Reflecting the Unity of Christ :: Worldwide Prayer

Exodus 40.15
Their anointing will be to a priesthood that will continue throughout their generations.

John 19.15
“We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests answered.

From John:
We close this week of Lent with a prayer for unity and harmony that comes from the country of Lebanon. The book of prayers this was taken from was published in 1998, in conjunction with a worship conference in Berlin at which I was privileged to minister and attend. At that time, Lebanon was struggling with the effects of a civil war that started with sectarian violence, the effects of which are still felt today. The prayers for unity and peace coming from our brothers and sisters worshiping in places where violence is as common as bad traffic, are especially to be emulated and repeated by us, and treasured by our Heavenly Father.

Reflection: Reflecting the Unity of Christ :: Worldwide Prayer
Prayer for harmony from Lebanon

My Lord and Heavenly Father, I thank you for the opportunity of worship with members of the worldwide Christian family, across barriers of every kind that separate people and keep them apart. This reflects our unity in Christ.

Lord, when we worship together it is a revival of Pentecost, as your Holy Spirit elevates our prayers before your Holy Throne, while also making us aware of each others’ pain and suffering. Dear Lord, mold us into that perfect image that reflects the beauty of Christ in a broken world.

Bless us in our worship to feel your presence, to open our hearts and minds, to be really in touch with you. Help us not to wander away from your presence.

May each one of us really feel your powerful love so that we can share it with others. Help us to share the blessings of knowing you with others and be at peace with you and with each other.

In Jesus’ Holy name we lift our voices of praise with thankfulness.

*Prayer from Hallowed be Thy Name, L. A. (Tony) Cupit, ed., Hallowed be Your Name: A collection of prayers from around the world

Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Let not those who hope in your be put to shame through me, Lord God of hosts; let not those who seek you be disgraced because of me, O God of Israel. — Psalm 69.7

Today’s Readings
Exodus 40 (Listen – 4:07)
John 19 (Listen – 6:23)

This Weekend’s Readings
Leviticus 1 (Listen – 2:37) John 20 (Listen – 4:17)
Leviticus 2-3 (Listen – 4:43) John 21 (Listen – 3:58)

Thank You!
Thank you for reading and a huge thank you to those who donate to our ministry, keeping The Park Forum ad-free and enabling us to continue to produce fresh content. Every year our donors help us produce over 100,000 words of free devotionals. Follow this link to support our readers.

Read more about Blossoming of Joy in Adversity
We find examples of joy under persecution and difficulty in Jesus, Peter, John, Paul, and many others in scripture. But examples are also blossoming amidst persecution around the world.

Read more about The Wrong Fear
Christian thought has always been extremist thought. It is a revolutionary rejection of the world’s power structure. Jesus was crucified for extremist thought. It was Christian extremist thought that brought down slavery.

What Is Persecution? :: Throwback Thursday

John 18.23

“If I said something wrong,” Jesus replied, “testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?”

From John:
Richard Baxter knew a thing or two about persecution—especially persecution of Christians by other Christians. As a moderate during the English Civil war he found himself persecuted by both extremes, including being barred from preaching (he preached anyway) and being imprisoned in 1665 for 18 months.

As we have pointed out earlier, many of the tenets of religious liberty so cherished in Western Democracy came about from the great need for Christians to be protected from persecution by other Christians. Whenever we consider issues of persecution and religious liberty, we need to reflect that it is, in great part, the sins of the church that have made religious liberty so important.

“In necessary things, unity; in doubtful things, liberty; in all things, charity.”  — Richard Baxter

Reflection: What Is Persecution? :: Throwback Thursday
By Richard Baxter (1615-1691)

Three things then go to make up persecution.

1. That it be the hurting of another, in his body, liberty, relations, estate, or reputation.

2. That it be done injuriously, to one undeserving.

3. That it be for the cause of religion or of righteousness, that is, for the truth of God which we hold or utter; or for the worship of God which we perform; or for obedience to the will of God revealed in his laws.

