debate? No, not that powwow in the corner of a seminary cafeteria near you. I mean the one this Wednesday night in Chicago. Hosted by Sojourn Network and moderated by Christianity Today editor Mark Galli, the debate on August 27 will feature Daniel Montgomery and Timothy Paul Jones squaring off against Austin Fischer and Brian Zahnd on the topic of the former duo’s new book PROOF: Finding Freedom Through the Intoxicating Joy of Irresistible Grace (Zondervan). Regardless of where you lean, the doctrines of grace are not an irrelevant subject to discuss. Indeed, what we believe about God’s sovereignty and human responsibility in salvation will have profoundly practical implications in our lives.
I talked with Montgomery (pastor of Sojourn Community Church in Louisville) and Jones (professor at Southern Seminary) about whether Spurgeon was wrong to call Calvinism the gospel, the beauty and practicality of grace, advice for young pastors, and more. At the end of the interview we've included the livestream video for the debate. So if you can't make it to Wrigleyville in Chicago to see the debate in person, tune in at 7:30 p.m. CDT on Wednesday night. 

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How can a better understanding of God's grace enable us to love others?
Montgomery: Grace has a beautiful and violent way of crushing us. No one receives grace proud and smiling. We stagger before we stand. And when we stagger under the weight of grace, we become more human. Even before Adam sinned, he wasn’t designed to be independent of God. Humans, as the divine image, are meant not just for God’s glory but for God’s fellowship. From this God-ordained humanness we begin to love others.
There’s no bigger obstacle than our thorny pride to loving another human made equally in God’s image. We care about ourselves. We want our own good. We think only in terms of how our words and actions affect us. “Service” sounds inconvenient. But grace makes us strange to this world. Our worldview flips upside down and inside out. We care about others, even before ourselves. We want others’ good and seek it in ways that honor instead of manipulating them. Our words aren’t weapons to advance ourselves but solid stones placed on a pathway to bring others to a higher, more beautiful, and abundant place of life with God and love. Service becomes an invitation, not drudgery.
Grace makes us eager to wrap a towel around our waist and scrub each other’s feet. Grace highlights the scandalous outrage of God’s love for us. Grace shows us—sometimes painfully!—the depth of the debt God has forgiven in each of our lives (Matt. 18:21–35).
But here’s the even better news: grace resurrects us to life and overcomes our pride, giving us the courage to love even though we’ll never do so perfectly. John Piper delves into this point in his book Finally Alive, and it’s glorious. Without grace the command to love one another is too high, too holy, and will crush us. But with grace, love becomes happy, daring, and joyful obedience.
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Called to Love and Serve

843 Acres post: Founder’s Choice: Bearing with the Weakness of Others

Founder’s Choice: Bethany Jenkins: The “stumbling block” passage, when properly applied, is one of the most beautiful truths in all of Scripture. To me, it’s one of the ways that we can live totally opposite from the wisdom of this age: Who in their right mind voluntarily puts down their rights for others? Here, Paul doesn’t tell “the strong” that they are wrong; in fact, he says, they’re right. Yet he calls them to lay down their rightness out of love and service to others who are “weak” and, he acknowledges, wrong. I rarely see such humility in my own heart. I like to be right, to win arguments, to live according to the rights that I have. I don’t want to lay down my rights to those who are wrong; instead, I want to show them how wrong they are. Yet when I see Jesus, who laid down his divine rights out of love and service to me (his wrong-headed and stubborn enemy), I weep as I embrace his kindness. This, in turn, enables me to lay down my rights—not because I’m wrong, but because I’m called to love and serve others as he has loved and served me.
843 Acres: Founder’s Choice: Bearing with the Weakness of OthersOriginally published as a Tuesday Tweetable on September 3, 2013.Highlighted: 1 Cor 8
Discerning Brokenness
We exclude people in three ways: (1) expulsion: get away from me, (2) subjugation: submit to me, (3) assimilation: conform to me.
Traditional intolerance says, “We have rules and, if you do not adhere to our truth, then you are out.” #expulsion
Modern (in)tolerance says, “We can live together as long as no one claims to have the truth. This is the only absolute truth.” #assimilation
Imagining Redemption 
Modernity says, To accept someone, you accept their beliefs. Christianity says, Accept one another, even if you don’t accept their beliefs.
How do we treat people who we think are wrong? We were saved by someone who entered into our humanity when we were wrong. #love #innerpoise
Eating food sacrificed to idols was not sinful unless it was in the presence of a believer with a weak conscience. http://ow.ly/mO6MK
Praying ACTS
Lord, On the cross, we see your intolerance for sin and your vulnerability for us. What a condescending, loving God we serve! #adoration
Lord, We confess that we are often impatient with others. Instead of being driven by other-love, we are driven by self-love. #confession
Lord, Thank you for bearing with our weak consciences, for being intolerant of our sin and for adjusting your life for us. #thanksgiving
Lord, Help us relate to others as you relate to us – on the basis of your grace, not our goodness, rightness or kindness. #supplication

Monday, August 25, 2014

Redeeming Love

There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel's veins; 
and sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains. 
Lose all their guilty stains, 
lose all their guilty stains; 
and sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.


