Appetite for Distraction—Readers’ Choice

Readers’ Choice Month:
This September, The Park Forum is looking back on readers’ selections of our most meaningful and helpful devotionals from the past 12 months. Thank you for your readership. This month is all about hearing from you. Submit a Readers’ Choice post today.

Today’s post was originally published, on March 18, 2022, based on Ecclesiastes 6.9
It was selected by reader, Sam, Fort Worth: 
“Thank you for this. The truth that distraction comes before destruction is more true every day in our world that constantly encourages and fuels our roving appetites.”

Scripture Focus: Ecclesiastes 6.9
9 Better what the eye sees 
than the roving of the appetite. 
This too is meaningless, 
a chasing after the wind.

Reflection: Appetite for Distraction—Readers’ Choice
By John Tillman

Distraction has a meme. Of course it does.

The “Distracted Boyfriend” meme started out as a normal photoshoot. Photographer, Antonio Guillem, typically supplies images to iStock and other photo platforms. He set out one day in 2015 to take some images around the concept of infidelity using models he often collaborated with. They took many different images of the stages of a relationship slipping into infidelity but one image caught the imagination of the Internet. The male subject, walking with his girlfriend, looks back at another woman in a red dress. The man has an openly lustful gaze and the girlfriend an open-mouthed look of shock and disgust.

Creative people on the Internet started labeling the image to discuss distraction or abandoning one’s first love. By way of example, historically-minded meme creators made a series with the first image showing the man as Henry VIII, the woman in red as Anne Boleyn, and the offended girlfriend as Katherine of Aragorn. Successive images rotated the women through the cycle with Anne Boleyn being the girlfriend and Jane Seymore being the woman in red, then continuing through with Anne of Cleves, Katherine Howard, and Katherine Parr.

But the meme was rarely about sexual infidelity. Most of the time the people were labeled not as people but as things. A popular version labels the woman in the red dress as “new project” and the offended girlfriend as “all my unfinished projects.”

This meme struck a chord because we all recognize something universal within ourselves. We long for more. This makes us susceptible to temptation, distraction, dissatisfaction, and infidelity. Our eyes lead us astray when our hearts are not settled.

The teacher of Ecclesiastes knows something about distraction and temptation. He purposely tested himself in every area imaginable. The conclusion is that being satisfied with “what the eye sees” is better than having a “roving appetite.”

Our roving appetites, whether for sex, money, or power, will lead us to distraction before destruction. We need to have a settled eye, looking upon things that have true value, not upon the distractions of this world. With our eyes on the treasure in the field, we won’t invest in wickedness. With our eyes on the pearl of great price, no costume jewelry will suffice. With our eyes fixed on Jesus, we can let the world be offended that we would disdain its affections.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
To you I lift up my eyes, to you enthroned in the heavens.
As the eyes of servants look to the hand of their masters, and the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress,
So our eyes look to the Lord our God, until he shows us his mercy. — Psalm 123.1-3

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

Today’s Readings
Jeremiah 39(Listen 3:11)
1 Corinthians 15 (Listen 1- 8:06)

Read more

Read more about Wisdom in Houses of Mourning
We limited Jesus, the Bible, and prayer, to “when we have time” as if time was the issue and not our heart.

Readers’ Choice is Here!
There’s still room for your favorite post from the last 12 months. Tell us about it and we will repost it in September.

Beyond Second Chances—Readers’ Choice\

Readers’ Choice Month:
This September, The Park Forum is looking back on readers’ selections of our most meaningful and helpful devotionals from the past 12 months. Thank you for your readership. This month is all about hearing from you. Submit a Readers’ Choice post today.

Today’s post was originally published, on May 17th, 2022, based on Haggai 1.2-3, 13-14
It was selected by reader, Mario, in Los Angeles area and Lucy from Texas: 

Mario: “John’s post was an encouraging reminder to recognize God’s incredible forgiveness in my life, and a challenging call to live that forgiveness toward others. It truly was a prophetic call to me for repentance that day. I was warmly touched by the closing line to let ‘us live in the land, homeless yet at home, forgiving and forgiven.’”

Lucy: “It spoke to me about whether I have forgiven.”

Scripture Focus: Haggai 1.2-3, 13-14
2 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “These people say, ‘The time has not yet come to rebuild the Lord’s house.’ ”
3 Then the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai: 4 “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?” 

13 Then Haggai, the Lord’s messenger, gave this message of the Lord to the people: “I am with you,” declares the Lord. 14 So the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of the whole remnant of the people. They came and began to work on the house of the Lord Almighty, their God

“There is no such thing as a God-forsaken town. There are always second chances…” — Carolyn Arends, “Love is Always There” 

Reflection: Beyond Second Chances—Readers’ Choice
By John Tillman

Haggai spoke to people returning from exile. They are at home, yet homeless, returning to a flattened, burned, destroyed city.

