A Sin We Are Proud Of

Scripture Focus: 2 Kings 10:19
“The word of the Lord you have spoken is good,” Hezekiah replied. For he thought, “Will there not be peace and security in my lifetime?”

Hebrews 2.1
We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.

Reflection: A Sin We Are Proud Of

By John Tillman

Hezekiah is one of the greatest kings among the great kings of Judah. The writer of 2 Kings says of him, “Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him.”

Hezekiah drove out idolatry and reestablished true worship. In Hezekiah’s day, the Temple of the Lord had actually been closed up, like a shop with no customers. The lights were out. The doors were barred. 

Hezekiah not only opened them, he covered the doors and other items in the Temple in gold and silver, reopening and restoring the Temple and the priesthood to shimmering glory

Hezekiah is, however, as deeply flawed as his father David before him. Even in our “anything goes” culture, David’s sin is abhorred, but Hezekiah’s sin is one our culture is proud of—pride. 

Other passages about Hezekiah make it clear that God was concerned about Hezekiah’s pride. God tested Hezekiah by sending Babylonians to inquire about Hezekiah’s miraculous healing. Instead, Hezekiah showed off his accomplishments and wealth to them, prompting Isaiah’s prophecy that everything that had been shown to them would be carried off to Babylon. 

At least David repented of his lust and murder, giving us the beauty of Psalm 51. All we get from Hezekiah when he is confronted with the results of his sin is a shrugging, selfish, justification. Hezekiah says that at least there will be “peace and security in my lifetime.“ 

Our culture has a hard time seeing what Hezekiah did wrong. We hesitate to equate Hezekiah’s sin to David’s. Pride and selfishness don’t seem that bad or dangerous. Storing up for ourselves is prudence. Seeking our own peace and prosperity is honorable. God thinks otherwise. Jesus spoke to his time, Hezekiah’s time, and ours when he said, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then, who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” 

We do not know where Christ was standing when he told the parable of the rich fool, but I like to imagine that he might have been standing next to some of the rubble from the buildings Hezekiah built to hold his treasures of gold and silver, food and grain. Christ’s audience would have understood the significance.

Obtaining “peace and security” in our lifetimes is not a gospel-centered way of living. We are expected to think beyond ourselves. May we humbly repent.

Pride, greed, and love of wealth are sins equally heinous in God’s eyes as lust, rape, and murder. May we humbly repent.

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
Jesus went on to say. ” What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it with? It is like a mustard seed which a man took and threw into his garden: it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air sheltered in its branches.”— Luke 113:18-19

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

Today’s Readings
2 Kings 20 (Listen -3:39)
Hebrews 2  (Listen -2:47)

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 Identical Nature of Greed and Lust
When the prophet Nathan needed an analogy for lust, he chose a parable about a rich man stealing material goods from the poor.

Read more about Pride and Shortsightedness :: Throwback Thursday
The remarkable life of Hezekiah ends in pride and shortsightedness.

God Who Speaks

Scripture Focus: Hebrews 1.1-2
In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.

Reflection: God Who Speaks
By John Tillman

The text of Hebrews makes no claim of authorship but the identity of its writer or writers has been a hotly debated topic amongst Bible scholars through the centuries. (My favorite theory is that it is a collaboration of multiple teachers such as Paul, Priscilla, Apollos, and perhaps others.) As Origen said, “Who wrote the letter, God only knows with certainty.” 

Though we may not know with certainty who the letter was from, we know who it was written to—Jewish believers who were early converts to Christianity. (Most scholars date its writing to approximately 68-70 AD.)

The Jews this text was written to were people accustomed to the idea of a God who spoke. Most religions were not. Most gods don’t speak. But our God does. He speaks to us as he spoke to so many in the scriptures.

He speaks our name, as he spoke to Mary outside the tomb. He knows our past and redeems our identity from damages, both self-inflicted and those from the sufferings of this world. We are intimately known, intimately cared for, and intimately called.

He speaks good news, as he did from his first sermon. He speaks of God’s Kingdom, near and accessible. A Kingdom of goodness, not just for some but for all. He speaks of lifting the head of the poor and humbling the heads of the powerful. 

He speaks rebuke, to the world but also to us. Christ rebukes sin in us. Christ didn’t come to ignore sin; he came to destroy sin. We like Jesus to say, “Woe to you,” and point at others. But when he turns to us and says, “Get behind me, Satan,” it is difficult not to be offended. And when we have taken sin into our hearts and let its tendrils penetrate us, destroying sin will be painful to us.

