Archive for December, 2009

December 28, 2009

[Morning Walk] Getting Ready for the New Year

by Bethany

Morning Walk is taking a break for the week. We’re launching the website and taking care of end-of-the year business. In the meantime, you can follow the daily readings as outlined below.

You can also now donate online to The Park Forum. Your contributions are essential as we start this nonprofit ministry and create materials for urban professionals. We use these donations to pay the bills, create and test small group materials, and build on our online presence.

December 26, 2009

[843 acres] Christmas News

by Bethany
December 25, 2009

[Advent] He Would Change Our Lives

by Bethany

The Park Forum Advent Readings: Ezekiel 36, Luke 2

The Prophecy.

During the month of December, we’ve considered specific prophecies of the Messiah and how they were fulfilled in Jesus Christ. He alone fulfilled all of these prophecies. God spoke through the prophets about His coming Son because He wanted Jesus to have all the credentials he needed when he came into the world.

Yet the greatest prophecy is that Jesus would bring new life:

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you. Ezekiel 36:26, ESV.

The Lord will circumcise your heart. Deuteronomy 30:6, ESV.

The Fulfillment.

When Jesus was eight days old, the age of circumcision under the law, his parents took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord. In Jerusalem, there was a man called Simeon. The Holy Spirit, who revealed to him that he would not die before he had seen the Messiah, was upon him. Move by the Spirit, he went to the temple. When Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the temple to be circumcised, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel. Luke 2:29-32, ESV.

Joseph and Mary were in awe. Simeon blessed them and said to Mary,

Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. v. 33-35, ESV.

How Simeon’s words proved true! Jesus pierced through people’s hearts – the woman at the well who was forgiven and mercifully told to “go and sin no more”, the criminal on the cross who was told “today you will be with me in paradise”, the Pharisee on the road to murder Christians who had the scales on his eyes removed to see the glorious light of Jesus. The lives and hearts of these individuals (and more) were changed. As Paul wrote,

Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. 2 Corinthians 5:17.

Today, as we celebrate the coming of Jesus as a baby, let us celebrate the new hearts and new lives that we have in him.

December 24, 2009

[Advent] Gentiles Would Seek After Him

by Bethany

The Park Forum Advent Readings: Isaiah 11, Acts 9

The Prophecy.

Isaiah prophesied that the Gentiles – not just Israel – would seek after a descendant of Jesse who would be the Messiah (see here):

In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples – of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious. v. 10, ESV.

The Fulfillment.

The Lord called a Pharisee – of the tribe of Benjamin (i.e., of the most beloved tribe) and a Hebrew of Hebrews (i.e., of a long lineage of Israelites) – to proclaim the good news to the Gentiles.

On the way to Damascus to imprison Christians, Saul was stopped by a light from heaven. Immediately, he fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” He asked, “Who are you, Lord?” The voice responded, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

Meanwhile, in Damascus, there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord spoke to him in a vision, telling him to go find Saul. But Ananias hesitated because he had heard of Saul – that he had imprisoned and murdered Christians. He said, “Lord, I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”

But the Lord said to Ananias,

Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel.

God called Saul for the purpose of proclaiming the good news of the gospel to the Gentiles. Since that moment, Saul (who later came to be known as Paul) never stopped preaching the good news that the Gentiles have been engrafted into the family of God. Now, millions of people worldwide have turned to Jesus for forgiveness and salvation. Faith in Christ knows no cultural, racial, geographical, or gender limitations. All are welcome to worship under the star at the feet of the baby born in a manger.

December 23, 2009

[Advent] He Would Be Punished for Our Sins

by Bethany

The Park Forum Advent Readings: Isaiah 53, Romans 5

The Prophecy

Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah would be punished for our sins:

… he was wounded for our transgressions …
By his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous … v. 5-6, 11-12, ESV.

Although he would be innocent and falsely accused, he would not defend himself:

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth …
although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. v. 7-9, ESV.

As a result, he would be killed, die with the wicked, and be with the rich at his death

… he was cut off out of the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people …
they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death … v. 8-9.

Even though he would die, he would live:

He shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
The will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. V. 10, ESV.

The Fulfillment

In the face of false witnesses and testimony, Jesus said nothing:

… when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he gave no answer. Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many things they testify against you?” But he gave no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed. Matthew 27:12-14, ESV; cf. Matthew 26:57-67.

He was killed, died with the wicked, and buried in a rich man’s tomb:

… [robbers] were crucified with him …

… there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus … And Joseph took [Jesus’] body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud and laid it in his own new tomb … Matthew 27:32-61, ESV.

All of this, he did for our sins:

God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. Romans 5:6-11, ESV.

December 22, 2009

[843 acres] Will We Ever Have a Hero Again?

by Bethany

Several FOXNews Radio commentators agreed yesterday – their greatest hero is President George Washington. As I listened to their stories of Washington, I wondered: Why do we have to reach back over 200 years in order to find a hero?

It’s easy to glorify a hero of the past and to vilify a hero of the present. Compare George Washington with Tiger Woods, for example. With Washington, he can no longer fail us and, comparatively, we know very little about him. With Woods, on the other hand, he still has the potential to disappoint and we know so much about him due to our celebrity obsessed culture and mass Internet publishing and access. Between the times of Washington and Woods, then, what happened? Human nature has not changed, but rather access to information that evidences human nature has.

This is why I love the Gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The people and the disciples – even the writers themselves – oftentimes come off as idiots (e.g., asking the Lord Jesus whether they could sit at the right hand of God the Father in heaven is like going to the Grand Canyon, digging a small ditch right next to it, and saying to onlookers, “Look at what I made! Isn’t it amazing?!” – it’s missing the point).

