The Scripture Cannot Be Set Aside :: Readers’ Choice

Selected by reader, Susan from the Marble Mtn. Wilderness in Northern California
This exposition of John 10:35 was a timely reminder to me of how I endanger and risk stunting my spiritual growth and effectiveness by neglecting regular Bible reading. I ask myself, “Why do you forego the very thing that gives you so much joy? Why do you plunge into the day under the tyranny of the urgent when you have experienced so much serenity and stability by reading Scripture for even ten minutes??!!” Thanks to Park Forum for daily reminders and the audio access to keep pulling me back to my first love. 

Scripture Focus: John 10.35
Scripture cannot be set aside…

Reflection: The Scripture Cannot Be Set Aside :: Readers’ Choice
Originally published March 20th, 2019
By John Tillman

The Greek word translated “set aside,” (lyō) carries an implication beyond not ignoring the parts of the Bible we don’t like. It refers to unbinding or untying things bound together for a purpose. This would include untying the thongs of sandals (as used by John the Baptist), loosening bandages (as used by Jesus regarding Lazarus) or even the bonds of marriage (as referenced by Paul). It also applies metaphorically to dissolving any kind of union or agreement, declaring something unlawful, dissolving the authority of someone or something, or destruction by breaking apart into pieces, a meaning Jesus used referring to the destruction of the temple.

The negative, that Scripture cannot be “untied,” implies the positive, that Scripture is tied together for a purpose. The reason that we cannot set aside the Scriptures that we don’t like, is that Scripture must be considered holistically. Each part is bound up with the others for a purpose.

Considering all of Scripture together without breaking it apart requires patience and a deep familiarity with Scripture. The religious leaders were setting aside scriptures that were inconvenient or required sacrifice on their part. We do this as well, however modern Christians are “setting aside” the Scripture in a different way—by not reading it.

This is one of the reasons we desire to encourage daily Bible reading. Any increase of Bible reading is a benefit and blessing for the reader, but following a plan such as ours, that covers the entire Bible at a sustainable pace is helpful for our need to interpret the Bible together as one piece.

Jesus once chastised the Sadducees, saying ““You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God…” Are we in the same danger?

All devout Jews of that time discussed theology and spirituality based on a common, widespread knowledge of Scripture, and many would have large sections of the Pentateuch memorized. How well do we know the Scriptures?

Whether teaching his disciples, the crowds, or debating opponents, Jesus relied on his audiences’ deep familiarity with the Scriptures. Could Jesus do the same with us?  

Are we literate enough regarding Scripture to engage Jesus in a conversation about important theological concepts? Whatever your level of Bible literacy, ask the Holy Spirit to walk with you, as Jesus did with the Emmaus couple. Read as you walk and the Holy Spirit will help you understand the Scriptures.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
The earth, O Lord, is full of your love; instruct me in your statutes. — Psalm 119.64

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

Today’s Readings
1 Samuel 4 (Listen – 3:56) 
Romans 4 (Listen – 4:08)

Thank You!
Thank you to our donors who support our readers by making it possible to continue The Park Forum devotionals. This year, The Park Forum audiences opened 200,000 free, and ad-free, devotional content. Follow this link to join our donors with a one-time or a monthly gift.

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Read more about Cultivation Is Supernatural
A stronger faith, and a greater crop yield comes when we invest in cultivation. Cultivation is not natural. It is supernatural.

Balaams and Balaks :: Readers’ Choice

Selected by reader, Brian, from Washington D.C.
I get angry at church leaders that promote one candidate or politician…Not at the politician. It breaks my heart because my secular neighbors tell me how much they hate the church because of the hypocrisy of our leaders.

Scripture Focus: Number 22.6
Now come and put a curse on these people, because they are too powerful for me. Perhaps then I will be able to defeat them and drive them out of the land. For I know that whoever you bless is blessed, and whoever you curse is cursed.

