Anger Industrial Complex

Scripture Focus: Ephesians 4.25-32
25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26 “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. 28 Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.

29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. 

Reflection: Anger Industrial Complex
By John Tillman

The Christian relationship to anger is complex. God gets angry. Jesus gets angry. Christians can be angry too. Anger can be an appropriate reaction to injustice and suffering. Anger can be a fruit of love. Anger can be a requirement for social change. However, anger is also a “Deadly Sin.” Deadly sins are ones that produce and lead to other sins.

We need to escape sinful anger while acting on godly, righteous anger. How?

Our culture is addicted to anger. We play anger for laughs in our entertainment. We signal our virtue with anger. We get applause when we are angry at the “right” things. Yet, we judge others for their anger. We mock those triggered or angered by things we deem insignificant.

Anger affects us in many ways. It warps our humanity. Anger can form grooves, patterns, in our lives that affect our identity, transforming us into people of anger, rather than people of God.

Anger hinders our relationship with God. Paul considered anger a severe problem. Elders in the church could be disqualified if “given over to anger.”

Anger makes us vulnerable to human and spiritual manipulation. Paul says anger gives the devil a foothold in our lives but it also gives a foothold to manipulative politicians and media voices. This “anger industrial complex” sows tares of outrage in our hearts and harvests profits from the crop of our anger. 

Anger crouches at our doors, and on our devices, ready to take us down a path leading eventually to violence. Anger will rule us or we will rule it. 

We must ask, “Why am I angry?” and “How can I turn anger toward loving action?”

Anger is often sinful when rooted in self-love, fear, insecurity, and pride. We think, “I deserve better.” “I’ll never allow that to happen again.” We must turn these thoughts over to God and starve our lives of the voices that prompt these demands.

Even “selfless” anger can spur us to sinful actions. Actions springing from righteous anger will always be inherently righteous. If what anger motivates us to do is sinful, then either the anger itself or our reaction to it is sinful.

Rather than comforting ourselves with anger, let us comfort ourselves with God’s peace. His peace will lead to flourishing. Our anger will only lead to failure and violence.

*Based on my notes from a sermon by JR Vassar, at Church at the Cross. See the full sermon here.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Sing praise to the Lord who dwells in Zion; proclaim to the peoples the things he has done. — Psalm 9.11

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

Today’s Readings*
Ezekiel 4(Listen 2:56)
Romans 7 (Listen 4:09)

*We have diverted into 1 Kings and Ephesians for this week. Devotionals on our daily readings will continue next week.

Read more about Two Lamechs, One Jesus
Noah’s world was cursed by anger, hatred, division, and sin. Sound familiar?

Read more about Who Needs Anger?
Anger is out of control in our society. Two of the main reasons why are that anger feels good and anger is profitable.

Neither Despair Nor Nostalgia

Readers’ Choice Month:
Thank you for sending your selections of meaningful and helpful devotionals from the past 12 months. We have a few extra Readers’ Choice posts we will drop into this week and next. Remember that you don’t have to wait to send a Readers’ Choice. You can submit them all year long simply by replying back to our emails or filling out the form found at this link.

Scripture Focus: 1 Kings 6.11-13
11 The word of the Lord came to Solomon: 12 “As for this temple you are building, if you follow my decrees, observe my laws and keep all my commands and obey them, I will fulfill through you the promise I gave to David your father. 13 And I will live among the Israelites and will not abandon my people Israel.”

Reflection: Neither Despair Nor Nostalgia
By John Tillman

Covenants have at least two participants. Husbands and wives make covenants of love, support, and faithfulness. Business partnerships are covenants of capital, intellectual property, and labor. Governments (even non-democratic ones) are philosophically based on a sacred covenant that leaders will protect and provide for the people and the people will support the needs of the government as it does so.

In many ways, Solomon’s era was the golden age of Israel’s covenant with God, but the roots of unfaithfulness are also visible. In golden ages, we often find excesses that will bankrupt the future. Solomon instituted forced labor and was consumed by pleasures of wealth, sex, and power. Solomon built beautiful buildings but failed to build a beautiful community. He raised a glorious Temple but raised a spoiled and foolish son who caused a civil war. (1 Kings 12.13-17)

Like Solomon, we have sacred work to do in our world. Like him, our efforts are often incomplete and imperfect. We see this in the broken covenants of marriage, business, and, especially government. When struggling for the reins of power, leaders will harm anyone if they score some political points. No one is sacred—not families fleeing communism, children hiding from gunmen, unborn babies, or victims of sexual assaults.

