Seeking after a Seeking God

Scripture Focus: 1 Kings 3.3-4
Solomon showed his love for the Lord by walking according to the instructions given him by his father David, except that he offered sacrifices and burned incense on the high places. The king went to Gibeon to offer sacrifices, for that was the most important high place, and Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings on that altar.

Reflection: Seeking after a Seeking God
By John Tillman

People in scripture often worshiped God wherever they happened to be and God accepted them. But the “high places” in Israel were different. They were pagan sites of worship before the Israelites conquered the land. 

Israel drove out most idol worship but some still survived. Joshua warned the people of “traps and snares” saying that these practices, if continued, would be “whips for your backs and thorns for your eyes.” Worship at “high places” was expressly forbidden by God, because God knew that the old, cultic practices would return to pollute and subvert true worship. 

But people in Solomon’s day still worshiped at these places. The worship of God in Israel at this time was scattered. This was partly convenience so that they did not have to travel to Jerusalem, but it also had to do with tradition and an emotional and cultural connection to these locations. 

David had taken the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem and set up a tent for it there in anticipation of the Temple being built. But the tent of meeting constructed by Moses was still at Gibeon. Probably what made Gibeon the “most important” high place was the emotional, traditional, and historical connection to Moses. This empty tent, filled only with nostalgia, remained in use as a place of worship and is where God spoke to Solomon. 

James tells us that God grants wisdom to all, without finding fault, and that includes young king Solomon who asked for wisdom even while unwisely worshiping God at a questionable place. God will do the same for us. 

God, throughout the scriptures, is a God who seeks. God, of course, desires us to seek him “while he may be found” and to seek him in his Temple. We should care deeply about worshiping in ways that are proper and biblical. But because God is a seeking God, he is always ready to meet us where we are. 

He will meet us in hiding in the wilderness, as he met with David.
He will meet us wrapped in nostalgia, as he met with Solomon.
He will meet with us singing new songs, as he met with Asaph.
He will meet with us in a corrupted Temple, as he met with Isaiah.
He will meet with us in a corrupted land, as he met with the woman at the well in Sychar.

Wherever and however we draw near to God, he will draw near to us.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
Out of Zion, perfect in its beauty, God reveals himself in glory. — Psalm 50.2

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

Today’s Readings
1 Kings 3 (Listen – 4:29)
Ephesians 1 (Listen – 3:10)

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 Prayer From the Cave :: Readers’ Choice
Prayer does not come easier in dark times, but we may feel it does since we more quickly and easily turn to it in distress.

Read more about Take Up Your Mat
Jesus sought us out when we were paralyzed and deformed by sin…When we take up our mat and walk, we are just beginning to follow him in faith.

Putting To Death Racial Hostility

Scripture Focus: Ephesians 2:15-16
His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.

Reflection: Putting To Death Racial Hostility
By John Tillman

In the ancient world, every race and people claimed supremacy. Supremacy of race or country is an ideology that is based on one of the oldest, perhaps first, sins: pride.

The secular vision of evolution does not posit equality as a trait or as a policy. In fact evolutionary biology is the source of much of the past century’s eugenics-based racist thought.

Our culture’s concept of human equality is based not in science, but in Christ. The wellspring of the concept of racial equality is the cross of Christ as described in the above verse from Paul’s letter to the Ephesian church. The first voice in history crying out for racial equality and the end of slavery was a Christian one.

This is why it is such an enduring tragedy that throughout history the church has struggled to keep various strains of racism from infecting and crippling the church and its work. Every era of the church is touched—and sometimes scarred—with this struggle.

While it is true that without Christian abolitionists, the abomination of racial slavery would still be common, it is equally true that many Christians also stood on the other side. Many lent support to slavery as a legal institution—allowing economic needs and cultural norms to force an ungodly twisting of their theology. (Economic needs and cultural norms fuel today’s illegal slavery crisis—including sexual slavery and secular society still has no answer to the problem.)

Idolatry takes many forms and modern Christians are just as susceptible to them as our first century counterparts were. We must not let nationalistic pride become the idol that keeps us from pursuing the death of racial hostility through the cross of Christ. Only at the cross can we drop our pride, let our hostility die, and take up the new life of unity that Christ died to give us.