Haggai made an extreme demand. “We are here to rebuild God’s house, the Temple, not your houses. Stop building your houses. Build the Temple first.”  Unlike many other prophetic books, the people Haggai speaks to no longer despise the correction of the prophets. They no longer rebel against the message or call the messengers unpatriotic. They listen and repent. They put off work on their own dwellings and focus on making a place for God to once again dwell with them.

These men and women are the grandchildren of some of those who went into exile. Zerubbabel, mentioned by Haggai, is the grandson of Jehoiachin, one of the last of Judah’s kings. Jehoiachin was taken into exile because of his sin and Jeremiah prophesied that he would have no surviving offspring to sit on David’s throne. Non-canonical Jewish writings imply that Jehoiachin repented before God in captivity. (Jeremiah 22.24-30) God relented on the curse pronounced by Jeremiah. Not only did Jehoiachin have children, but Jehoiachin’s repentance led to the birth of the ultimate “Son of David,” Jesus. It is through Jehoiachin and Zerubbabel’s line that Jesus is born. (Matthew 1.12-17; Luke 3.27-37)

God goes beyond giving second chances.

Scripture is full of second chances, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh chances, and beyond. When Jesus told the disciples that they should forgive those who sinned against them seven times in a day and repented seven times, he wasn’t just speaking hypothetically. He was speaking historically. (Luke 17.3-4) Jesus may have been thinking about his own family history, but he absolutely was telling his followers to model their own forgiveness after God’s.

Haggai’s listeners had been forgiven so much, yet they were again forgetting to put God first. It’s so relatable. Haven’t we all found ourselves blindly pursuing our purposes rather than God’s? Haven’t we all had moments where we realized we were building selfishly?

God’s forgiveness is offered freely and repetitively, so long as there continues to be repentance. It’s not a once-and-done event, but a way of living. Let us remain responsive to calls for repentance from prophets in our day. Let us both offer and receive God-like forgiveness. Let us live in the land, homeless yet at home, forgiving and forgiven. Let us build unselfishly in ways that demonstrate that God dwells with us.


Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting

Be exalted, O Lord, in your might; we will sing and praise your power. — Psalm 21.14
– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Jeremiah 38(Listen 5:18)
1 Corinthians 14 (Listen – 5:40)

Read more about Come Ye Sinners, Poor and Wretched
Come, ye sinners, poor and wretched
Weak and wounded, sick and sore
Jesus ready stands to save you
Full of pity joined with power

Readers’ Choice is Here!
There’s still room for your favorite post from the last 12 months. Tell us about it and we will repost it in September.

Josiahs Need Zephaniahs—Readers Choice

Readers’ Choice Month:
This September, The Park Forum is looking back on readers’ selections of our most meaningful and helpful devotionals from the past 12 months. Thank you for your readership. This month is all about hearing from you. Submit a Readers’ Choice post today.

Today’s post was originally published, on May 5th, 2022, based on Zephaniah 3.1-5
It was selected by reader, MT


Scripture Focus: Zephaniah 3.1-5
1 Woe to the city of oppressors, 
rebellious and defiled! 
2 She obeys no one, 
she accepts no correction. 
She does not trust in the Lord, 
she does not draw near to her God. 
3 Her officials within her 
are roaring lions; 
her rulers are evening wolves, 
who leave nothing for the morning. 
4 Her prophets are unprincipled; 
they are treacherous people. 
Her priests profane the sanctuary 
and do violence to the law. 
5 The Lord within her is righteous; 
he does no wrong. 
Morning by morning he dispenses his justice, 
and every new day he does not fail, 
yet the unrighteous know no shame. 

Reflection: Josiahs Need Zephaniahs—Readers Choice
By John Tillman

Zephaniah ministered during the early reign of child-king Josiah. Zephaniah and Josiah have a common relative. They each trace their heritage back to Hezekiah. 

Zephaniah’s writing condemned the established officials, political bureaucrats, the priesthood, and the prophets. These writings may have influenced Josiah when, eight years into his reign, the 16-year-old began to “seek the God of his father, David.” (2 Chronicles 34.3) 

Josiah had many faithful “fathers” to look back to, including Hezekiah, Uzziah, and Jehosaphat, as well as faithful “uncles” like Zephaniah. However, none were perfect. The biblical narrative highlights this.

The changes Josiah implemented were the most complete and remarkable revival in Judah’s history. Josiah is the last “good” leader Judah has before she falls. His reign was a bright flash of possibility before everything went dark.