Reflection: Balaams and Balaks :: Readers’ Choice
Originally published May 13th, 2019
By John Tillman

Last week we celebrated the bravery of the prophet, Nathan, who confronted King David with his sins and described the terrible consequences that would be the result of the king’s actions.

This week’s readings begin with a very different prophet—one who could not be further from the ethical stance of Nathan—Balaam. Balaam is not concerned with whether what the king wants is right or moral. He does not care about reconciling men or nations to God as Nathan does. Balaam’s prophecies are for sale. But rather than allow Balaam to put words in his mouth, God puts his words in Balaam’s mouth.

God takes extreme measures. He causes Balaam’s donkey to speak to him to get his attention. Then, once Balaam sees the threatening angel, God sternly warns Balaam to only say what God tells him to say. Although God speaks through Balaam, there is no relationship of love or trust—no expectation of good faith.

In the end, Balaam says what God commands. This could be because he is overwhelmed by the visions or because he is simply obeying out of fear of the angel who threatened him. Scripture does not tell us.

Perhaps the best lesson we can learn from Balaam is that there will always be prophets willing to buddy up to powerful, political leaders. These modern Balaams do their best to put words in God’s mouth that are pleasing to the powerful.

There are many political leaders today who are just like Balak. They want prophets of God to come to them, stand with them, worship with them, and bless their evil practices and desires. And there are many Balaams in the world today who claim to speak for God and yet seem willing to tickle the ears of the powerful in exchange for assurances of influence and power.

As God’s people, we can’t do much about the Balaams or the Balaks of the world. We must leave them up to God, for he is more than able to deal with them according to their sins.

Instead, we must simply keep serving our God and following him through our desert of sojourn. When the Balaams look down on us, may they be unable to deny the beauty of the love of God that is among us.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Give thanks to the Lord of lords, for his mercy endures for ever. — Psalm 136.1-3

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

Today’s Readings
1 Samuel 3 (Listen – 3:03) 
Romans 3 (Listen – 4:30)

Thank You!
Thank you to our donors who support our readers by making it possible to continue The Park Forum devotionals. This year, The Park Forum audiences opened 200,000 free, and ad-free, devotional content. Follow this link to join our donors with a one-time or a monthly gift.

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Read more about Resisting Herods
The conditions in which the gospel makes its way in the World have little to do with influence and wealth and power.

No Princes :: Readers’ Choice

Selected by reader, Jason from Texas
If our faith in God is based on people, then it becomes like a reed in the wind, swaying with every economic downturn and electoral cycle.

Scripture Focus: Psalm 146.3
Do not put your trust in princes,
    in human beings, who cannot save.

Reflection: No Princes :: Readers’ Choice
Originally published July 11th, 2019
By John Tillman

How many believers veil their trust in men as trust in God? This can cause problems in two ways. 

In the first, it can cause otherwise faithful people to bend over backward to defend a corrupt leader because to admit that the leader failed or that corruption was present would reflect badly on God’s work. Or it might even mean that the man was never “God’s man” in the first place and we had been duped by him. Unable to admit this, we rally to support and deny any accusation or attack, deaf to evidence or appeal.

The second is, in a way, the equal and opposite reaction. It causes people to believe that they must abandon faith in God because of a leader who broke faith or gave into corruption or abused his power. (It is almost always a man who does this…) Unable to separate their faith from the identity of the leader, they abandon faith.

In both of these cases, the followers’ faith was never in God in the first place.

Let us pray using some of the words of Psalm 146, asking God to protect our faith from even resting a little finger on the unworthy foundation of princes or kings or leaders. May our faith be built solely and solidly upon Jesus, his cross of suffering, and his glorious resurrection.

No Princes
Do not put your trust in princes,
    in human beings, who cannot save.

The princes of this land cannot save us, nor do they intend to.
Their fine bracelets are shackles.

When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;
    on that very day their plans come to nothing.

Even the greatest of princes will die, will fall, will fail.
Their plans will come to nothing and that nothing will come to those who trusted in them.

