The Necessity of The Spirit

Acts 7.55
But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.

Reflection: The Necessity of The Spirit 
By John Tillman

We look ahead today reflecting on our readings for tomorrow and two extraordinarily different outcomes for two men led by the same Spirit…

Many times in Judges, the Israelites rebelled over the course of one generation and from the next generation a Judge would rise up to save them. But not the first Judge, Othniel. He had been there the whole time.

Othniel was already a great hero of Israel. He had every advantage and privilege available to him at that time. He was wealthy from his military conquests. He was part of an influential family. He was a seasoned military leader. He had a strong spiritual heritage, being from the family of Caleb, a mighty hero of faith. But despite this, Israel suffered and Othniel could not save them. Until God’s Spirit came on him.

Othniel was a great leader and a great warrior. But it was the Spirit of God, not Othniel or his skills that saved Israel. In Othniel’s day, the Spirit of The Lord coming on a leader was a rare, miraculous event. But in our case the miracle has already occurred. The main thing keeping us from accessing the Holy Spirit is…us.

Jesus promised the Holy Spirit and told the disciples that it is to our benefit that he leave and the Spirit come. But the benefit may not be something that looks like victory to the world. In Acts, we read of Stephen, who was filled with the Spirit and spoke with power. We like that part. Then he was stoned to death.

Othniel and Stephen are two men touched and led by the Spirit of God to very different outcomes. From the world’s point of view, one was a victor and one a victim. In many ways, the Kingdom perspective of their situations is the reverse.

Othniel seems to have won a great victory and Stephen seem to have lost everything, until you keep reading. 40 years later, Israel is back in the same predicament, tragically repeating the same mistakes over and over. But 40 years after Stephen’s death, the church he died for was spread across the known world by one of the very men who helped put him to death.

We need the Spirit in our lives not because our skills, our wealth, and our influence cannot accomplish things of significance, but because what is truly significant is often hidden, like a treasure buried in a field, and we must follow the Spirit, forsaking all else to find it.

Prayer: The Greeting
O Lord, I cry to you for help; in the morning my prayer comes before you. — Psalm 88.14

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

Today’s Readings
Judges 2 (Listen – 3:19)
Acts 6 (Listen – 2:35)

Today’s Readings
Judges 3 (Listen – 4:30), Acts 7 (Listen – 8:49)
Judges 4 (Listen – 3:57), Acts 8 (Listen – 5:10)

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. 

Readers’ Choice Submissions

It is once again time for us to seek out the voices of our readers and hear from you about posts from the past eleven months that have challenged and comforted you and helped you find new meaning in the scriptures.

Readers’ Choice posts will be republished during the month of August and periodically throughout the Fall.

Follow the link to fill out the form. Feel free to fill out the form multiple times for multiple submissions. Please limit your submissions to posts published this calendar year, between September of 2018 and today.

For any questions about The Park Forum, or to make suggestions of posts via email, contact John Tillman at john@theparkforum.org

Why Do We Need the Leading of the Spirit?
The leading of the Spirit—O, how highly necessary is it! Who can be without it?

Read more about Spiritual Practice as EDC
The daily practices of prayer, reading the scriptures, meditation are tools that can connect us powerfully to the Holy Spirit, help us define who and whose we are, and allow us to walk with the confidence of our secure identity in Christ.

The Church of Acts

Acts 5.38-39
Keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. 

Reflection: The Church of Acts
By John Tillman

Everyone loves a good start-up story. The work of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs working away in their garages is enshrined in the Disney attraction, Spaceship Earth at EPCOT, as a key moment in the history of humanity’s advancement. 

But the most unlikely of start-up stories, is recorded in Acts. Christianity entered a marketplace of religious ideas that was glutted with more attractive, easy to follow religions that stroked the deepest lusts of humanity’s urges. 

The hostile empire of Rome was very protective of its state religion. Christianity had no political backing. No cultural influencers. 

