Be Yoked to Christ, Not Politics

Scripture Focus: 2 Corinthians 6.14-16
What do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God.

Reflection: Be Yoked to Christ, Not Politics
By John Tillman

As American culture becomes less Christian, both of our political parties have become less Christian. It is increasingly difficult to defend being yoked to either the Republican or Democratic party while also being yoked with Christ. What fellowship can light have with darkness? 

Christians don’t have to bemoan feeling politically exiled and homeless. Caesar’s representatives say to us, “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?” Christians must recognize that this is a deception and our kingdom is from another place. 

Voting in elections is only one form of political expression. As Christians, an important element of our political expression is how we care for the “polis,” the people. We vote with Christ’s hands and feet as we serve and care for image-bearers of God. What does this look like?

It would be a strikingly Christ-like thing if the powerful, no matter their political affiliation, came to know Christians as people who always seem to be standing in their way, defending the powerless. 

When governments try to starve people out, Christians move in to feed them. 
When “health care” experts champion abortion as a “solution” to having disabled children, Christians seek to adopt and care for these children. 
When governments put children in cages and separate them from their parents, Christians work to reunite them and to provide for their needs.
When disasters strike, natural or otherwise, Christians are the first ones in to help and the last to leave.
When others respond with fear and hatred towards immigrants and strangers, Christians welcome and serve them.

These actions (which are real and occurring today) are true acts of worship and enact the gospel in front of a watching world. 

Christians who care about the whole Bible must care about the whole of humanity. Every image-bearer of God, not just the white ones and not just the brown ones, and not just the unborn ones, and not just the immigrant ones should find in Christ’s church a compassionate helper. If we neglect or threaten one of these groups, then we are neglecting and abandoning part of the Bible’s teaching.

May no party or human leader be permitted to yoke us or Christ’s church to their cause.
May the only yoke we take on, be the yoke of Christ, in service to others.
May politicians know us by the people we help, not by the people we hate.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Morning Psalm
Sing to God, sing praises to his Name; exalt him who rides upon the heavens; Yahweh is his Name, rejoice before him!
Father of orphans, defender of widows, God in his holy habitation! — Psalm 68.4-5

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

Today’s Readings
2 Samuel 13 (Listen – 6:39)
2 Corinthians 6 (Listen – 2:31)

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 Resisting Herods
Herods offer influence with Rome. These men are masters at “influence.” But neither Jesus nor Paul exploited it.

Read more about Balaams and Balaks :: Readers’ Choice
Modern Balaams do their best to put words in God’s mouth that are pleasing to the powerful.

Let’s Take a Walk

Scripture Focus: 2 Corinthians 5.6-7
Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.

Reflection: Let’s Take a Walk
By Jon Polk

The classic KJV translation of 2 Corinthians 5:7 is frequently quoted, cross-stitched and memorized: “For we walk by faith, not by sight.”

Jews used this word walk as an idiom relating to how you live your life. We utilize a similar idea when we talk about our “Christian walk” or our “walk with God.” Our lives ought to be dependent on our faith, not on what we can see or comprehend.

Contrary to the popular phrase, faith is not about taking a “blind leap” but rather making steps towards God, following the path he lays out before us. Paul refers to confidence twice in this passage, implying that faith is not blind hope but is grounded in our trust in God.

Faith is confident movement towards the path that God has ahead for us. We may not see the path, but we have faith that the path exists. We may not see beyond the first step, but we take the first step in faith. We may not see all the reasons behind what God is calling us to do, but we have faith that he leads us as he does for a purpose.

On his first journey to China, the great British missionary Hudson Taylor traveled aboard a sailing vessel. As the ship neared the coast of New Guinea, the winds died out for a number of weeks. The ship began to drift dangerously towards the shore, at risk of running aground on the coral reefs leaving the crew to the mercy of the natives rumored to be cannibals.

The captain came to Taylor in desperation, asking him to pray for God to send wind. So Taylor and a few other men began to pray for a breeze. As they prayed, he went up on deck and asked the second mate to ready the mainsail. Initially, the mate resisted, not wanting to appear foolish in front of the crew, but Taylor insisted and he finally agreed. In the ensuing moments, a strong wind indeed came upon the ship and sailors scrambled all over the deck as the wind kicked in.

When you raise the sails in your life before you can even see the wind, you’re walking by faith.

