Peter’s Unfinished Work — Editor’s Choice

Readers’ Choice Month:
In August, The Park Forum looks back on our 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, June 1, 2020, based on readings from Revelation 3 and Isaiah 33.
It was selected by John Tillman
This was posted during the 6th day of protests regarding the murder of George Floyd. 
We (I) do not choose the topics we write about. We look at the scripture of the day and apply it to the culture of the day. That’s it. It says a lot about the content of the scripture and the content of our culture’s character that we so often must address racism and violence. Like Peter, I have often had to readdress racism within my life and ministry. Peter’s work to establish the church was partly dependent on his dealing with racism in his own life and in the lives of others. The same is true for us today. There is no sin we can be silent about, including racism.

Scripture Focus: Revelation 3.1-3
1 I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. 3 Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent.

Isaiah 33.14-15
14 Who of us can dwell with the consuming fire? 
Who of us can dwell with everlasting burning?” 
15 Those who walk righteously 
and speak what is right…

Reflection: Peter’s Unfinished Work — Editor’s Choice
By John Tillman

We have both grieved and celebrated over this past weekend. 

Pentecost Sunday closes the season of Easter. As one season ends, Pentecost marks the beginning of a new one. Pentecost is the end of Jesus powerfully leading his disciples and the beginning of Jesus empowering his church to lead. Pentecost is the end of the season of training and the beginning of the season of work. 

As evidenced by both the murder of George Floyd and some of the broken and tragic responses to it, the church has much work left to do. Surely Christ’s words to the church at Sardis apply to us today, “I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God.”

We have written consistently (because God’s Word speaks of it consistently) about the centrality to the gospel of destroying racism. There does not exist a gospel that ignores racism. Any “gospel” that does not confront racism is not the gospel. Pentecost testifies strongly to this as the Holy Spirit moved Peter to preach that what people were witnessing was the promised outpouring of God’s Spirit on “all flesh.” (Acts 2.17; Joel 2.28)

Peter struggled throughout his ministry to overcome the racism that he was raised in. May we take up Peter’s unfinished work. Overcoming racism cannot be done by one sermon, one vision, one visit, one protest, or one condemnation. Opposing both individual and systemic racism is a lifetime of work that the Church cannot give up on. 

Ending racism was a Christian idea from the beginning and we are possessed of the only ideology that can do it—the gospel. When pastors and ministers address racial issues, they are not abandoning the gospel, they are speaking from its heart.

Pray this prayer this week, based on parts of Isaiah 33, asking that we may be the kind of people who work the justice of the Kingdom of God into our lives and communities.

Prayer for Justice
We long to dwell with you, Lord, our consuming fire.
Burn away our sinfulness and selfishness without which racism cannot stand.
Help us to be those who walk righteously 
and speak what is right.
Help us to reject gain from extortion and oppression 
Let us not passively participate in murder.
Let us not shut our eyes to deny evil, but shut our hearts to joining in it.
Let us be instruments of your peace.

*We forgo the Divine Hours prayers today replacing them with the above and focusing our prayers on ones for justice and peace, which must come before reconciliation and revival which we also pray for.

Today’s Readings
1 Samuel 18 (Listen – 4:30)
Romans 16 (Listen – 3:30)

Read More about Readers’ Choice 2021
Have we heard from you yet? Tell us about posts from the past year (September 2020 – July 2021) that have helped you in your faith.
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Read more about Putting To Death Racial Hostility
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.

Unveiled — Readers’ Choice

Readers’ Choice Month:
In August, The Park Forum looks back on our 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, March 23, 2021, based on readings from Exodus 34 and John 13.
It was selected by reader, MT from Texas
Beautiful.

Scripture Focus: Exodus 34.29-30, 33-35
29 When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord. 30 When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him.
33 When Moses finished speaking to them, he put a veil over his face. 34 But whenever he entered the Lord’s presence to speak with him, he removed the veil until he came out. And when he came out and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, 35 they saw that his face was radiant. Then Moses would put the veil back over his face until he went in to speak with the Lord.

John 13.3-5
3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. 

Reflection: Unveiled — Readers’ Choice
By John Tillman

On Mount Sinai, God revealed more to Moses than he had revealed to any human since Adam and Eve. 

God walked before Moses, declaring the aspects of his identity. Compassionate. Gracious. Slow to anger. Filled with love. Faithful. Forgiving. Just.

