Distrust of God and Fraud :: Throwback Thursday

Genesis 25.34
So Esau despised his birthright.

1 John 2.15
Do not love the world or anything in the world.

From John:
Esau sins by giving up something of eternal significance for temporal satisfaction. Jacob sins by resorting to deceit and theft to gain what had already been promised by God. They each despised God’s providence and acted faithlessly in their own way. May God have mercy on us when we fall in their same steps.

Reflection: Distrust of God and Fraud :: Throwback Thursday
By Richard Baxter

Cure covetousness, and you will kill the root of fraud and theft.

As a drunkard would easily be cured of his drunkenness, if you could cure him of his thirst and love to drink; so an extortioner, thief, or deceiver, would easily be cured of their outward sin, if their hearts were cured of the disease of worldliness. The love of money is the root of all this evil. Value these things no more than they deserve.

To this end, acquaint your hearts with the greater riches of the life to come; and then you will meet with true satisfaction. The true hopes of heaven will cure your greedy desires of earth.

You dare not then forfeit your part in that perpetual blessedness, for the temporal supply of some bodily want: you dare not, with Adam, part with Paradise for a forbidden bite; nor as Esau profanely sell your birthright for a morsel.

It is the unbelief and contempt of heaven, which make men risk it for the poor commodities of this world.

Be content to stand to God’s disposal; and do not allow discontented thoughts to feed upon your hearts. When your minds run all day long upon your necessities, the devil tempts you to think of unlawful courses to supply them.

He will show you your neighbour’s money, or goods, or estates, and tell you how well it would be with you if this were yours. He showed Achan the golden wedge; he told Gehazi how unreasonable it was that Naaman’s money and raiment should be refused: he told Balaam of the hopes of preferment which he might have with Balak; he told Judas how to get his thirty pieces; he persuaded Ananias and Sapphira, that it was but reasonable to retain part of that which was their own.

If you accepted God as your God, you would accept him as the one that is fitter to measure out your part of earthly things than you yourselves. Then you would rest in his wisdom, will, and fatherly providence; and not shift for yourselves by sinful means.

Discontentedness of mind, and distrust of God, are the cause of all such fraud. Trust God and you will have no need of these.

Prayer: The Request for Presence
For God alone my soul in silence waits; truly, my hope is in him. — Psalm 62.6

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

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Genesis 25 (Listen – 4:18) 
Matthew 24 (Listen – 5:59)

Join Our New Facebook Group:
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Read more about Meditation in Spiritual Rhythm :: Throwback Thursday
Nor should we imagine it will be as well to take up with prayer alone, and lay aside meditation…We need the one as well as the other…and our speaking to ourselves in meditation, should go before our speaking to God in prayer. — Richard Baxter


Read more about Lament the Effects of Hard-Heartedness :: Throwback Thursday
Take notice of the doleful effects of hard-heartedness in the world. This fills the world with wickedness and confusion, with wars and bloodshed; and leaves it under that lamentable desertion and delusion, which we see in majority of the earth. — Richard Baxter

Unsettled by Faith

Genesis 24.40
But [Abraham] said to me, “The Lord, before whom I have walked, will send his angel with you and prosper your way. You shall take a wife for my son from my clan and from my father’s house.”

Reflection: Unsettled by Faith
The Park Forum

The closer Abraham drew to God, the more unsettled his life became. All of the fathers of faith were wandering creatures—their minds, souls, and bodies sojourning as the spirit led. And yet, time and again we read of the people of God trying to leverage God’s grace to create stability, comfort, and earthly benefit.

The great people of faith, like Mother Theresa and St. Francis of Assisi, among many others, purposefully held their lives in liminality—for this is where God moves. Richard Rohr explains:

“We have to allow ourselves to be drawn out of “business as usual” and remain patiently on the “threshold” (limen, in Latin) where we are betwixt and between the familiar and the completely unknown.”

There alone is our old world left behind, while we are not yet sure of the new existence. That’s a good space where genuine newness can begin. Get there often and stay as long as you can by whatever means possible. It’s the realm where God can best get at us because our false certitudes are finally out of the way.”

The invitation of faith is unnerving. Anything received without merit demands we leave the moorings we have always relied upon in order to discover a world yet unknown. Rohr concludes:

“Because we have avoided liminal space, we have created a very smug and middle class kind of Christianity that has little wisdom or compassion to offer the world today. Much of the work of authentic spirituality and human development is to get people into liminal space and to keep them there long enough that they can learn something essential and new….

Most of us cannot run off to the wilderness or the hermitage forever. But spiritual traditions offer temporary and partial liminality in experiences like pilgrimages, urban plunges into different levels of society, silent retreats, extended periods of fasting, solitude in nature, and sacred times like Lent and Ramadan. There has to be something different and daring, even nonsensical, to break our comfortable sleepwalk and our compulsive cultural trance. Mere piety will never do it.”

Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
How sweet are your words to my taste! They are sweeter than honey to my mouth.  — Psalm 119.103

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

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Genesis 24 (Listen – 9:42) 
Matthew 23 (Listen – 4:53)

Join Us:
This weekend, in our new Facebook group for email subscribers, we will begin with the first of a series of short live videos discussing some simple, practical tools of spiritual practice using modern technology. Join the group to discuss them with us.

Follow this link to find the group. When you request to join, you will be prompted to answer questions about the email that you have used to subscribe to The Park Forum. Once we check that you are a subscriber, we will approve you to join the group.

Read more about Angelic Visions Require Childlike Faith
The faith of intellectualism is interested in explaining away the angel. To take angels seriously, Madeleine L’Engle insists that we must have a bit more childlike faith.

Read more about Gospel Faith or Garbage Faith
The only worthy thing is knowing Christ in the power of his resurrection and in participation in his suffering. This kind of faith is our foundation.

The Undeserved Banquet of the Gospel

Matthew 22.8
Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come.

Reflection: The Undeserved Banquet of the Gospel
By John Tillman

Meals during Christ’s earthly life were an important cultural ritual. They were more than just fraternity, but pedagogy.

When God wished the Israelites to remember forever what he did for them in the Exodus from Israel, he didn’t have them sit for an exam, but for a meal—the first taste of the first covenant. The Passover Meal is the source of the second covenant as well, for Christ’s last meal before the crucifixion was this same instructive dinner.

Today’s parable also provides a unique picture of the gospel. In Matthew and Luke the king angrily describes his initial guest-list of no-shows as being undeserving of attending the wedding. These unworthies are described as being more concerned about their businesses and fields. Profit takes precedence over a relationship that should be a priority—a royal relationship.

It is hard to imagine turning down an invitation to an earthly royal wedding. It is not so long ago that most of the world stopped to view one. But we do turn down our King. We turn him down. For work. For divertments. For pleasures. For money. For lusts.

But our great king, still calls for his banquet hall to be full. He sends out his servants to the far places, the poor places, the places where the sick gather waiting to die. He takes all comers. He takes us all.

God sets his table for scoundrels, shaking hands with undeserved trust. He polishes the silverware for the impoverished, sending spoons and dishes home with the leftovers. He welcomes the wanderers, washing their feet as they enter. He dresses the wounds of the oppressed and broken, staunching their bleeding and soothing their pains.

This is how we, the undeserving, motley, scandalous louts that we are, find ourselves with our feet under Christ’s table. Christ invites all to the banquet. We will surprise someone by being there, and be surprised in return.

None of us deserve to come. Not those first invited, and not those brought in from the highways and hedges. We do not choose who dines at Christ’s banquet. For if we were honest about our own sinful hearts, we would not choose to allow ourselves there.

Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Open my lips, O Lord, and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.  — Psalm 51.16

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

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Genesis 23 (Listen – 2:34) 
Matthew 22 (Listen – 4:56)

Join Us this Weekend
This weekend, in our new Facebook group for email subscribers, we will begin with the first of a series of short live videos discussing some simple, practical tools of spiritual practice using modern technology. Join the group to discuss them with us.

Follow this link to find the group. You must be an email subscriber to join. When you request to join, you will be prompted to answer questions about the email that you have used to subscribe to The Park Forum. Once we check that you are a subscriber, we will approve you to join the group.

Read more about Better Things to Do
The uncaring attitude that the wealthy market owner has starts with a greedy lie that he has better things to do than worship God—namely, to wring out profit from every minute, every worker, and every square foot of land.

Read more about Recalling the Failures
The world wants to put us back in our place after failure. Jesus comes to us with a second (third, fourth, fifth…) calling.



When the Dream becomes a Nightmare

Matthew 21.43
Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.

From John:
Today, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the United States, we look back at a previous post from Dr. King.

It is popular today to be a fan of Dr. King. But neither Dr. King, nor Christ riding into Jerusalem in our reading today were interested in fans. They were interested in the fruit of action.

In Christ’s confrontation with the religious leaders, and the fickle crowd that would easily be swayed by them, he announced that failing to recognize the kingdom’s responsibilities would result in the kingdom being taken away and given to others.

May we not stumble on this rejected cornerstone. May we build on it instead. With action.

Reflection: When the Dream becomes a Nightmare
By Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968)

In 1963, on a sweltering August afternoon, we stood in Washington, D.C. and talked to the nation about many things. Toward the end of that afternoon, I tried to talk to the nation about a dream that I had had—and I must confess to you today that not long after talking about that dream I started seeing it turn into a nightmare.