So go take a walk. Not a walk based on what we can see in this earthly life but a walk by faith into the adventurous life God has for us.

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
Jesus taught the crowds, saying: “The light will be with you only a little longer now. Go on your way while you have the light, or darkness will overtake you, and nobody who walks in the dark knows where he is going. While you still have the light, believe in the light so that you may become the children of light.” Having said this, Jesus left them and was hidden from their sight. — John 12.35-36

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

Today’s Readings
2 Samuel 16 (Listen – 4:03)
2 Corinthians 5 (Listen – 3:14)

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 from Jon Polk: Faith of the Flawed
The purpose of this passage is to demonstrate how ordinary people overcame difficult situations through their faith in God.

Read more about Light for the Next Step :: Readers’ Choice
God’s word, most of the time, provides one-step-at-a-time light. A lamp for our feet forces us to engage with where we are, not look only at distant destinations.

A Christian Response to Offense

Scripture Focus:  2 Corinthians 2.7-8
Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him.

Reflection: A Christian Response to Offense
By John Tillman

There is nothing in the Christian faith more strangely counter-cultural, and more practically difficult to live out, than how the New Testament instructs us to deal with offenses and with offenders. 

In today’s culture, the concept of free-speech has been weighed, it has been tested, and it has been found wanting. Words, ideas, beliefs, and pronouns can all cause great offense in today’s dialogue. 

Our culture is unable to bear offense and simultaneously unable to bear forgiveness. A typical response to offenders is to block or unfriend them or to tell them to, “delete your account.” Telling someone to delete their account expresses a belief that the person does not deserve to exist on the same platform, or live in the same world, as the persons he or she offended. It is akin to wishing someone dead.

In response, some grumble about the world being “too sensitive.” These people say we need to “toughen up.” Those who, through ignorance or insensitivity, brandish words that hurt others are like the irresponsible archer of Proverbs, firing flaming arrows as a joke. When we refuse to consider others’ feelings we are burning down the world for our own amusement and ease. “Can’t they take a joke?” is not a biblical defense Christians can lean on. 

Christ did not come to make our hearts tough but tender. When Christ instructed us to turn the other cheek to offense, it was not intended as a show of toughness. Christians not only must be considerate in avoiding offense when possible, we uniquely seek to reconcile offenders as we have been reconciled to God. 

Paul instructed the Corinthians to “reinstate the account” of the offender. Paul knows what he is talking about and knows the difficulty of what he is asking us to do. Paul was an offender who went beyond unkind words. He constantly breathed out murderous threats and acted on them by falsely imprisoning families and putting Christians to death. 

Only through Christ can we bring back into fellowship those who humble themselves regarding their offenses. (Without humility, one cannot be reintegrated.)
May we soften our hearts and our words rather than harden them, avoiding avoidable offense
May the only offensive words we speak be the “foolish” and offensive message of the gospel.
May we practice responsible restoration as described by Paul*, marked by sorrow, humility, repentance, and reintegration.

*Abusive leaders are disqualified from reinstatement to positional authority, such as being pastors, elders, or deacons. But reintegration into the community, based on humility and repentance is vital.

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
Jesus taught us, saying: “Watch yourselves, or your hearts will be coarsened by debauchery and drunkenness and the cares of life, and that day will come upon you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come down on all those living on the face of the earth. Stay awake, praying at all times for the strength to survive all that is going to happen, and to hold your ground before the Son of man.” — Luke 21.34-36

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

Today’s Readings
2 Samuel 8=9 (Listen – 3:51)
2 Corinthians 2 (Listen – 2:13)

This Weekend’s Readings
2 Samuel 10 (Listen – 3:19), 2 Corinthians 3 (Listen – 2:25)
2 Samuel 11 (Listen – 4:25), 2 Corinthians 4 (Listen – 3:02)

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 Avoiding Avoidable Offense
The gospel is offensive and counter-cultural in its nature, but Paul strives to avoid avoidable offense. 

Read more about Crucified, By Nature
It is hard for us to grasp how foolish, offensive and shameful crucifixion was in the ancient world.

The House God Desires

Scripture Focus: 2 Samuel 7.12-14
I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with a rod wielded by men, with floggings inflicted by human hands.

2 Corinthians 1.20
For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.

Reflection: The House God Desires
By John Tillman

Building a “house” for God can be interpreted as an immature understanding of God. Through the prophet Isaiah, God says:

“Heaven is my throne,
    and the earth is my footstool.
Where is the house you will build for me?
    Where will my resting place be?”


