Spiritual Markers

Joshua 4.20-22
And Joshua set up at Gilgal the twelve stones they had taken out of the Jordan. He said to the Israelites, “In the future when your descendants ask their parents, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’

Reflection: Spiritual Markers
By John Tillman

Spiritual Markers are important. They mark places and times when we measured some extent of the width or depth of length of what God has done for us. 

The younger generation of Israelites who crossed the Jordan with Joshua likely had no memory of slavery in Egypt or the miraculous plagues or the escape through the Red Sea. They were children who had grown up in the desert. Their lives were literally and figuratively rootless. They had never known cultivation or agriculture. They had never known any other life than that of a migrant.

Even the God they worshiped was a migrant God, wandering the desert with his people. The very mobility of the Tabernacle testified that God was a god like no other—a God not tied to a place but to people.
 
These desert children, claiming the land their parents had failed to enter, had plenty of examples of God’s miraculous provision. They witnessed manna, the provision of bread without cultivation. They witnessed the pillar of cloud and fire, the provision of guidance and protection. They witnessed water from rocks and many examples of God’s miraculous protection from enemies both political and spiritual.

But the rocks taken from the center of the river were different. The altar built from these rocks would be the first act of cultivation in the land. The wandering, desert children who had never planted a seed, planted a marker in the land of faith and trust in God. The rocks from the river were to be a remembrance to a future generation. But the rocks would be meaningless without the testimony of those who carried them.

What markers have you planted to cultivate remembrance of God in your life?
The strongest markers are those which are tied to community, to relationships, and to stories that can be retold.

In later days, God would be forgotten. The altar built near the Jordan would still be standing, but the people would not stand by it. They would forget. 

We, like the Israelites, excel at forgetting God and we are especially good at forgetting him when we are comfortable, wealthy, and prosperous.

May our markers of spiritual remembrance be tied to stories that challenge us to remember that we are poor, blind, and naked. 
May they remind us that we are migrants on this Earth and that no nation is our homeland.
May they remind us that we must be equally reliant on God in the land of plenty as in the desert of barrenness.

Prayer: The Morning Psalm
How long shall the wicked, O Lord, how long shall the wicked triumph?…
They murder the widow and the stranger and put the orphans to death. Yet, they say, “The Lord does not see, the God of Jacob takes no notice.”…
He that planted the ear, does he not hear? He that formed the eye, does he not see? He who admonishes the nations, will he not punish? — Psalm 94.3, 6-7, 9-10

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.Today’s Readings
Joshua 4 (Listen – 3:31) 
Psalm 129-131 (Listen – 2:03)

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. 

Readers’ Choice Submissions
It is once again time for us to seek out the voices of our readers and hear from you about posts from the past eleven months that have challenged and comforted you and helped you find new meaning in the scriptures.

Readers’ Choice posts will be republished during the month of August and periodically throughout the Fall.

Follow the link to fill out the form. Feel free to fill out the form multiple times for multiple submissions. Please limit your submissions to posts published this calendar year, between September of 2018 and today.

For any questions about The Park Forum, or to make suggestions of posts via email, contact John Tillman at john@theparkforum.org

Read more about Good News to the Poor
Today we also see poverty as a result of sin. But the God we believe the poor have sinned against is the god of Materialism and the god of Competence. 

Read more about A Different Kind of Exile
The church that is oppressed, attacked, sidelined, and shunned, is shunted back onto the narrow path of obedience to Christ.

Over Jordan

Joshua 3.17
The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stopped in the middle of the Jordan and stood on dry ground, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground.

Psalm 126.2-3
Our mouths were filled with laughter,
    our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
    “The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us,
    and we are filled with joy.

Reflection: Over Jordan
By John Tillman

Crossing the Jordan has been a spiritual metaphor for centuries, but it took special meaning for slaves in the American south. It symbolized an escape from slavery, shelter in place of homelessness, and fruitfulness in place of a barren desert.

In the story of Israel’s failure to enter due to fear, and their return in faith after wandering for 40 years, the Jordan symbolizes a place at which faith and courage are required. 

In the story of the transition from Moses to Joshua, from Elijah to Elisha, and from John the Baptist to Jesus, the Jordan symbolizes a change in leadership.

And of course, the Jordan represents entering the promised land, with Canaan standing in as the eternal land we are destined for in Heaven.

On one side of the river is the desert, the unforgiving land, the land of trials, the land of sin, the land of rebellion, the land of suffering.

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.

The Jordan also represents the final crossing of death—both a time of judgment and a time of cleansing. For Christians, the waters of the crossing hold no terror. We do not enter them alone. Someone else marches in with us. His nail-pierced feet touch the waters and they pile up, inviting us to cross without muddying our clothes.

