Bold Obedience — Readers’ Choice

Readers’ Choice Month:
In August, The Park Forum looks back on our readers’ selections of our most meaningful and helpful devotionals from the past 12 months. Thank you for your readership and your submissions for this month.

Today’s post was originally published, July 13, 2021, based on readings from Joshua 18.
It was selected by reader, John from Singapore

Scripture Focus: Joshua 18.1-3, 8-10
1 The whole assembly of the Israelites gathered at Shiloh and set up the tent of meeting there. The country was brought under their control, 2 but there were still seven Israelite tribes who had not yet received their inheritance. 
3 So Joshua said to the Israelites: “How long will you wait before you begin to take possession of the land that the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has given you?
8 As the men started on their way to map out the land, Joshua instructed them, “Go and make a survey of the land and write a description of it. Then return to me, and I will cast lots for you here at Shiloh in the presence of the Lord.” 9 So the men left and went through the land. They wrote its description on a scroll, town by town, in seven parts, and returned to Joshua in the camp at Shiloh. 10 Joshua then cast lots for them in Shiloh in the presence of the Lord, and there he distributed the land to the Israelites according to their tribal divisions.

Reflection: Bold Obedience — Readers’ Choice
By Elizabeth Franklin 

“Free bookshelf: must pick up!” As a student, the words “free [anything]” immediately catch my eye. Unfortunately, the words that often follow—“must pick up”—immediately send me back to searching, because my mid-sized vehicle cannot accommodate most furniture. I’m willing to receive it, but I’m hesitant to go and get it!

Seven of the tribes of Israel encountered a similar dilemma as their people were in the process of entering the land that God had promised them. Their problem was not so much the ability to receive the land, but their willingness to go get it. God had accompanied the Israelites through generations of trouble and travel to arrive at this promised land, and now he had enabled them to take possession of it. However, these seven tribes needed some extra prompting to move forward in obedience.

Throughout the Israelites’ history, God had made one thing abundantly clear: “Obey what I have told you, and you will be blessed.” God was guiding them in their identity as his people, but he expected them to be obedient to his direction.

In this case, obedience meant bold action. God had secured the land for them, but they had to physically go and take possession of it. The biblical text does not tell us why these seven tribes hadn’t done so already—perhaps they were afraid, apathetic, or just not paying attention. Whatever the case, their leader had to prompt them to do what God had already instructed. Once they obeyed, though, the land was theirs. God was faithful to what he had promised.

God has secured abundant spiritual blessings for us in Christ. If we are willing to take bold steps forward in obedience, we will receive what he has promised. Just as I am hesitant to pick up furniture that my vehicle can’t accommodate, we can sometimes be hesitant to take hold of the blessings of obedience that God has promised us. If fear, apathy, or a distracted heart is keeping you from acting, perhaps finding encouragement in a trusted friend or leader like Joshua will help prompt you to action. 

How is God asking you to be obedient today? Does a relationship need to be mended in love and humility? Does a sin need to be confessed? When we seek God’s direction, he will show us the way forward.  

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Purge me from my sin, and I shall be pure; wash me, and I shall be clean indeed. — Psalm 51.8

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

Today’s Readings
1 Samuel 24 (Listen – 3:36) 
1 Corinthians 5 (Listen – 1:58)

Read more about God of the Weak and Doubtful
If God placed examples of faith in the scripture, he also placed doubt in the scriptures. Stories of faith come from doubt.

Read more about Abundance from Obedience
Because collective consequences are a reality, our focus should be on collective obedience. Following God is a group effort.

Praying Priestly Blessings — Readers’ Choice

Readers’ Choice Month:
In August, The Park Forum looks back on our readers’ selections of our most meaningful and helpful devotionals from the past 12 months. Thank you for your readership. This month is all about hearing from you. Submit a Readers’ Choice post today.

Today’s post was originally published, April 29,2021, based on readings from Numbers 6.
It was selected by reader, Jon Polk from Hong Kong
“Oh how our world needs to see Christians as agents of blessing! So many of our loudest voices are selfish, hurtful, and negative towards others. To be fair, I don’t believe all Christians act that way, in fact, I don’t believe that most Christians act that way, but many who get the most air time in public do act in less-than-kind ways. Our world desperately needs to hear a voice of compassion and blessing from us as followers of Christ. This passage relates to the Aaronic blessing, but when we look back at the covenant with Abraham, he is called to be a blessing to all people. So too, we must use our voices and actions to be a blessing not only to other Christians, but even to those who are not.”

Scripture Focus: Numbers 6.22-27
22 The Lord said to Moses, 23 “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them: 
24 “ ‘ “The Lord bless you 
and keep you; 
25 the Lord make his face shine on you 
and be gracious to you; 
26 the Lord turn his face toward you 
and give you peace.” ’ 
27 “So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.”

