Christ the Enemy of Death

Scripture Focus: 1 Kings 17.18
She said to Elijah, “What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?”

Colossians 4.3
Pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ.

1 Corinthians 15.26
The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

Reflection: Christ the Enemy of Death
By John Tillman

God’s plan may refer to the unchanging will of God that cannot, due to God’s sovereignty and purpose, be overturned. This is true of God’s eternal purpose for humanity to live eternally in peace with God. Eden was an expression of this plan, and the new earth to come, will be the completion of this unchangeable and inevitable sovereign plan of God. 

God’s plan can also refer to God’s direction for a specific situation. God’s direction to Elijah to stay with the Sidonian widow is an example of this. This granular and finite definition of “God’s plan” is not equivalent to God’s eternal, sovereign purposes.

Elijah assumes, and we often do as well, that God dictates every death as part of his plan. However, God consistently shows through scripture that he is death’s enemy, not death’s co-conspirator. 

God makes it clear—throughout scripture but most directly through the actions of Christ—that death itself is not part of his “plan.” 

Death is used in God’s plans in the same way God uses many evil and wicked things, diverting evil purposes for righteous purposes. God uses the death of wicked individuals in his working of justice. God uses suffering caused by death to conform us to the image of Christ. God tenderly cares for his people during the suffering of death, as a part of his loving-kindness. In many situations in the Old Testament and the New, God reverses death, resuscitating death’s victims in miraculous ways.

We can be comforted knowing God hates death. He hates the long, slow death of old age. He hates the crippling, painful death of cancer and other wasting diseases. He hates the sudden and tragic deaths of the young. He hates death that rides on the heels of war, conflict, violence, injustice, and abuses of power.  

Death is God’s enemy because it harms and hurts his children. Death is an evil attempt by Satan to violate God’s eternal plans and purposes. God is, from chapter three of Genesis, working his will against death, advancing his purpose to destroy death, and preparing his people to overcome death.  

Part of the mystery of Christ that Paul refers to is he confronts, on our behalf, our greatest enemies—sin and death. He has defeated them both on the cross and the Holy Spirit, our comforter today, is our guarantee that victory over sin and death will ultimately be ours.

Christ is the deadly enemy of death.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
You brought me up, O Lord, from the dead; you restored my life as I was going down to the grave. — Psalm 30.3

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

Today’s Readings
1 Kings 17 (Listen – 3:14)
Colossians 4 (Listen – 2:21)

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 emails with free, and ad-free, devotional content. Follow this link to join our donors with a one-time or a monthly gift.

Read more about The Gospel is an Uprising
The Anastasis—the Uprising—is…a visualization of Christ’s resurrection gleaned less from gospel accounts than from multiple sources throughout scripture.

Read more about He Stoops to Raise
He goes from the highest place, to the lowest place. And then, he ascends.

Christ’s Supremacy :: A Guided Prayer

Scripture Focus: Colossians 1.18
He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.

Reflection: Christ’s Supremacy :: A Guided Prayer
By John Tillman

What I often call “preacher stories” are stories, illustrations, and parables about modern faith that have been passed on and told in many versions by many preachers in many sermons.

One of my favorite “preacher stories” is about a new preacher at a church who keeps preaching the same sermon every Sunday. Eventually a church leader questions the pastor about it and requests a new topic for the following Sunday. The preacher responds, “When you start acting like you remember the first one, I can stop repeating it”

We all need repetition in our spiritual lives to reinforce the greatest truths of our faith. One of those truths is the supremacy of Christ. The supremacy of Christ may seem unassailable. How could we forget it? We all nod our heads and “amen” in agreement…

Yet in our actions and in our lives, we find many ways to place things before Christ. People, issues, politics, career—these things all push to the front of our minds and demand our supreme attention and commitment.

Pray this prayer over the weekend, and repeat as needed to proclaim in faith the supremacy of Christ over all in your life and subjugate everything else to him.

Christ’s Supremacy
We pray to Christ and proclaim his supremacy…

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation…For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible…

Nothing we create can displace Christ.
No government can cast him out, for they exist within his creation.
No discovery can reveal anything that Christ did not create.
No achievement or success can accomplish more than Christ’s redemptive work on our behalf.

