New Year, New Adam, New Creation

Scripture Focus: Revelation 22.3, 17
No longer will there be any curse….The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.

Reflection: New Year, New Adam, New Creation
By John Tillman

In recent times, many have cursed outgoing years for their sufferings. 2019 was blamed for much. 2020 was blamed for more. 2021 will get its share of curses and blame.

Traditionally, a new year inspires hope. This doesn’t seem as true anymore. When our traumatized culture looks to the new year, anticipation is often tainted with trepidation. It’s easy to see why. When one has been burned so often, warm feelings about the future are fleeting.

Traditional images of New Year celebrations include the old year, personified by an old man, (Sometimes called “Father Time”) and the new year, by a baby. The baby brings the incoming blessings of the new year and the old man carries the old year’s curses to the grave.

Baby New Year represents hope for the future. However, just like 2020 and 2021 failed to prove much better than 2019, a new generation is unlikely to prove much better than the last. We tend to get stuck in the sins of our forefathers rather than free ourselves from them. Short of a miracle, one year, or one generation can’t reverse the mistakes of the past.

Christians do, however, hope in a miraculous child. Better than a baby new year, Jesus is a new Adam. All creation will be renewed in him. In Jesus, we find a baby who is able to redeem his forefathers, a child who is able to lead reborn children of God, and a king who is able to overturn the wrongs of prior kingdoms.

The old years don’t really deserve cursing but our old selves do. The years weren’t the problem. We were—and are. We have carried out our own curse since Eden, however, God stands ready to reverse it. Neither the year nor those who lived through it are cursed if we are in Christ.

Christ takes our curse in himself and births in us a new self that owes no debt to sin and no death to the grave. The new Adam makes us new creations. Our “old man” is not killed and replaced so much as renewed and reinvigorated with living water that gives life forevermore.

As we enter the new year, rather than curse the past, let us bless the future. Let us drink freely of, and offer to the world “the free gift of the water of life.”

Image: Father Time and Baby New Year from Postcard, 1909 (Public Domain)

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Be pleased, O God, to deliver me; O Lord, make haste to help me. — Psalm 70.1

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.Today’s Readings
2 Chronicles 36 (Listen – 4:26) 
Revelation 22 (Listen – 3:59)

From John: In this new year, we are tweaking our reading plan. We will still read all of the same books as are typically in our “even year” plan. However, we will read them in a roughly chronological order. We will not jump around from book to book (many books are written in overlapping times) but we will read them in an order that is as close to chronological order without breaking the books up. Readers have expressed interest in this and we are looking forward to seeing scriptures fall at new times of the year and becoming more familiar with how the writers of scripture depended on one another and finding new connections as we read in this manner. We will work on a graphic of the new reading plans over the next couple of months and will provide it when it is available. Thank you for your readership and for your prayer and financial support! Happy New Year!

This Weekend’s Readings
Job 1 (Listen – 3:38) Psalm 1-2 (Listen – 2:05)
Job 2 (Listen – 2:11) Psalm 3-4 (Listen – 1:56)

Read more about Supporting our Work
Your support this year enabled us to bless ministry students with scholarships. One of our student writers, Karen from Saint Louis says, “Getting to know John and some of the guest writers was a great encouragement. The monetary gift was an unexpected cherry on top. Thank you for your support and for your vision to encourage seminary students in our pursuit of God’s calling for our lives.”

Read more about The Curse Reversed
In the curse of Eden, God commits himself to a course of intervention on our behalf. The curse is made to be broken.

Ache for Renewal

Scripture Focus: Revelation 21.5, 6
“I am making everything new!…It is done.”

From John: Little did we know how much we would need renewal from Christ at the end of 2019… This re-edited devotional is a vital reminder that spiritual renewal is powered by Christ and our surrender to him, not our own willpower and work.

Reflection: Ache for Renewal
By John Tillman

We have a constant, longing ache for renewal right down in our souls where we sense Eden’s loss. In Epiphany, we can find the blossoming, the revealing, the renewal that we long for.

This ache is magnified during the days surrounding New Year celebrations. Despite the depth of the ache in our souls, the renewals that we focus on are typically shallow and self-improvement-driven.

We want to change our diets.
We want to change our jobs. (or maybe just our boss…)
We want to lose weight. 
We want to gain knowledge or skills.
We want to stop a bad habit. 
We want to start a good habit.

It is good for us to work better, live better, grow in knowledge, grow in health, take a new career direction, or upgrade the food we eat. Even these surface-level changes typically improve not just ourselves, but the world around us.

We may smile more. We may feel better. We may be better able to live as loving revelations of Christ. But there is also a danger of merely enacting a secular (and selfish) ritual of self-improvement. 

In Christ’s description of exorcism, the ousted demon finds the person he just left clean and empty with plenty of room for even worse spiritual corruption. If we do not deal with the demons at the root of our discontent, then we will only sweep out of our homes last years’ messes, to make room for new and worse in the coming year. The last state of our souls is worse than the first. (Matthew 12.43-45; Luke 11.24-26)

Christ declared to John, “I am making all things new,” then later, “It is done.” It is Christ, who is the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12.2). Christ declared his suffering finished on the cross (John 19.30), and he will eventually declare his renewal of the Earth finished. 

