All I Want

We are happy to welcome ministry-focused college and seminary students from around the country and overseas to write in June of 2020 for The Park Forum. Each of them is pursuing a career in ministry and received free coaching on their writing as a part of the program. For more information about the program and a profile of each of our student writers, visit our Student Writers Month page.

Today’s student writer is Leah Jarvis, a student at Abilene Christian University.

Scripture Focus: Isaiah 44:9-11
All who make idols are nothing,
    and the things they treasure are worthless.
Those who would speak up for them are blind;
    they are ignorant, to their own shame.
Who shapes a god and casts an idol,
    which can profit nothing?
People who do that will be put to shame;
    such craftsmen are only human beings.
Let them all come together and take their stand;
    they will be brought down to terror and shame.

Reflection: All I Want
By Leah Jarvis

What do you want?

It’s a simple question, really. A waiter asks this of customers at a restaurant. Santa Claus asks little kids this at Christmas. But when it comes to asking ourselves this question, most often we ask it in light of larger concerns than just ordering pasta.

What do I want my career to look like? What do I want in a spouse? What do I want to be known for?

These are all huge, defining desires that shape who we are. Our wants have weight. They’re not bad by nature. The discipline of holding ourselves to long-term goals can be a good thing.

Isaiah explores desires through the narrative of two craftsmen. These men work in service of an idol, realizing at their conclusion that they have essentially made nothing, and that their very lives are built on serving something that will never see or know them. Their reward is empty, tasteless, dead.

Though their idols are physical, ours are more abstract. We carve stone images of what we want, only to turn around and find that what once seemed to matter has melted away like wet clay in the rain. The passage echoes Jesus’s words about the cost of following him (Luke 14.27) and his later warning to the rich man who cannot let go of his wealth (Luke 18.23-25). Not only is this a reminder that we must be willing to set aside our greatest desires, but that an attempt to hold onto them brings only sorrow when they inevitably disappoint us.

These sobering verses don’t exactly tug on the heartstrings and can feel accusatory. The point, however, is not to guilt-trip us into “doing better.” God’s plea reminds us to open our hands. “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12.31)

This could not be further from ashes. What we find when we remember our place in God’s kingdom outweighs every goal, every success, every earthly reward. It secures us as victorious, joyful sons and daughters, filled with glorious purpose.

May we love and serve God and one another—our many scattered desires set aside in favor of the One.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Satisfy us by your loving-kindness in the morning; so shall we rejoice and be glad all the days of our life. — Psalm 90.14

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Isaiah 44 (Listen – 5:12) 
Revelation 14 (Listen – 3:51)

This Weekend’s Readings
Isaiah 45 (Listen – 4:39) Revelation 15 (Listen – 1:29)
Isaiah 46 (Listen – 2:12) Revelation 16 (Listen – 3:17)

Read more about To Whom We Draw Near
We are called to have a single love and to be faithful to God alone, satisfying ourselves in God and clinging to him to the exclusion of all others.

Read more about Prayer and Faith
Do we feel that God is distant from us? It is we who have moved. Draw near in prayer.

Hope and Promise

We are happy to welcome ministry-focused college and seminary students from around the country and overseas to write in June of 2020 for The Park Forum. Each of them is pursuing a career in ministry and received free coaching on their writing as a part of the program. For more information about the program and a profile of each of our student writers, visit our Student Writers Month page.

Today’s student writer is Meghan Hendrickson, a student at Truett Seminary.

Scripture Focus: Isaiah 43.10
“You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me.”

Reflection: Hope and Promise
By Meghan Hendrickson

We are God’s witnesses. We have seen and beheld God as our Savior.

Though times have changed, God remains unchanged (Malachi 3:6). Likewise, our identity as children of God remains constant (Romans 8:14-17). 

The beauty of Scripture is that the same words God spoke to Israel through Isaiah long ago, are the same words God speaks to us today.

God did not call us to know about him and believe in him. Rather, God called us to know him and believe him. Do you see the difference? 

God does not call us to a life of observation. Rather, God calls us to a life of participation and proclamation.

We can testify there is no rescue apart from the one true God (Isaiah 43:11). 

Child of God, come get to know your Redeemer and your King (Isaiah 43:14-15). Listen to the words of hope and promise God is speaking over you today.

God loves you and you are precious in his sight (Isaiah 43:4).

Child of God, though the waters rise, the Lord is with you (Isaiah 43:2). Holding you by the hand, God has led you through rushing rivers of opposition before (Isaiah 41:13). God promises he will walk you through the raging seas surrounding you now. Do you believe him?

Child of God, though the flames grow hotter still, you will not be burned (Isaiah 43:2). The very fires the enemy hopes will destroy you, God will use to refine you (Isaiah 48:10). God has done it before. Do you believe he will do it again?

As we come to know and believe God we better understand he is God. Apart from him, there is no other (Isaiah 43:5).

Child of God, how has God grown your understanding of him this week?