Christians must take the lead in racial issues because we have the only viable ideology that, if we let it, will counter the ideology of hate. We cannot grow weary. We cannot tire of addressing the issue. We have the only answer.

“Because so many Christians haven’t yet learned, these words of Paul must continually be proclaimed—that in Christ the barriers of race, language, culture, and social class are all transcended. For man to put up these superficial fences truly reflects the superficiality of his humanity.”Dr. Nelson Hayashida

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
But I will call upon God, and the Lord will deliver me.
In the evening, in the morning, and at noonday, I will complain and lament, He will bring me safely back…God, who is enthroned of old, will hear me… — Psalm 55.17

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

Today’s Readings
1 Kings 4-5 (Listen – 7:21)
Ephesians 2 (Listen – 3:04)

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 When the Dream becomes a Nightmare
I still have a dream that with this faith we will be able to adjourn the councils of despair and bring new light into the dark chambers of pessimism.

Read more about Racism Wears a Mask
The church was the first entity in history to directly attack racism and the Holy Spirit is the only way its burden can truly be put down.

Limits of Human Grace

Scripture Focus: 1 Kings 2.8-9
“‘When he came down to meet me at the Jordan, I swore to him by the Lord: ‘I will not put you to death by the sword.’ But now, do not consider him innocent. You are a man of wisdom; you will know what to do to him. Bring his gray head down to the grave in blood.”

Reflection: Limits of Human Grace
By John Tillman

One could read the scripture through the lens of any major figure of the Bible. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day had chosen Moses as their lens. But it would be just as possible for them, or us, to look at scripture with a Davidic lens. 

Today’s passage highlights one reason we use Christ as our lens for viewing scripture. Because every other lens is flawed.  Moses, and David after him, were sinful, flawed leaders.

Last week, we reflected on the grace God grants to us. This week, in our reading of David’s final instructions to Solomon, David shows us the limits of his human grace. David had been gracious and forgiving to many people during his lifetime. But some will find out that the grace extended to them died with the king. 

David, when dealing with these offenders, had seemed magnanimous, humble, forgiving, and gracious. But on his deathbed, David sounded hurt, petty, vindictive. David discussed this unsettled and unsettling business with Solomon. Many parents leave their children valuable possessions and wisdom. Some leave only bad debts and inherited enemies. David, left Solomon a mix of things, including a hit list.

David is being protective. There are good and practical reasons for David’s instructions. Solomon is young and may be seen as weak. He is the child of a woman with great influence and power, whom powerful men may wish to silence. She also happens to be a woman David stole from a friend thorough adultery (many believe rape) and state sanctioned murder.  

Is David just being practical, reasonable, and protective of his son and God’s kingdom with which they are being entrusted? Perhaps. However, in his attempts to protect Solomon from Joab and other dangerous men, David gives Solomon a push towards turning into Joab. Joab understood that being practical, reasonable, and protective, usually meant killing others before they killed you.

Peter striking and taking off the ear of Malchus was protective. 
The disciples’ concern about not having bread in the boat was reasonable.
The marketplace set up in the Temple was practical.
These kinds of things often earn a rebuke from Christ.

The grace of king David died with him. 
The grace of Christ lives on with him and within us.
May we learn to extend Christ’s undying grace past the limits of our own.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory because of your faithfulness. — Psalm 115.1

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

Today’s Readings
1 Kings 2 (Listen – 7:45)
Galatians 6 (Listen – 2:18)

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 Grace Displaces Retribution
The kind of humility and gracious forgiveness often shown by David is as greatly out of place today as it was in his own time. 

Read more about Dealing with Joab
Joab’s kind of loyalty is a twisted form of “honor” that cripples accountability, truth, and justice.

The Law that leads to Grace :: Guided Prayer

Scripture Focus: Galatians 3.24
So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith.

Reflection: The Law that leads to Grace :: Guided Prayer
By John Tillman

We have looked at grace from several different angles this week. As we move through this weekend, let us pray through these responses to Paul’s description of the Law’ inability to save us.