He speaks comfort, as he spoke to the disciples. By his words we know we will have suffering in this world, but also by his words we know that the Holy Spirit is our comforter, co-sufferer, and source of sustaining life.

He speaks through us. When Christ speaks our name, he speaks a benediction, a “sending blessing” that we are to carry to the world. Christ makes his appeal to the world through us, so let us be appealing in the way we serve and in the way we speak.

Amen.

Divine Hours Prayer: Request for Presence
Our soul waits for the Lord, he is our help and our shield.
Indeed, our heart rejoices in him, for in his holy Name we put our trust.
Let your loving-kindness, O Lord, be upon us, as we have put our trust in you,— Psalm 33:20-22

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

Today’s Readings
2 Kings 19 (Listen -6:11)
Hebrews 1  (Listen -2:15)

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 Good News to the Poor
Once we are filled with good things, we can now play our part in the Incarnation, passing on what we have been filled with.

Read more about The Spirit of the Lord
We, The Church, are charged as Mary was, to deliver Christ, to manifest him, to the world.

Philemon’s Speck and Our Log

Scripture Focus: Philemon 15-16
Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back forever—no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a fellow man and as a brother in the Lord.

Reflection: Philemon’s Speck and Our Log
By John Tillman

Between Philemon’s time and now, many have struggled to live out Paul’s challenge to overcome the cultural mindset of slavery. It has been a struggle uniquely led by Christians.

However, when we look to the past, there is a temptation to sneer. Many modern moralists convince themselves that if they had lived in certain ages, they would have been on the “right side” of history and as a result they treat writers of those ages as hypocrites, refusing to learn from them.

This is foolish, arrogant, and is an attitude that is condemned by Christ himself.

Better that we remove the log in our own eye rather than seek to remove the speck from the eye of some deceased writer in another age.

In our own time, Paul’s challenge to Philemon is still applicable. Slavery may not be sociologically acceptable anymore, but it is still economically viable and, as a criminal enterprise, is alive and well. The United Nations estimates that over 89 million people are currently or have been enslaved in the past five years.

And though we may not have slaves, all of us have servants. Even those without in-home staff such as maids, butlers, chefs, or nannies, have an entire service industry taking care of everything we might need. The Bureau of Labor and Statistics estimated that in 2018 over 131 million people would be working in the service industries.

Our food is prepared for us, our coffee is customized for us, our packages are delivered for us, by servants. Yet our society denigrates manual labor of all kinds, and especially labor in the service industries.

We denigrate and look down on service so much that we use service jobs as a way to scare better grades into our kids. Service jobs are the stick that spurs youth toward the carrot of a better job after incurring massive debt attending college.

Our existence is supported by the labor of people who directly or indirectly serve us, just as Onesimus served Philemon. How we treat those individuals—both relationally and economically—shows whether we consider them part of the economic machinery or spiritual brothers and sisters.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
 With my whole heart I seek you; let me not stray from your commandments.— Psalm 119:10

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

Today’s Readings
2 Kings 18 (Listen – 6:52)
Philemon (Listen -2:52)

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 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 Taking Advantage of the Desperate
How are our socially acceptable, market based, and entirely legal interactions with humans dehumanizing them?

Read More about Slavery, Racism, and a Lone Christian Voice
In the late fourth century a lone Christian voice spoke out against the oppressive institution of slavery in a way that none had before.

Paul’s Stance on Gentleness

Scripture Focus: Titus 3.3-7
At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.

Reflection: Paul’s Stance on Gentleness
By John Tillman

Paul, rather than boast in his religious heritage and his austere religious lifestyle, included himself in this description of past sinfulness. He includes himself among those who were once foolish, disobedient, and deceived.

Paul’s discussion and confession of past sins and sufferings is intended as a contrast between how believers had previously been and how they were now. But it was not intended to inspire judgmentalism or separation from sinners. Rather, this passage is intended to inspire in its readers, mercy, kindness, peaceableness, consideration, and gentleness. The verses just prior to this, make this purpose clear:

Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone. — Titus 3.1-2 (Emphasis mine)

The implication Paul is making is that even when confronted with evil and sinfulness, we should respond with goodness and grace. When we face people who are violent rather than gentle, calloused rather than considerate, combative rather than peaceable, and slanderous rather than truthful, we should recognize these people are not our enemies. They are captives. They are enslaved and deceived victims of hatred and sin. It is our mission to save them from captivity, not destroy them. It is our mission to address their deception, not dismiss them as foolish or ignorant. It is our mission to demonstrate to them true love and forgiveness, not to enact retributive punishments upon them.

