God Shivering on Concrete

Psalm 119.50-53, 61, 64
My comfort in my suffering is this:
   Your promise preserves my life.
The arrogant mock me unmercifully,
   but I do not turn from your law.
I remember, Lord, your ancient laws,
   and I find comfort in them.
Indignation grips me because of the wicked,
   who have forsaken your law…
Though the wicked bind me with ropes,
   I will not forget your law…
The earth is filled with your love, Lord;
   teach me your decrees.

Only the suffering God can help. — Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Reflection: God Shivering on Concrete
By John Tillman

There is great wickedness in the world. Yet, in such a world, the psalmist proclaims God’s love, the power of God’s laws, and the strength of his desire to know his God more deeply.

Even in a world in which a person may be bound with ropes, or separated from their family, or denied justice, or put into a cage, or killed for the convenience of others, or hung from a tree, or gunned down in a church… Even in such a world, the psalmist tells us, “God’s love is evident.”

Wickedness is evident. But God’s love is also evident.

It is evident in the many Christian and secular organizations that move, at times into dangerous circumstances, to help the downtrodden, the poor, and those purposely excluded from justice. It is evident in the disaster that our God promises to bring upon a nation that ignores its responsibilities to the poor and to the foreigner. Our God humbles nations addicted to greed—including His own. Our God sends help to the helpless, no matter the owner of the goods, the ship, the truck, or the organization.

God’s love is evident in God’s help, but more so in his presence. Our God is with those who suffer.

Our God lies on concrete floors under aluminum blankets with abandoned children. He bleeds on the floor of a sanctuary with victimized worshipers. His arms bear wounds of unjust captivity. He bears scars familiar to those who have been brutalized by government forces.

God’s love is, of course, most fully evident in what we call the gospel. The gospel puts wickedness to death in the way it deserves. Christ, through the cross, drags evil to Hell and abandons it there, setting free Hell’s captives. But merely chuffing about “the gospel” in the face of evil makes us into signposts on the road to Hell rather than gatekeepers in the house of our God.

One of the endlessly repeating themes of scripture and especially the Old Testament is that God’s people are to be kind and compassionate to foreigners and strangers.

Reach out in God’s love in any way that is available to you, whether through financial means or political. Even giving a cup of water in the name of Christ to the least of these will be remembered.

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 29 (Listen – 4:14)
Psalm 119:49-72 (Listen – 15:14) 

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 free, and ad-free, devotional content. Follow this link to join our donors with a one-time or a monthly gift. 

Read more Truth Unwanted :: A Guided Prayer
Malachi testifies: “I will come to put you on trial. I will be quick to testify against those who…deprive the foreigners among you of justice,” says the Lord Almighty.”

Read more about In Denial about Injustice
The sins that brought God’s judgment and caused the exile of Israel were multi-faceted. But there is a common thread—injustice. Having a justice system is not the same as having justice.

Occupation of Meditation

Psalm 119.23-24
Though rulers sit together and slander me,
your servant will meditate on your decrees.
Your statutes are my delight;
they are my counselors.

Reflection: Occupation of Meditation
By John Tillman

In a letter to a frustrated friend, Amy Carmichael wrote:

“Did you notice the words ‘occupied in Thy statues’ in Psalm 119.23 (Prayer Book Version)? It is a beautiful word. I have nothing to do today but to please Thee.

That is true of you, for this weariness is part of life, bonds that are allowed to be. But I do hope for health and ask for it. He knows what He is doing. ‘Jesus himself knew what He would do.’ (John 6.5-6) There will be a lovely ending to this story of frustration, something worth all it has cost.”


The word Carmichael refers to as “occupied in” is translated “meditate on” in most modern translations. Siyach carries an additional meaning beyond pondering or thinking. It also implies telling, speaking, and producing thoughts and words. As Carmichael implies, meditation is more than just privately “thinking” about God’s word. It is occupation—something that implies action.
Prayer and meditation are real for Christians not only because our relationship with God is real, but because the results of true prayer are tangible actions on our part, empowered by God to make a difference in our world.

This is illustrated in the biblical story Carmichael references. In John, Jesus is asking Phillip how to feed a large crowd. Feeding the crowd is impossible for Phillip. It is even impossible for the united power of the disciples working together. But it is Christ’s will that they act in faith—doing what little they can do. Christ accepts our ineffectual actions when accompanied by effectual faith. He then miraculously works his power through us to change the world.

