Different Kind of Exile

Scripture Focus: 
1 Peter 2.15-17
For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.

From John: This repost from 2018 cannot be more applicable. Too many of us are ignorantly using our “freedom” to cover up our evil selfish desires in the midst of this COVID-19 response.

Reflection: Different Kind of Exile
By John Tillman

In 1 Peter 2, we see that the scattered exiles from Jerusalem must live in submission to masters, whether harsh or kind. Their lives—their good deeds—are literally the arguments they are to defend themselves with.

In Isaiah, we see a different message to the soon to be exiled. It is a taunt for their enemies to be used in the distant future after the current hearers are long dead and a future generation is restored.

But as Christians go into exile in the rising anti-Christian culture, we don’t seem to be willing to serve our oppressors in love. We want to taunt them now, not later.

As the exiled people of God, Peter tells us to silence the ignorant not by shouting them down, but through service, respect, love, and honor.

Peter encourages his exiles not to allow the oppression and suffering they are going through to be something that crushes their faith. Instead they are to allow the weight of their suffering to press them deeper into the footprints of Jesus Christ who has walked the path of suffering before us.

Living as outcasts in society has nearly always brought healing to the church through suffering. The historical church that suffers, tightens its grasp of the gospel as it loses worldly influence and power. The church that suffers scatters, spreading the gospel to new areas and communicating it in new ways. The church that is oppressed, attacked, sidelined, and shunned, is shunted back onto the narrow path of obedience to Christ.

Peter’s words about living in a pagan society have always been applicable, but they seem especially appropriate to our times. Most people who don’t accept Christianity aren’t concerned with our theology. They are concerned by our actions.

They need to see the argument of our actions line up with our words, and they need to see the integrity with which we suffer.

In this world, we are cast out. In the renewed world we will be brought in. May that day come soon. And may we bring many following behind us.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Righteousness shall go before him, and peace shall be a pathway for his feet. — Psalm 85.13

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

Today’s Readings
Isaiah 14 (Listen – 5:04) 
1 Peter 2 (Listen – 3:48)

This Weekend’s Readings
Isaiah 15 (Listen – 1:34), 1 Peter 3 (Listen – 3:30)
Isaiah 16 (Listen – 2:32), 1 Peter 4 (Listen – 2:50)

Read more about The Mingled Prayers of Exiles
We abandon hope in princes, kings, or human power, taking refuge only in you, Lord. (Psalm 118.1-9)

Read more about In Denial in Exile
The elders of Israel…were continually in denial about their judgment and exile.


Wrongly Placed Fear

Scripture Focus: 1 Peter 1.17
Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear.

Reflection: Wrongly Placed Fear
By John Tillman

Christians have been taught that we are “living out our time as foreigners.” But in western culture, that was built on Christianity, it has been too easy to forget and too easy to feel at home right here in the world. But for the first time, some Christians are beginning to feel unwelcome.

This cannot be called persecution. It is at worst a loss of status.

Persecution of Christians around the world is more than murder, rape, and torture. In the countries in which Christians suffer the most, persecution is social and systemic.

It is this type of persecution—a systemic loss of legal rights and status—that scares Christians in the west more than facing down a knife attack, a rampaging truck, or a bullet.

This fear has made American Christians a paranoid and unpredictable group. Liable to believe fake news, liable to vote for candidates and support policies that two decades ago would have been inconceivable, and liable to turn on each other.

Nothing demonstrates our paranoia better than the increasingly divisive nature of religious dialogue. Progressive Christians blame conservative Christians for being dogmatic and mean-spirited. Conservatives blame progressives for abandoning central Christian teachings.

This is how people act when they are living in fear. But this is not the reverent fear of the Lord that Peter speaks of. That reverence is born out of love and leads to loving one another deeply, from the heart.

We live in fear that the Lord will let us suffer rather than rejoicing in that suffering as Peter instructs. We are living in fear that soon we will be considered the extremists—cast out from society.

The believers Peter was writing to were the losers and outcasts. They had literally been scattered from their homeland and cast out to the margins.