We cross the Jordan not with priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant, but with Christ, our High Priest. When we cross over the Jordan with Christ, the land has no enemies to be defeated. It has no cities to march around and no battles to be fought. For, there too, Christ has gone before us, preparing a place for us. It is there that we will be fed by the tree that grows in the river that comes from the throne of God. It is there that we will take from that tree healing for the nations.

Our home is over Jordan.” “Deep River” — Marian Anderson

It is over Jordan that our tears will be wiped away.

Prayer: The Morning Psalm
On the holy mountain stands the city he has founded; the Lord loves the gates of Zion more than the dwellings of Jacob.
Glorious things are spoken of you, O City of our God. — Psalm 87.1-2

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

Today’s Readings
Joshua 3 (Listen – 2:45) 
Psalm 126-128 (Listen – 1:58)

Readers’ Choice Submissions
It is once again time for us to seek out the voices of our readers and hear from you about posts from the past eleven months that have challenged and comforted you and helped you find new meaning in the scriptures.

Readers’ Choice posts will be republished during the month of August and periodically throughout the Fall.

Follow the link to fill out the form. Feel free to fill out the form multiple times for multiple submissions. Please limit your submissions to posts published this calendar year, between September of 2018 and today.

For any questions about The Park Forum, or to make suggestions of posts via email, contact John Tillman at john@theparkforum.org

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 Christ: Temple, River, and City
Christ is our river, flowing as the Holy Spirit into our lives, into our cities, into our dead, dry, and poisoned environments.

Read more about The Staggering Dead and the Glory of God
One day, as Lazarus and our dear Christ, himself, our grave clothes will be untied (or “set aside” lyō in Greek). We will leave our grave clothes behind. That is the glory of God.

The Garden of Psalm 119

Psalm 119.174-176
I long for your salvation, Lord,
    and your law gives me delight.
Let me live that I may praise you,
    and may your laws sustain me.
I have strayed like a lost sheep.
    Seek your servant,
    for I have not forgotten your commands.

Reflection: The Garden of Psalm 119
By John Tillman

We finish Psalm 119 today and reflect on it with some words from Charles Spurgeon: 

“Those who have studied this divine hymn, and carefully noted each line of it, are amazed at the variety and profundity of the thought…The more you look into this mirror of a gracious heart the more you will see in it.”

Spurgeon is convinced that David wrote the Psalm and if not he, then some other writer who spent long years in its work and created it not over a short span, but through a lifetime of faithfulness.

“There is evident growth in the subject matter. The earlier verses are of such a character as to lend themselves to the hypothesis that the author was a young man, while many of the later passages could only have suggested themselves to age and wisdom.”

In the end, rather than rising in acclaim or celebration, the aged wisdom of the psalmist leads him to a humble and prostrate stance.

“The psalmist is approaching the end of the Psalm…he seems to break into the inner circle of divine fellowship, and to come even to the feet of the great God whose help he is imploring. This nearness creates the most lowly view of himself, and leads him to close the Psalm upon his face in deepest self-humiliation, begging to be sought out like a lost sheep…It is a very sweet thing to a suppliant when he knows of a surety that his prayer has obtained audience. It is to Jehovah that this prayer is expressed with trembling earnestness…we crave audience of none else, for we have confidence in none beside.”

Meditating on Psalm 119 daily has been a common spiritual practice over the centuries and many have reported its wealth of spiritual benefit.

“This sacred ode is a little Bible, the Scriptures condensed, a mass of Bibline, holy writ rewritten in holy emotions and actions. This Psalm, like the whole Scripture which it praises, is a pearl island, or, better still, a garden of sweet flowers.”

It is our hope in each cycle of our two-year-long tread through the garden of scripture to produce not pride, but humility. Not judgmental attitudes, but merciful gratitude. Not clamoring commands for others, but tender notes of correction in our own hearts.

*Quotations abridged from “A Treasury of David,” Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

Prayer: The Morning Psalm
For he shall deliver the poor who cries out in distress, and the oppressed who has no helper.
He shall have pity on the lowly and the poor; he shall preserve the lives of the needy.
He shall redeem their lives from oppression and violence, and dear shall their blood be in his sight. — Psalm 72.12-14

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

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 33-34 (Listen – 6:35)
Psalm 119:145-176 (Listen – 15:14) 

This Weekend’s Readings
Joshua 1 (Listen – 3:11), Psalm 120-122 (Listen – 2:12) 
Joshua 2 (Listen – 3:49), Psalm 123-125 (Listen – 1:52) 

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 Quotations from the Desert
Connecting to God’s Word and relying on it for our sustenance, for our source of life, is a consistent theme of scripture and the purpose of spiritual disciplines.

Read more about Setting Aside the Scriptures
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.