In the Psalm, the writer is being slandered and attacked by rulers, representatives of government and this world’s systems of power. The psalmist’s response of meditation is not one of plugging one’s ears with God’s Word so as to retreat from the world. It is that of filling one’s mind, and then one’s mouth with God’s Word—speaking that truth to the powers of the world.

Whatever our earthly frustrations, and whatever the tactics of the powerful princes and rulers who would slander or attack us, our source of strength is not human wisdom. Only meditation on and occupation with God’s Word can bring us peace in our frustrations, and give us power to oppose evil and help the suffering in this world.

Prayer: A Reading
Jesus taught us, saying: “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord’ and not do what I say?… — Luke 6.46

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 26 (Listen – 3:13) 
Psalm 117-118 (Listen – 2:52) 

This Weekend’s Readings
Deuteronomy 27-28:19 (Listen – 13:27), Psalm 119:1-24 (Listen – 15:14) 
Deuteronomy 28:20-68 (Listen – 10:11), Psalm 119:25-48 (Listen – 15:14) 

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 free, and ad-free, devotional content. Follow this link to join our donors with a one-time or a monthly gift. 

Read more about A Discipline for the Anxious
The psalmist writes of being “too troubled to speak,” yet he cries to God…in the midst of doubts and fears, he remembers God’s faithfulness in the past. He meditates on these memories in the heated moment of stress.

Read more about Meditation in Spiritual Rhythm :: Throwback Thursday
Meditation is not new age, but old. However, in the modern age, it has often been forgotten on the shelf as many Christians and Christian leaders followed our culture into frenetic clamor instead of leading our culture from a place of peace and rest.

What to Expect when Suffering :: A Guided Prayer

Psalm 116.11
…in my alarm I said,
“Everyone is a liar.”

Reflection: What to Expect when Suffering :: A Guided Prayer
By John Tillman

When in suffering, we can at times be surprised by the emotions that are stirred. We can encounter deep sadness, anguish, and even rage.

Suffering comes in many forms and many intensities. But our response follows a predictable pattern. Hope, impatience, despair, rage, doubt, rejection, redemption, and praise are all a part of the template of prayer that the psalmists show us. There is comfort in acknowledging the emotional rollercoaster that is the psalmists’ testimony.

Don’t be surprised or ashamed of the emotions that come in times of struggle and pain. With faith in God, we can move through cycles of emotions to the peace that God gives us in his presence.

Today we will follow a guided prayer with portions of Psalm 116 from today’s reading.

What to Expect When Suffering
“The cords of death entangled me,
the anguish of the grave came over me;
I was overcome by distress and sorrow.”


Oh God, in times of stress, despair, and struggle
We are overcome and need your comfort.

“I trusted in the Lord when I said,
‘I am greatly afflicted’”


But the world frustrates us, teaching us that any degree of suffering is waste.

“in my alarm I said,
‘Everyone is a liar.’”


You are the only trustworthy one, Lord,
But in our alarm, amidst fear and emotion
We sometimes call the wrong things lies

May we not reject community, simple kindness, praise, and loving words from those around us.
May we not reject being reminded that we are loved.

Instead we call the world a liar.
When they say a good life is pain-free
When they say pain proves God is not with us

“Precious in the sight of the Lord
is the death of his faithful servants.
Truly I am your servant, Lord;”


Rarely are our current sufferings deadly.
But, Oh God, even when they are…

You are with us now and in the hour of our death
We are precious to you at all times and in every outcome

And if the worst the world can imagine should happen to us
In our death, we simply enter your precious presence in “the courts of the house of the Lord.”

May we not wait until death to experience the peace of walking in your courts.
Help us to live, bringing the reality of your courts, on Earth as it is in Heaven.

Prayer: The Greeting
To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul; my God, I put my trust in you; let me not be humiliated, nor let my enemies triumph over me.
Let none who look to you be put to shame. — Psalm 25.1-2

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 25 (Listen – 2:38) 
Psalm 116 (Listen – 1:34) 

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 free, and ad-free, devotional content. Follow this link to join our donors with a one-time or a monthly gift. 

Read more about When Suffering Lingers :: Readers’ Choice
Early rabbinic writings understood the bush to be a symbol of ancient Israel—persevering under the flame of Egypt’s brutality. Though we burn, we are not consumed. This is the mere beginning of God’s grace.

Read more about The Crucible of Suffering
In the midst of suffering—when we don’t sense any positive change in our circumstances—we can start to question God’s goodness and his love.