This revelation changed Moses in ways he did not immediately realize. Moses had been to the mountain before for long conversations with God. He took down detailed plans for the tabernacle with instructions right down to the fasteners of clothing. Something, however, about this visit was different. 

The intimacy of the revelation of God’s character, of glimpsing God’s glory from the cleft of the rock, gave Moses a glow. The people, and even Aaron, were afraid of this radiant sign of God’s presence. So Moses veiled his face. This seems to have been merely for the comfort of others. 

Seeing the glory of God can be discomforting. But Moses and Israel hadn’t seen anything yet…
The revelation of God’s character when Jesus stripped to his undergarments to wash his disciples’ feet, was like no other revelation before. When John described this moment he prefaced it by telling us that Jesus “showed them the full extent of his love.” (John 13.1

No revelation of God and his love, not the original creative acts that formed the universe, not the choosing of Abram, or the salvation from Egypt, is complete without this image.

The one who deserves honor, choosing dishonor. 
The one who deserves glory, choosing obscurity.
The one who deserves tribute, choosing servitude.
This is who God is.

Discomforted by the foot washing, Peter tries to stop Jesus from humiliating himself. Jesus is not about to let Peter draw a covering over the love he intends to show. He is mere hours away from the tearing of his flesh and the tearing of the curtain of the Temple. Peter hadn’t seen anything yet…

Paul describes New Testament believers as those with “unveiled faces.” He encourages us that if Moses’ ministry was glorious, our ministry should be more so. (2 Corinthians 3.7-17) If Moses’ face glowed, ours should be incandescent.

Seek regular and deep intimacy with God through prayer and the scriptures. Let the shocking images of his identity—from Sinai, from foot washing, from the cross—soak into us. Then, let us walk through our world alight with his love. For when it comes to what God will reveal to us, and the love we will show the world, we haven’t seen anything yet. (Ephesians 3.14-21)

Music: “Unveiled Faces” — Sarah Masen

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. — John 10.17-18

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertimeby Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
1 Samuel 17 (Listen – 8:59)
Romans 15 (Listen – 4:32)

Read More about Readers’ Choice 2021
Have we heard from you yet? Tell us about posts from the past year (September 2020 – July 2021) that have helped you in your faith.

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Read more about Apocalypse, How?
We have apocalypses all wrong…Jesus told his disciples that he would “apocalypse” the father to them, meaning that he would reveal to them God the Father.

Complaints and Responses — Readers’ Choice

Readers’ Choice Month:
In August, The Park Forum looks back on our 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, May 11, 2021, based on readings from Numbers 20.
It was selected by reader, Brad Elledge, from Frisco, TX
“This one hit me on so many levels because it addressed so many of my favorite sin patterns… Leading to gnashing of teeth. Pride and self-sufficiency. Not honoring God. Taking things personally rather than taking the high road and responding in grace. Forgetting God’s faithfulness even when we aren’t faithful. Not trusting God enough to complain when it would be legitimate to do so. Guilty down the checklist. This devotional takes a brief passage and provides an exploded diagram. It no longer looks like an over-reaction from God, but an epic character fail by Moses with consequences for a man who should know better. We all should know better.”

Scripture Focus: Numbers 20.10-13
10 He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” 11 Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank. 

12 But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.”

13 These were the waters of Meribah, where the Israelites quarreled with the Lord and where he was proved holy among them.

Reflection: Complaints and Responses — Readers’ Choice
By John Tillman

Complaint is not always sinful but leaders too often treat it that way. 

The Israelites often complain. Sometimes their complaints are unjustified or overdramatic, but other times they concern legitimate needs. Sometimes God calls their complaining or grumbling sinful, but other times no condemnation is specified. 

In today’s passage, we see unhealthy complaining and unhealthy responses by leaders. Only Moses’ response, however, is condemned by God. Also, despite Moses disobeying his instructions, God still miraculously answered the people’s complaint. No one is a hero in this passage except God.

Healthy complaints come from reality falling short of what was promised. Israel’s promise from God, through Moses, was a land flowing with “milk and honey.” Not even having water was a natural point of complaint. 

Both times Israel complained about lack of water the confrontation got heated and personal. Both times they went beyond complaining to accuse Moses of plotting to kill them. Moses complained to the Lord in Exodus 17 that the people were ready to stone him. (Exodus 17.1-7) In today’s passage, he called them “rebels.” (Numbers 20.8-12) Moses took these personal attacks to heart, growing angry rather than compassionate toward the people’s legitimate needs.