His Love Leads to Peace :: Worldwide Prayer

Psalm 119.134-136
Redeem me from human oppression,
   that I may obey your precepts.
Make your face shine on your servant
   and teach me your decrees.
Streams of tears flow from my eyes,
   for your law is not obeyed.

Reflection: His Love Leads to Peace :: Worldwide Prayer
By John Tillman

We weep as the psalmist when God’s law is not obeyed.

We weep because God’s law is love. His commandment to ancient Israel was to show love even to the foreigner. His commandment to us, his disciples, is to love one another. His commandment to his church is to love without showing favoritism.

We weep to see his commandments ignored for his love leads to peace.

This prayer from Myanmar centers on the essential nature of spiritual worship that goes beyond a song service, beyond a sermon, and beyond the church walls. When we worship in Spirit and in Truth, the result will be a demonstration of love that leads to peace.

His Love leads to Peace
A prayer of intercession from Myanmar

Our Father in Heaven, may your name be glorified and be praised by all your people of the world.

Bless us in our worship to feel your presence,
To open our hearts and minds,
To be really in touch with you,
To worship you in spirit and in truth.

Preserve our soul and keep us from all evil.
Help us not to wander away from your presence.

May we experience your powerful love
So that we can share it with others.
Help us to share the blessing
Of knowing you with others
And be at peace with you
And with each other.

In Jesus’ Holy name we lift our voices of praise with thankfulness.

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

Prayer: The Request for Presence
Turn to me and have mercy upon me; give your strength to your servant; and save the child of your handmaid. — Psalm 86.16

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

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 32 (Listen – 7:10)
Psalm 119:121-144 (Listen – 15:14) 

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 The Kiss of Righteousness and Peace
When love and faithfulness meet, righteousness and peace kiss each other. But before that happens in today’s psalm, there is confession and justice, mercy and redemption.

Read more about Thankful Workers for Peace
You have placed everything in perfect order so that
we may live in peace and harmony with all that
you have created. You have provided sustenance for your children.

Light for the Next Step

Psalm 119.105
Your word is a lamp for my feet,
    a light on my path.

Reflection: Light for the Next Step
By John Tillman

I’ve found the promises of light bulb companies to be some of the most blatant marketing falsehoods I’ve ever experienced.

In the past nine years living in the same house, I’ve replaced multiple CFL bulbs that claimed they would last over 10 years. Then I replaced those with LEDs claiming to last 13. Recently, I’ve replaced those with, slightly more honest LED bulbs that only claim to last 9 years. The truth will come out—or burn out, in this case.

The ease with which we access artificial light in our modern world makes it difficult for us to understand the world in which this Psalm was written. A lamp for our feet seems redundant when every space is illuminated. We will feel cheated by this verse if we mistake the light it promises for a prophetic career map.

According to the psalmist, God’s word isn’t a spotlight for our ego-centric quest. It isn’t automobile high beams enabling us to speed through the dark toward the future. God’s word, most of the time, provides one-step-at-a-time light. A lamp for our feet forces us to engage with where we are, not look only at distant destinations.

Serving in India, Amy Carmichael wrote about her experience of learning about this popular verse in a very practical way.

“Once when I was climbing at night in the forest before there was a made path, I learned what the word meant, Psalm 119.105: ‘They word is a lantern to my path’. I had a lantern and had to hold it very low or I should certainly have slipped on those rough rocks. We don’t walk spiritually by electric light but by a hand lantern. And a lantern only shows the next step—not several ahead.

All the lights we trust in other than God’s Word, will one day fail.
The brightest lights we know and can design can’t show us what God’s Word can.
God’s Word is the light we need for everyday living.

Walking daily in this Word, meditating on it, breathing it in and out, making it a part of our thoughts and our prayers, charges an inner light of the Holy Spirit that we can trust to give us the next step. Carmichael explains:
 
“If the next step is clear, then the one thing to do is to take it. Don’t pledge your Lord or yourself about the steps beyond. You don’t see them yet.”

Daily spiritual disciplines keep oil in your lamp so that you may follow the steps of the bridegroom when he calls.

Prayer: The Morning Psalm
Let your hand be upon the man of your right hand, the son of man you have made so strong for yourself.
And so will we never turn away from you; give us life, that we may call upon your name.
Restore us, O Lord God of Hosts; show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved. — Psalm 80.16-19

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

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 31 (Listen – 4:57)
Psalm 119:97-120 (Listen – 15:14) 

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 The Good of Christ
Remember the parable of the foolish virgins: they were not harlots or profane, but “virgins.” They were not persecutors, blasphemers, or malicious, but “foolish”—supine, careless, negligent: they had lamps in their hands, but no oil in their hearts.

Read more about In the Wealth of a Dying World
The ineffable source from which this lamp borrows its light is the Light which shines in darkness, but the darkness cannot comprehend it.

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