However, God often bears with our immaturity and limited understandings. God accepts the immature like children and leads toward growth and maturity those who will listen. He led immature slaves across the desert. He used imperfect and flawed leaders to guide an imperfect and flawed people. 

At the time of David’s request to build a house for the Lord, God is bearing with the immaturity of a nation that refused to be led by God and yearned for a king to be placed over them. Saul was a king in their own image. He was selfish, driven by anger and jealousy, unspiritual, untruthful, and ignorant of how to follow God.

Nathan’s prophecy in response to David’s proposal to build a “house for God” is multifaceted. It touches the immediate future and our future in eternity with Christ simultaneously. The son Nathan refers to is not only Solomon, but all the kings of Israel ending ultimately with the King of Kings, Christ himself. 

Despite Israel’s weakness, God chose to show his strength in them.
Despite rebellious immaturity, God chose to set over them (and us) a better king—one in his image.
Despite childish thoughts of God needing a house, God stooped to enter Solomon’s Temple.
Despite the sinfulness of David’s line of descendants, Christ lowered himself to be born the Son of David.

It is in Christ, Paul tells us, that all of God’s promises are, “Yes” and “Amen.” We, like Israel and David, are loved and used by God despite our immaturity and are called toward growth and development of greater faith.

The house we must build for God is in our own hearts.
We build it in hope, with humility and obedience, with repentance and faith.
He stands at the door and knocks.
When we make room for God in our hearts and lives, he will enter.
And when our lives are over, we will awake in the house of God.

For Christ, the true son of David, is building the house that God desires—a house with rooms for all his children. And he has prepared a place for us.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Truly, his salvation is very near to those who fear him, that his glory may dwell in our land. — Psalm 85.9

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

Today’s Readings
2 Samuel 7 (Listen – 4:26)
2 Corinthians 1 (Listen – 3:52)

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 Slavery to Maturity
Paul describes a liberated nation of Israel who gained political freedom, yet were morally and spiritually fragile.

Read more about Christ: Temple, River, and City
Just because God’s city and temple have only been seen by visionaries and prophets, doesn’t mean they aren’t real or accessible to us today.

Fasting as a Feast

Scripture: Luke 15.23
Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate.

Reflection: Fasting as a Feast
By John Tillman

While fasting is practically a Western spiritualized industry, and industry elites use it as a body-hack to eke out more labor and profit, feasting is viewed with shame. Our cultural concept of spirituality is bent toward asceticism so much that we have a hard time accepting anything resembling a “feast” as spiritual.

Christians have a conflicted relationship with feasting, though we seem fine with most other extravagances.

Celebrating with food is almost always discussed online and in social media as either something to be guilty about or something earned through hard work in the gym or previous fasting or cleansing. In the moralist, ascetic West, we don’t have feasts. We have “cheat days.”

Feasts are prescribed as spiritual practice right alongside descriptions of fasting in the scripture. When the Israelites left Egypt, God established a yearly liturgy of feasts and fasts—times of abstinence and times of indulgence. Feasts were times of celebration and teaching, and were intended as times of thankfulness and mindfulness toward the work of God.

Even the regular sacrifices in the Tabernacle and the Temple were times of feasting. Specific offerings for sin were burned up entirely, and some offerings could only be eaten by the priests, but, after a representative sample was burned and the priest removed his portion, many offerings were eaten by the family offering them. Regulations required these sacrifices to be eaten on the day it was sacrificed. Leftovers could be eaten the next day, but anything still leftover was to be burned. Even for a large family, eating an entire bull makes for quite a feast.

No matter what level of fasting we are pursuing, a natural part of fasting should be a spiritual feast of worship.

In experiences of fasting we are not so much abstaining from food as we are feasting on the word of God. Fasting is feasting! — Richard Foster

As we observe Lent by abstaining, may we maintain a more constant connection and relationship to God through Scripture, prayer and meditation. May more frequent times of worship be feasts for our mind, our heart, and our souls.

Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Bless our God, you peoples; make the voice of his praise to be heard; Who holds our souls in life, and will not allow our feet to slip. — Psalm 66.7-8

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

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Proverbs 1 (Listen – 3:12)
2 Corinthians 13 (Listen – 2:19)

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