Frustration with the present can birth longings for a golden age or despair for the future. We think, “if only things could be like they were.” The writer of Kings almost certainly held some nostalgia for Solomon’s Temple. Jesus’ disciples were also impressed with its eventual replacement, built by the wicked king, Herod. (Matthew 24.1-2) We easily get lost in the grandeur of the descriptions of the temple, the “greatness” of the past, impressive (if wicked) kings, or imagining what we might build for God. 

Rather than despair or nostalgia, let us focus on faithfulness in the present. Don’t get lost in the grandeur of the past or dreams of future glory. Opulence, craftsmanship, and “greatness” don’t impress God. God says, “As for this temple you are building…” then pointedly ignores the sculptures, gold, and cedar. Obedience and faithfulness are what God seeks.

Regardless of corporate unfaithfulness, the faithful remnant will see God’s covenant fulfilled. Abusive governments or corrupted Temples may fall but the promise made to Solomon is still alive in Christ. God will tabernacle with his remnant, even in exile. He will not abandon his people.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
My heart is firmly fixed, O God, my heart is fixed; I will sing and make melody. — Psalm 108.1

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

Today’s Readings*
Ezekiel 3 (Listen 4:41)
Romans 6 (Listen 3:28)

*We have diverted into 1 Kings and Ephesians for this week. Devotionals on our daily readings will continue next week.

Read more about Gods of Ruin and Ridicule
We must decide every day whom we will serve. The gods of this world bring ruin and ridicule.

The Superior Bravery of Tenderness—Readers’ Choice

Readers’ Choice Month:
This September, The Park Forum is looking back on 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, on September 27, 2021, based on 2 Samuel 23.13-17
It was selected by reader, Jon: 
“Of course, this is one of my favorites from the past year because the Bill mentioned here was also my dear friend. A wonderful demonstration of the spirit of this piece, Bill was one of the strongest men I knew and was also one of the most compassionate. Men, especially, take heed to this word.”

Scripture Focus: 2 Samuel 23.13-17
13 During harvest time, three of the thirty chief warriors came down to David at the cave of Adullam, while a band of Philistines was encamped in the Valley of Rephaim. 14 At that time David was in the stronghold, and the Philistine garrison was at Bethlehem. 15 David longed for water and said, “Oh, that someone would get me a drink of water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem!” 16 So the three mighty warriors broke through the Philistine lines, drew water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem and carried it back to David. But he refused to drink it; instead, he poured it out before the Lord. 17 “Far be it from me, Lord, to do this!” he said. “Is it not the blood of men who went at the risk of their lives?” And David would not drink it.

Such were the exploits of the three mighty warriors.

Reflection: The Superior Bravery of Tenderness—Readers’ Choice
By John Tillman

There are many bad spiritual takeaways from these “Mighty Men” passages. The especially damaging ones attempt to “baptize” men’s sinful, violent tendencies as being honorable and desirable spiritual qualities.

Many years ago, a friend from seminary and a member of a ministry team we served on, Bill, had cancer. Despite fervent prayer for a miracle of healing, the cancer worsened.

As the end neared, Bill’s father approached me with a request. Men were being asked to sign up to stay overnight in the hospital with Bill. I was warned that it would be unpleasant duty and many had turned it down. Metastasizing cancer and multiple organ failure does frightful things to the human body. Those who stayed overnight handled intimate needs for Bill. We helped him face grim tasks of maintenance that were better done by a friend or with a friend present. Some did not have the stomach to face what needed to be faced.

Later, at Bill’s funeral, his father approached me. He handed me a gift inscribed with a message referencing this passage and thanking me for being one of Bill’s “mighty men.” There were thirty of us. I will never forget the honor.

To be certain, it takes courage to face hundreds of enemies alone in a field of lentils (2 Samuel 23.11-14), or a lion in a pit on a snowy day (2 Samuel 23.20). I take nothing away from the valor of such deeds. But I challenge you that there is a superior bravery men need, especially men who wish to follow Christ. It takes bravery beyond what many men can muster to be tender, merciful, and kind. 