In a sermon, Timothy Keller asked how Christianity “not only forced the most powerful state in the history of the world to come to terms with it, but even was able to outlive and survive the complete destruction of the very civilization and government that sought to destroy it?”

There’s not an investor that would have given the early church a dime. Nothing accounts for the speed and scale at which Christianity spread.

Gamaliel, of the Sanhedrin, wisely saw that the young group of untrained men had little chance of success short of the miraculous intervention of God. His policy of non-interference did not seem to win out, however. A few short chapters later, Stephen will be stoned by this same group and Gamaliel’s own student, Saul would become a scourge to the community of Christians.

Yale historian Kenneth Scott Latourette, in his seven-volume series, A History of the Expansion of Christianity, concludes:

“It is clear that at the very beginning of Christianity, there must have occurred a vast release of energy, unequalled in the history of the race. Without it, the future course of the faith is inexplicable… Something happened to the men who associated with Jesus. That burst of energy was ascribed by the early disciples to the founder of their faith. Why this occurred may lie outside the realms in which historians are supposed to move.”

Acts is not a step-by-step program to cut-and-paste into modernity. It isn’t a start-up handbook. The growth of the early church was and remains inexplicable. But it is no flash-in-the-pan start-up. The light of the world cannot be hidden under our bushels of greed—at least not for long.

The clue Luke gives us is in the title—Acts. They will know we are Christians by our love. By our actions. Let us be found working when he comes.

Prayer: A Reading
Jesus taught us, saying: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that bears no fruit he cuts away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes to make it bear even more. You are pruned already, by means of the word that I have spoken to you.” — John 15.1-3

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

Today’s Readings
Judges 1 (Listen – 6:49)
Acts 5 (Listen – 5:08)

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. 

Readers’ Choice Submissions

It is once again time for us to seek out the voices of our readers and hear from you about posts from the past eleven months that have challenged and comforted you and helped you find new meaning in the scriptures.

Readers’ Choice posts will be republished during the month of August and periodically throughout the Fall.

Follow the link to fill out the form. Feel free to fill out the form multiple times for multiple submissions. Please limit your submissions to posts published this calendar year, between September of 2018 and today.

For any questions about The Park Forum, or to make suggestions of posts via email, contact John Tillman at john@theparkforum.org

Read more about Jesus with Axe and Fire
May he baptize us in fire, making of us a light for the world and a spark to ignite God’s love in our communities.

Read more about Names of Christ—Vine, Resurrection, and Door
Do the pleasures of the world seduce you? Turn all the more to the Cross of Christ to find solace in the sweetness of the vine that clustered there.

Whole Life Generosity

Acts 4.32
All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.

Reflection: Whole Life Generosity
By John Tillman

Christian generosity is not merely passively giving a portion of our income as if we were being taxed by a government. Taxes push off our responsibility for others to an impersonal agency of government. Like Scrooge, we pay our taxes, pretending that it is our sole obligation. 

If we treat Christian generosity in this manner, we rob it of any spiritual power. No wonder we feel powerless. 

Francis Schaeffer rejects this concept, emphasizing that Christian generosity is not giving partially, but is a matter of sharing one’s whole life, irrevocably:

“In the Old Testament, the whole of life and culture was based upon the relationship of the people of God first to God and then to each other. It was not just a religious life, but the whole culture. It was a total cultural relationship, and through the New Testament no longer sees the people of God as a state, nevertheless there is still an emphasis upon the fact that the whole culture and way of life is involved in the vital diversity of love and communication. There is to be no platonic dichotomy between the “spiritual” and other things of life. Indeed, we read in Acts 4:31, 32: 

After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.

The Bible makes plain here that this is not a communism of law or external pressure. In fact, Peter, speaking to Ananias about his property, stressed: “While it remaineth was it not your own and after it was sold, was it not in thy power?” (Acts 5:4). 