Reflection: Praying Priestly Blessings — Readers’ Choice
By John Tillman

Through the Aaronic blessing, God puts his name—his identity—on the Israelites. As followers of God today, a part of our identity is as carriers of the blessings of God that are intended for the world.

One of the primary purposes of humanity, upheld throughout the entirety of scripture, is being a blessing to others.

Adam and Eve’s charge was to cultivate and spread God’s blessings.
Abraham was called to bless all people through his offspring.
Through Moses, God began building a nation intended to share with the world the blessings of God’s wisdom and justice.
Sounding over and over within the societal laws of Israel is a drumbeat of blessing and caring for others, even foreigners, as members of one’s family.
The prophets, time and time again, spoke of spreading God’s blessings and the light of truth to the gentile nations.
Gabriel’s annunciation of Christ’s birth and Mary’s song about it later both put at center stage blessings for all of humanity.

Blessing others is a baked-in quality of the Imago Dei in all people. When we refuse to bless others, we are shoveling dirt over the image of God in us, burying our treasure in the ground and refusing to invest it out of selfishness and fear.

Only in Christ, however, can that Imago Dei be brought fully to life and empowered by the presence of the Holy Spirit. Then, blessing others may go beyond simple kindness as we take on our role as a royal priesthood.

Just as the family of Aaron were priests under Aaron, we are priests under Jesus, our high priest. We are charged, as the Aaronic priests were charged, to pronounce God’s blessing.

If we were to rewrite the Aaronic blessing for Christ’s order of priests, using images and teachings from Jesus, to put his identity on us, it might look something like this:

Like a mother tending to her children,
A shepherd tending sheep,
Or a gardener cultivating a garden,
May our Father bless and protect you.
May our Father’s eyes shine on you
Delighting in you as his child, showing you grace and love.
May our Father’s face be raised to you,
Welcoming you in his presence, bringing you peace.

Through this blessing, God puts his name, his identity, on those who will accept it. May we pronounce this priestly blessing not with words alone, but in how we live and walk through our world.

Music:The UK Blessing” — Churches from all across the UK sing “The Blessing” over their country.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
This is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes. — Psalm 118.23

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

Today’s Readings
1 Samuel 23 (Listen – 4:18) 
1 Corinthians 4 (Listen – 3:15)

Read more about Becoming a Blessing
From Abram, you made a great nation
Through Abram, you promised to bless the nations
Make us, O Lord, a blessing in our nations

Read more about Identity Lost, Identity Gained
God, our father, is greater and more loving than Isaac…No one who comes to him will need cry, “Do you have only one blessing, my father?”

No Asterisks — Readers’ Choice

Readers’ Choice Month:
In August, The Park Forum looks back on our readers’ selections of our most meaningful and helpful devotionals from the past 12 months. Thank you for your readership. This month is all about hearing from you. Submit a Readers’ Choice post today.

Today’s post was originally published, July 21, 2021, based on readings from Judges 4.
It was selected by readers, Deborah from TX and Jason from TX.
Deborah: “This commentary is both beautifully written and filled with TRUTH! You blessed me this morning! Deborah, who appreciates her name even more now”

Jason: “We all need to hear this again. Good word.”

Scripture Focus: Judges 4.4-6
4 Now Deborah, a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time. 5 She held court under the Palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites went up to her to have their disputes decided. 6 She sent for Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali and said to him, “The Lord, the God of Israel, commands you: ‘Go, take with you ten thousand men of Naphtali and Zebulun and lead them up to Mount Tabor.

*I love the NIV in general, however, one of its disagreements with other translations is to render the same Hebrew word translated as “judge” everywhere else, as “lead” in Deborah’s case from Judges 4.4.

Reflection: No Asterisks — Readers’ Choice
By John Tillman

Deborah’s judgeship doesn’t deserve an asterisk. 

Some claim Deborah’s judgeship is a punishment for Israel, not a blessing. They claim God only used Deborah because Barak (and every other male Israelite) was too “weak” to stand up. This interpretation insults Deborah, Barak, and all Israel, based on assumptions that are extrabiblical and unsupported by the text.

Deborah summons Barak and he comes. She commands him into battle and he goes. She goes with him to battle and they conquer. Then, they jointly lead the nation in a prophetic song of worship. “Princes” of Israel volunteer to serve under her leadership and are praised. She initiates a generation of peace and prosperity.

The biblical writers make no apologies or explanations for Deborah. There is no scriptural asterisk indicating Deborah’s judgeship is the last resort of a desperate God who couldn’t find a man to do the job.