He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased…through him to reconcile to himself all things…making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

We confess to you our pride, our naked greed, our self-deception, our poverty of principles and possessions.

In humility, Christ, we accept from you…
Peace we are incapable of procuring,
Redemption beyond our means to purchase,
Rescue from darkness of our own making.

Help us to let go of anything which strives to take your place.
Make of us a body that serves, be our head which gives us purpose.
May we continue in faith…

…established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
I will confess you among the peoples, O Lord; I will sing praises to you among the nations.
For your loving-kindness is greater than the heavens, and your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. — Psalm 108.3-4

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

Today’s Readings
1 Kings 14 (Listen – 5:22)
Colossians 1 (Listen – 4:18)

This Weekend’s Readings
1 Kings 15 (Listen – 5:30), Colossians 2 (Listen – 3:27)
1 Kings 16 (Listen – 5:31), Colossians 3 (Listen – 3:09)

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 emails with free, and ad-free, devotional content. Follow this link to join our donors with a one-time or a monthly gift.

Read more about Solus Christus
There has never been and will never be a clearer portrait of God than the person of Jesus himself.

Read more about Downgrading Grace
When we downgrade grace through faith, we chip away the cross of Christ, making it an additive to our life rather than the sole source of our life.

The Step After Surrender :: Throwback Thursday

Scripture Focus: Philipians 4.11-13
I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

We can do without anything while we have God. Hallelujah! — Isabella Lillias Trotter

Reflection: The Step After Surrender :: Throwback Thursday
By Isabella Lillias Trotter

There is another stage to be developed in us after the lesson of absolute unquestioning surrender to God has been learnt. 

A life that has been poured forth to Him must find its crown, its completion, in being poured forth for man: it must grow out of surrender into sacrifice. “They first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God.” 

Back to the Cross once more: if there is any place where this fresh lesson can be learnt, it is there! “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” 
It is the very love of Calvary that must come down into our souls, “Yea, if I be poured forth upon the service of your faith I joy and rejoice with you all:” so spoke the apostle who drank most deeply into the Master’s spirit: and again—“Death worketh in us, but life in you.” “Neither count I my life dear unto myself, that I may finish . . . the ministry.” 

Deeper and deeper must be the dying, for wider and fuller is the lifetide that it is to liberate—no longer limited by the narrow range of our own being, but with endless powers of multiplying in other souls. Death must reach the very springs of our nature to set it free: it is not this thing or that thing that must go now: it is blindly, helplessly, recklessly, our very selves. 

A dying must come upon all that would hinder God’s working through us—all interests, all impulses, all energies that are “born of the flesh”—all that is merely human and apart from His Spirit. Only thus can the Life of Jesus, in its intensity of love for sinners, have its way in our souls.

*From Parables of the Cross, by Isabella Lillias Trotter

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
You are my hiding-place…you surround me with shouts of deliverance. — Psalm 32.8

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

1 Kings 13 (Listen – 5:14)
Philippians 4 (Listen – 3:20)

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 Escaping Discontent
It is difficult to find contentment in a culture that works hard to foster discontent.

Read more about Greed and EnvyThe psalmist, is thrown into doubt and pushed to the limits of his understanding by the inequality he sees in the world.

The Poison of Privilege

Scripture Focus: 1 Kings 12.8, 14
But Rehoboam rejected the advice the elders gave him and consulted the young men who had grown up with him and were serving him…he followed the advice of the young men and said, “My father made your yoke heavy; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions.”

Philippians 3.18-20
For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven.

Reflection: The Poison of Privilege
By John Tillman

Privilege seems sweet to the taste but is a generational poison that kills with pleasures and cripples with comforts.

Solomon is a second generation leader. He begins his career with a position David spent a lifetime getting to. It is as if he is running the 800 meters with his starting blocks placed in the final curve instead of at the start.

Rehoboam is a third generation leader. If Solomon’s privilege is analogous to running the last 100 meters of the 800, Rehoboam’s is analogous to taking a victory lap and standing on the winner’s stand without committing a disqualification. He could not manage it.