There are divers sorts of persecutions.

There is a persecution which is openly professed to be for the cause of religion, and there is a hypocritical persecution when the pretended cause is some odious crime, but the real cause is religion, or obedience to God. This is the common persecution, which nominal Christians exercise on serious Christians, or on one another.

It is a sign of great uncharitableness and cruelty, when men can find in their hearts to persecute others for little things; and it is a sign of a heart that is true to God, and very sincere, when we would rather suffer any thing from man, than renounce the smallest truth of God, or commit the smallest sin against him, or omit the smallest duty, when it is a duty.

Persecution is a far more heinous sin in a professed Christian, than in a non-believer. For they do it according to the darkness of their education, and the interest of their party, and the principles of their own beliefs. But for a Christian to persecute Christianity, and one that professes to believe the gospel, to persecute the preachers and serious followers of the doctrine of the gospel; this is so near that sin which is commonly said to be the unpardonable sin against the Holy Ghost, that it is not easy to perceive a difference. If I did consent to that description of the unpardonable sin, I should have little hope of the conversion of any one of these. They make up such a mixture of hypocrisy, and impiety, and cruelty, as shows them to exceed all ordinary sinners, in malignity and misery.

Lastly, remember that Christ takes all that is done by persecutors against his servants for his cause, to be done as to himself, and will accordingly in judgment charge it on them. Remember, that it is Christ, whom they hate, deride, and persecute.

*Edited for length and language updated. A Sum of Practical Theology and Cases of Conscience, Richard Baxter

Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
The Lord has pleasure in those who fear him, in those who await his gracious favor.  — Psalm 147.12

Today’s Readings
Exodus 39 (Listen – 5:24)
John 18 (Listen – 5:16)

Thank You!
Thank you for reading and a huge thank you to those who donate to our ministry, keeping The Park Forum ad-free and enabling us to continue to produce fresh content. Every year our donors help us produce over 100,000 words of free devotionals. Follow this link to support our readers.

Read more from Richard Baxter: Lament the Effects of Hard-Heartedness
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 the majority of the earth.

Read more from Richard Baxter: Theology is Like a Watch
Baxter refers to theology as an intricate watch—meaningless unless all the parts are in proper order: “…you must see that every part is in its proper place, or else it will not go.”

Mirrors and Sanctification

Exodus 38.8
They made the bronze basin and its bronze stand from the mirrors of the women who served at the entrance to the tent of meeting.

Reflection: Mirrors and Sanctification
By John Tillman

The first observation from today’s reading is that the women serving at the entrance to the tent of meeting gave up valuable hand-held devices, polished brass mirrors, to create a basin for ceremonial cleansing used by priests entering the tent of meeting. The modern analogy is obvious.

Can we be persuaded to give up, even for a short period of time, the valuable hand-held devices that reflect back to ourselves so much about us?

We pour our identity into our devices, and they give us back a river of reflective content. They show us an irresistible, aspirational self-portrait—just click “add to cart.” They sing us a song composed by an algorithm that knows us better than ourselves through granular data culled from our wants, lusts, and preferences.

Narcissus never faced such a captivating image. Sailors never heard such siren songs. No wonder we find it hard to turn away. No wonder we steer inexorably closer to shore.

It is appropriate that mirrors were transformed and used for ceremonial cleansing. Confession is self-reflective. May we follow the example of these women to transform our use of technology for spiritual purposes. May our devices cease to be vehicles of vanity or vain pursuits, but basins of reflective repentance and redemption.

The second observation today, is that the women who gave these gifts served in a special position at the entrance to the tent of meeting. Some, unwilling to admit that these women have a legitimate role in the tabernacle, translate the Hebrew tsaba’ as “assembled” rather than “served.” But even when tsaba’ is translated as assembled in other places, it is still in the context of official service, usually conscripted military service as in Jeremiah 52.25. Tsaba’s most common translation is to fight or defend.

