Christ – Our Hope Black Lives Matter

Psalm 20.7
Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.

Civil Rights, let-alone equality, for African Americans have been notoriously difficult for The United States to secure, structure, and maintain. Names like Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and now Walter Scott, shot eight times in the back by a police officer in South Carolina last week, have become representatives of this national tragedy.

Few in our country believe governance and the mental resolve of the masses alone are sufficient to solve such an insidious problem. In this way we observe part of the words of the Psalmist: we no longer trust in chariots (governance) and horses (power). Yet few of the dominant voices in American culture would offer up “the Lord our God,” as the Psalmist does, as the solution to racism. Perhaps this is to our detriment.

History has its share of those who maligned Scripture to condone racism, slavery, and worse — but it was the words and work of Christ that ultimately crumbled the foundation slavery sat upon. 

Throughout the 1790s William Wilberforce worked tirelessly to eviscerate slavery’s justification in English jurisprudence. “Wilberforce’s embracing of the anti-slavery cause was from the direct effect of embracing the Christian worldview,” The Wilberforce School reports.

Years later, back in the United States, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his life to see needed changes in governance and society. We know from his writing and teachings that King knew the catalyst for this change was Christ — the gospel was the solution.

Rev. Dr. King’s seventh “I have a dream” statement — the crescendo of his seminal I Have a Dream speech — quotes the Messianic prophecy found in Isaiah 40.3-5. King was sure to have known this is the only section of the Old Testament quoted in all four gospels — inaugurating the incarnation of Christ in each. 

“I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low. The rough places will be made plain and the crooked places will be made straight. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. This is our hope.”

Social activism can raise awareness. Governance can eliminate impunity and protect the vulnerable. Only Christ is sufficient to change the hearts of men, bring justice to the wicked, and heal the broken.

Today’s Readings
Leviticus 17 (Listen – 2:39)
Psalms 20-21 (Listen – 2:37)

Finding Faith in Future Glory

Psalm 17.15
As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness.

“A little patience can go a long way,” wrote Alexei Barrionuevo in the New York Times as the economy began showing signs of recovery in 2012. “At least that’s the lesson to be drawn from developers who have crawled from the ashes of the housing crisis – or from behind the barricades where they waited it out – to a Manhattan high-end market that has become a first-choice destination for the cash of the world’s wealthy.” 

Yet what has their patience really gained? They may be building bigger condos, but are they making better homes?

When David fled from his enemies, he fixed his eyes on his future home. “The Psalmist looks beyond the grave into another world;” Spurgeon once preached, “he overlooks the narrow deathbed where he has to sleep, and he says, ‘When I awake.’ How happy is that man who has an eye to the future.”

Spurgeon’s sermon, The Hope of Future Bliss, continues, “So says the Christian. I ask no royal pomp or fame now; I am prepared to wait … I want not a pitiful estate here – I will tarry till I get my domains in heaven, those broad and beautiful domains that God has provided for them that love him. Well content will I be to fold my arms and sit me down in the cottage, for I shall have a mansion of God, ‘a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.’”

How do we know that we have such a home? Jesus promised his followers, “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”

Prayer
Lord, You are the ultimate developer. Not only have you created our current home out of nothingness by your mere word, you have also prepared an eternal home in glory for us. Therefore, let us not long for ultimate satisfaction in any earthly home. Instead, by your Spirit, fill us with patient endurance in this life so that we hope in your home, where we will be satisfied in your presence. Amen.

Today’s Readings
Leviticus 14 (Listen – 8:11)
Psalms 17 (Listen – 1:58)

Finding Faith
Part 5 of 5, read more on TheParkForum.org

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This Weekend’s Readings

Saturday: Leviticus 15 (Listen – 4:59); Psalms 18 (Listen – 5:47)
Sunday: Leviticus 16 (Listen – 5:36); Psalm 19 (Listen – 1:52)

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Finding Faith in Doubt

Psalm 16.2-4

I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.” As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight. The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply.

TBT: Finding Faith in Doubt | by C.S. Lewis

Though Christian charity sounds a very cold thing to people whose heads are full of sentimentality, and though it is quite distinct from affection, yet it leads to affection. 

Good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance. The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which, a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of. An apparently trivial indulgence in lust or anger today is the loss of a ridge or railway line or bridgehead from which the enemy may launch an attack otherwise impossible.

People are often worried. They are told they ought to love God. They cannot find any such feeling in themselves. What are they to do? The answer is the same as before. Act as if you did. Do not sit trying to manufacture feelings. Ask yourself, ‘If I were sure that I loved God, what would I do?’ When you have found the answer, go and do it.”