We are often tempted to think of “the good old days” with an idealistic glow recalling the past in the best possible light. However, the history of any country, any city, or any individual, is a mixed bag. Nostalgia doesn’t do us any favors.

When Zephaniah called Jerusalem, “the city of oppressors” he wasn’t being overdramatic. Israel went from being oppressed to being liberated, to being oppressors themselves. God warned them from the start that the kings they demanded would become oppressors. (1 Samuel 8.6-19) The kings, beginning with Saul, proved God right, modeling themselves on other nations.

The leaders Zephaniah condemned wanted God to powerfully save them from Assyria. They wanted a revival of the economy and of their military power…they just weren’t willing to have a spiritual revival that required any level of sacrifice or repentance.

If we long to see youth, like Josiah, rise up to lead revival instead of abandoning faith, we need to be like Zephaniah, unafraid to boldly speak of, condemn, and repent of sin. There’s no use skirting the truth about individual, city-wide, or national sins. Sins hidden grow stronger. Sins denied become recurring. Sins defended become systemic. The next generation needs us to model condemning our past sins, confessing them, and being free. Josiahs need Zephaniahs.

We have a common heritage in a greater king than Hezekiah. We trace our righteousness not to ourselves or our past but to Jesus. He is the standard we should point to and the one true king we must teach future generations to serve and model themselves after.

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
Jesus taught us, saying: “Watch yourselves, or your hearts will be coarsened by debauchery and drunkenness and the cares of life, and that day will come upon you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come down on all those living on the face of the earth. Stay awake, praying at all times for the strength to survive all that is going to happen, and to hold your ground before the Son of man.” — Luke 21.34-36

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

Today’s Readings
Jeremiah 35(Listen -3:43)
1 Corinthians 11 (Listen – 4:20)

This Weekend’s Readings
Jeremiah 36(Listen -5:54)1 Corinthians 12 (Listen – 4:25)
Jeremiah 37(Listen -3:25)1 Corinthians 13 (Listen – 2:23)

Readers’ Choice is Here!
What post from the last 12 months helped you forgive others or yourself? Tell us about it and we’ll reshare it this month.

Read more about Learning from the Suffering
Many “deconstructors” are spurred into this process by suffering. Some experienced sexual abuse or abuse of power. Many witnessed the defense and covering up of these kinds of abuse.

Don’t Hope in Humans—Reader’s Choice

Readers’ Choice Month:
This September, The Park Forum is looking back on readers’ selections of our most meaningful and helpful devotionals from the past 12 months. Thank you for your readership. This month is all about hearing from you. Submit a Readers’ Choice post today.

Today’s post was originally published, on August 23, 2022, based on Jeremiah 17:5-6
It was selected by reader, Karen Kallberg, Saint Louis: 
“‘We can find help in another person, but hope remains in Christ alone.’ I had to learn this lesson in a dark hour of my life. Now as a counselor, I am learning to help others discover the freedom in trusting a Savior who may not do as we wish but will never fail us. To this post, I heartily say, ‘Amen.’”


Scripture Focus: Jeremiah 17:5-6
5 This is what the Lord says:
“Cursed is the one who trusts in man,
    who draws strength from mere flesh
    and whose heart turns away from the Lord.
6 That person will be like a bush in the wastelands;
    they will not see prosperity when it comes.
They will dwell in the parched places of the desert,
    in a salt land where no one lives.

Reflection: Don’t Hope in Humans—Reader’s Choice
By Erin Newton

As we read the Old Testament, we often scoff at idolatry. Hmph, how primitive, we think. Most of our world sees God as one of many religious, divine beings but considers all such powers as ultimately nonexistent. By default, trust shifts from the divine to the created order. We are a culture that not only trusts in humanity but takes pride in doing so.

Jeremiah lives among a culture that rarely sees any dichotomy between the natural and supernatural yet speaks of this erroneous way of living that we encounter all the time. The prophet chides the people for trusting in humanity as if nothing could be more foolish. As fools today, our world chides at those who trust in God as if it were all a figment of our imaginations.

Trusting in another human being includes not only trusting another person for security, power, value, identity, and love but also drawing strength from ourselves. The prophet rebukes the mantra to pull oneself up by the bootstraps. He rebukes the idea that a mere mortal could be called upon to fix all of one’s problems. The future of those who trust in humanity will be like those who wander the desert always looking to settle but never finding rest.

We hear politicians speak about promises of a brighter and better future if only we will pick them to lead us. We are confronted with the failures of our religious organizations and are told that if we follow “so-and-so” then everything will be made right. Sometimes we hope that if we can be loved by this one person, then our souls will be filled and our identities complete.