Regardless of what their exact duties were, these women were not randomly gathering around the entrance. They were assembled for a purpose. Tsaba’ implies that they served in an official capacity and were conscripted in a manner similar to Levites or soldiers.

No one is exempt from being conscripted to serve, calling our communities to enter in and meet with Christ. Being sanctified through the washing of the Word, as with the water of the basin, is a prerequisite to our ministry.

Sanctify and transform your technology in ways that deliver the word of God to you. Our devotionals are just one part of that. Seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance to transform your interactions with all the technology you encounter.

Prayer: The Request for Presence
Send out your light and your truth, that they may lead me, and bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling;
That I may go to the altar of God, to the God of my joy and gladness; and on the harp I will give thanks to you, O God my God.  — Psalm 43.3-4

Today’s Readings
Exodus 38 (Listen – 4:23)
John 17 (Listen – 3:40)

Thank You!
Thank you for reading and a huge thank you to those who donate to our ministry, keeping The Park Forum ad-free and enabling us to continue to produce fresh content. Every year our donors help us produce over 100,000 words of free devotionals. Follow this link to support our readers.

Read more from Where Judgment Falls
Eli’s sons were corrupt in the extreme. They stole from the offerings of the people, committing financial sins and threatening violence toward those who objected. They used their spiritual positions of power to manipulate and pressure women at the tabernacle for sexual favors.

Read more about Further up, Further in
In Christ, there is no priestly barrier—all are priests with him as our high priest. There is no genealogical barrier, for we are made sons and daughters in Christ. In Christ, there is not male or female, but we are one in him. In Christ there is no abled or disabled, for our weaknesses are transformed in his glory. In Christ racial barriers are destroyed and the division of Babel is reversed. In Christ nationalism is meaningless for we serve a King of Kings and have citizenship in a higher kingdom.

Praying for the Persecuted

John 16.2
The time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God.

Reflection: Praying for the Persecuted
By John Tillman

There are troubling signs in the way the media downplays or ignores the persecution of Christians overseas.

Western privilege blinds them. They seem to think if Christians have it pretty good in America, stories of Christians suffering overseas aren’t relevant. But in our efforts to get the stories of modern Christian martyrs heard, we must be careful not to take their mantle of suffering for our own.

We must be careful not to claim persecution, when we experience the slightest discomfort or pushback from culture. We must not be “Snowflake Christians” who get our feelings hurt when governments don’t rubber stamp our religious convictions as law, or when prominent voices call us names, call out hypocrisy, or attack us intellectually. (This doesn’t mean we must abandon our convictions. Too many have done so. This doesn’t mean we don’t attempt to winsomely engage with other philosophies or ideas. We must continue to speak the truth in love and speak truth to power.)

The vast majority of you, our readers, are in “safe” countries for Christians. Our difficulties are not comparable to those suffering true persecution.

Our readers outside the United States are twelve percent of our email subscribers but over twenty-five percent of our web traffic and social media. As we pray today, using Christ’s words to his disciples before his crucifixion and considering our reflection from yesterday, may we keep in mind and hold up before God’s throne in prayer, members of our community and of God’s church in countries where they are threatened by the state, by religious militias, and by other dangerous forces.

Praying for the Persecuted
Lord of the suffering and the outcast, we pray the words of your Son regarding the suffering of our brothers and sisters…

“I have told you so that you will not fall away. The time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God.
I have told you this, so that when their time comes you will remember that I warned you about them.
Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.
Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. Your joy will be complete.”

Turn our brothers and sisters’ grief to joy. And turn our mourning into action on their behalf.

Prayer: The Greeting
Your statutes have been like songs to me wherever I have lived as a stranger. — Psalm 119.54

Today’s Readings
Exodus 37 (Listen – 3:14)
John 16 (Listen – 4:14)

Thank You!
Thank you for reading and a huge thank you to those who donate to our ministry, keeping The Park Forum ad-free and enabling us to continue to produce fresh content. Every year our donors help us produce over 100,000 words of free devotionals. Follow this link to support our readers.