On the whole, God’s love for us is a much safer subject to think about than our love for Him. Nobody can always have devout feelings: and even if we could, feelings are not what God principally cares about. 

Christian Love, either towards God or towards man, is an affair of the will. If we are trying to do His will we are obeying the commandment, ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God.’ He will give us feelings of love if He pleases. We cannot create them for ourselves, and we must not demand them as a right. 

The great thing to remember is that, though our feelings come and go, His love for us does not. It is not wearied by our sins, or our indifference; and, therefore, it is quite relentless in its determination that we shall be cured of those sins, at whatever cost to us, at whatever cost to Him.

Prayers from the Past
“I believe; help my unbelief!”

— Father of the boy healed by Jesus in Mark 9.14

Today’s Readings
Leviticus 13 (Listen – 9:34)
Psalms 15-16 (Listen – 2:04)

Finding Faith
Part 4 of 5, read more on TheParkForum.org

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Finding Faith in Busyness and Prosperity

Psalm 14.2

The LORD looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God.

From the moment we wake up in the morning, almost everything in our lives tells us not to seek God. The message, of course, is not explicit. The Evil One is more subtle and deceiving than that. Instead, he fills up our lives with enough activity and prosperity to keep God out of our minds. 

As Screwtape told Wormwood in C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters, “It is funny how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds; in reality our best work is done by keeping things out.”

In the midst of our busy lives, however, God makes a promise: “Those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.” 

We do not seek God, however, as though He were hiding. He is omnipresent and, therefore, always near everyone and everything. Moreover, He has made a covenant commitment with His people to stand by us and work for our good always.

If we do not seek God as though He were hiding, then how do we seek him? Most of us know that the full presence of the Lord is not our constant experience. We have seasons when we lack intimacy with Him, giving Him little thought and forgetting His beauty. Therefore, we seek Him by consciously fixing and focusing our attention and our affection on the Lord. 

We make this effort because, in our talkative culture that constantly sends us the message that Jesus is not valuable, we must set our minds to going around things to see His face. He is hidden behind cultural and personal obstacles. We must flee every spiritually dulling activity that blocks our way to Him.

Prayer
Lord, Give us discerning hearts that know what makes us sensitive to your presence in the world. Open our minds to know what dulls our affections and blinds our eyes from seeing you. Let us throw these things away if we must so that we may seek you. We cry out to you because we long for your promise to be true of us – that you will not forsake those who seek you. Amen.

Today’s Readings
Leviticus 11-12 (Listen – 7:20)
Psalms 13-14 (Listen – 1:43)

Finding Faith
Part 3 of 5, read more on TheParkForum.org

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Finding Faith in Trials

Psalm 11.5
The LORD tests the righteous.

Finding Faith in Trials | by Steven Dilla

Dorothy Parker sold her first poem to Vanity Fair in 1914 and wrote prolifically for the next five decades. Near the height of her success, Parker revealed a sentiment few writers admit, but to which all can relate; “I hate writing, I love having written.”

To be fair, nearly all disciplines require sacrifice and dedication to a difficult process in order to produce beauty. Italian tenor Enrico Caruso, who performed at The Metropolitan Opera in the early 1900’s, had a long and difficult rise from obscurity to fame. “Bisogna soffrire per essere grandi,” he said regularly. “To be great, it is necessary to suffer.”

This process — beauty born of suffering — is found all around us. “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone;” Jesus says, “but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” We love the fruit, but do not often reflect on the death that bore it.

What often goes unnoticed in the difficulty of the trial is the way it activates a person’s faith. It is possible, for many of us in the comfort of the modern western world, never to actually engage our faith at the deepest levels. It is the pain of crisis that pushes us from the assumptions and pleasantries of religion into the depths of genuine love and trust in God.

What we find, at the depths of God’s presence and love, is the fruit of the resurrection. “Death used to be an executioner,” said the english poet George Herbert, “but the resurrection of Christ makes him nothing but a gardener. When he tries to bury you, he’s really planting you, and you’re going to come up better than before.”

“Having written” worked out well for Parker. In addition to hundreds of poems, Parker published nine books, composed a play, and she was on the founding editorial board for The New Yorker. Her legacy lives through her words she endured to write.

How much greater the reward for those who persevere in faith?

Prayer
God, you are our greatest hope. We cling to you in times of trial. We long for you to refine us — give us strength and endurance in the process. Forgive us for our brokenness and pride. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.

Today’s Readings
Leviticus 10 (Listen – 4:17)
Psalms 11-12 (Listen – 1:59)

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