Servants in the Age of Showboats :: Worldwide Prayer

Acts 18.26-27
He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately. When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers and sisters encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. When he arrived, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed.

Reflection: Servants in the Age of Showboats :: Worldwide Prayer
By John Tillman

The book of prayers that our Worldwide Prayer series come from was published in 1998. I have read through this book before, but this prayer jumped off the page at me as if it was voiced yesterday.

How deeply damaged is our idea of what a leader is! We cannot seem to cease from grasping at the hems of emperors and kings rather than at the hem of the humble carpenter of Galilee. Whether in politics or in the church, so many of our leaders lead in the opposite way that Jesus described to his disciples, each lording their power over one another.

Truthfully, our emperors have no clothes. They think they are rich, but they are poor, blind, and naked. Our true leader bids us follow him through tears, blows, blood, and shame, carrying our cross. May we set our face toward our Jerusalem and in his power and with his mercy, humble ourselves and follow him into servitude.

Servants in the Age of Showboats
A prayer for servant leadership from the USA
Dear Jesus,

We live in an age where the proud, unethical, immoral showboat leader is honored and glorified. We have seen how this type of leadership has affected our witness to the world. We are praying for leaders whose greatness is evident through their love for you and their service to people. We pray for a revival of servant leadership around the world.

We pray for the relationships of our leaders.

  • That each leader will keep in constant contact with you
  • That they will only seek your approval
  • That they will not waste time judging others
  • That their hearts would be open, listening, and faith-filled

We pray for the actions of our leaders.

  • That they would not avoid difficult decisions to win approval or to be liked
  • That they would be willing to sacrifice and take risks for the building of your kingdom
  • That they would never stray from the mission you have called them to
  • That their “personal experiences” would help them to see their gifts more clearly and rely on you

Lord, give us leaders who will…

  • Know when it is appropriate to shout and cry as long as those tears spill over into appropriate action in your name
  • Be totally passionate and righteously committed to excellence for the glory of God

In the name of Jesus, who taught us how to lead as servants.

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

Prayer: The Request for Presence
To you I lift up my eyes, to you enthroned in the heavens. — Psalm 123.1

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

Today’s Readings
Judges 14 (Listen – 3:35) 
Acts 18 (Listen – 4:06)

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 Resisting Herods
The Herods epitomize the kind of people that the Jesus community is so often drawn to in hopes of gaining their approval.

Read more about The Context of The Widow’s Mite
This scripture has more to say about unscrupulous religious leaders than about generous poor people. It tells us that judgment is coming on leaders who take advantage of the poor.

Readers’ Choice Submissions

It has been so good to hear from many of you about posts for Readers’ Choice, but we still have some room in August for your input.

Share with our community about the post or posts from the past eleven months that have challenged and comforted you.

Follow the link to fill out the form. Please limit your submissions to posts published this calendar year, between September of 2018 and today.

For any questions contact John Tillman at john@theparkforum.org

A Berean Palate

Acts 17.11-12
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. As a result, many of them believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.

Reflection: A Berean Palate
By John Tillman                                                                                                                                     
The contrast between the Bereans and the Thessalonians has come up in our devotionals before. Despite the Thessalonians having two epistles in the New Testament, Luke tells us in Acts that the Berean culture was more intellectually mature. Maybe Thessalonica just needed more help.

Truthfully, most of Paul’s letters were intended to be read by all the churches in the area. So Thessalonian letters were likely read to the Bereans as well.

But as for us, there is little doubt that our modern culture is more Thessalonian than Berean. 

The Thessalonians were prone to being riled up by exaggeration and falsifications. Just like we are. From our earlier post on this topic:

“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.”

The Bereans’ nobility is specifically related to their openmindedness, and their mature evaluation of new information according to the scriptures. We may need this discipline now even more than they did.

Our social media feeds and the 24-hour news channels we frequent are like a neverending buffet of poorly-cooked, unsanitary, and ill-prepared foods. It is no wonder that uncareful consumers end up vomiting thinly veiled racism or totalitarianist dogma masked as a joke or a critique or a supposedly “logical” argument. We need to develop a more discerning palate concerning the articles, posts, and even memes that form the majority of our information consumption. If the posts we see were all simply political, that would be bad enough, but many posts, especially contentious political posts, either directly or indirectly address theological concepts. 

As Acts and much of the New Testament teaches us, “Fake News” is not new. Mobs and riots are not new. Hate-mongering political leadership is not new. What is new is that too many Christians care less about the facts, than they do about political victory. To this point, we often quote Ed Stetzer, who has said, “Facts are our friends.” 

May we develop a discerning, Berean palate that we not only apply to scripture but to our reading of our culture and our reading of all the information that algorithms and the hysteria factories called “newsrooms” can throw at 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.”

Prayer: A Reading
Jesus taught us, saying: “I give you a new commandment: love one another; you must love one another just as I have loved you. It is by your love for one another, that everyone will recognize you as my disciples.” — John 13.34-35

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

Today’s Readings
Judges 13 (Listen – 3:44) 
Acts 17 (Listen – 5:28)

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 Berean Take on Fake News :: Readers’ Choice
It’s hard to share the incredible news of the Gospel when the rest of what we share is in-credible.