Read more about Prayer for the Church from Indonesia :: Worldwide Prayer
We confess, our God, that in the comfort of your blessings and abundance
and in the safety of the blessing of peace in our land,
we too easily forget others of our body, your Church,
who pray today for your daily bread to feed their hungry children,
who pray for signs of peace in their land,
who pray for freedom to pursue a life worth the living.

Read more about Jeremiah, the Unpatriotic Prophet
When religion gets mixed up with patriotism, things turn ugly. The most patriotic thing Christians can do is see the problems of our nation and speak the gospel to them.
Let them throw us in a cistern like Jeremiah.
Let them burn our words rather than listen to them.
May we be faithful to Christ and his kingdom alone.

Ending up Like Jesus

John 15.18-19
“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.

Reflection: Ending up Like Jesus
By John Tillman

Growing up where Christianity was a cultural norm, Christ’s words about the world hating us because it hated him first were confusing. In today’s world, they make more sense.

Hatred is big business today. Hatred is the number one way to be elected—the number one way to build an audience. It’s the number one way to advance in a world where every follower means not just money, but power.

It should be no surprise to Christians that the world’s hate machine often turns our way. It’s not like Jesus didn’t warn us.

There are two groups of people who seem to have a kind of blindness about the persecution of Christians. Both groups are blinded by privilege.

Some are blinded by the privilege of the Christians around them. They see Christianity as powerful—the source of marginalization and persecution, not a recipient. They don’t see that most Christians in the world aren’t male, white, rich, or powerful. Christians globally are more likely to be poor and marginalized.

The other form of blindness is one of identification. If we are not careful, Christians living in privilege can blindly appropriate the mantle of martyrs, misusing their stories to defend ourselves from cultural critique at home.

We should, in the power of the Holy Spirit, weep and mourn with those being killed every day for their faith in Asia, Africa, Europe, and South America. We must, in Jesus name help to bear one another’s sufferings, both in prayer and financial support. But we must be wary of feeling as if we are in similar danger and reacting in fear against outsiders.

Our brothers and sisters are courageously loving and forgiving Muslims, Atheists, and others who persecute them. How can we do less from our safe position?

We are not “persecuted” in the West, but we are hated. Christians must recognize that there are no political solutions to being hated. Our only solutions to being hated are relational.

The world’s solution to hate is to acquire power to crush the haters. Christians must reject this solution. The gospel solution to hate is to surrender power and to love our enemies, overcoming evil with good.

The reason we don’t want to surrender power and love our enemies may be that at heart, we really don’t want to end up like Jesus—powerless and crucified.

May we remember that ending up like Jesus is the chief goal of Christianity.

*On March 25th, nine months from Christmas day, believers around the world celebrate the message of Gabriel to Mary, and her willingness to birth Christ into our world. (This in no way means the Church believes December 25th was the date of Christ’s birth. The only days of the liturgical year that are actually on the days they occurred are ones related to Easter.)

Prayer: A Reading
He has shown the strength of his arm,
He has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
And has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
And the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel,
For he has remembered the promise of mercy.  — Luke 1.51-54

Today’s Readings
Exodus 36 (Listen – 4:47)
John 15 (Listen – 3:20)

Thank You!
Thank you for reading and a huge thank you to those who donate to our ministry, keeping The Park Forum ad-free and enabling us to continue to produce fresh content. Every year our donors help us produce over 100,000 words of free devotionals. Follow this link to support our readers.

Read more from Overcoming Hatred :: Worldwide Prayer
As a culture, we hate our neighbor, this I know, for the data tells me so. Our collective obsession with hate shows in our tweets, in our clicks, in our content views, and in how many times we watch gifs of our enemies getting punched or hit with objects.

Read more about Joy in The Way of the Cross :: Throwback Thursday
If we follow in the way he went, we also must be set at nought. You will find this truer every year as you go on. And anything is easier. Scourging is easier.

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