From Privilege to Prisoner to Priest

Scripture Focus: Ephesians 4:1-2

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

Many churches in the United States celebrate the Feast of St Francis of Assisi on October 4 each year. The feast commemorates the life of St Francis, who was born in the 12th century. Jon provides us an excellent reflection on today’s reading in Ephesians drawn from events of Francis’s life.

Reflection: From Privilege to Prisoner to Priest
By Jon Polk

St. Francis of Assisi is generally known for his peaceful disposition and love for animals and nature. The Prayer of St. Francis (authorship uncertain, but often attributed to Francis) begins…

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.

However, this devoted follower of Christ, widely regarded for his vow of poverty, did not begin life in a humble way. Francis was born in Italy around 1181 to a wealthy cloth merchant and his beautiful French wife. By age 14, Francis, spoiled by luxury, dropped out of school and gained a reputation as a rebellious teen, known for drinking, partying, and vanity.

His privileged upbringing afforded him training in archery and horsemanship and when war broke out in 1202, he joined the cavalry. Having no combat experience, Francis was easily captured by opposing forces and imprisoned for a year before ransom was negotiated.

But during his time as a prisoner of war, Francis began to receive visions from God and arrived home a changed man. He turned his heart towards God and spent time in prayer, seeking direction.

Eventually, he felt the call of Christ to serve the Church and to live a life of extreme poverty—fully devoted to Christianity. He is considered by many to be one of the purest examples of living the Christian life, other than Jesus himself.

Certainly, Francis embodies Paul’s encouragement to the Ephesians to “live a life worthy of the calling you have received” and to “be completely humble and gentle.”

Francis’ deep dedication and gratitude to God is seen expressed in these excerpts from a song he composed, Canticle of the Sun. May these words guide our worship and service to Christ.

Most High, all powerful, good Lord,
Yours are the praises, the glory, the honor,
and all blessing.
To You alone, Most High, do they belong,
and no man is worthy to mention Your name.
Blessed are those who endure in peace
for by You, Most High, they shall be crowned.
Woe to those who die in mortal sin.
Blessed are those whom death will
find in Your most holy will,
for the second death shall do them no harm.
Praise and bless my Lord,
and give Him thanks
and serve Him with great humility.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Come now and see the works of God, how wonderful he is in his doing toward all people. — Psalm 66.5

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

Today’s Readings
1 Kings 7 (Listen – 7:47)
Ephesians 4 (Listen – 3:58)

This Weekend’s Readings
1 Kings 8 (Listen – 10:23) Ephesians 5 (Listen – 3:42)
1 Kings 9 (Listen – 4:16) Ephesians 6 (Listen – 3:17)

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 Paul’s Prayer for the Power of Faith
Give us service to perform.
Give us needs to meet.
Give us debts to cancel.
Give us trouble for which you are the only answer.

https://theparkforum.org/843-acres/pauls-prayer-for-the-power-of-faith/

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Read more about How to Know When to Give
As the Corinthians’ generosity caused Paul to celebrate, may our generosity bring joy and refreshment to those doing good in the world.

Paul’s Prayer for the Power of Faith

Scripture Focus: Ephesians 3.16
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being

Reflection: Paul’s Prayer for the Power of Faith
By John Tillman

Paul does not presume faith or spiritual power and neither can we. We also must kneel humbly, admitting our powerless state and our tendency towards unbelief. Let us pray this prayer on our own behalf and on behalf of our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world.

Prayer for the Power of Faith:

“For this reason I kneel before the Father…”

We are your children, adopted through Christ into your family.
We kneel, humbling ourselves, acknowledging our poverty, our nakedness, our need.

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being”

We do not need your power only for great deeds of faith.
We need your power for every moment and miniscule act of goodness.

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.”

We need Christ to dwell in our hearts by faith. 
It is not that we do not have faith, Lord.
We do not lack belief. But we struggle with putting our faith in other things.
We are full of self-belief. We believe in our wealth. Our faith is in stockpiling resources. Our faith is in our human wisdom. 
Empty us of these beliefs.
Fill us with true faith in you alone.

“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

Fill us with the Spirit as Jesus prayed.
May we fulfill the words of Christ when he said that we would do greater things than he did.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine…

Our imaginations are sinful, Lord. Do immeasurably more than we can imagine.
Do immeasurably more than give us wealth. 
Do immeasurably more than give us power. 
Do immeasurably more than give us honor.
Give us service to perform.
Give us needs to meet.
Give us debts to cancel.
Give us trouble for which you are the only answer.

“…according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.”

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. — Matthew 5.6

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

Today’s Readings
1 Kings 6 (Listen – 4:30)
Ephesians 3 (Listen – 2:41)

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 His Blessings, Our Curse :: A Guided Prayer
May we hear in God’s Word, always the tender love of our father who wants blessings for us.

Read more about The Miracle of Faith
Jesus’ greatest miracles were helping the faithless to believe again, helping the cynical to trust again, helping the hardened to love again.

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.

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