God did not “settle” for Deborah. He chose her. 

Deborah’s story is also not one of feminist triumphalism or superiority. We might like to imagine Deborah riding into battle as Éowyn did in the conclusion of The Lord of the Rings, slaying the Witch King, shouting “I am no man!” However, God did not defeat Sisera on a technicality and Deborah’s prophecy is not fulfilled by her killing the villain. That honor goes to another woman, of lower status, Jael. Jael’s hand drove the spike but it was Deborah’s raised fist that began the battle. 

God planned to use women to crush evil from the beginning. God promised Eve her seed would crush the head of the serpent. So it is not a fluke that women would be involved in crushing the heads of evil men. These women are simply reflecting the birth pangs of the reality of God’s promise.

Deborah’s leadership is not a fluke or a technicality. God no more “settled” for her than he “settled” for the sinfulness of Samson, or the rashness of Jepthah, or the doubts and low standing of Gideon. 

So what does this mean?

We may doubt our place in God’s work. We also may have our place in God’s work doubted by others. However, our gender, our race, our background, or our nationality do not disqualify us from fulfilling God’s purposes. God didn’t settle for you. He called and chose you.

For the humble whom God raises up to lead, all asterisks are removed. 

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Let not those who hope in you 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

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

Today’s Readings
1 Samuel 19 (Listen – 3:43)
1 Corinthians 1 (Listen – 4:03)

This Weekend’s Readings
1 Samuel 20 (Listen – 6:42) 1 Corinthians 2 (Listen – 2:26)
1 Samuel 21-22 (Listen – 6:35) 1 Corinthians 3 (Listen – 3:05)

Read More about Readers’ Choice 2021
Have we heard from you yet? Tell us about posts from the past year (September 2020 – July 2021) that have helped you in your faith.
https://forms.gle/ozM13qvW9ouSWhJS7

Read more about Ladies First—Resurrection Appearances
“Firsts” are important in the scriptures. So we cannot imagine that it is a coincidence or a mistake that Jesus appears first to the women.

Peter’s Unfinished Work — Editor’s Choice

Readers’ Choice Month:
In August, The Park Forum looks back on our readers’ selections of our most meaningful and helpful devotionals from the past 12 months. Thank you for your readership. This month is all about hearing from you. Submit a Readers’ Choice post today.

Today’s post was originally published, June 1, 2020, based on readings from Revelation 3 and Isaiah 33.
It was selected by John Tillman
This was posted during the 6th day of protests regarding the murder of George Floyd. 
We (I) do not choose the topics we write about. We look at the scripture of the day and apply it to the culture of the day. That’s it. It says a lot about the content of the scripture and the content of our culture’s character that we so often must address racism and violence. Like Peter, I have often had to readdress racism within my life and ministry. Peter’s work to establish the church was partly dependent on his dealing with racism in his own life and in the lives of others. The same is true for us today. There is no sin we can be silent about, including racism.

Scripture Focus: Revelation 3.1-3
1 I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. 3 Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent.

Isaiah 33.14-15
14 Who of us can dwell with the consuming fire? 
Who of us can dwell with everlasting burning?” 
15 Those who walk righteously 
and speak what is right…

Reflection: Peter’s Unfinished Work — Editor’s Choice
By John Tillman

We have both grieved and celebrated over this past weekend. 

Pentecost Sunday closes the season of Easter. As one season ends, Pentecost marks the beginning of a new one. Pentecost is the end of Jesus powerfully leading his disciples and the beginning of Jesus empowering his church to lead. Pentecost is the end of the season of training and the beginning of the season of work. 

As evidenced by both the murder of George Floyd and some of the broken and tragic responses to it, the church has much work left to do. Surely Christ’s words to the church at Sardis apply to us today, “I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God.”

We have written consistently (because God’s Word speaks of it consistently) about the centrality to the gospel of destroying racism. There does not exist a gospel that ignores racism. Any “gospel” that does not confront racism is not the gospel. Pentecost testifies strongly to this as the Holy Spirit moved Peter to preach that what people were witnessing was the promised outpouring of God’s Spirit on “all flesh.” (Acts 2.17; Joel 2.28)

Peter struggled throughout his ministry to overcome the racism that he was raised in. May we take up Peter’s unfinished work. Overcoming racism cannot be done by one sermon, one vision, one visit, one protest, or one condemnation. Opposing both individual and systemic racism is a lifetime of work that the Church cannot give up on. 

Ending racism was a Christian idea from the beginning and we are possessed of the only ideology that can do it—the gospel. When pastors and ministers address racial issues, they are not abandoning the gospel, they are speaking from its heart.

Pray this prayer this week, based on parts of Isaiah 33, asking that we may be the kind of people who work the justice of the Kingdom of God into our lives and communities.