There is only one prince we must serve—the Prince of Peace…

He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets prisoners free
The Lord gives sight to the blind,
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down,
The Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.

May we befriend the foreigner, the fatherless, and the widow.

And may we live to see the ways of the wicked frustrated, the chains of the prisoners fall, the blind lead us on with new sight, the bowed down rise up to run.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
Out of Zion, perfect in its beauty, God reveals himself in glory. — Psalm 50.2

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

Today’s Readings
1 Samuel 2 (Listen – 6:09), 
Romans 2 (Listen – 4:13)

Thank You!
Thank you to our donors who support our readers by making it possible to continue The Park Forum devotionals. This year, The Park Forum audiences opened 200,000 free, and ad-free, devotional content. Follow this link to join our donors with a one-time or a monthly gift.

Read more about When Nations Pray :: Worldwide Prayer
Help us to incarnate a gospel that evangelizes and emancipates those in need as a real and relevant demonstration of our living Christ.

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Let our community hear how your faith has grown. What post helped you heal?

Jericho’s Wall :: Readers’ Choice

Selected by reader, Barbara, from Chattanooga
Following God is His call on us. We don’t “deserve” anything. Some hard, and exciting lessons in this story!

Scripture Focus: Joshua 5.13-14
Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?” 
“Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.”

Reflection: Jericho’s Wall :: Readers’ Choice
Originally published July 3rd, 2019
By John Tillman

If you ask Christians how the inhabitants of Jericho responded to Israel and their silent marching around the city, most will probably say they taunted them and that the point of the story is that the Israelites demonstrated faith by following God’s strange plan despite being made fun of. This is a complete fabrication. There is no textual evidence to suggest that the Israelites were teased or taunted at all by Jericho.  

Scripture doesn’t shy away from a great taunt. The scriptures are full of them. God himself delivers sharply barbed taunts. Even Jesus gently taunts Nicodemus. But no taunts are recorded here.

Jericho wasn’t in a taunting mood. They were terrified. No matter how funny the French Peas are in a Veggie Tales video, the reality is that scripture tells us multiple times how terrified everyone in Canaan was of Israel, but it never tells us once that they taunted Israel or made any comment about God’s plan of marching around the city.

It’s not difficult to see why Jericho was terrified. This gigantic group of former slaves destroyed the entire army of Egypt—the world-wide superpower of its day. Today, this would be comparable to the United States military being wiped out by an opponent. Then this same group traveled through the desert completely destroying any king or nation that stood up to them. Then, these desert-crossing, dangerous, religious fanatics show up at Jericho’s border, crossing the river without permission and in a miraculous fashion.

One possible reason for our extremely poor handling of scripture, in this case, is that, when teaching children, we are so uncomfortable with the idea of God ordering the Israelites to wipe out an entire city, we need a distraction. “Perseverance amidst taunting” is a kinder-gentler lesson to teach children. 

This erroneous reading of scripture turns the power dynamic upside down allowing us to feel “persecuted” like the Israelites and justified in destroying our enemies.

But God isn’t interested in destroying people we call our enemies. If the commander of the Lord’s army was not on Joshua’s side, we can rest assured that the commander of the Lord’s army is not on “our” side today. Especially if we define our side so narrowly as to exclude those outside of something so meaningless and trivial as a political party.

The lesson of Jericho’s wall is not that God’s plans are weird, and people will make fun of us, but we should follow God anyway. The lesson of Jericho’s wall is that it is God who initiates judgment, not us. The lesson is that we don’t deserve what God has given us and that if we are unfaithful, we too will face God’s wrath and no wall will stand in its way.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Cry of the Church
Even so, come Lord Jesus! — Revelation 22.20

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

Today’s Readings
Ruth 2 (Listen – 3:56) 
Acts 27 (Listen – 6:09)

This Weekend’s Readings
Ruth 3-4 (Listen – 6:24), Acts 28 (Listen – 4:56)
1 Samuel 1 (Listen – 4:13), Romans 1 (Listen – 5:02)

Thank You!
Thank you to our donors who support our readers by making it possible to continue The Park Forum devotionals. This year, The Park Forum audiences opened 200,000 free, and ad-free, devotional content. Follow this link to join our donors with a one-time or a monthly gift.

