The Crux of Repentance

Scripture Focus: 2 Thessalonians 2.13-14
But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as firstfruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Reflection: The Crux of Repentance

By John Tillman

We acknowledge that Jesus said “It is finished.” But still we often want to “do our part.” We are like a patron in a five star restaurant being served a dish prepared by a master chef which we then we drown in ketchup.

The unmerited favor of Christ is an acquired taste. Most of us are gauche enough to like our grace flavored with a little bit of earning it.

But, don’t we have to do… something? What about repentance? What about sanctification? What about growing more like Christ?

Where the call of the gospel, the work of Christ, our belief in him, and the first steps of our sanctification meet is the crux of repentance.

“If you believe, you must every day renounce, as dung and dross, your privileges, your obedience, your baptism, your sanctification, your duties, your graces, your tears, your meltings, your humblings, and nothing but Christ must be held up.” — Thomas Wilcox

We often are so unwilling to renounce anything. So unwilling to part with anything. So unwilling to lay down anything.

If only our repentance looked more like that of the thief on the cross. His hands are open, holding nothing. He is naked, hiding nothing. He is humble, asking nothing. He simply believes.

Our hands are full of work and achievements. Our sins we dress in the finest of intentions. Our demands are not only for Heaven in the future, but tangible blessing now. We want one pie in the sky and one on earth too.

It is important to distinguish that acts of repentance are not a precursor or a down payment that secures our forgiveness. On the contrary, the Holy Spirit—no longer behind the veil of the temple but living in us—is our down payment from Christ.

Just as Christ completed his work on the cross for us, his Holy Spirit will complete a transforming work in us, if we let him.

May we repent as the thief and allow Christ to do his work. The man lived mere hours as a believer, but look what God has done with those hours.

“If a dying Saviour saved the thief, my argument is, that he can do even more now that he liveth and reigneth. All power is given unto him in heaven and in earth; can anything at this present time surpass the power of his grace?” — Charles Haddon Spurgeon

What may the Holy Spirit do in you?

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
Show me you ways, O Lord, and teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; in you have I trusteed all the day long. — Psalm 25.3-4

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Kings 2 (Listen – 4:26)
2 Thessalonians 2 (Listen -2:32)

Thank You!
Thank you to our donors who support our readers by making it possible to continue The Park Forum devotionals. This year, The Park Forum audiences opened 200,000 emails with free, and ad-free, devotional content. Follow this link to join our donors with a one-time or a monthly gift.

Read more about More and More and Less and Less :: Guided Prayer
Sanctification and moralism both introduce change, but only one is spiritual and is powered by the gospel.

Read more about A Trinity of Neglect :: Readers’ Choice
The king expected growth in the servant. Growth of the gold would only be a side effect.

More and More and Less and Less :: Guided Prayer

Scripture Focus: ‭‭1 Thessalonians‬ ‭4.
We instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more.

Reflection: More and More and Less and Less :: Guided Prayer
By John Tillman

Paul uses the term “more and more“ twice in the fourth chapter of his letter to the Thessalonians. Both times he is pleased with where the believers are currently, yet hoping for and encouraging them toward more. 

Sanctification is easy to confuse with moralism. 

To the moralist, “more and more” means more rules and ratings.
To those being sanctified, “more and more” means fewer outward rules and more inner change.

Through sanctification, we are slowly transformed by influences beyond our selves—-the Holy Spirit’s power and the reading of God’s Word. In sanctification, we focus on change in our lives, not others.

Through moralism, we transform scriptures into affirmations of our faithfulness and condemnation of others’ sinfulness. In moralism, we focus on others lives, measuring ourselves against them instead of scripture. 

Sanctification and moralism both introduce change, but only one is spiritual and is powered by the gospel. Let us pray this prayer over the weekend that we may not be more “moral.” But that, instead, we may be more like Christ.

More and More and Less and Less
Gracious Father, we know…

We cannot do “more and more” of the things Christ calls us to without doing “less and less” of some other things.

More and more of Christ in our life means less and less of us. He must become greater and we must become less.

Give us more and less, Father… 
More of Christ’s love for others less of our love of self. 
More of Christ’s grace for others and less of our grudging forgiveness. 
More of Christ’s hatred of sin and less of our hatred of those whose sins are different than ours.
More of Christ’s Word, the Bible, and less of the algorithmic sales machines that social media has become.
More of spreading the good news of the gospel and less of spreading the worst news we can find about our enemies.