God didn’t condemn the people or Moses for their complaining. He simply supplied their lack. At Rephidim, The Lord stood beside Moses as he struck a rock to bring forth water. At Meribah, God instructed Moses to speak to the rock to bring forth water. It is a tender and god-like act to speak things into being, but Moses rejects this plan, opting for a show of force. 

Moses speaks to the people instead of to the rock. Instead of speaking words of life, bringing life-giving water, he speaks harsh, brash, and prideful words. He defends his honor instead of honoring God. He proclaims his power, his ability, and his “righteousness” instead of demonstrating trust in God.

God says to Moses, “You didn’t trust me. You didn’t honor me. But I will still be faithful to the people and supply what they complain for. I will still be faithful to my promise and bring them into the land.” (Numbers 20.12)

For followers and leaders, complaining legitimately and responding honorably are difficult. When the reality of our world does not match the promises of God, complaint can be a spiritual practice rather than a sin. When we complain, instead of calling into question God’s holiness, we can point to God’s holiness as a reason for him to act.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Cry of the Church
In the evening, in the morning, and at noonday, I will complain and lament, and he will hear my voice. — Psalm 55.18

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

Today’s Readings
1 Samuel 15 (Listen – 5:46)
Romans 13 (Listen – 2:35)

Read More about Readers’ Choice 2021

Have we heard from you yet? Tell us about posts from the past year (September 2020 – July 2021) that have helped you in your faith.
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Read more about Complaining in Prayer
Have you ever wondered if it was appropriate to express your thoughts, feelings, and darkest emotions to God?

Jesus Concealed and Revealed — Readers’ Choice

Readers’ Choice Month:
In August, The Park Forum looks back on our 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, March 10, 2021, based on readings from Luke 24.
It was selected by reader, Jon Polk from Hong Kong
“The Emmaus Road account is one of my favorite gospel stories. I wonder, “How did they not even recognize Jesus?” And then I’m reminded of all the times in my life when Jesus has been right alongside me and I didn’t recognize or acknowledge him. Keep your eyes open and you will see Jesus all through your day, often in places that you wouldn’t expect him to be.”

Scripture Focus: Luke 24.27
27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

Reflection: Jesus Concealed and Revealed — Readers’ Choice
By John Tillman

Disciples don’t always seem to recognize the resurrected Jesus. Do we? 

In younger years, I thought this was part of the miracle of the resurrection, but now I think the explanations are far more likely to be practical than out of the ordinary. 

I used to think that Mary mistaking Jesus for the gardener was a miracle, but with age comes experience and wisdom. After living through intense times of mourning in my life, my own tear-blurred vision has made clear to me that probably Mary’s tears were what obscured Jesus, and not a heavenly veil.

I used to think that Jesus blinded Cleopas and his wife on the road to Emmaus, but with grief comes understanding. After walking away from many funerals and deaths of friends and walking through other deep, emotional losses, I know that physical senses are dulled by grief. After what they experienced, it would have been a miracle if their eyes had risen from trudging the road to see the face of the stranger. Even if they had looked up, the shadows of grief in their minds and the shadows of the setting sun on the path could easily have concealed him from them.

However, I do think Jesus helped them miss him—perhaps only by looking away when they looked at him or by wearing a hood or head covering that partly concealed his face. I also believe he did so for a purpose. He was preparing them for his absence and revealing to them his eternal presence. 

Jesus walked along the Emmaus road simultaneously concealing his physical presence and revealing his presence throughout the scripture. He made himself unrecognizable to them on the road so that he could make himself recognizable to them in the Torah. He hid his face from their eyes but burned his features within their hearts. The couple confessed to each other later, “Were not our hearts burning within us?” 

This same Jesus is with us. He sidles up to us and asks, “What are you discussing? What things weigh you down? What are you grieving?”

As we trudge along a path of grief may we listen to his Spirit. He will reveal to us the joy of his presence. 
His presence with us can make our hearts burn, even when they are weighed down with grief.
His love can make us run back, through the darkness of night, to tell others that light and joy have come.

