Who Needs Anger? — 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, January 4, 2021, based on readings from Genesis 4 and Matthew 4.
It was selected by reader, Jennifer K. from Brooklyn, NY
“Why are you angry?” Is a great question I need to remind myself often, especially in this particular season where there is so much anger being spewed in the news and within my personal and professional life. The truth in “Jesus doesn’t need our anger. We need his peace” is powerful because we are powerless in anger. Wow, now I need to repeat that over and over in my daily meditations. This post struck a deep chord in my heart – my broken, sinful, hopeful, yearning for God’s love heart. My heart is only one in a world full of hearts crying out for peace yet are overwhelmed by anger, hurt and pain. Thank you, The Park Forum, for speaking truth to inspire us all to live life in love, peace and truth through our relationship with Jesus. 

Scripture Focus: Genesis 4.6-7

6 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”

Matthew 4.8-11

8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” 
10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” 
11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him. 

Reflection: Who Needs Anger? — Readers’ Choice

By John Tillman

Anger is just one of the devil’s tools that he uses as he “crouches at the door,” ready to master us as he did Cain, longing to sift us as he did Peter. (Luke 22.31-32) When Jesus condemned being angry at one’s brother as being comparable to murder, (Matthew 5.21-22) it is likely that he had Cain’s anger, and its result, in mind.

Anger is out of control in our society. Two of the main reasons why are that anger feels good and anger is profitable. 

Anger feels good? Yes. We get a rush of self-righteousness from anger. Anger gives us a false feeling of control. We feel as if by our anger we are doing something about a problem.

Anger is also profitable. How? Because it is a reliable trigger for manipulation. Satan knew this in the garden and used anger to manipulate Cain. Article writers know this. Politicians know this. Advertisers know this. Angry readers click and share without verifying facts. Angry voters vote rashly. Angry consumers are suggestible and susceptible. Angry citizens tolerate and ignore the abuses of leaders who stoke their anger.

The sin of anger hides in other things. Anger hides in misguided love. (Abusive husbands and parents “love” their wives and children. Abusive leaders “love” their country.) Anger hides in our desires for justice. Anger tempts us to seize control. Jesus was tempted to seize the kingdoms of the world in the wilderness. Peter attempted to seize control with a sword in the garden.

In an age of anger, God’s question to Cain is more relevant to us than ever. God asks, “Why are you angry?” 

Are you being manipulated by anger? What is motivating your anger? What is your anger prompting you to do? Will you do it? Who will profit when you do?

How we respond to anger will determine how easily we will be manipulated. The anger that so easily trips us up reveals our need for Jesus. Peter thought Jesus needed him in the garden. Many today think that Jesus needs the angry swings of our social media swords or other dangerous weapons. Jesus doesn’t need our anger. We need his peace. 

Satan may sift us like wheat, but after we have turned back, may we, like Peter, strengthen our brothers with love and not anger. May we lay down our angry swords and take up feeding his lambs and carrying our cross.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Let the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; let them be merry and joyful. — Psalm 68.3

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Judges 19 (Listen – 4:52)
Acts 23 (Listen – 5:15)

Read More about Readers’ Choice 2021
It is time to hear from you about the posts from the past eleven months (September 2020 – July 2021) that have challenged, comforted, and helped you find new meaning in the scriptures.

https://forms.gle/ozM13qvW9ouSWhJS7

Read more about The Focus of Christ’s Anger
In our culture of outrage, we can’t get enough of anger.

Our Hope Amidst Violence — 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, May 17, 2021, based on readings from Psalm 69.
It was selected by reader, EN, from Texas
“The prayer from South Africa was moving. I appreciate the incorporation of hymns and prayers of faith from around the world. In light of our often self-focused western faith, it is refreshing to have words from others who have truly suffered and kept the faith.”

Scripture Focus: Psalm 69.16-21

16 Answer me, Lord, out of the goodness of your love; 
in your great mercy turn to me. 
17 Do not hide your face from your servant; 
answer me quickly, for I am in trouble. 
18 Come near and rescue me; 
deliver me because of my foes. 
19 You know how I am scorned, disgraced and shamed; 
all my enemies are before you. 
20 Scorn has broken my heart 
and has left me helpless; 
I looked for sympathy, but there was none, 
for comforters, but I found none. 
21 They put gall in my food 
and gave me vinegar for my thirst. 