We know that we will be at our happiest, at our most fulfilled, and at our most true self when we continually surrender more and more to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

No Christian is ever perfect until perfectly conformed to Christ. Conform us, Lord.
No Christian is ever righteous without the righteousness of Christ. Make us righteous, Lord.
No Christian can say, “It is finished.” Christ came to say it for us. Finish your work in us, Lord.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
O Lord, I cry to you for help; in the morning my prayer comes before you. — Psalm 88.14

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
1 Kings 21 (Listen – 4:19)
1 Thessalonians 4 (Listen -2:24)

This Weekend’s Readings
1 Kings 22 (Listen – 7:51), 1 Thessalonians 5 (Listen -2:37)
2 Kings 1 (Listen – 3:13),  2 Thessalonians 1 (Listen -1:52)

Thank You!
Thank you to our donors who support our readers by making it possible to continue The Park Forum devotionals. This year, The Park Forum audiences opened 200,000 emails with free, and ad-free, devotional content. Follow this link to join our donors with a one-time or a monthly gift.

Read more about Christ, the True Hero
We are not the saviors, but the ones in need of saving. It is Christ, not us, who is the hero of our cities and our world.

Read more about The Law that leads to Grace :: Guided Prayer
We cannot live by the Law. If we could, then Christ’s death was for no purpose.

The Purpose Beyond Growth :: Throwback Thursday

Scripture Focus: 1 Thessalonians 3.2-4
We sent Timothy, who is our brother and co-worker in God’s service in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. For you know quite well that we are destined for them. In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know.

Reflection: The Purpose Beyond Growth :: Throwback Thursday
By Isabella Lillias Trotter (1853–1928)

A flower that stops short at its flowering misses its purpose. 

We were created for more than our own spiritual development; reproduction, not mere development, is the goal of matured being—reproduction in other lives. There is a tendency in some characters, running parallel to the high cultivation that spends its whole energy on the production of bloom at the expense of seed. 

The flowers that are bent on perfecting themselves, by becoming double, end in barrenness, and a like barrenness comes to the soul whose interests are all concentrated upon its own spiritual well-being, heedless of the needs around. The true, ideal flower is the one that uses its gifts as means to an end; the brightness and sweetness are not for its own glory; they are but to attract the bees and butterflies that will fertilise and make it fruitful. All may go when the work is done. 

The pebble takes in all the rays of light that fall on it, but the diamond flashes them out again: every little facet is a means, not simply of drinking more in, but of giving more out. The unearthly loveliness of the opal arises from the same process, carried on within the stone: the microscope shows it to be shattered through and through with numberless fissures that catch and refract and radiate every ray that they can seize. 

Yes, there lies before us a beautiful possible life—one that shall have a passion for giving: that shall be poured forth to God—spent out for man: that shall be consecrated “for the hardest work and the darkest sinners.” But how are we to enter in? How are we to escape from the self-life that holds us, even after the sin-life has loosed its grasp? 

Back to the Cross.

Not only from the world of condemnation and from the world of sinning does it free us as we accept it, but from the power of outward things and from the thraldom of self. Not only does it open the door into the world of acquittal, and again into that of holiness, but yet again into the new realm of surrender, and thence into that of sacrifice. 

The essential idea of the Cross is a life lost to be found again in those around.

*From Parables of the Cross, by Isabella Lillias Trotter

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. — Psalm 86.4

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
1 Kings 20 (Listen – 7:03)
1 Thessalonians 3 (Listen – 1:44)

Thank You!
Thank you to our donors who support our readers by making it possible to continue The Park Forum devotionals. This year, The Park Forum audiences opened 200,000 emails with free, and ad-free, devotional content. Follow this link to join our donors with a one-time or a monthly gift.

Read more from Isabella Lillias Trotter: The Step After Surrender
There is another stage to be developed in us after the lesson of absolute unquestioning surrender to God has been learnt…

Read more about Joy Through SurrenderJ
esus teaches us courageous surrender. We see Him running headlong into His own demise for the sake of a greater eternal intention and destiny.

A Berean Take on Fake News

Scripture Focus: 1 Thessalonians 2:14-15
For you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of God’s churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own people the same things those churches suffered from the Jews who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out.

Acts 17:11
Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

Reflection: A Berean Take on Fake News
by John Tillman

Bereans do not have a Pauline epistle in the canon of scripture and the Thessalonians have two. However, the Jews of Berea are described in Acts as being “more noble” than those in Thessalonica. This nobility is characterized by engaging Paul’s teaching with intellectual curiosity and scriptural research.

Paul’s opponents in Thessalonica used tactics that were anti-intellectual and anti-scriptural and we should recognize them from our own Facebook feeds—exaggeration and falsification. Then as now, people ate it up. After they succeeded in running Paul out of town, they followed him to Berea, doxing him as a heretic and a political agitator. Even amongst the “more noble” Bereans, they were still able to cause enough trouble to force Paul to move on.

If you think people today are more sophisticated, more cultured, or more intellectual than those of the ancient world, you have been paying attention neither to ancient history nor to Facebook.
In our day, both progressive-leaning and conservative-leaning publications profit by pot-stirring. While it would be easy to point the finger at the media, we are responsible to choose a “more noble” path as consumers of content. Our sinfulness is the reason that inspiring fervor is much more profitable than dispensing facts and sensationalism is more clickable than sensible reporting.