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.

Readers’ Choice Submissions

It has been so good to hear from many of you about posts for Readers’ Choice, but we still have some room in August for your input.

Share with our community about the post or posts from the past eleven months that have challenged and comforted you.

Follow the link to fill out the form. Please limit your submissions to posts published this calendar year, between September of 2018 and today.

For any questions contact John Tillman at john@theparkforum.org

Avoiding Avoidable Offense

Acts 16.15
When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.

Reflection: Avoiding Avoidable Offense
By John Tillman

Accommodating to the culture does not include compromising the gospel. The gospel is non-negotiable. Paul consistently defends the gospel, refusing to compromise with sin or affirm sinful behaviors. But he endlessly strives to accommodate to the culture of those he is reaching, adjusting his behavior and language. The gospel is offensive and counter-cultural in its nature, but Paul strives to avoid avoidable offense. 

In the rest of Paul’s ministry, he goes first to a synagogue to teach the Jews and God-fearing Gentiles. Here in Phillipi, he goes out to the river to find a “place of prayer” and speaks to a group of women. The word proseuchē, which is translated as “place of prayer” is occasionally synonymous with a synagogue, however, many commentators believe its usage means there were not enough male Jewish believers to form a synagogue. 

What is unusual about this Jewish gathering, is the prominence of Lydia—not only a woman but a non-Jew. In all the other cities they visit, Luke neglects to name the male leaders of synagogues who either welcomed or rejected Paul’s message, but here in Phillipi, Lydia is given special attention. By comparison, later in the chapter, Luke leaves nameless the Phillipian jailer who also came to faith “with his entire household” as Lydia did. 

Lydia is also the first person scripture records as being baptized in Paul’s ministry (though we know there were others before her). She is also the first baptized Christ-follower in the European continent. Scripture tells us that after Lydia’s conversion she “persuaded” Paul and the others to stay with her. The word implies entreaty or compelling someone to do something they would not ordinarily do. Jews would not normally stay in the home of a non-Jew, not even a proselyte believer such as Lydia.

What we see at work here is the continuing development of Paul’s pattern of accommodating himself to different cultures for the sake of spreading the gospel. As Paul set out on this journey, he had Timothy circumcised, so as not to be an offense to Jews as they traveled. This was an accommodation to his intended audience. Paul was opposed to requiring non-Jews to be circumcised. And here, among the most Jewish part of Phillipi’s culture, Paul abandons Jewish customs that he upholds at other times.

Too often, perhaps, we confuse “boldly” proclaiming the gospel, with “rudely” proclaiming the gospel. This is a mistake Paul works hard to avoid. May we do the same.

Prayer: A Reading
And so the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven: there at the right hand of God he took his place, while they, going out, preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word by the signs that accompanied it. — Mark 16.19-20

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

Today’s Readings
Judges 12 (Listen – 2:21) 
Acts 16 (Listen – 5:53)

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

Read more about Cringing at Culture or at Christ?
As we attempt to manifest Christ in our world and to our culture, we must allow the Holy Spirit to bring out in us the fullest picture of who God is.

Read more about Balaam’s Success
Balaam coached Balak on a conspiracy to tempt Israel to sins that their culture was prone to.

Readers’ Choice Submissions

It has been so good to hear from many of you about posts for Readers’ Choice, but we still have some room in August for your input.

Share with our community about the post or posts from the past eleven months that have challenged and comforted you.

Follow the link to fill out the form. Please limit your submissions to posts published this calendar year, between September of 2018 and today.

For any questions contact John Tillman at john@theparkforum.org

Paul’s First Sermon

Acts 13.15
“Brothers, if you have a word of exhortation for the people, please speak.”

Reflection: Paul’s First Sermon
By John Tillman

Scripture takes many forms. Poems, songs, dialogue, histories, genealogies, visions, and even sermons are recorded in God’s Word. Responding to each as it is intended is a valuable spiritual practice. Whenever you encounter a sermon in Scripture, one way to approach it is to take notes as if you were hearing it along with the listeners.

Today, we encounter Paul’s first recorded sermon and take some notes to reflect on.

Paul’s sermon is in response to a call for exhortation. The word Luke uses, paráklēsis, can imply an entreaty for help and is often translated as “comfort” (Luke 2.25; 6.24; Acts 4.36).

Paul’s message is one of comfort but also a call to action; encouragement but also an energizing challenge.
Paul’s message is for Jews and Gentiles—for all who worship God.

God chose the Jews from among the nations.

  • He showed his goodness in blessing them.
  • He showed his power in saving them.
  • He showed his mercy in bearing with and forgiving their sins and weaknesses.
  • He showed his faithfulness in fulfilling his promises to them.

David was chosen from among them.

  • He was a man God chose to bless.
  • He was a man God used to display his power.
  • He was a man to whom God showed mercy for his sins and weaknesses.
  • He was a man through whom God chose to fulfill a greater promise.

Jesus came from David.

  • As promised by God.
  • As prophesied by prophets throughout Israel’s history.
  • As proclaimed publically by the prophet, John the Baptist.