I remember the first time I saw that dream turn into a nightmare, just a few weeks after I had talked about it. It was when four beautiful, unoffending, innocent Negro girls were murdered in a church in Birmingham, Alabama. I watched that dream turn into a nightmare as I moved through the ghettos of the nation and saw my black brothers and sisters perishing on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity, and saw the nation doing nothing to grapple with the Negroes’ problem of poverty.

I saw that dream turn into a nightmare as I watched my black brothers and sisters in the midst of anger and understandable outrage, in the midst of their hurt, in the midst of their disappointment, turn to misguided riots to try to solve that problem. I saw that dream turn into a nightmare as I watched the war in Vietnam escalating, and as I saw so-called military advisors, sixteen thousand strong, turn into fighting soldiers until today over five hundred thousand American boys are fighting on Asian soil.

Yes, I am personally the victim of deferred dreams, of blasted hopes, but in spite of that I close today by saying I still have a dream, because, you know, you can’t give up in life. If you lose hope, somehow you lose that vitality that keeps life moving, you lose that courage to be, that quality that helps you go on in spite of all. And so today I still have a dream.…

I still have a dream today that one day every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill will be made low, the rough places will be made smooth and the crooked places straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. I still have a dream that with this faith we will be able to adjourn the councils of despair and bring new light into the dark chambers of pessimism.

With this faith we will be able to speed up the day when there will be peace on earth and good will toward men. It will be a glorious day, the morning stars will sing together, and the sons of God will shout for joy.

*Abridged from A Christmas Sermon by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. — audio on YouTube (29:52)

Prayer: The Request for Presence
Your word is a lantern to my feet and a light upon my path.  — Psalm 119.105

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

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Genesis 22 (Listen – 4:01) 
Matthew 21 (Listen – 7:10)

Read more about Taking Advantage of the Desperate
As the church, we can be difference-makers, rebuilding the broken in our society. To do this, we must engage in economically nonsensical, entirely compassionate, community investment.


Read more about Decorating the Tombs of the Prophets
It is easy to look backward and to say “if I had been here I would have listened to Dr. King,”—even though I do not listen to what is happening around me in my own community, in my own neighborhood, in my own church. — Dr. Russell Moore

Free to Become Like Children :: Worldwide Prayer

Matthew 18.1-3
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Reflection: Free to Become Like Children :: Worldwide Prayer
By John Tillman

We often repeat our vision that God’s Word can be in our lives like a park in a city. There are many facets to that vision.

Parks bring many benefits to a city that are analogous to the benefits of regularly entering into God’s Word. But the one we focus on today, using the prayer included below, is on recreation.

There is benefit to approaching the Bible with a mind engaged in intellectual investigation. There is benefit to studiously engaging the scriptures in rigorous study. There is great benefit in committing the scriptures to memory.

But there is a special joy that can be found when we explore God’s Word as a child exploring a park, with no intention other than the pleasure of reading the words that our Heavenly Father has given us.

Jesus has granted us the ability to become like little children and to run freely to him. Run in his Word this weekend. Read the scriptures for the enjoyment of his presence.

The prayer below celebrates the freedom that the Father has given us through Christ, speaking, “yes,” over us, freeing us from the dictator of selfishness, and allowing us to become his people—his children.

A prayer of praise and thanksgiving from Germany
Lord Jesus, we thank you
That you have shared with us
The Father’s love
That you have entered the ambiguity
Of our history,
And spoken the Father’s YES
Into our lives.

Spirit of God, we thank you
That you have brought the riches of salvation
Into the poverty of our human experience.

We praise you, our God,
For calling us into existence,
For liberating us from our unbending self-will,
And for sharing your life with us.

Gracious God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit
Source of our living, and hope in our dying,
Touch our life with your grace,
Set us free to become your people
And grant us the privilege of joining your passion
For the world.

*Prayer from Hallowed be Your Name: A collection of prayers from around the world, Dr. Tony Cupit, Editor.

Prayer: The Request for Presence
I call with my whole heart; answer me O Lord, that I may keep your statutes.  — Psalm 119.145

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

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Genesis 19 (Listen – 5:33)
Matthew 18 (Listen – 4:25)

This Weekend’s Readings
Genesis 20 (Listen – 2:39) Matthew 19 (Listen – 4:04)
Genesis 21 (Listen – 3:59) Matthew 20 (Listen – 4:22)

Are you interested in joining an online community to share with The Park Forum readers? Email us at: info@theparkforum.org

Read more about How to Find Freedom
What power there is in pure love for Jesus—love that is free from all self-interest and self-love! — Thomas à Kempis


Read more about Prayer as Relationship :: Readers’ Choice
Many have faithfully lived out Christ’s command to let the little children come to him. But perhaps no one in history has lived it out affecting as many children as Fred Rogers.

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