It is a lonely, confusing, and hurting world that we live in. We want something to cling to in times like this. Unsurprisingly, people will present themselves as our knights in shining armor. As we look for hope and answers, let us be careful. We can find help in another person, but hope remains in Christ alone. We cannot call another person our savior or speak about someone as a cure-all for our world.

The only person worthy of our trust is Christ. We can draw strength from our Lord who put on flesh but was fully divine. He is our anchor. God may choose to use men and women to bring peace or prosperity, but wholehearted trust can only be in God.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Cry of the Church
Be, Lord, my helper and forsake me not. Do not despise me, O God, my savior.

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

Today’s Readings
Jeremiah 34 (Listen -4:15)
1 Corinthians 10 (Listen – 4:04)

Readers’ Choice is Here!
What post from the last 12 months encouraged or uplifted you? Tell us about it and we’ll reshare it this month.

Read more about No Princes
How many believers veil their trust in men as trust in God? This can cause problems in two ways.

Temptation Has No Gender—Readers’ Choice

Readers’ Choice Month:
This September, The Park Forum is looking back on readers’ selections of our most meaningful and helpful devotionals from the past 12 months. Thank you for your readership. This month is all about hearing from you. Submit a Readers’ Choice post today.

Today’s post was originally published, on February 11, 2022, based on Proverbs 2.12-19
It was selected by reader, EN: 
“This was really encouraging as a woman. In some circles, being a woman automatically makes you guilty of temptation but this was a good dose of truth to correct those erroneous assumptions.”


Scripture Focus: Proverbs 2.12-19
12 Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men, 
from men whose words are perverse, 
13 who have left the straight paths 
to walk in dark ways, 
14 who delight in doing wrong 
and rejoice in the perverseness of evil, 
15 whose paths are crooked 
and who are devious in their ways.
16 Wisdom will save you also from the adulterous woman, 
from the wayward woman with her seductive words, 
17 who has left the partner of her youth 
and ignored the covenant she made before God.
18 Surely her house leads down to death 
and her paths to the spirits of the dead. 
19 None who go to her return 
or attain the paths of life.

Reflection: Temptation Has No Gender
By John Tillman

Much ink has been spent in Christendom warning men to avoid female temptresses. Today’s reading, a warning to “my son” about an “adulterous woman,” is one that is often cited. The lessons are valid and needed.

The proliferation of pornography is exploding and prostitution and pornography are seeking normalization, even for minors. The pornography industry, like the tobacco industry before it, taps addiction as an income stream. Physical and psychological damage to customers and performers is callously counted as the cost of doing business.

However, porn isn’t just for men, and men also commonly initiate adulterous (or abusive) sexual relationships. All people need to be warned about infidelity and the predatory industry of porn. 
In addition, these passages have been often misused to paint all women as temptresses and all men as victims. The twisted extremes of “purity culture” taught women to treat their bodies like unexploded lust bombs on a hair-trigger. If a dress strap fell off of a shoulder, or a skirt hem rose up too high when sitting down, the lust explosion that could destroy a young (or old) man’s morality would be their fault. Men, instead of being protectors, demanded protection. Women were taught to bear the burden of dressing to protect men’s eyes and souls.

One way to prevent abuse of this passage is to recognize that it sits in balance with the four lines before it. A father is telling his son of the dangers that wisdom will save him from—but female seduction is not the first thing on his mind. The first dangers mentioned are the temptations of evil men. 

Sections of scripture that mirror each other like this are intended to cast light on each other. We must widen our gaze in the scriptures, especially in Proverbs, where matched pairs in tension with each other draw us deeper than the surface reading of either one alone.

The picture of the female temptress informs the image of the men of wickedness. The temptations of leaving straight paths for ones that are dark and wicked tell us more about how one is seduced sexually.

Seduction and temptation are not feminine (or masculine), nor are they limited to sexual pleasures. Carnality includes the lust of the eyes and of pride, not just the lust of the flesh. (1 John 2.16) Power, wealth, indulgence, sexuality…nothing escapes the corruption of sin and no gender is exempt from responsibility.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Send out your light and your truth, that they may lead me, and bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling;
That I may go to the altar of God, to the God of my joy and gladness; and on the harp, I will give thanks to you, O God my God. — Psalm 43.3-4


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

Today’s Readings
Jeremiah 33(Listen -4:46)
1 Corinthians 9 (Listen – 4:04)

Readers’ Choice is Here!
We look forward to more of your recommended posts from the last 12 months. Which one helped you understand scripture?

Read more about The Sins Behind Sexual Sins
Many times sexual sins are a symptom of other sins such as greed, selfishness, inequality, and oppression.