Let’s stop looking at those in the past or the present to fulfill our ideals of perfection. There was only one perfect man who walked on earth – Jesus – and we should look on him as our hero. As Paul encouraged the church in Corinth, to the extent that we have human heroes, we should: “Be imitators of [them], just as [they are] of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1, ESV, emphasis mine).

December 22, 2009

[Advent] He Would Be Betrayed by a Friend

by Bethany

The Park Forum Advent Readings: Psalm 41, John 13

The Prophecy.

David prophesied concerning the Messiah: 

Even my close friend in whom I trusted,
who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me. Psalm 41:9, ESV.

The Fulfillment.

Judas, one of the twelve disciples, left fellowship with the others after Jesus’ anointing in Bethany and arranged for Jesus’ murder for 30 pieces of silver (more). Two days later, the apostles regrouped to celebrate the Passover with Jesus. And guess who came to dinner? Judas. There he was at the table – eating, praying, and enjoying the last supper – near enough to dip his bread in the Lord’s cup.

And as they were eating, [Jesus] said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” And they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?” Matthew 26, ESV.

“I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfill the scripture: ‘He who shares my bread has lifted up his heel against me’ … Leaning back against Jesus, [John] asked him, “Lord, who is it?” Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas Iscariot … As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. John 13:18-30, NIV.

After eating, Jesus and a few of the disciples went to pray. Suddenly, Judas arrived with a crowd following him. He approached Jesus to kiss him, but Jesus asked, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” Jesus was then carried away by the chief priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the elders, who had come for him.

The Meaning.

Why would Jesus – knowing that Judas would betray him – choose him to be one of the twelve disciples? Jesus’ choosing of Judas magnifies God’s sovereignty. As John Piper puts it, the choosing of Judas tells us, “Yes, there is a devil in the ranks. But I put him there. I chose him. He will do my bidding. No one takes my life from me. I lay it down of my own accord (John 10:18). He is not in charge. I am.”

When all hell breaks loose or when troubles surround you, the Lord is in charge. No matter how it may seem, you are firmly in his grip and he is in charge.

December 21, 2009

[843 acres] Life as a Vapor

by Perryn Pettus

On Sunday morning, at 10:04 am, actress Brittany Murphy was pronounced dead in a Los Angeles hospital. According to current reports, she died of natural causes after going into cardiac arrest upon arrival at the hospital, but no foul play or trauma was suspected in her death. Ms. Murphy was 32 years old. [Actress Brittany Murphy dead at 32, CNN]

What a shock to see someone this age suddenly pass from this life. Psalm 39:4 ["Show me, O LORD, my life's end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life." NIV] reminds us that our days are numbered and life is fleeting. It should be constantly before us that no man is promised tomorrow as life is a short vapor [James 4:14].

December 21, 2009

[Advent] He Would Come Riding on a Donkey

by Bethany

The Park Forum Advent Readings: Zechariah 9, Matthew 21

The Prophecy.

Zechariah prophesied that the Messiah would come riding on a donkey:

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he,
humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. 9:9, ESV.

The Fulfillment. 

During Passover, as Jesus approached Jerusalem, he sent two disciples to fetch a donkey:

Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. Matthew 21:1-3, ESV.

The disciples found the donkey and colt and brought them to Jesus. As Jesus approached the city while riding on the donkey and colt, the crowd gathered – some spread their cloaks on the road while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. They shouted:

Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel! John 12:13, ESV.

Since Jesus was a marked man for execution at this point, some were confused and asked, “Who is this?” The crowds responded:

This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee. Matthew 21:11, ESV.

The Meaning.

In addition to revealing God’s promise-keeping character, the fulfillment of this prophecy also shows that our Lord is full of …

  • Joy. Zechariah tells us to “rejoice greatly” at the Messiah’s coming. Under his reign, he will make his people happy. He will not be a Nero (who plays the fiddle while his city burns) or an Ayatollah (who shames his people) or a Caligula (who is cruel, extravagant, selfish, and sexually perverse). Thus, when Jesus came, the people shouted hosannas, slave girls prophesied, the blind received sight, the lame walked, the deaf heard, lepers were cleansed, and the dead were raised to life. Our king is coming again; let us rejoice!
  • Peace. Kings would ride on donkeys in peacetime but not wartime. By coming on a donkey, therefore, the Messiah ushers in a kingdom of peace. Zechariah continued: “I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall speak peace to the nations …” (9:10, ESV). When Jesus came, he brought peace – between God and humanity and between Israel and the rest of the world – by his blood on the cross (see Ephesians 2:11-22, Colossians 1:15-23).
December 19, 2009

[843 acres] Freedom From What?

by Bethany

After spending 35 years in prison, James Bain was exonerated of all charges against him based on new DNA evidence. [Florida Man Exonerated after 35 Years Behind Bars, Wall Street Journal]. And why isn’t he mad? He says, “Because I’ve got God.” Is he being trite or does having God actually help in the face of such injustice? Although Jesus was falsely accused and then executed as a murderer, he had joy in his heart. The writer of Hebrews calls us to endure through struggles and pains by

… looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. 12:2, ESV.

What was the joy set before him? God … and the new relationship between God and humanity (including James Bain) that Jesus secured by his atoning death on the cross. Let us, like Mr. Bain, endure suffering with joy because we know that this life is “light and momentary” compared to the surpassing joy and freedom that awaits us in heaven.

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