Reflection: Our Hope Amidst Violence — Readers’ Choice
By John Tillman

In 1995, with Aparthied still close in the rear view mirror, the Rugby World Cup was hosted and won by South Africa. In 2009, the story was turned into a film starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon. Sports metaphors and movies are inspiring, but the struggle in South Africa was just beginning. 1998 saw bombings in South Africa and attacks scattered over the entire continent. The times were tense, violent, unpredictable. 

From that time and place, comes this prayer. It was written by South African Christians and published in a book of prayers prepared for a worship conference in Berlin in 1998. Like many of the prayers we read in the psalms, this prayer is familiar with violence and suffering. This prayer’s response is inspiring for us today.

These problems still exist in one way or another, popping up in one country, then another. We still see abuse, rape as a weapon of war, and mass killings motivated by tribal conflicts or religious radicalization. Often the chief victims of these events are women. We also still see state-sanctioned terrorist attacks and state-approved assassinations. We still see disproportionate responses to violence both by police forces around the world and by governments.

Today’s psalm, referenced by gospel authors, (Matthew 27.34, 48; Mark 15.23, 36; Luke 23.36; John 19.28-30), reminds us that Jesus entered violence and scorn on our behalf. May the church follow Christ’s footsteps as he moves to help those affected by violence.

His eye is on the sparrows. Is ours?

Join this prayer today for all people across the world experiencing oppression, violence, and exile. Whether people suffer because of their religious beliefs or any other reason, we pray on their behalf.

A Prayer of Hope from South Africa

Oh, God,
You can do anything, anywhere, any time.
All knowing, all seeing God,
There is nothing hidden from you.
You see the women of Africa:
Who are refugees,
Fleeing their war-torn countries
With babies on their backs and luggage on their heads.
Some who are victims of human rights violations, abuse, infected with AIDS.
We put our hope in you, oh God.
For you hear even our unmentioned prayers
You watch not only the sparrow, but you see us too.
And your hands guide us all the way.
Above all, you offer us the gift of eternal life.
We praise your holy name.

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

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence

Show your goodness, O Lord, to those who are good and those who are true of heart. — Psalm 125.4

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle


Today’s Readings
Judges 18 (Listen – 4:39)
Acts 22 (Listen – 4:26)

Read More about Readers’ Choice 2021
It is time to hear from you about the posts from the past eleven months (September 2020 – July 2021) that have challenged, comforted, and helped you find new meaning in the scriptures.

https://forms.gle/ozM13qvW9ouSWhJS7

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.

Inheritance of Rachel’s Daughters — 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, May 18, 2021, based on Numbers 27.
It was selected by reader, Barbara, from Chattanooga
“Praise the Lord! He always intends so much more than we can imagine!”

Scripture Focus: Numbers 27.5-7
5 So Moses brought their case before the Lord, 6 and the Lord said to him, 7 “What Zelophehad’s daughters are saying is right. You must certainly give them property as an inheritance among their father’s relatives and give their father’s inheritance to them.

Reflection: Inheritance of Rachel’s Daughters — Readers’ Choice

By John Tillman

In the ancient near east most women barely ranked above pack animals. They didn’t inherit property, they were property. Their word was not considered reliable. Their will was not considered or acknowledged. This was a cultural reality passed down from the very first women of Israel—Jacob’s wives, Leah and Rachel. 

Leah and Rachel show us the spectrum of marriage at that time. Rachel represents a fairytale saying mutual love was possible. Leah reveals an ugly reality that sexual slavery, loveless manipulation, and bitterness were the far more likely normality. Both women recognized Laban sold them like property. (Genesis 31.14-16

Generations later, descendants of Rachel’s first born son, Joseph, come before the Lord to seek justice. Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milkah, and Tirzah lay out a case, not only for themselves but for every woman to follow them. God, the righteous judge, grants their request and grants the same rights to all women of Israel.

It would be easy to pause here and simply praise the daughters of Zelophehad as heroines of women’s rights. However, the answer God gives them is a bandaid, not a biblical ideal. When we wish to restore biblical ideals, we must turn far enough back in our Bibles to find the ideal God set up.

Jesus taught that some laws of Moses were “not this way from the beginning.” These laws were given because the hearts of the Israelites were too hard to live up to Edenic ideals (Matthew 19.3-9). 