This sharing is not law, but true love and true communication of the whole man to whole man, across the whole spectrum of what humanity is. The same thing happened further abroad. Gentile Christians gave money to Paul to carry to Christian Jews. Why? So that there would be a sharing of material possessions. 

This is ten thousand times removed from the dead, cold giving of most Christians. This is not a cold, impersonal act as a bare duty, but a sharing of the whole man with the whole man. True Christian giving is in love and communication across the whole framework of the interplay between whole men.”


*Excerpt from True Spirituality, by Francis A. Schaeffer.

Prayer: The Small Verse
My soul has a desire and longing for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh rejoice in the living God. — Psalm 84.1

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

Today’s Readings
Joshua 24 (Listen – 5:49)
Acts 4 (Listen – 5:15)

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 free, and ad-free, devotional content. Follow this link to join our donors with a one-time or a monthly gift. 

Readers’ Choice Submissions

It is once again time for us to seek out the voices of our readers and hear from you about posts from the past eleven months that have challenged and comforted you and helped you find new meaning in the scriptures.

Readers’ Choice posts will be republished during the month of August and periodically throughout the Fall.

Follow the link to fill out the form. Feel free to fill out the form multiple times for multiple submissions. Please limit your submissions to posts published this calendar year, between September of 2018 and today.

For any questions about The Park Forum, or to make suggestions of posts via email, contact John Tillman at john@theparkforum.org

Read more about God Shivering on Concrete
Our God humbles nations addicted to greed—including His own.

Read more about A Cry to God for the Poor from Zimbabwe
We are overwhelmed by the breadth and depth of the wasteful exploitation of your creation.

Waiting at the Beautiful Gate

Acts 3.6-8
Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God.

Reflection: Waiting at the Beautiful Gate
By John Tillman

The man Peter and John heal in this passage is a man who waited. 

We do not know the full extent of his deformity, only that he was lame from birth and that its severity was such that he had to be carried to the Temple. We know that he was over forty years old and was such a fixture at the Temple that everyone recognized him. It seems likely that he had been there for most of his life

It is possible this man was present, begging outside the Temple, during Jesus’ first visit when Christ, as a twelve-year-old stunned the teachers with his questions and answers. Not that the man would have heard the debate, being excluded from entering or worshiping at the Temple.

Doubtless, Peter and John had walked by this lame man before in the presence of Jesus. Perhaps they had not noticed the man then. Maybe they were engrossed in theological debate or maybe looking in wonder at the massive stones of the Temple that Jesus then prophesied would soon be thrown down.

Living in Jerusalem, this man certainly knew about Jesus. He may have even seen Jesus. But Jesus had passed him by.

Jesus did not “miss” this man. He left him for Peter and John. This man was waiting to be healed, not by Christ, but by his disciples—by his church.

Jesus has left his church work to do in this world. There are people left out of the kingdom. There are people injured and hurt by the religious and by the irreligious. There are men and women lamed and abandoned by the world. There are unwanted masses that yearn to be free.

They are waiting for us at the Beautiful Gate. We are their miracle. 

The suffering children? They are waiting for us.
The unwanted refugees? They are waiting for us.
The diseased and uneducated? They are waiting for us.
The condemned and shunned? They are waiting for us.

Not for the Democrats. Not for the Republicans. For the church.

Jesus didn’t give us the Holy Spirit for warm, fuzzy feelings in our sanctuaries. The Holy Spirit is given to us to heal those too scarred, scared, deformed, and broken to dare enter the sanctuary. 

When we act in healing ways through the Spirit’s power, the formerly broken will leap, run, and skip into God’s presence as the lame man leaped through the gates of the Temple, praising the name of God.

Prayer: The Small Verse
My soul has a desire and longing for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh rejoice in the living God. — Psalm 84.1

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

Today’s Readings
Joshua 23 (Listen – 2:31)
Acts 3 (Listen – 3:33

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. 

Readers’ Choice Submissions

It is once again time for us to seek out the voices of our readers and hear from you about posts from the past eleven months that have challenged and comforted you and helped you find new meaning in the scriptures.