The end of the Earth will be, rather than complete destruction, complete reconstruction. The world and everything in it, including us, will be renewed.

So rather than attempt to sweep our own house clean and empty, may we invite Jesus into our mess (Revelation 3.20), and let him do renewing, revealing work within and through us. He has work of renewal for us to join him in now. And he who begins a good work in us will see it through to completion (Philippians 1.6). When he is finished, we will have revealed Him to the world.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Bow down your ear, O Lord, and answer me…
Keep watch over my life, for I am faithful. — Psalm 86.1-2

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

Today’s Readings
2 Chronicles 35 (Listen – 5:25) 
Revelation 21 (Listen – 4:34)

Read more about Supporting our Work
Our readers need your support. A reader from Waco says, “Thank you so much to all of you who support the ministry of the Park Forum…Thank you for blessing the ministry as it blesses people like me.”

Read more about We Need Renewal :: Worldwide Prayer
Visit the world again and again with awakenings by your Spirit that will sweep humanity into your Kingdom and bring greater justice and mercy into our homes, communities, and nations.


Scripture Focus: 2 Chronicles 34.23-24, 27
She said to them, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: Tell the man who sent you to me, ‘This is what the Lord says: I am going to bring disaster on this place and its people… Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before God when you heard what he spoke against this place and its people, and because you humbled yourself before me and tore your robes and wept in my presence, I have heard you, declares the Lord.

Reflection: Resolutions
By Erin Newton

New Year’s is one of my favorite lesser holidays. I love the idea of making new goals. However, some goals will fail miserably within the first month. Other goals I’ll forget I even made. I begin to wonder how I could forget something that once meant so much to me.

Chronicles is a second view of Israel’s history with a slightly different perspective than the books of Kings. We read again about the discovery of the book of the law during the reign of Josiah. The text seems foreign to the king and he needs the expertise and insight from the prophetess Huldah to understand.

We could pause a moment and be encouraged by God’s use of a woman to educate, inform, and interpret God’s word for the king. That is certainly a message for our day. Earlier this year, we reflected on the fact that Josiah responded positively to the rebuke given by the prophetess. (A Responsive Heart) That message continues to be needed as we reflect on our ignorance and reluctance to admit to past sins both private and corporate.

As I look toward the unknown year ahead, I think more about how the word had been forgotten. It was supposed to be read aloud and repeated throughout the year. In time, someone must have forgotten, become lazy, got distracted, was overwhelmed, stopped caring, succumbed to peer pressure, or found any number of reasons to neglect this duty. The few failures spread more and more until the entire community was ignorant.

Diane Langberg, an expert in trauma counseling, once said, “We get there little by little; blind, numb, and not noticing until the horrific seems normal and acceptable” (Suffering and the Heart of God). For the Israelites, they had replaced the worship of God with the worship of other deities and neglected to honor and support their marginalized neighbors. There was widespread injustice and oppression within the community. There was the suppression of true worship in their own hearts.

As we look toward this new year, this is the time to reflect on what you have forgotten in God’s word. The word calls us to pray often, take care of the poor, seek justice, walk humbly, speak truth, and give our lives for others. Let our apathy turn into a renewed covenant. Let the new year be filled with repentant hearts open to the wise counsel of godly women (or men). 

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
I will exalt you, O God my King, and bless your Name forever and ever. — Psalm 145.1

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

Today’s Readings
2 Chronicles 34 (Listen – 6:23) 
Revelation 20 (Listen – 2:49)

Read more about Supporting our Work
Our readers need your support. A reader from Connecticut says, “Thank you for giving me a place to turn to for a thoughtful daily message.”

Read more about A Responsive Heart
Josiah was 18 years into his reign when he discovered that what he grew up with as normal was angering to the Lord.

Come Out of Captivity

Scripture Focus: 2 Chronicles 33.10-13
10 The Lord spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they paid no attention. 11 So the Lord brought against them the army commanders of the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh prisoner, put a hook in his nose, bound him with bronze shackles and took him to Babylon. 12 In his distress he sought the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his ancestors. 13 And when he prayed to him, the Lord was moved by his entreaty and listened to his plea; so he brought him back to Jerusalem and to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord is God. 

Reflection: Come Out of Captivity
By John Tillman

Christ’s kingdom of light exposes the darkness of our human kingdoms. We find this not only in Revelation, but throughout the scriptures.

Differences in Chronicles and Kings show the motives and goals of the writers. They are not in conflict as much as they are complementing each other’s messages by emphasizing or omitting specific things.

Kings is dour, and at times depressing, reading. It made the case to exiles in Babylon that they suffered justly for their sins and called them to repent. One king after another, God’s chosen leaders, turned away from God. Human kings were revealed as unworthy and unrighteous failures. None were righteous. No, not one. We need to believe this about ourselves and our kingdoms.