God has chosen you to be his witness and his servant. Since we know and believe God, and we understand he is God, we are set apart to serve him. Jesus demonstrates this by saying, “even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many,” (Mark 10:45).

Though the waters rise, and the flames grow hotter still, God will show us his glory and make a way for us to serve him.

Sometimes the greatest way we can serve God is by believing and testifying he is God, even when circumstances try to convince us he is not.

Child of God, how is God inviting you to serve him today?

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
Jesus taught us, saying: “Be on your guard, stay awake, because you never know when the time will come. It is like a man traveling abroad: he has gone from his home, and left his servants in charge, each with his own work to do; and he has told the doorkeeper to stay awake. So stay awake, because you do not know when the master of the house is coming, evening, midnight, cockcrow, or dawn; if he comes unexpectedly, he must not find you asleep. And what I am saying to you I say to all: Stay awake!” — Mark 13.33-37

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Isaiah 43 (Listen – 4:06) 
Revelation 13 (Listen – 3:20)

Read more about Humble, Welcoming Servants
Help us to be servants to all-comers, not contestants against all-comers.

Read More about The House God Desires
Christ, the true son of David, is building the house that God desires—a house with rooms for all his children.

God Shivering on Concrete
Merely chuffing about “the gospel” in the face of evil makes us into signposts on the road to Hell rather than gatekeepers in the house of our God.

Seeking God’s Servant

We are happy to welcome ministry-focused college and seminary students from around the country to write in June of 2020 for The Park Forum. Each of them is pursuing a career in ministry and received free coaching on their writing as a part of the program. For more information about the program and a profile of each of our student writers, visit our Student Writers Month page.

Today’s student writer is Allison Tinsely, a student at Truett Seminary.

Scripture Focus: Isaiah 42:6-7
“I, The LORD, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.”

Reflection: Seeking God’s Servant
By Allison Tinsely

This “servant song” foreshadows Christ as the Servant whom the Father will raise up for His purposes (Matthew 12.18-21). It is God’s job description for His servants, which applies both to Israel and us as believers. Christ is the perfect fulfillment of this role, and like Israel, we are called despite our disobedience.

God is identified in this chapter as a “champion” and “warrior” who does not hesitate to display His fury and might (Isaiah 42.13), but the description of God’s servant is different than would be expected of a king or worldly leader. This servant will not shout out loud to make his voice heard above the rest. This servant will not use violence against anyone (Isaiah 42.1-3). This servant will be led by God in seeking out righteous justice (Isaiah 42.3-4).

These are the tasks of God’s servant. We see that Israel comes up short, however, failing to understand their role and thus being blind to God’s will. Israel sees without truly observing and hears without listening. Despite this ignorance, they are still called. God promises to “lead the blind” down a road they have not yet known (Isaiah 42.16). God will redeem this blindness, turning darkness into light and making His pathway clear. God will be Israel’s Guide, using them for His purposes despite their sin, rebellion, and failures.

God continues to call us and pursue us throughout the present time. We are all blind, deaf, and broken in different ways, yet we are all still called to be God’s servants. God looks beyond our shortcomings and equips us for service in His Kingdom. Not only is God a strong and mighty King, but He is a King who loves us in a way that contradicts power-hungry, tyrannical leadership. Blind and hard of hearing as we may be to His ultimate purpose, God leads us and calls us to be His humble servants.

God, open our eyes and lead us in Your light. Take away our deafness and make Your message to us clear. Remind us of Your goodness and of our calling to serve You. Forgive us of our sins and look beyond our failures to use us for Your glory, for You give us a purpose in life. Let us never forget Your ultimate Servant, Christ, who redeems us in order that we may know You. Amen.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
O God of hosts, show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved. — Psalm 80.7

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Isaiah 42 (Listen – 4:11) 
Revelation 12 (Listen – 2:58)

Read more about Sight for the Blind
It is not until we recognize that we are blind and experience Christ’s healing touch, that we can see.

Read more about Servants in the Age of Showboats
Truthfully, our emperors have no clothes. They think they are rich, but they are poor, blind, and naked.

Faith Over Fear

We are happy to welcome ministry-focused college and seminary students from around the country to write in June of 2020 for The Park Forum. Each of them is pursuing a career in ministry and received free coaching on their writing as a part of the program. For more information about the program and a profile of each of our student writers, visit our Student Writers Month page.

Today’s student writer is Carolyn Soto Jackson, a student at Truett Seminary.

Scripture Focus: Isaiah 41.10
Fear not, for I am with you;
Be not dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you,
Yes, I will help you,
I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.

Reflection: Faith Over Fear
By Carolyn Soto Jackson

Over the last few months, we have witnessed fear rear its ugly head in so many different forms with the Covid-19 pandemic. Our neighbors all over the world found themselves scavenging stores with empty shelves because of hysteria. 