Privilege can grow generationally. Rehoboam says to his subjects who begged for relief from Solomon’s high taxes and enforced labor, “my little finger is bigger than my father’s waist…” 

It is not only King David’s grandson who is engorged with selfishness. Rehoboam’s companions of his own age are equally entitled, disrespectful, and self-focused. It is these men who craft Rehoboam’s harsh message: 

“My father scourged you with whips. I will scourge you with scorpions”

These young men could quickly find employment as social media managers for many of today’s disrespectful and autocratic leaders. How do individuals become so bloated by entitlement, privilege, and selfishness?

It is natural and good that parents dream their children might have a better and more prosperous life than their own. Parents can act as servants, subjugating their own needs, desires, dreams, and goals to advance opportunities for their children. But children who benefit from sacrifice don’t always catch the lesson that they should become people who sacrifice. They can become accustomed to their level of privilege, their level of wealth, their level of power. They can develop an identity connected to their advantages and possessions. 

In Rome, slaves often rode behind great leaders after a victory, whispering, Memento mori—Remember you will die. It was intended to inspire humility but we need more than this simple reminder. Awareness of mortality does not guarantee morality. Another popular saying in Rome was “Eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”

Christianity gives meaning to mortality and recognizes privilege and power as what it is—poison for the soul. Rather than accumulate earthly privilege, Paul encourages the believers to remember that our citizenship is in heaven and our model is Christ. 

Anyone (of any generation) who does not learn to serve like Jesus, giving up rights, position, and power will end on a path of self-worship and eventual destruction.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
The same stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. — Psalm 118.22

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

1 Kings 12 (Listen – 5:15)
Philippians 3 (Listen – 3:21)

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 Gospel Faith or Garbage Faith
Even with all that he had achieved, once he met Christ, Paul realized everything prior was waste, rubbish, by comparison.

Read more about Born to Serve
Paul describes who Christ is, and by extension, who God is, and furthermore by example, who we should be.

https://theparkforum.org/843-acres/born-to-serve/

Born to Serve

Scripture Focus: Philippians 2:5-8
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!

Reflection: Born to Serve
By Jon Polk

In what is traditionally known as the “Christ Hymn” in Philippians 2, Paul describes who Christ is, and by extension, who God is, and furthermore by example, who we should be.

Who is Christ? Christ was in his very nature God. He was God himself, even though he was uniquely human, too. 

However, Christ didn’t behave the way people expected gods to behave. In the first century, they were more familiar with the volatile, angry gods of the Greek pantheon, who used power to advance themselves or to subdue others. 

Gods didn’t live their lives in humility. Gods didn’t come among their people as servants. And gods especially didn’t sacrifice their lives for the sake of their subjects. 

Paul writes that Christ took the very nature of a servant. He uses the Greek word doulos, which is more properly translated “slave.” A slave existed in servitude to others without advantages, rights or privileges.

Christ became nothing. He emptied himself by pouring out his grace to others. He humbled himself by entering into relationship with lowly humans. He obeyed death, freely giving his life.

Who is God? God’s strength is not in his ability to manipulate or subdue his subjects, but in his willingness to take on the form of his subjects. Not only does God condescend to human form, he chose not to come as a ruler or king but a servant.

Jürgen Moltmann writes in The Crucified God, “God is not greater than he is in this humiliation. God is not more glorious than he is in this self-surrender. God is not more powerful than he is in this helplessness. God is not more divine than he is in this humanity.”

Who should we be? Paul states we should “have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.” Not only does Christ present us with a radical picture of who God is, he presents us with a radical challenge about who we should be: humble servants giving ourselves on behalf of others.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes “The church is the church only when it exists for others… It must not underestimate the importance of human example which has its origin in the humanity of Jesus.” 

Jesus Christ is our ultimate example. For certain, none of us could ever be sinless and perfect, but that’s not the example that Paul wants us to see. Jesus is the full representation of God, but he also represents what it means to be fully human: to live life completely in service of others. 

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
From this day forward all generations will call me blessed, for the Almighty has done great things for me. — Luke 1.48

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

1 Kings 11 (Listen – 7:05)
Phillipians 2 (Listen – 3:45)

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 He Stoops to Raise
Christ’s entire life could be understood as a process of descending and ascending. He goes from the highest place, to the lowest place. And then, he ascends.

Read more about Sacrifice of Self
Ultimately we have been called to imitate our self-sacrificing savior, Jesus, by giving of ourselves to do good for the benefit of others.

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