Monday, September 29, 2014
Sunday, September 28, 2014
Thursday, September 25, 2014
Don Carson post: 2 Samuel 22; Galatians 2; Ezekiel 29;
One of the most intriguing “behind-the-scenes” reasonings is found in Ezekiel 29:17-20. Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon is going to succeed against Tyre, but it will be a hard campaign and with little profit. So God will give Egypt to Babylon, in part to pay off Babylon for its long and costly years against Tyre. “I have given him Egypt as a reward for his efforts because he and his army did it for me, declares the Sovereign LORD” (Ezek. 29:20). Not for a moment should one think that any of the nations acted out of conscious obedience to the Lord (cf. Isa. 10:5ff!). But the Lord is no one’s debtor, and these are the arrangements that Almighty God is making.
We would not know these things apart from revelation, of course. But they warn us against pontificating too loudly about what is going on in our day, when we see so little of the big picture as to what God himself is doing.
Wednesday, September 24, 2014
Bethany at 843 Acres: A Timeless Riddle
Riddle: Epicureanism denied the existence of an omnipotent and loving God based on the existence of evil in the world. The Riddle of Epicurus was this: “God either wants to eliminate bad things and cannot, or can but does not want to, or neither wishes to nor can, or both wants to and can. If he wants to and cannot, then he is weak—and this does not apply to god. If he can but does not want to, then he is spiteful—which is equally foreign to god’s nature. If he neither wants to nor can, he is both weak and spiteful, and so not a god. If he wants to and can, which is the only thing fitting for a god, where then do bad things come from? Or why does he not eliminate them?” 
Confusion: When Asaph looked upon the ruins of Jerusalem, he had similar questions. He knew the character of God and his covenant promises, but he could not understand how God could abandon his people and allow Jerusalem and its temple to be destroyed: “We do not see our signs; there is no longer any prophet … Why do you hold back your hand, your right hand?” .
Person: It is not necessarily sinful to ask such questions. The heart can trust God and still be confused when it looks at the world. Yet we understand what Asaph could not—that the center of worship is not in a place, but in a person. Ultimately, his prayer was not answered by philosophical reasoning, but by Jesus Christ. The cross says to the Riddle of Epicurus, “The greatest ‘bad thing’ in history was the brutal crucifixion of my innocent Son. Yet I allowed it to happen—not because I am spiteful, but because I am love. You may not always know the reasons behind all I do or allow, but I promise this: ‘For those who love God, all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.’” 
Prayer: Lord, When we look at the world around us, we often question how your promises can be true. Yet we stake our lives on them for you are more constant than our circumstances. We confess that, like Asaph, we have incomplete information. Let us not judge you with feeble sense, but instead trust you at your word with eyes of faith. Amen.
Posted by Jim Grayson at 6:12 AM
Monday, September 22, 2014
A book written from my mother's blog about her struggle with cancer and her faith in God.
“Dogwood winter,” a southern phrase, describes a brief period in spring when icy weather returns and coincides with the dogwood blooms.
Beverly Grayson struggled for eight years with cancer. Midway, she began journaling online where candid posts revealed thoughts about illness, family, Tennessee, and even recipes. She dreamed of whittling her posts to book length to encourage others that God sees, God knows, and God comforts.
With conviction, wisdom, and humor, she shares personal stories and 365 Bible verses that comforted her. Beverly left a legacy of insights for sufferers and families who face the upheaval of cancer. She will help you—no matter the outcome—live from faith to faith, from scan to scan, with hope intact.
Posted by Jim Grayson at 7:08 AM
Thursday, September 18, 2014
Wednesday, September 17, 2014
Bethany post: 843 Acres: Evangelical Churches in NYC
Praise: This weekend, Redeemer celebrates its 25th anniversary. Over the years, God has seen fit not only to grow Redeemer, but also to begin at least 100 churches in center city, including Trinity Grace, Apostles, Metropolitan Faith, Dwell, and more. For these blessings, we sing, “Shout for joy to God, all the earth! Sing the glory of his name.”  With praise, though, there is caution.
History: In “Our Place in the Story,” Tim Keller briefly recounts the evangelical history of NYC. After highlighting how the evangelical awakening, which emphasized conversion through hearing the gospel proclaimed, affected the churches in the 1700s, Keller moves to the 1880s, when evangelical churches were unsure how to reach the new Catholic immigrants and were being superseded as social gathering places by the city itself.
Split: To stay relevant, the Protestant churches moved uptown and built stately buildings, like First Baptist at 79th and Brick Pres on Park Avenue. But the decline didn’t stop and, eventually, there was a split. The Presbyterians pursued Liberalism, relegating the preaching of the gospel and seeking conversion through “loving action, social reform, and education.” The Baptists pursued Fundamentalism, developing “a very combative stance toward the city” and focusing on “materialism and moral evils.”
Call: “In a short newsletter article,” Keller continues, “it is impossible to avoid over-generalization. Yet it is not hard to see that, by the second half of the 20th century, the old kind of Protestant evangelicalism—true to historic orthodox doctrine, yet also intellectually robust and socially engaged—was weak or vanished in New York City. And now it is growing back … However, we too face the issue of a culture that is not interested in what we have to say. How do we reach them? We must not make the same mistake again. We must not respond with either withdrawal nor with assimilation to the spirit of the age.”
Prayer: Lord, Although we see praises for your mighty works in Psalm 66, we also know that the people who saw those miracles—the turning the sea into dry land and the walking through the waters on foot—worshipped idols just three months later. Therefore, in light of our praise to you for your work in our city, we admit that we’re apt to forget you. May we love our city to life, as we cling to both engagement and holiness. Amen.
Posted by Jim Grayson at 7:16 AM
Monday, September 15, 2014
Friday, September 12, 2014
Bethany post at 843 Acres: Persecutions by ISIS
ISIS: In Iraq, ISIS is systematically slaughtering Christians and other religious minorities. Amnesty International nownorthern Iraq as “blood-soaked killing fields.” How are we to view these persecutions and atrocities?
Persecution: David was no stranger to persecution. In Psalms 56 and 57, he was running from Saul, who wanted to kill him because God had anointed him as king in Saul’s place. He described Saul and his 3,000 men in Psalm 57: “My soul is in the midst of lions; I lie down amid fiery beasts—the children of man, whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords.”  In Psalm 56, he wrote, “All day long, they injure my cause; all their thoughts are against me for evil. They stir up strife, they lurk; they watch my steps, as they have waited for my life.” 
Trust: How did David face these life-threatening circumstances? First, he acknowledged his real emotions: “When I am afraid …” and cried out in lament: “You have … put my tears in your bottle.”  Then he looked up: “In God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?”  Many years later, Jesus echoed David’s thoughts: “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”  In other words, both David and Jesus were saying that there are things more valuable than safety—namely, being in relationship with God.
Prayer: Lord, We do not pretend to understand the fears and emotions of our brothers and sisters abroad, as they face death daily in the hands of their oppressors. Yet we long to pray for them. Therefore, we plead for you to give them great assurance of faith that they belong to you so that they may not faint nor falter in your service, but go through it resolutely and bravely. Lift your countenance upon your people that they may not repent of being called yours. And make your name great. As Diocletian, who greatly persecuted the church, observed, “the more he sought to blot out the name of Christ, the more it became legible.” And as David pled for justice to be done against his oppressors, we, too, pray for justice: “For their crime will they escape? In wrath, cast down the peoples, O God!”  Amen.