Jesus gives primacy of importance to Edenic law rather than Mosaic law. And just as Jesus looked to a greater law than Moses, he grants to men and women a greater inheritance than any land or property.

Inheritances are promised and given, not earned or attained. They can’t be purchased or procured. They are granted, not gained. Jesus granted women something greater than Moses granted. 

In every interaction with women, we see Jesus elevating them and treating them as if they belonged among his disciples. He gave to women a unique revelation, being the first to see and speak of his resurrection.

May God soften our hearts to live beyond the Mosaic rules for the hardhearted. In Jesus, the Edenic ideal, not the Mosaic compromise, is restored. Daughters of Eve, and of Rachel, carry a gospel inheritance. Without their inclusion, the kingdom of God is incomplete.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Let me hear of your loving-kindness in the morning, for I put my trust in you; show me the road that I must walk, for I lift up my soul to you. — Psalm 143.8

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Judges 17 (Listen – 1:50)
Acts 21 (Listen – 5:55)

Read More about Readers’ Choice 2021
We want to hear your voice about the posts from the past eleven months (September 2020 – July 2021). Tell us about posts that challenged, comforted, and helped you.

https://forms.gle/ozM13qvW9ouSWhJS7

Read more about Resisting Culture’s Mold
Laban’s daughters both recognize that they have been badly treated. The women describe their marriages as being “sold” like foreigners.

No Asterisks

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.

Student Writers Month:
This month, The Park Forum welcomes college and seminary student writers pursuing ministry careers. However, one of our students had to drop the program and I (John) am filling in for her today. For more info about our yearly Student Writer program, see our website.

Reflection: No Asterisks
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: A Reading
So he sat down, called the Twelve to him and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must make himself last of all and servant of all.” — Mark 9.35

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Judges 4(Listen– 3:57)
Acts 8(Listen – 5:10)

Read More about Readers’ Choice 2021
It is time to hear from you about the posts from the past eleven months (September 2020 – July 2021) that have challenged, comforted, and helped you find new meaning in the scriptures.

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.

Becoming Part of the Promise

Scripture Focus: Joshua 2.8-11
8 Before the spies lay down for the night, she went up on the roof 9 and said to them, “I know that the Lord has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. 10 We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. 11 When we heard of it, our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below. 

Reflection: Becoming Part of the Promise
By John Tillman

Those who feel powerless to stop sexual victimization will often attempt to profit from it and Rahab had carved a place for herself in the power structure of Jericho.
 
Her work filled a niche in the economy and her brothel filled a niche in the wall. Powerful men knew her well and came to her not only for sex but for intelligence.

Her brothel, situated strategically in the wall of the city and near the gate, was a natural place to search for unsavory, shifty spies in the land. The leaders knew that if there were trouble-makers, Rahab would have seen them. If there was trouble coming, Rahab would have heard of it. 

She had heard of trouble, probably from the bedside whispers of some of these same men. The rumors coming out of the desert told of a people whose God fought for them. A God so powerful that his people couldn’t be cursed. Armies fled before them. Canaanite gods were powerless.

Sending the leaders away with a plot of misdirection, Rahab plotted a new direction in life as she climbed up to the spies hiding on her roof.

I imagine her sitting on the roof with Abraham’s promised children, not yet equal in number to the stars they sit under. There, she delivers to their ears the pillow talk of her clients. The powerful kings of Jericho and surrounding towns were melting with fear. Rahab asks to be accepted by this powerful God who is not only in the heavens but active upon the Earth.

In this act, Rahab the Canaanite prostitute becomes a part of the Abrahamic promise. The promise itself would pass through her womb as one of the Canaanite grandmothers of Jesus. God who promised Abraham these children, numbered like stars, would fulfill to an infinite degree the promise he made to Abraham to bless the nations, through the fruit of Rahab’s womb.

No situation is hopeless and no person is doomed to destruction who turns to God. No matter what niche of the economy we feel trapped in or what political citadel demands our loyalty, like Rahab, we can climb on the roof, look to the stars, and join the children of the promise. We can help birth God’s promise on Earth to benefit others. 

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
The Lord has sworn an oath to David; in truth, he will not break it:
“A son, the fruit of your body will I set upon your throne.” — Psalm 132.11-12

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis TickleToday’s Readings
Joshua 2 (Listen – 3:49)
Psalm 123-125 (Listen – 1:52)

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