Jesus with Axe and Fire

Psalm 115.3-4
Why do the nations say,
    “Where is their God?”
Our God is in heaven;
    he does whatever pleases him.
But their idols are silver and gold,
    made by human hands.

Reflection: Jesus with Axe and Fire
By John Tillman

Ancient idols of silver and gold seem so simple, pagan, and foolish. How could people have fallen for them? Today our idols are more likely to be rose-gold and come with an upgraded camera and a processor marginally faster than last years’.

Modern people are often guilty of shaking our heads at how quaint ancients must have been, worshiping their idols of stone, wood, and gold, not realizing how similar to them we are. We worship brands, companies, and CEOs with fervor equal to the most ardent of ancient adherents of Baal or Asherah. We give our money, adulation, and adoration to the brands that fit our aspirations and our ideals. We are, at times, more faithful to brands than to our churches or to our spouses. We wear their symbols on our clothing and follow their CEOs on Twitter, hanging on their every word.

We’d probably be better off worshiping actual idols of wood and stone than the brands that pander to us, telling us how smart we are to purchase their products. At least the wooden idols are truly dumb and unable to speak. The so-called wisdom we glean from CEOs often only leads us to invest further in consumerism rather than community. 

The problem with our idols is they are all internalized. Our external devices are merely manifestations of our self-love. We could throw away every piece of technology and still slavishly worship pride, consumerism, and comfort.

When Israel was commanded to cut down and burn Asherah poles there was a tangible, physical step. To burn out of our souls our preoccupation with ourselves we require a different kind of axe and a different kind of fire. Thankfully, Jesus stands ready to supply both. John the Baptist describes a Christ who stands ready with both axe and fire. 

May we ask him regularly to cut down our idols. May he burn out of our souls impurity and selfish desires. May he baptize us in fire, making of us a light for the world and a spark to ignite God’s love in our communities.

Prayer: A Reading
Jesus taught us, asking: “How can you believe, since you look to each other for glory and are not concerned with the glory that comes from the one God?” — John 5.44

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 24 (Listen – 3:21) 
Psalm 114-115 (Listen – 2:18) 

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 free, and ad-free, devotional content. Follow this link to join our donors with a one-time or a monthly gift. 

Read more about Lamenting Materialism
In ancient agrarian society if you worshiped a sun god or a fertility goddess or a god of weather or a god of bountiful harvest you were worshiping a god of financial success. It is akin to our worship of stock performance or financial forecasts or political economic policies.

Read more about In Denial about Greed and Power
If there is anything that can still be shocking in today’s world, it is that we still don’t fully admit or understand the destructive nature of the sins of greed and power.


He Stoops to Raise

Psalm 113.5-8
Who is like the Lord our God,
    the One who sits enthroned on high,
who stoops down to look
    on the heavens and the earth?

He raises the poor from the dust
    and lifts the needy from the ash heap;
he seats them with princes,
    with the princes of his people.

Reflection: He Stoops to Raise
By John Tillman

Christ’s entire life could be understood as a process of descending and ascending. From highest Heaven, to a manger. From honored teacher, to lowly footwasher. From worshiped Messiah and king, to cursed and crucified Lamb of God. He goes from the highest place, to the lowest place. And then, he ascends.

He Stoops to Raise
He strips himself.
He lays aside
His Heaven
His throne
His clothes
His life

He lowers himself
Steps down, descends
He stoops
He kneels
Head bowed
He bends

He sinks, He digs
He slides, Prostrates
Below
Our sin
Below
Hell’s gates

And then he lifts
His eyes, His face
Begins
To rise
To claim
His place

With him we rise
Gripped in His hand
The lost
The dead
No more
The damned

No more to die
Held by His side
Faithful
Redeemed
Raptured
We rise

Then he returns
All things in place
Restores
Rebuilds
Redeems
Remakes

He then ascends
His throne above
Worthy
The lamb
Our king
Our judge

Prayer: The Short Verse
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is, who was, and who is to come, the Almighty. — Revelation 1.8

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 23 (Listen – 3:10) 
Psalm 112-113 (Listen – 1:49) 

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 free, and ad-free, devotional content. Follow this link to join our donors with a one-time or a monthly gift. 

Read more about The Gospel is an Uprising
The Anastasis can be understood as “already and not yet.” It is both completed in the past, coming in the future, and happening now, in our midst.

Read more about A Better Resurrection :: Throwback Thursday
My life is like a frozen thing,
No bud nor greenness can I see:
Yet rise it shall—the sap of spring;
O Jesus, rise in me.

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