Christian thought has always been extremist thought. It is a revolutionary rejection of the world’s power structure. Jesus was crucified for extremist thought. It was Christian extremist thought that brought down slavery.

We need not fear being marginalized if we properly fear God. Christianity has done much of its best work from the margins.

It was from the margins that first-century Christians won more than converts, they won the culture. Not by winning court cases or electing the right officials, but by demonstrating the extremity of God’s love that comes from the Gospel.

May God give us grace to follow their example.

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

Today’s Readings
Isaiah 13 (Listen – 3:11) 
1 Peter 1 (Listen 3:53)

Read more about Where Martyrdom Begins Part 1
We are commanded to take up our cross daily, not finally. It is in the so-called small, everyday sacrifices that we give our lives for each other. 

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.


A Thanksgiving

Scripture Focus: 1 Peter 4.12-14
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 

From John:
This week is Thanksgiving week in the United States. As we focus on giving thanks, we will look at ancient and modern poetry, writings, and prayers, offering praise and thankfulness to our God.

Reflection: A Thanksgiving
By John Henry Newman (1801-1890)

Lord, in this dust Thy sovereign voice
First quicken’d love divine;
I am all Thine—Thy care and choice,
My very praise is Thine.

I praise Thee, while Thy providence
In childhood frail I trace,
For blessings given, ere dawning sense
Could seek of scan Thy grace;

Blessings in boyhood’s marvelling hour,
      Bright dreams, and fancyings strange;
Blessings, when reason’s awful power
      Gave thought a bolder range;
 
Blessings of friends, which to my door
      Unask’d, unhoped, have come;
And, choicer still, a countless store
      Of eager smiles at home.

Yet, Lord, in memory’s fondest place
I shrine those seasons sad
When, looking up, I saw Thy face
In kind austereness clad

I would not miss one sigh or tear,
      Heart-pang, or throbbing brow;
Sweet was the chastisement severe,
      And sweet its memory now.
 
Yes! let the fragrant scars abide,
      Love-tokens in Thy stead,
Faint shadows of the spear-pierced side
      And thorn-encompass’d head.

And such Thy tender force be still,
When self would swerve or stray,
Shaping to truth the froward will
Along Thy narrow way.

Deny me wealth, fear, far remove
The love of power or name;
Hope thrives in straits, in weakness love,
And faith in the world’s shame.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Taste and see that the Lord is good; happy are they who trust in him! — Psalm 34:8

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
1 Chronicles 23 (Listen -4:20), 
1 Peter 4 (Listen -2:50)

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 King of My Heart :: Worldwide Prayer
God of all gods
I tried, you died
King of them all
Stand by my side

Read more about Breath, Reconsidered
We are like a breath, we are a beginning
We are like a breath the first sign of life

How Must We In All Things Give Thanks?

Scripture Focus: 1 Peter 3.17-18
For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. 

From John:
This week is Thanksgiving week in the United States. As we focus on giving thanks, we will look at ancient and modern poetry, writings, and prayers, offering praise and thankfulness to our God.

Reflection: How Must We In All Things Give Thanks?
By William Cooper (fl. 1653)

St. Augustine inaugurated that ancient custom among Christians, in whose mouths you should always hear these words: Deo gratias, “Thanks be to God!” When they met and saluted one another, Deo gratias, “God be thanked.” When they heard any tidings of persecution or protection, favor or frown, gain or loss, cross or comfort — still Deo gratias.

“What,” said Augustine, “shall brothers in Christ not give God thanks when they see one another? What better thing can we speak, or think, or write, than this? God be thanked! Nothing can be more compendiously spoken, nor more gladly heard, nor more solemnly understood, nor more profitably acted, than this; God be thanked!”

Such a frame of heart had holy Job: “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

And such a one was in the sweet singer of Israel: “I will bless the Lord at all times.” Notable is that of Chrysostom: “There is nothing, nothing we can study, more pleasing to God than to be thankful — not only in good days, but also when things fall cross. This is the best sacrifice and oblation we offer God.”

