Work, Ministry, and Generosity

Scripture Focus: 2 Thessalonians 3.7-9
We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate.

Reflection: Work, Ministry, and Generosity
By John Tillman

Paul lived differently among different groups determined by their maturity, their cultural influences, and their spiritual need. Among some groups, he accepted and deeply relied on financial support. Among some groups, he paid his own way and worked in a secular trade in addition to serving the gospel. Paul said, “I have become all things to all people…” for the sake of the gospel.

Among the Thessalonians, Paul accepted no financial support, perhaps due to the fact that they were under greater persecution and hardship than others, or perhaps simply because he felt they needed the example of his hard labor. Paul served the Thessalonians, not only with his ministry work but with his “secular” work and using the gifts of other churches. 

The question for believers is, which church are you? Are you receiving ministry funded by others or are you supporting ministry to others in need? The answer may be “both” or the answer may change as your circumstances change.

Many ministers, especially bi-vocational ministers, feel deeply these words of Paul, “we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you.” Pray this week especially for pastors and ministers who are laboring to serve the gospel—many of them bi-vocational, working one or more secular jobs to support their ministry. Consider your level of financial support for those ministries to which you are connected.

For those who are financial supporters of their churches and other ministries, giving can be a way of bringing greater meaning to the workplace. Work of any kind is already a holy endeavor for the Christian as we are commanded to work “as unto the Lord.” But if one is donating a certain percentage of one’s income, then as one goes through the day’s work, one can prayerfully remember, as each hour passes, the percentage of that hour that is being given over to support Christ’s work in the world.

Spiritual growth always has a purpose that we become more like Christ. As believers, our generosity is just one area in which the Holy Spirit may challenge us to grow. Financially supporting ministry work connects us more closely to the work and ministry of Christ. Growing in giving causes us to be made more into the image and pattern of Christ. Generosity transforms our work into an instrument for cultivating faith—planting seeds for the spreading of the gospel of Christ. 

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Our days are like the grass; we flourish like a flower of the field; when the wind goes over it, it is gone, and its place shall know it no more. Psalm 103.15-16

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

Today’s Readings
2 Kings 3 (Listen – 4:29)
2 Thessalonians 3 (Listen -2:16)

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 How to Know When to Give
Give without question or hesitation to whomever the Spirit directs you to give.

Read more about The Context of The Widow’s Mite
The bright light of the widow’s faith shines within the darkness of hypocrisy and abuse.

The Crux of Repentance

Scripture Focus: 2 Thessalonians 2.13-14
But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as firstfruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Reflection: The Crux of Repentance

By John Tillman

We acknowledge that Jesus said “It is finished.” But still we often want to “do our part.” We are like a patron in a five star restaurant being served a dish prepared by a master chef which we then we drown in ketchup.

The unmerited favor of Christ is an acquired taste. Most of us are gauche enough to like our grace flavored with a little bit of earning it.

But, don’t we have to do… something? What about repentance? What about sanctification? What about growing more like Christ?

Where the call of the gospel, the work of Christ, our belief in him, and the first steps of our sanctification meet is the crux of repentance.

“If you believe, you must every day renounce, as dung and dross, your privileges, your obedience, your baptism, your sanctification, your duties, your graces, your tears, your meltings, your humblings, and nothing but Christ must be held up.” — Thomas Wilcox

We often are so unwilling to renounce anything. So unwilling to part with anything. So unwilling to lay down anything.

If only our repentance looked more like that of the thief on the cross. His hands are open, holding nothing. He is naked, hiding nothing. He is humble, asking nothing. He simply believes.

Our hands are full of work and achievements. Our sins we dress in the finest of intentions. Our demands are not only for Heaven in the future, but tangible blessing now. We want one pie in the sky and one on earth too.

It is important to distinguish that acts of repentance are not a precursor or a down payment that secures our forgiveness. On the contrary, the Holy Spirit—no longer behind the veil of the temple but living in us—is our down payment from Christ.

Just as Christ completed his work on the cross for us, his Holy Spirit will complete a transforming work in us, if we let him.

May we repent as the thief and allow Christ to do his work. The man lived mere hours as a believer, but look what God has done with those hours.