Readers’ Choice posts will be republished during the month of August and periodically throughout the Fall.

Follow the link to fill out the form. Feel free to fill out the form multiple times for multiple submissions. Please limit your submissions to posts published this calendar year, between September of 2018 and today.

For any questions about The Park Forum, or to make suggestions of posts via email, contact John Tillman at john@theparkforum.org

Read more The Context of The Widow’s Mite
We should praise the widow’s faith, as Jesus did, but taken in context, this scripture has more to say about unscrupulous religious leaders than about generous poor people. It tells us that judgment is coming on leaders who take advantage of the poor.

Read more about Take Up Your Mat
When we take up our mat and walk, we are just beginning to follow him in faith. Pick up your mat and walk. Then take up your cross and follow him.

Too Much to Hold

Acts 2.24
But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.

Reflection: Too Much to Hold
By John Tillman

Jesus is more than death can hold. It tried. Death can hold worlds, countries, massive unnumbered masses. But Christ could not be contained or held back. It was his purpose to defeat death, the last enemy, and to bring forth in freedom death’s hostages, and restore back to us what the great monster has taken.

Death for the Christian is similar to death for Christ. It is painful. It is the worst of suffering imaginable. It is unjust. It is to be mourned. It is to be wept for.

But it is not permanent.

Even a “good death,” the kind we wish for because we would prefer not to face death’s reality, is an event of great sorrow and injustice. Death is not truly softened by its circumstances. He is still a thief, our enemy. But for the Christian, there is one who comes to reclaim and restore what is stolen. 

Too Much To Hold
In Adam, we are sold and chained
To sin and death were given
Our bodies made to walk with God
Betray us and decay, short of Heaven

More than victims of this crime
But perpetrators too
The sin of Adam in our line
We aptly join his queue

Sin is the sting of death’s attack
The poison in his bite
It paralyzes, terrorizes,
As we sink beyond the light

Like Jonah sunk, beneath the earth
A dark and hopeless pit
Into that pit our savior slides
His mission to open it

Death’s jaws, snake-like, can swallow worlds
But cannot contain their maker
Christ is too sweet to see decay
The monster gets no supper

In Christ, we are made to be like him
Too much for Death to hold
Grasped by him a moment
But he cannot hold our souls

Our defeated flesh will be restored
It will not stay enslaved
Transformed and made eternal
Not abandoned in the grave

Adam sold his unborn kin to death
Turned creation over to sin
Second Adam brings the children back
Eve’s seed, crushing death, freedom wins

Prayer: The Morning Psalm
For with you is the well of life, and in your light we see light. — Psalm 36.9

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

Today’s Readings
Joshua 22 (Listen – 6:16)
Acts 2 (Listen – 6:35

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. 

Readers’ Choice Submissions

It is once again time for us to seek out the voices of our readers and hear from you about posts from the past eleven months that have challenged and comforted you and helped you find new meaning in the scriptures.

Readers’ Choice posts will be republished during the month of August and periodically throughout the Fall.

Follow the link to fill out the form. Feel free to fill out the form multiple times for multiple submissions. Please limit your submissions to posts published this calendar year, between September of 2018 and today.

For any questions about The Park Forum, or to make suggestions of posts via email, contact John Tillman at john@theparkforum.org

Read more about Stealing Death’s Sting
God is glorified through Christ’s sacrifice. Sin is defeated by his death, and death is defeated in his resurrection. Christ conquers sin, stealing death’s sting and the grave’s victory.

Read more about He Stoops to Raise
He sinks, He digs, He slides, Prostrates. Below our sin…Below Hell’s gates
And then he lifts…

Spur a spiritual rhythm of refreshment right in your inbox
By joining this email list you are giving us permission to send you devotional emails each weekday and to communicate occasionally regarding other aspects of the ministry.
100% Privacy. We don't spam.