This made Jerome say, “It is peculiar to Christians to give thanks in adversity. To praise God for benefits, this [anyone] can do. To give God thanks in dangers according to the apostle’s sense, and in miseries — to always to say, ‘Blessed be God’ — this is the highest pitch of virtue. Here is your Christian; such a one takes up his cross, and follows his Savior: no loss or cross can dishearten him.”

To give God thanks for crosses and afflictions is to be numbered among those singular things which Christians are bound to excel in. We ought excel beyond [those who do not believe] in loving our enemies and blessing those that curse — which our Savior exhorts and commands.

We must thank the Lord for afflicting us, and for laying the cross upon us, because it is so far below what we deserve at his hands. To drink as He drank it we cannot — we need not. Thank God, then, that you have such a little share of it — when all was your portion by right and justice. This is worthy of our thanks.

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 Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
1 Chronicles 22 (Listen -5:21), 
1 Peter 3 (Listen -3:30)

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 Collective Thanksgiving
May we use this week to engage our communities—church, work, and home—in thanksgiving for what God is doing in and through us.

Read more about Seeing Beyond Suffering
To be conformists to Christ, is to be nonconformists to the world. But what conforms us more to Christ than the cross? Therefore give thanks for it

Te Deum Laudamus

Scripture Focus: 1 Peter 2.24-25
“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

From John:
This week is Thanksgiving week in the United States. As we focus on giving thanks, we will look at ancient and modern poetry, writings, and prayers, offering praise and thankfulness to our God.

Reflection: Te Deum Laudamus
By Nicetas of Remesiana (5th Century)
Translated by John Dryden (1631–1700)

Thee, Sovereign God, our grateful accents praise;
We own Thee Lord, and bless Thy wondrous ways;
To Thee, eternal Father, earth’s whole frame,
With loudest trumpets sounds immortal fame.

Lord God of Hosts! For Thee the heavenly powers
With sounding anthems fill the vaulted towers.
Thy Cherubim thrice, Holy, Holy, Holy, cry;
Thrice, Holy, all the Seraphim reply,

And thrice returning echoes endless songs supply.
Both heaven and earth Thy majesty display;
They owe their beauty to Thy glorious ray.
Thy praises fill the loud Apostles’ choir;
The train of prophets in the song conspire.

Legions of martyrs in the chorus shine,
And vocal blood with vocal music join.
By these Thy church, inspired by heavenly art,
Around the world maintains a second part;
And turns her sweetest notes, O God, to Thee,
The Father of unbounded majesty;
The Son adored co-partner of thy seat,
And equal everlasting Paraclete.

Thou King of Glory, Christ of the More-High,
Thou co-eternal filial Deity;
Thou who to save the world’s impending doom
Vouchsaf’st to dwell within a Virgin’s womb.

Old tyrant death disarmed, before Thee flew
The bolts of heaven, and back the foldings drew,
To give access, and make Thy faithful way,
From God’s right hand Thy filial beams display.
Thou art to judge the living and the dead;
Then spare those souls for whom Thy veins have bled.
O take us up among Thy blessed above,
To share with them Thy everlasting love.

Preserve, O Lord, Thy people and enhance
Thy blessing on Thine own inheritance.
Forever raise their hearts, and rule their ways
Each day we bless Thee and proclaim Thy praise;
No age shall fail to celebrate thy name,
No hour neglect Thy everlasting fame.

Preserve our souls, O Lord, this day from ill;
Have mercy, Lord, have mercy still;
As we have hoped, do Thou reward our pain;
We’ve hoped in Thee—let not our hope be vain.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Be my strong rock, a castle to keep me safe, for you are my crag and my stronghold; for the sake of your name, lead me and guide me. —- Psalm 31.3

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
1 Chronicles 21 (Listen -5:03) 
1 Peter 2 (Listen -3:48)

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 Thanksgiving and Prayer
With one voice we offer you praise and thanksgiving; full-hearted, full-throated we sing you the hymn you have right to at this hour.

Read more about Thanksgiving in Times of Trial
The first Christians were thankful in suffering because their focus rested not on the storm around them, but on the solid rock of Christ.

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