In our Internet-connected world, cries of “Fake News” reverberate in the insulated echo chambers that we stroll (or scroll) through. These echo chambers are built for us by algorithms whose intent is to keep us scrolling, viewing, and reading and whose strategy is explicitly to not offend us with contradictory data, stories, images, or opinions that we don’t “like.”

Christians shouldn’t rely on algorithms to tell us what is important in the world. That is why we have Scriptures, the Church, and the Holy Spirit. Christians have a responsibility to not get swept up in hysteria, to not spread rumor as fact, and to not react in denial or anger when the facts cast a bad light on us or those we support.

It is bad practice to only trust news from organizations we feel share our values. No news organization shares your values. They value your “shares.” As Ed Stetzer has said, “Facts are our friends.” We need to seek the facts in more places than those that pander to us.

Christians need to develop a more Berean attitude about not only the scripture we read, but the news we share. It’s hard to share the incredible news of the Gospel when the rest of what we share is in-credible

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Bless our God, you peoples; make the voice of his praise to be heard; 
Who holds our souls in life, and will not allow our feet to slip. — Psalm 66:7-8

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
1 Kings 19 (Listen – 3:53)
1 Thessalonians 2 (Listen – 2:53)

Thank You!
Thank you to our donors who support our readers by making it possible to continue The Park Forum devotionals. This year, The Park Forum audiences opened 200,000 emails with free, and ad-free, devotional content. Follow this link to join our donors with a one-time or a monthly gift.

Read more about Honoring The Truth
Seeking the truth is not only a spiritual quest. It is sometimes a civic one. Or a legal one.

Read more about A Berean Palate
May we develop a discerning, Berean palate that we not only apply to scripture but to our reading of our culture.

Resisting or Assisting a Corrupt Regime?

Scripture Focus: 1 Kings 18.3-4
Obadiah was a devout believer in the Lord. While Jezebel was killing off the Lord’s prophets, Obadiah had taken a hundred prophets and hidden them in two caves, fifty in each, and had supplied them with food and water.

Reflection: Resisting or Assisting a Corrupt Regime?
By John Tillman

Obadiah was a government minister who was faithful to God, despite serving under a corrupt, anti-God, and explicitly evil pair of rulers. Modern readers may have difficulty deciding to either attack him for assisting or applaud him for resisting the government, depending on their point of view.

Ahab and Jezebel are legendarily evil. Jezebel’s name became a byword for an evil woman and a trope in fiction throughout history.  Even Shakespeare, who used or referenced scripture often, seems to have had an eye on Jezebel when he created the character of Lady Macbeth.

However, it is Ahab who fits the mold of the autocrats of today’s politics. He is petty, pouting, vindictive, blustering, and evil. He feigns faith in God, yet his true allegiance seems to be only to his own selfish desires and enrichment. Ahab isn’t concerned with finding food for his subjects amidst the famine, but for his animals. This is where Obadiah, who risked his life to feed people faithful to God, is found by Elijah, helping Ahab search for water to save the evil king’s animals.

It would be easy to point to Obadiah and politicize him as representing someone serving today in a modern democratic government. However, comparing the actions of those in scripture, living under tyranny, to people today, living under the many freedoms of democracy, is not a truly fair comparison.

Even in poorly functioning democracies, citizens are granted freedom of movement, freedom of choice in career and among employers, freedom of speech in supporting political parties or individuals. No person in scripture, including Obadiah, ever possessed any of these freedoms.

People of faith today have far more nuanced choices that can be made. Obadiah’s covert bravery is admirable and often necessary, even in today’s world. But in a culture where we have more freedom to do so, the world needs to see Christians more directly confronting evil, following the model of Elijah.

We must remember that Obadiah and Elijah are not enemies. They are on the same side.

No matter whether we follow Obadiah’s model of illegal, covert resistance from within, or Elijah’s more confrontive and vocal model of resistance, we must remember that no matter how tyrannical our leaders or our government, we are citizens and ambassadors from a greater kingdom and no human government, party, or leader is owed our loyalty or faithfulness.

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
Jesus taught us, saying: “There is no need to be afraid, little flock, for it has pleased your Father to give you the kingdom.” Luke 12:32

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
1 Kings 18 (Listen – 7:08)
1 Thessalonians 1 (Listen – 1:27)

Thank You!
Thank you to our donors who support our readers by making it possible to continue The Park Forum devotionals. This year, The Park Forum audiences opened 200,000 emails with free, and ad-free, devotional content. Follow this link to join our donors with a one-time or a monthly gift.

Read more about No Princes :: Readers’ Choice
How many believers veil their trust in men as trust in God?

Read more about The Losers Who Write History
Not one of those glowingly positive, king-praising prophets’ writings are in our Bible. Instead we have the writings of the losers. The cries of the oppressed.

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