Jesus completed God’s promised salvation.

  • Through his fulfillment of Scripture.
  • Through his submission to death.
  • Through his physical resurrection.

Through his fulfillment of Scripture, his submission to death, and his physical resurrection, Jesus has made manifest God’s promises of forgiveness and salvation.

The offer of salvation is real.

  • Salvation is a work done by God.
  • Salvation can be ignored.
  • Salvation can be accepted.

The implications of Paul’s sermon:

  • We are chosen by God like Israel, like David, like Paul.
  • God has demonstrated his power in us through Christ’s resurrection and our salvation.
  • God bears with our weakness and sin, forgiving us.
  • God carries his appeal to the world through us.

We, like Paul, are responsible to respond to the world’s need for paráklēsis— for encouragement, comfort, and exhortation.  
We must say as Paul did, “Therefore, my friends…the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you.”

Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Know this, the Lord himself is God; he himself has made us, and we are his; we are his people and the sheep of his pasture. — Psalm 100.2

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

Today’s Readings
Judges 9 (Listen – 8:22)
Acts 13 (Listen – 7:36)

Today’s Readings
Judges 10-11.11 (Listen – 2:18) Acts 14 (Listen – 3:54)
Judges 11.12-40 (Listen – 5:53) Acts 15 (Listen – 5:43)

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 Setting Aside the Scriptures
Considering all of Scripture together without breaking it apart requires patience and a deep familiarity with Scripture.

Read more about When We Fast From The Feast
Our culture has steadily, for decades, been encouraging us to abstain from spiritual disciplines in favor of activities that we are led to believe are more profitable.

Readers’ Choice Submissions

It has been so good to hear from many of you about posts for Readers’ Choice, but we still have some room in August for your input.

Share with our community about the post or posts from the past eleven months that have challenged and comforted you.

Follow the link to fill out the form. Please limit your submissions to posts published this calendar year, between September of 2018 and today.

For any questions contact John Tillman at john@theparkforum.org

Resisting Herods

Acts 12.21-22
On the appointed day Herod, wearing his royal robes, sat on his throne and delivered a public address to the people. They shouted, “This is the voice of a god, not of a man.”

Reflection: Resisting Herods
By John Tillman

In his book, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places, Eugene Peterson confesses regarding the Herods of the New Testament, “These were people who knew how to get things done.”

“The Herods epitomize the kind of people that the Jesus community is so often drawn to in hopes of gaining their approval, recruiting them as allies, and using their influence in the cause of the kingdom.

But neither Jesus nor Paul did it. Basically their attitude is one of detached indifference. There is no fawning, no sign of what so often comes out among us in the presence of important people as, “Oh what an opportunity! Let’s make the most of this…these are influential leaders.” Jesus virtually ignores them. Paul faithfully gives witness but with no attempt to adapt or curry favor.

What is significant here for understanding the community vis a vis the World is this: the Herods offer the possibility of influence with Rome. These men are masters at “influence.” Both Herods are curious about the men on trial: Antipas curious about Jesus, Agrippa curious about Paul. This curiosity is ripe for exploitation; it can be used for the kingdom. But neither Jesus nor Paul exploited it; they do not “use” it; they ignore it.

And why? Because Jesus and the Jesus community know that the conditions in which the gospel makes its way in the World have little to do with influence and wealth and power. The non-negotiable context from which they work is made up of Jesus, the cross and the Trinity. Neither celebrity nor “opportunity” distracts either Jesus or the Jesus community.

The world is a seductive place. Once we begin to cater to its interests, appeal to its curiosities, shape our language to its idioms and syntax, embrace its criteria of relevance, we abandon our basic orientation.

Too often what took place at the trials of Jesus and Paul, trials that put Jesus and Paul in contrast to the way of the World, recedes from our awareness and is replaced by assumptions dominated by opportunity, technique, and accomplishment. Jesus and Paul were not seduced…”


Today’s Christian leaders must demonstrate the ability to stand before today’s Herods with more of John the Baptist’s moral compass, Christ’s wordless resistance, and Paul’s refusal to beg favors in his own defense.

Few seem to know how. The Herods of the world keep sucking us in.

Prayer: A Reading
Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that among the Gentiles the rulers lord it over them, and great men make their authority felt. Among you, this is not to happen. No; anyone who wants to become great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be first among you must be your slave, just as the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” — Matthew 20.25-28

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

Today’s Readings
Judges 8 (Listen – 5:08)
Acts 12 (Listen – 3:49)

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 Who is Your King?
When God sets out to make things new, he eschews governments. He starts a family. He lifts up outcasts. He frees slaves. He gathers a community.

Read more about Worship and Politics
”Look not to the interests of the wealthy whose hands proffer you bribes, but protect the rights of the needy” — Charles Spurgeon

Readers’ Choice Submissions

Help us fill August with reflections from you about the post or posts from the past eleven months that have challenged and comforted you and helped you find new meaning in the scriptures.

Follow the link to fill out the form. Please limit your submissions to posts published this calendar year, between September of 2018 and today.

For any questions contact John Tillman at john@theparkforum.org

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