Prayer for Justice
We long to dwell with you, Lord, our consuming fire.
Burn away our sinfulness and selfishness without which racism cannot stand.
Help us to be those who walk righteously 
and speak what is right.
Help us to reject gain from extortion and oppression 
Let us not passively participate in murder.
Let us not shut our eyes to deny evil, but shut our hearts to joining in it.
Let us be instruments of your peace.

*We forgo the Divine Hours prayers today replacing them with the above and focusing our prayers on ones for justice and peace, which must come before reconciliation and revival which we also pray for.

Today’s Readings
1 Samuel 18 (Listen – 4:30)
Romans 16 (Listen – 3:30)

Read More about Readers’ Choice 2021
Have we heard from you yet? Tell us about posts from the past year (September 2020 – July 2021) that have helped you in your faith.
https://forms.gle/ozM13qvW9ouSWhJS7

Read more about Putting To Death Racial Hostility
Our culture’s concept of human equality is based not in science, but in Christ. The wellspring of the concept of racial equality is the cross of Christ.

Unveiled — Readers’ Choice

Readers’ Choice Month:
In August, The Park Forum looks back on our readers’ selections of our most meaningful and helpful devotionals from the past 12 months. Thank you for your readership. This month is all about hearing from you. Submit a Readers’ Choice post today.

Today’s post was originally published, March 23, 2021, based on readings from Exodus 34 and John 13.
It was selected by reader, MT from Texas
Beautiful.

Scripture Focus: Exodus 34.29-30, 33-35
29 When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord. 30 When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him.
33 When Moses finished speaking to them, he put a veil over his face. 34 But whenever he entered the Lord’s presence to speak with him, he removed the veil until he came out. And when he came out and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, 35 they saw that his face was radiant. Then Moses would put the veil back over his face until he went in to speak with the Lord.

John 13.3-5
3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. 

Reflection: Unveiled — Readers’ Choice
By John Tillman

On Mount Sinai, God revealed more to Moses than he had revealed to any human since Adam and Eve. 

God walked before Moses, declaring the aspects of his identity. Compassionate. Gracious. Slow to anger. Filled with love. Faithful. Forgiving. Just.

This revelation changed Moses in ways he did not immediately realize. Moses had been to the mountain before for long conversations with God. He took down detailed plans for the tabernacle with instructions right down to the fasteners of clothing. Something, however, about this visit was different. 

The intimacy of the revelation of God’s character, of glimpsing God’s glory from the cleft of the rock, gave Moses a glow. The people, and even Aaron, were afraid of this radiant sign of God’s presence. So Moses veiled his face. This seems to have been merely for the comfort of others. 

Seeing the glory of God can be discomforting. But Moses and Israel hadn’t seen anything yet…
The revelation of God’s character when Jesus stripped to his undergarments to wash his disciples’ feet, was like no other revelation before. When John described this moment he prefaced it by telling us that Jesus “showed them the full extent of his love.” (John 13.1

No revelation of God and his love, not the original creative acts that formed the universe, not the choosing of Abram, or the salvation from Egypt, is complete without this image.

The one who deserves honor, choosing dishonor. 
The one who deserves glory, choosing obscurity.
The one who deserves tribute, choosing servitude.
This is who God is.

Discomforted by the foot washing, Peter tries to stop Jesus from humiliating himself. Jesus is not about to let Peter draw a covering over the love he intends to show. He is mere hours away from the tearing of his flesh and the tearing of the curtain of the Temple. Peter hadn’t seen anything yet…

Paul describes New Testament believers as those with “unveiled faces.” He encourages us that if Moses’ ministry was glorious, our ministry should be more so. (2 Corinthians 3.7-17) If Moses’ face glowed, ours should be incandescent.

Seek regular and deep intimacy with God through prayer and the scriptures. Let the shocking images of his identity—from Sinai, from foot washing, from the cross—soak into us. Then, let us walk through our world alight with his love. For when it comes to what God will reveal to us, and the love we will show the world, we haven’t seen anything yet. (Ephesians 3.14-21)

Music: “Unveiled Faces” — Sarah Masen

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. — John 10.17-18

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertimeby Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
1 Samuel 17 (Listen – 8:59)
Romans 15 (Listen – 4:32)

Read More about Readers’ Choice 2021
Have we heard from you yet? Tell us about posts from the past year (September 2020 – July 2021) that have helped you in your faith.

https://forms.gle/ozM13qvW9ouSWhJS7

Read more about Apocalypse, How?
We have apocalypses all wrong…Jesus told his disciples that he would “apocalypse” the father to them, meaning that he would reveal to them God the Father.

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