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
Jesus taught us, saying: “The Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me; I lay it down of my own free will, and as I have power to lay it down, so I have power to take it up again; and this is the command I have received from my Father.” — John 10.17-18

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


Today’s Readings
1 Samuel 16 (Listen – 3:45)
Romans 14 (Listen – 3:28)

Read More about Readers’ Choice 2021
Have we heard from you yet? Tell us about posts from the past year (September 2020 – July 2021) that have helped you in your faith.
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Read more about In the Face of Grief
The resurrected Christ seems to have a special preference for appearing to the grieving. Why then do we seem to assume that this stopped when he ascended?

Apocalypse, How? — Editor’s Choice

Readers’ Choice Month:
In August, The Park Forum looks back on our 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 is an “Editor’s Choice” originally published, September 8, 2020, based on readings from Ezekiel 11.
It was selected by John Tillman
“Connecting apocalyptic fiction to the true meaning of apocalypse in scripture has long been something I wanted to write about. For decades, I have enjoyed apocalyptic-style fiction and recognized that it revealed things about our culture. We see this by watching the same “monster” come to us dressed in different fears and sins as our culture changes. For example, early zombie stories had supernatural causes and showed our fear of spiritual forces, now zombie stories are connected to fears of genetic manipulation or other types of technology and the “sins” of society or corporations that pursue them. As a society and as individuals, we never stop needing to have our sins and fears revealed to us so that we may confess them to our God. Rather than our greatest fear, ‘apocalypse’ may be our greatest need.”

Scripture Focus: Ezekiel 11.13
Then I fell facedown and cried out in a loud voice, “Alas, Sovereign LORD! Will you completely destroy the remnant of Israel?” 

Reflection: Apocalypse, How? — Editor’s Choice
By John Tillman

Today, we think of an “apocalypse” as a kind of ending event, involving widespread destruction, suffering, and death. 

Apocalypses come in different flavors from zombies to aliens, from resurrected dinosaurs to natural disasters. Some of our apocalyptic tastes can be quite bizarre. Who would have guessed in 2013 that by 2020 there would be five sequels to Sharknado?

The popularity of “apocalypse” in entertainment has even spawned industries supporting “preppers” who stock up on guns, ammo, food, supplies, or whatever they may need for various kinds of apocalyptic scenarios.

We have apocalypses all wrong.

The Greek word, apocalypsis, does not mean destruction or the end of anything, much less “zombies.” Apocalypsis means unveiling or revealing, and it is the Greek title of the book we call “Revelation.” But the book called Apocalypsis or Revelation isn’t the only apocalyptic part of the Bible. There are many books, poems, writings, and stories that are considered “apocalyptic” in nature. Some “apocalypses” are violent, some are not.

Jesus told his disciples that he would “apocalypse” the father to them, meaning that he would reveal to them God the Father. In fact, Jesus’ entire ministry could be described as one long, loving apocalypse, revealing to us what God is like. “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father…” (John 14.9)

When we read an “apocalyptic” passage in the Bible, we need to remember that something is being revealed or exposed.

In Ezekiel’s vision, the suffering he witnessed caused him to fall to his knees and cry out, fearing that all would be destroyed. This is often our fear as well, which is revealed in our fictional apocalypses. Name your fear and there’s an apocalypse flavor catering to it. We fear the breakdown of society and human nature? Hollywood gives us zombies. We fear destruction caused by irresponsible science or business? Hollywood gives us Jurassic Park. Our “apocalypses” are revealing after all. They reveal things about us.

Ezekiel did not fully understand the depth of Judah’s sin until he saw the horrifying visions he records. Many times, it takes a moment of horror for us to be forced to confront our own sin. Our sin will be “apocalypsed” to us. But how?

What sin have you glossed over or covered that God might “apocalypse” to you?
What spiritual “prepping” have you done that might aid you?
Are you ready for an apocalypse?

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
In the due course John the Baptist appeared; he proclaimed this message in the desert of Judea: “Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is close at hand. “ — Matthew 3.1-2

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

Today’s Readings
1 Samuel 12 (Listen – 4:19)
Romans 10 (Listen – 3:21)

This Weekend’s Readings
1 Samuel 13 (Listen – 3:54), Romans 11 (Listen – 5:23)
1 Samuel 14 (Listen – 9:01), Romans 12 (Listen – 2:58)

Read More about Readers’ Choice 2021
Have we heard from you yet? Tell us about posts from the past year (September 2020 – July 2021) that have helped you in your faith.

https://forms.gle/ozM13qvW9ouSWhJS7

Read more about Prepare for the End
Whenever and however “the end” comes, we can be soberly prepared, watchfully vigilant, and unwaveringly hopeful.

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