There Is A Fountain


Our Help and Our Shield

18 Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him,
    on those who hope in his steadfast love,
19 that he may deliver their soul from death
    and keep them alive in famine.
20 Our soul waits for the Lord;
    he is our help and our shield.
21 For our heart is glad in him,
    because we trust in his holy name.
22 Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us,
    even as we hope in you.

Ps 33 [ESV]

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Believe



We believe in God the Father
We believe in Jesus Christ
We believe in the Holy Spirit
And He's given us new life
We believe in the crucifixion
We believe that He conquered death
We believe in the resurrection
And He's comin' back again, we believe

"We Believe", The Newsboys

Friday, August 22, 2014

Thankful

You did it: you changed wild lament
    into whirling dance;
You ripped off my black mourning band
    and decked me with wildflowers.
I’m about to burst with song;
    I can’t keep quiet about you.
God, my God,
    I can’t thank you enough.

Ps 30:11-12 [Message]

Amazing Grace

19 I will restore Israel to his pasture, and he shall feed on Carmel and in Bashan, and his desire shall be satisfied on the hills of Ephraim and in Gilead. 20 In those days and in that time, declares the Lordiniquity shall be sought in Israel, and there shall be none, and sin in Judah, and none shall be found, for I will pardon those whom I leave as a remnant.

Jeremiah 50 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

We Call Out "Glory!"


1-2 Bravo, God, bravo!
    Gods and all angels shout, “Encore!”
In awe before the glory,
    in awe before God’s visible power.
Stand at attention!
    Dress your best to honor him!
God thunders across the waters,
Brilliant, his voice and his face, streaming brightness—
God, across the flood waters.
God’s thunder tympanic,
God’s thunder symphonic.
God’s thunder smashes cedars,
God topples the northern cedars.
The mountain ranges skip like spring colts,
The high ridges jump like wild kid goats.
7-8 God’s thunder spits fire.
God thunders, the wilderness quakes;
He makes the desert of Kadesh shake.
God’s thunder sets the oak trees dancing
A wild dance, whirling; the pelting rain strips their branches.
We fall to our knees—we call out, “Glory!”
10 Above the floodwaters is God’s throne
    from which his power flows,
    from which he rules the world.
11 God makes his people strong.
God gives his people peace.

Psalm 28 [Message]

A Person Whose Mouth is Full of Life

Jon Bloom post: Make Your Mouth a Fountain of Life

The Bible tells us “death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21). That means a lot is at stake in what we say today. And in literate societies like ours, tongues include hands that write, type, paint, or sign.

Tongues of Death

People die because of things that are said. Tongues can be weapons of mass destruction, launching holocausts and wars. Tongues can also be the death of marriages, families, friendships, churches, careers, hopes, understanding, reputations, missionary efforts, and governments.

Tongues of Life

But people also live because of things that are said. The tongue can be “a tree of life” (Proverbs 15:4). Tongues can reconcile peoples and make peace (“blessed are the peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9)). Tongues can make marriages sweet, families strong, and churches healthy. Tongues can give hope to the despairing, advance understanding, and spread the gospel.
So what will come out of your mouth today, death or life? “Sword thrusts” or “healing” (Proverbs 12:18)?

The Heart Moves the Tongue

It will all depend on what’s filling your heart. Jesus said, “out of the abundance of the heart [the] mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45). A critical heart produces a critical tongue. A self-righteous heart produces a judgmental tongue. A bitter heart produces an acerbic tongue. An ungrateful heart produces a grumbling tongue.
But a loving heart produces a gracious tongue. A faithful heart produces a truthful tongue. A peaceful heart produces a reconciling tongue. A trusting heart produces an encouraging tongue.
So fill your heart with grace by soaking in your Bible. Soak in Matthew 5, or Romans 12, or 1 Corinthians 13, or Philippians 2. And be very careful taking in the words of death in the newspaper, on the radio, the TV, or social media.
And pray this: “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!” (Psalm 141:3)
The world is full of words of death. “The whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19) who “was a murderer from the beginning. . . and the father of lies” (John 8:44). Let us not join him in his “restless evil” (James 3:8).
For “we are from God” (1 John 15:19), and we believe in his Son, Jesus, “the Word” (John 1:1), “the truth and the life” (John 14:6), and who alone has “the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). Let us join him in speaking these.

Tongues for Today

Today, make your mouth “a fountain of life” (Proverbs 10:11). Be “slow to speak” in general (James 1:19). Encourage more than you critique. Seek opportunities to speak kind, tenderhearted words (Ephesians 4:32). Say something affectionate to a loved one at an unexpected time. Seek to only speak words that are “good for building up,” that “give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29).
Be a person whose mouth is full of life.
“And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up” (Acts 20:32).