This disease came out of nowhere killing our family and friends, wreaking havoc all over the world. Businesses shut down, careers were put on hold, and we were ordered to stay home until further notice. What seemed nearly impossible, came to pass. So, why shouldn’t we succumb to fear like many of those in the world? 

Because we are believers and we are confident in God’s promises when He commands us to, “Fear not”.  

When God repeats Himself, He is trying to get our attention. “Fear not” in Isaiah 41 is not an exception. This famously repeated command in the Bible is written three hundred and sixty-five times and seems imperative in our current situation. 

Shortly after the command, two powerful promises come from our Lord. We need not be afraid, first,  because He is our God and, second, because He will help us. We are His chosen people and He does not take the lives of His children lightly. Unlike the false idols created by man, God does not topple down when trials and tribulation arise. On the contrary, He rises up!  

When we intentionally choose to have faith over fear, we surrender our will to God’s. This heart posture then allows God to be our Provider and Protector. We want to take control of our lives especially when we are stretched thin, because we think we know what is best. This is a façade or illusion. 

We do not know because the only One who knows is Our God. In times of distress, we tend to act irrationally out of fear. We act out in our heightened emotions without thinking it all the way though. It takes one innocuous spark of fear to set a wildfire of nefarious behavior. 

But, we have a choice. We can choose to freak out or fear not. Our intentional choice to have faith over fear will not only break strongholds but it gives the Lord the Authority to make a way where there seems to be no way.   

Fear not child, God is in control.

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

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Isaiah 41 (Listen – 5:00) 
Revelation 11 (Listen – 3:24)

Read more about Fear in the Boat
Fear is overcome; don’t be afraid. In the world you are frightened. But be comforted; I have conquered the world!

Read more about The Way of Love Amidst Fear
Fear is natural and one shouldn’t be ashamed of being afraid. However, the response of a Christian must be supernatural.

Faithful Through Exile

We are happy to welcome ministry-focused college and seminary students from around the country to write in June of 2020 for The Park Forum. Each of them is pursuing a career in ministry and received free coaching on their writing as a part of the program. For more information about the program and a profile of each of our student writers, visit our Student Writers Month page.

Today’s student writer is Dennis Nicholson, a student at Liberty University.

Scripture Focus: Isaiah 40:26-27
26 Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens:
    Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one
    and calls forth each of them by name.
Because of his great power and mighty strength,
    not one of them is missing.
27 Why do you complain, Jacob?
    Why do you say, Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord;
    my cause is disregarded by my God”?

Reflection: Faithful Through Exile
By Dennis Nicholson

Throughout his writings, Isaiah likes to jump around in time. Most of his prophecies foretell future events like the exile. But Isaiah also speaks at length about Israel’s present sins and sprinkles in historical narratives to illustrate his prophecies. 

Isaiah 40 marks a particularly sudden leap forward. We’ve just read about Hezekiah welcoming the Babylonian envoys and Isaiah’s harrowing prophecies of exile. These events would have been familiar to the people of Judah. 

But imagine the confusion in a public reading when they heard the next verses. “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God … Proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed.” (Isaiah 40:1-2). What a stark contrast! Not only does Isaiah speak of comfort, he speaks of it as if it’s at the very gates—as if the exile’s already over. 

When we read these words, we rejoice, remembering God’s past redemption of his people. But if we lived in Israel, we might be tempted to complain. Isaiah might speak of comfort in the present tense, but for Judah, comfort feels distant. Judgment seems like the starker reality. How can God promise salvation when he also promises exile? Does he truly care about his people? Or does he stand as far off as the comfort he promises?

In response to these questions, Isaiah reminds us of God’s timeless perspective. Exile might loom over Israel, but God sits enthroned over the whole world (Isaiah 40:22). Like a good shepherd, he gathers his people, tends to their wounds, and restores them to his sheepfold in Zion (Isaiah 40:11). Though Judah has been faithless, God is faithful. He will bring comfort.

The God who calls the stars by name will call his people out of exile (Isaiah 40:26).

For us, the exile of Judah is itself a distant event. And yet, in many ways, we live in exile today. We witness racial injustice, violence, bigotry, haughtiness. We struggle with acedia and anger and apathy. Maybe we too wonder if God really walks alongside us (Isaiah 40:27).

But in the midst of exile, comfort is near—at the very gates. For the Lord is not slow in keeping his promise but patient, longing for all his sheep to return to him (2 Peter 3:9).

“Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord” (Hosea 6:1).

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
O Lord, watch over us and save us from this generation for ever. —- Psalm 12.7

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Isaiah 40 (Listen – 5:09) 
Revelation 10 (Listen – 1:59)

Read more about Knowing Promises in Part
In Isaiah three things are being described at the same time—the destruction of Israel in the immediate future, the return from exile in the near future, and the reconstruction of Israel in the far future.

Read more about Hope Amidst Destruction
Even among the destruction of what is coming to Judah in Isaiah’s prophecies, there is hope. God promises to place his glory over the remnant, like a tent or shelter.

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