If you can swing a sword until your hand freezes to it, but you cannot wipe away another’s tears and unashamedly shed your own, you lack a vital component of godliness. If you would give your body to be burned, but have not love…you are nothing. (1 Corinthians 13.3)

Men who follow Christ, the suffering servant, would be better men if they were mighty in tenderness and mighty in care. Christian men must understand that tenderness IS an act of courage. Empathy and weeping are braver and more godly than stoicism and violence.

Empires need men who swing a sword. God’s Kingdom needs men who gently care for the weak. Tenderness and care are Jesus-like masculinity, and show the image of God to a greater degree than any act of violence.

From John: Just a little additional insight from behind the scenes. Every day we post, I look for an image that will help carry the message and go well with the pull quote and storyline. Some days are more of a success than others and some are a struggle. This weekend, looking for an image with a man in a role of tenderness, I scrolled through hundreds of photos using the search terms “tenderness,” “kindness,” “caring,” etc. and could barely find any “tender” or “kind” images of men that were not “man with a romantic partner,” “man with a child,” or “man in a professional role of caring,” such as a doctor or nurse. It speaks volumes about what our society thinks of men that in photos intended for marketing/blogging, etc, we have so few images of men being tender if it isn’t their job, their kids, or their romantic partner. Men, even if the world doesn’t expect tenderness of you, being a representative of Christ demands it of you.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Show me your marvelous loving-kindness, O Savior of those who take refuge at your right hand from those who rise up against them.
Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me under the shadow of your wings. — Psalm 17.7-8

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

Today’s Readings
Lamentations 5(Listen 2:03)
Romans 3(Listen 4:30)

This Weekend’s Readings

Ezekiel 1(Listen 4:47)Romans 4(Listen 4:08)
Ezekiel 2(Listen 1:38)Romans 5(Listen 3:53)

Read more about The Law that leads to Grace
Whatever form of moralism we seek to add to grace is a failure of faith, doubting the value of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.

Read more about Not So Random Acts of Kindness
Jesus is a greater king than David, never failing to minister to those in need.

Good King Wenceslas—Readers’ Choice

Readers’ Choice Month:
This September, The Park Forum is looking back on 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, on December 8, 2021, based on 3 John 3-6 and Luke 6:38
It was selected by reader, EN: 
“Hymns and carols have always been close to my heart. This was a wonderful reflection.”


Scripture Focus: 3 John 3-6
3 It gave me great joy when some believers came and testified about your faithfulness to the truth, telling how you continue to walk in it. 4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.
5 Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers and sisters, even though they are strangers to you. 6 They have told the church about your love. Please send them on their way in a manner that honors God.

Luke 6:38
Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

Reflection: Good King Wenceslas—Readers’ Choice
By Jon Polk

In 921, the Duke of Bohemia (in modern Czech Republic) died when his son Wenceslas was only 13 years old, too young to rule. Wenceslas’ late grandfather converted to Christianity under the influence of Byzantine missionaries and his grandmother had seen to his education, so she was made regent in his stead.

At age 18, Wenceslas was made Duke of Bohemia and his reign was characterized by his Christian heritage. He became known for acts of charity and almsgiving, winning the admiration of his subjects.

Historian Cosmas of Prague wrote about Wenceslas in 1119:

His deeds I think you know better than I could tell you; rising every night from his noble bed, he went around to God’s churches and gave alms generously to widows, orphans, those in prison and afflicted by every difficulty, so much so that he was considered, not a prince, but the father of all the wretched.

Wenceslas’ legacy helped shape the medieval concept of the righteous king, whose power is based on great piety in addition to regal authority.

Written by English hymn writer John Mason Neale in 1853, the carol “Good King Wenceslas” recounts one incident of love and generosity by the good king.

Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the Feast of Stephen
When the snow lay round about
Deep and crisp and even
Brightly shone the moon that night
Though the frost was cruel
When a poor man came in sight
Gathering winter fuel

The king orders his servants to gather food, drink and firewood and summons his page to help him deliver the goods to the poor peasant. 

Page and monarch forth they went
Forth they went together
Through the rude wind’s wild lament
And the bitter weather

As the weather worsens, the page insists he can go no further; the king suggests that the page simply follow boldly in his footsteps. Upon doing so, the page discovers that he is warmed by the sod where snow had melted under his master’s footprints.

The Christmas season often prompts many people to engage in acts of charity and kindness. There are toy drives, meals served in soup kitchens and generous donations made to notable causes, all our expressions of God’s love.

Unfortunately, however, our generosity usually ends on December 26th.