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Let our community hear how your faith has grown. What post helped you better understand the Bible?

Read more about Over Jordan
On the other side of the river is the land that is promised, the land of blessing, the land of freedom, the land of rest, the land of satisfaction and plenty.

Creator of Worlds :: Readers’ Choice

Selected by reader, Michelle Perez, from New York, NY
This extols the beauty of the Lord’s creative work with such reverence and joy! I especially love that the prayer from Jamaica includes the importance and beauty of each created human life and pleads with the Lord to remember those who do not look at “life” through that lens.

Scripture Focus: Psalm 148.1-4
Praise the Lord from the heavens;
    praise him in the heights above.
Praise him, all his angels;
    praise him, all his heavenly hosts.
Praise him, sun and moon;
    praise him, all you shining stars.
Praise him, you highest heavens
    and you waters above the skies.

Reflection: Creator of Worlds :: Readers’ Choice
Originally published July 12th, 2019
By John Tillman

Scripture tells us that creation groans to be released from sin. If the beauty and wonder of creation is what shines through despite its being shackled with sin, how much more beautiful may it be when all has been restored?

And…if creation is still capable of beauty and wonder through its groaning and pain, so much the more are we. We are not mere rocks that cry out, but God’s children whose mouths are filled with ordained praise. 

We are not trees that clap our hands with the breeze but God’s own family who celebrate the grace of God our Father even with our faces set firmly against a blowing gale.

With joy, we join this prayer from Christian brothers and sisters in Jamaica, praising and calling on the Almighty God, creator of all worlds!

Creator of Worlds
Prayer for the preservation of creation from Jamaica

Almighty God: Creator of all worlds!

We honor you for the marvels of your creation, and thank you for that part of it which is our home— the mountains, the green fields, and the sea— the abundance and energy of life in us and around us.

We confess that we have often forgotten that the world is yours and so we have misused and abused your gifts, causing distress and pain to others and to ourselves.

Out of your forgiving grace—hear us now as we pray for healing in our world.

Remember those who behold but cannot appreciate your wonderful world and those who abuse and deface its beauty—that they may discover the joy of tending the garden of the Lord.

Remember those who squander and waste resources you have entrusted to them, but are not concerned that others are starving.

Remember those who respect not life, your precious gift, in themselves and in others, and who from greed, or anger, or malice destroy human life without pity or fear.

Remember those who bear rule in communities and nations, acting with arrogance and without wisdom—that they may know that power is a trust for which they must give an account to you the only Absolute Ruler. May they in humility exercise the stewardship you have allotted them. May their labors promote peace and prosperity among the peoples of our troubled lands.

Oh Lord, help us all to be good stewards of this beautiful universe your mighty hand has brought into being.

In Jesus’ great name.

*Prayer from Hallowed be Your Name: A collection of prayers from around the world, Dr. Tony Cupit, Editor.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Morning Psalm
The trees of the Lord are full of sap, the cedars of Lebanon which he planted,
In which the birds build their nests, and in whose top the stork makes his dwelling.
The high hills are a refuge for the mountain goats, and his stony cliffs for rock badgers. — Psalm 104.17-19

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

Today’s Readings
Ruth 1 (Listen – 3:33) 
Acts 26 (Listen – 5:17)

Thank You!
Thank you to our donors who support our readers by making it possible to continue The Park Forum devotionals. This year, The Park Forum audiences opened 200,000 free, and ad-free, devotional content. Follow this link to join our donors with a one-time or a monthly gift.

Submit a Readers’ Choice
Let our community hear how your faith has grown. What post made you want to share?

Read more about Overgrown by the Gospel
May the gospel make ruins of our pride and selfishness. May we be overgrown by the gospel.

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