The Chronicler retold these events to those who returned from Babylon. Chronicles highlights moments that show that (when there is repentance) God’s mercy, redemption, and salvation are sure. God is revealed as being faithful to forgive. He is the righteous one. We also need to believe this.

In Kings, much of the blame for the Babylonian exile is hung on Manasseh’s neck. This is probably the reason Kings does not include the repentance story. The Chronicler, however, is speaking to people who need to know that God restores.  

The Chronicler tells former captives of a king taken captive. He tells those restored to Judah, of a king who was restored. He tells those who were sinners and rebels of a king who repented and humbled himself. He tells those attempting to reestablish the worship of God of a king who deconstructed cultural idols and returned to true faith.

We can become obsessed and depressed when darkness and sin seem dominant in us and in our world. But even the weepiest of weeping prophets knew and proclaimed that light was coming and hope was warranted.

Manasseh’s story instills hope that repentance brings light. It tells us that there is no one beyond God’s judgment and wrath and no one beyond his grace and mercy.

Christ’s coming is a light of revelation. If we move toward Christ, revealing light becomes healing light and cleanses us of all unrighteousness.

We are not beyond hope. His arm is not too short to save. Come out of captivity to cultural idols and into the light.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Remember, Lord, how short life is, how frail you have made all flesh. — Psalm 89.47

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

Today’s Readings
2 Chronicles 33 (Listen – 4:01) 
Revelation 19 (Listen – 3:47)

Read more about Supporting our Work
Our readers need your support. A reader from Arizona says, “Thank you for your financial and prayerful support in this ministry. It is more than essential all year long.”

Read more about Why Chronicles?
Our history, our sins, our mistakes, cannot be deleted but our story going forward can be rewritten.

Come Out of Babylon

Scripture Focus: 2 Chronicles 32.31
31 But when envoys were sent by the rulers of Babylon to ask him about the miraculous sign that had occurred in the land, God left him to test him and to know everything that was in his heart. 

Revelation 18.4-7
4 Then I heard another voice from heaven say: 
         “ ‘Come out of her, my people,’
         so that you will not share in her sins, 
         so that you will not receive any of her plagues; 
      5 for her sins are piled up to heaven, 
         and God has remembered her crimes. 
      6 Give back to her as she has given; 
         pay her back double for what she has done. 
         Pour her a double portion from her own cup. 
      7 Give her as much torment and grief 
         as the glory and luxury she gave herself. 

Reflection: Come Out of Babylon
By John Tillman

During Christmastide, leading up to Epiphany, we consider the revelation of Jesus to the Gentile nations as the light of the world.

Part of the Revelation of Christ’s Kingdom is the revelation of the sinful darkness of the kingdoms we live in. Part of why Christ comes is to rescue. Wickedness will be stripped and torn down. But whoever is willing to be saved, can be pulled out, picked up, raptured from the clutching darkness of the world. 

Babylon thought itself to be a light to the world and today’s empires think the same. Do we, as Christians from around the world, think of our own nations in this way? 

Many of us seem to. Many Christians are more enthusiastic evangelists for political or economic systems than the gospel. For some Christians, political parties have become our true religion. Some think of our nation as “The Kingdom of God” instead of God’s worldwide church. This is what Babylon does. It replaces the worship of God with the worship of nation, tribe, and self.  

Over and over, Babylon shows up as a test. God’s people fail and they fail and they fail. If we think we might fare differently, we are already too prideful.

Hezekiah was one of the greatest kings of Judah. His downfall began by pridefully entertaining powerful visitors from Babylon, even showing them the Temple and its decorations. All that he showed them, including his own children, would soon be stolen, destroyed, or enslaved by Babylon.

In Revelation, John records a call from Heaven for God’s people to “come out” of Babylon. This mirrors the call to Lot’s family to come out of Sodom. Even knowing that destruction was coming, Lot’s family clung with longing to the city they were a part of. They had to be taken, grasped, pulled by the hand to leave. Lot’s daughters had to leave behind their promised husbands, who laughed off Lot’s invitation to salvation. (Genesis 19.14-16)

“Come out of her,” Christ cries. “Don’t look back longingly,” warns the angel of the Lord…

Babylon is a test of the heart. We can become entangled in Babylon and engaged to Sodom. How wedded to Sodom and Babylon are we?

No nation should have a grip on our heart greater than the gracious kingdom of our Christ.
Come quickly, O Christ. Grasp our hands, Lord, and lead us out.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Be seated on your lofty throne, O Most High; O Lord, judge the nations. — Psalm 7.8

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

Today’s Readings
2 Chronicles 32 (Listen – 5:58) 
Revelation 18 (Listen – 4:48)

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Our work needs your support. If you can’t donate, share with us a thank you that we can pass on to our donors.

Read more about Ready to Exit the Desert
May we leave sin and doubt in the desert, crossing the Jordan toward God’s calling to be his city on a hill.