While the carol recounts only one incident at Christmastime, Wenceslas was remembered for a life of generosity and love for those in need.

We follow a Righteous King who lived his whole life as a servant. He invites us to simply walk boldly in his footsteps, serving others not only for a few weeks during the Christmas season, but consistently throughout the year.

Therefore, Christian men, be sure
Wealth or rank possessing
Ye who now will bless the poor
Shall yourselves find blessing

Listen: Good King Wenceslas by Downhere
Read: Lyrics from Hymnary.org

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. — Matthew 5.6

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

Today’s Readings
Lamentations 4(Listen 3:42)
Romans 2(Listen 4:13)

Readers’ Choice is Here!
Thanks for sharing your recommended posts from the last 12 months. We have loved hearing from you!

Read more about He Became a Servant — Love of Advent
Jesus is our perfect and complete picture of what God is like. He is still among us as one who serves and we are to be like him.

Offal Leaders—Readers’ Choice

Readers’ Choice Month:
This September, The Park Forum is looking back on 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, on June 3, 2022, based on Malachi 2.3-4, 9
It was selected by reader, Brian Bakke, Washington DC: 
“This reflection reminded me of growing up in and living in the city of Chicago where I was surrounded by corruption. I am a regular reader of The Park Forum so that I might gain wisdom.”

Scripture Focus: Malachi 2.3-4, 9
3 “Because of you I will rebuke your descendants; I will smear on your faces the dung from your festival sacrifices, and you will be carried off with it. 4 And you will know that I have sent you this warning so that my covenant with Levi may continue,” says the Lord Almighty.

9 “So I have caused you to be despised and humiliated before all the people, because you have not followed my ways but have shown partiality in matters of the law.” 

Reflection: Offal Leaders—Readers’ Choice
By John Tillman

In their commissioning, priests had the blood of the sacrifices daubed on their ears, hands, and feet to represent their holiness. This marking of symbolic purity qualified them to speak for God, work for God, and lead the people.

Malachi describes a de-commissioning of unfaithful priests. Instead of blood that represented purity and life, the unclean feces from the animal would be smeared on their faces, representing impurity and death.

Normally this fecal matter, along with the skin and any other part of the animal not eaten or offered as a sacrifice would be carried to a location outside the community to be burned. In Malachi’s vision, the priests who dishonor God will be carried off with this offal.

God instituted the priesthood as a way of blessing the people. It was part of God’s fulfillment of his promise to bless the entire world through Abraham. For these priests, however, their part in that blessing was over. God even promised to reverse the priests’ blessings to curses.

However, there is still hope in Malachi’s vision. The disgusting image of the feces-smeared priests does not mean God is canceling the priesthood or the Temple or his mission to bless the nations. He’s just removing the sinful, the prideful, the corrupt, and the abusers of his people. God removes these priests so “that my covenant with Levi may continue.” 

In every age, not just the time of Malachi, God is displeased with spiritual leaders who misrepresent him. God promises to bring dishonor on leaders who bring dishonor on his name. However, God’s plan to bless the nations won’t be derailed by spiritual leaders who fail. 

We can make two mistakes when we are confronted with revelations of sin and corruption in spiritual leaders. One is to continue following/supporting these leaders. God smeared their faces with offal, but some keep trying to wipe it off and pretend nothing is wrong. Anyone can be forgiven. Not everyone can be reinstated. (Luke 12.48; James 3.1)

A second is to abandon faith in God because we lose faith in humans. God’s holiness is the reason these leaders are disgraced. We do not have to allow these “offal-smeared” leaders to cause us to stumble and abandon faith.

Rather than destroying everything, God’s purpose is to restore everything. Despite our shock at the removal of leaders, God’s covenant of life and peace through our high priest, Jesus, can continue.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
But I will call upon God, and the Lord will deliver me.
In the evening, in the morning, and at noonday, I will complain and lament,
He will bring me safely back… God, who is enthroned of old, will hear me… — Psalm 55.17

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

Today’s Readings
Lamentations 3(Listen 5:10)
Romans 1(Listen 5:02)

Readers’ Choice is Here!
We loved hearing your recommended posts from the last 12 months. Which one helped you heal?

Read more about Priests of Life and Peace
God’s purpose is not to end the priesthood. Instead, through Christ’s sacrifice, he instituted a new priesthood for all who follow Jesus.