The Law that leads to Grace
Oh, God, may we not rely on the Law, except to point us back to grace.

For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.”

We love your Law, Lord. But we know that the Law does not, will not, and cannot justify us.
We rely instead, Lord, on faith.

Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.” The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, “The person who does these things will live by them.” 

We cannot live by the Law. If we could, then Christ’s death was for no purpose.

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.” 

Christ’s death opened the path of grace through faith to all people. In Christ, God came near and extended his hand to us. And his arm was not too short to save. He saved us not based on anything we have done, but in response to his own promise and purpose for all who have faith. 

He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.

Help us, Lord, to remember…
The Law exists to point us to, and cause us to cry out for, grace.
Those who think they can live by the Law are deceived and hopeless. Cursed.
Those who are hopeless in everything else, clinging only to grace, are raised to life. Blessed.
Whatever form of moralism we seek to add to grace is a failure of faith, doubting the value of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.

Thank you, God, for grace through faith that cannot be downgraded and a Law designed to lead us to grace.
May the felt reality of Christ’s incomparable grace extended to us, cause us to season our lives, our tongues, our actions, our prayers, and our inner being with grace.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Cry of the Church
Lord, have mercy on us. Christ, have mercy on us. Lord, have mercy on us.

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

Today’s Readings
2 Samuel 23 (Listen – 5:38)
Galatians 3 (Listen – 4:39)

This Weekend’s Readings
2 Samuel 24 (Listen – 4:48) Galatians 4 (Listen – 4:13)
1 Kings 1 (Listen – 7:52) Galatians 5 (Listen – 3:22)

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 Downgrading Grace
Grace, once gained, can be forgotten and replaced with a smug and damaging form of self-righteousness.

https://theparkforum.org/843-acres/downgrading-grace/

Read more about Of Grace and Thorns
What is important about Paul’s thorn is not what it is…but the sufficient grace of God that sustains Paul.

Downgrading Grace

Scripture Focus: Galatians 2.21
I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!

Reflection: Downgrading Grace
By John Tillman

Grace, once gained, can be forgotten and replaced with a smug and damaging form of self-righteousness. We can forget too easily from what Christ saved us and at what cost. This is a dangerous form of amnesia and Paul will not allow the Galatians or even the prominent leaders of the church to fall into it.

Paul shows us a model for biblical confrontation in Galatians. He is direct. He is personal. And he is restorational. 

Galatians may not seem as stridently corrective as some of the passages from the letters to the Corinthians, but Galatians is the only letter of Paul to contain all correction and no praise. Paul gets straight to the point and does not hesitate. He confronts the Galatians head on telling them that he is amazed they are abandoning the gospel of grace through which they were saved. And he relates his story of boldly opposing Peter to call out this downgrade of grace and cheapening of the gospel.

Paul got personal with the Galatians and with Peter. When confronting them about favoritism, Paul quoted Peter’s testimony from Acts 10.34 saying “God shows no favoritism.” When he confronted Peter, he discussed personal practices and details with Peter, telling him exactly what Paul considered to be wrong about what Peter was doing.

Paul never lost sight, even in a corrective mode, of the unity and grace for all found in Christ. Paul’s often quoted passage about being “crucified with Christ, and I no longer live but Christ lives in me,” demonstrates a shared life in Christ and is a part of his dramatic speech to Peter on his visit to Antioch. 

Christ’s sacrifice is at the center of Paul’s argument against any other action being any part of salvation. The sufficiency of faith in Christ cannot be reduced. Paul would not allow the council at Jerusalem, or Peter, or the Galatians to downgrade grace through faith. 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.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Know this: The Lord himself is God; he himself has made us, and we are his; we are his people and the sheep of his pasture. — Psalm 100.2

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

Today’s Readings
2 Samuel 22 (Listen – 5:22)
Galatians 2 (Listen – 3:44)

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 Solus Christus
If you want to understand the love and compassion of God, look no further than Jesus the Christ.

Read more about Grace Which Rises
This is the grace which rises unto us: both our sins fall forever, and grace abides forever.

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