In hostage rescue training, military operators train relentlessly on breaching rooms that contain hostages and on attacking only the hostile hostage-takers, not the hostages themselves. This type of training is high-stakes and high-stress. Failure is literally life and death. 

Too many times when Christians address ideological opposition online or in person, we shoot the hostages. When we address arguments against faith, we must remember that the person making them, is loved by God and should be treated as such. Ad-hominem attacks, meanness, violent language, and unkindness are not rhetorical tools that should be in the arsenal of Christians in the public square.

May we confess our past and current shortcomings as Paul did.
May we constantly keep in mind the commands of Paul to his young spiritual leaders, Titus and Timothy, to teach gently and faithfully. 
May we tear down arguments and strongholds, but never people for whom Christ died.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
The Lord lives! Blessed is my Rock! Exalted is the God of my salvation! — Psalm 18:46

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

Today’s Readings
2 Kings 17 (Listen – 7:19)
Titus 3 (Listen -2:05)

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 Choosing Gentleness Over Violence
The language of many Christians and prominent Christian pastors has followed, growing combative, disrespectful, and even violent

Read more about Abandoning Human Vengeance
As Christians, we must identify ourselves as part of a new fringe that will not submit to the normalcy of hatred.

Praying for Repentance :: A Guided Prayer

Scripture Focus: 2 Timothy 4.3-4
For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

Reflection: Praying for Repentance :: A Guided Prayer
By John Tillman

Paul says that the “time will come,” when people will not put up with sound doctrine. He sounds like he is speaking of the future, but it certainly seems as if there were a lot of Paul’s past experiences in Acts that might be described as people not putting up with sound doctrine.

Being stoned, being beaten, being imprisoned, and being run out of town by mobs doesn’t exactly sound like acceptance or tolerance. Doctrinal diligence is needed in every age of the church. Defending correct doctrine is the task Paul is quite seriously commanding Timothy to prepare for. We need to prepare for it too.

But as we think of these people Paul writes of, who will gather teachers to suit their own desires, we need to think about our desires. As we pray for people who turn their ears away from the truth, we need to think about how often we turn away from facts that don’t fit our paradigms. Let us remember that people are not our enemies, only sin.

Let us pray for our culture and ourselves this weekend, a prayer of repentance. Our prayer today is based on yesterday’s readings from chapter 3, verses 2-5 and Paul’s description of sinful, self-interested people who are lovers of themselves. 

A Prayer for Repentance
Lord we remember your prophecy from yesterday’s reading about how sinful people would become. Empower us to confess and repent of these sins, reversing them in our lives to bless others. 

May we pray this passage not as an accusative attack against our culture, but as a lament for the condition of our own hearts and the heart of Christ’s church.

Lord rather then become like the people Paul warned Timothy of, 
May we be found by you and seen by the world as we are:
Showing love to outsiders
Shunning the allure of money and wealth
Praising others not ourselves
Being humble
Healing others in words and deed
Honoring our elders and parents
Living in gratitude
Being made holy by the Holy Spirit
Indwelt by love beyond ourselves
Forgiving
Truth telling and affirming
Calming
Tender and caring
Loving the good
Showing loyalty,
Sharing wisdom,
Shunning the spotlight
And sacrificing our pleasure to serve others.

May our repentance bring glory to Christ and not to ourselves and may Jesus’ name be praised.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Our God will come and will not keep silence; before him there is a consuming flame and round about him a raging storm. — Psalm 50.3

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

Today’s Readings
2 Kings 14 (Listen – 5:06)
2 Timothy 4 (Listen -2:48)

This Weekend’s Readings
2 Kings 15 (Listen – 6:21), Titus 1 (Listen -2:24)
2 Kings 16 (Listen – 3:46), Titus 2 (Listen -2:01)

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 Confessing, Instead of Weaponizing PropheRather than weaponize Paul’s words to attack our culture with an accusing cry, we should instead cry for forgiveness and mercy as we recognize that these faults are also in us.

#WeaponizingTheBible #ConfessingSin #KingdomOfPriests #Repentance

https://theparkforum.org/843-acres/confessing-instead-of-weaponizing-prophecy/

Read more about Praying as Priests
As followers of God today, a part of our identity is as carriers of the blessings of God that are intended for the world.

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