“If a dying Saviour saved the thief, my argument is, that he can do even more now that he liveth and reigneth. All power is given unto him in heaven and in earth; can anything at this present time surpass the power of his grace?” — Charles Haddon Spurgeon

What may the Holy Spirit do in you?

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
Show me you ways, O Lord, and teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; in you have I trusteed all the day long. — Psalm 25.3-4

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

Today’s Readings
2 Kings 2 (Listen – 4:26)
2 Thessalonians 2 (Listen -2:32)

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 More and More and Less and Less :: Guided Prayer
Sanctification and moralism both introduce change, but only one is spiritual and is powered by the gospel.

Read more about A Trinity of Neglect :: Readers’ Choice
The king expected growth in the servant. Growth of the gold would only be a side effect.

More and More and Less and Less :: Guided Prayer

Scripture Focus: ‭‭1 Thessalonians‬ ‭4.
We instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more.

Reflection: More and More and Less and Less :: Guided Prayer
By John Tillman

Paul uses the term “more and more“ twice in the fourth chapter of his letter to the Thessalonians. Both times he is pleased with where the believers are currently, yet hoping for and encouraging them toward more. 

Sanctification is easy to confuse with moralism. 

To the moralist, “more and more” means more rules and ratings.
To those being sanctified, “more and more” means fewer outward rules and more inner change.

Through sanctification, we are slowly transformed by influences beyond our selves—-the Holy Spirit’s power and the reading of God’s Word. In sanctification, we focus on change in our lives, not others.

Through moralism, we transform scriptures into affirmations of our faithfulness and condemnation of others’ sinfulness. In moralism, we focus on others lives, measuring ourselves against them instead of scripture. 

Sanctification and moralism both introduce change, but only one is spiritual and is powered by the gospel. Let us pray this prayer over the weekend that we may not be more “moral.” But that, instead, we may be more like Christ.

More and More and Less and Less
Gracious Father, we know…

We cannot do “more and more” of the things Christ calls us to without doing “less and less” of some other things.

More and more of Christ in our life means less and less of us. He must become greater and we must become less.

Give us more and less, Father… 
More of Christ’s love for others less of our love of self. 
More of Christ’s grace for others and less of our grudging forgiveness. 
More of Christ’s hatred of sin and less of our hatred of those whose sins are different than ours.
More of Christ’s Word, the Bible, and less of the algorithmic sales machines that social media has become.
More of spreading the good news of the gospel and less of spreading the worst news we can find about our enemies.

We know that we will be at our happiest, at our most fulfilled, and at our most true self when we continually surrender more and more to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

No Christian is ever perfect until perfectly conformed to Christ. Conform us, Lord.
No Christian is ever righteous without the righteousness of Christ. Make us righteous, Lord.
No Christian can say, “It is finished.” Christ came to say it for us. Finish your work in us, Lord.

Divine Hours 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 Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
1 Kings 21 (Listen – 4:19)
1 Thessalonians 4 (Listen -2:24)

This Weekend’s Readings
1 Kings 22 (Listen – 7:51), 1 Thessalonians 5 (Listen -2:37)
2 Kings 1 (Listen – 3:13),  2 Thessalonians 1 (Listen -1:52)

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 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 Christ, the True Hero
We are not the saviors, but the ones in need of saving. It is Christ, not us, who is the hero of our cities and our world.

Read more about The Law that leads to Grace :: Guided Prayer
We cannot live by the Law. If we could, then Christ’s death was for no purpose.

The Template of Compassion

Scripture: Proverbs 29.7
The righteous care about justice for the poor,
but the wicked have no such concern.

It is a great consolation for me to remember that the Lord, to whom I had drawn near in humble and child-like faith, has suffered and died for me, and that He will look on me in love and compassion. — Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Reflection: The Template of Compassion
By Matt Tullos

Compassion: When we rise above our selfishness and enter into the heartbreak of others.

Jesus hangs on the cross bearing the bleak rebellion of every age. Who can measure the weight of such a burden? Who can scan the circumference of this transaction? This obelisk of sin that outweighed the mass of Jupiter leveled itself against His weakening limbs. And then on that darkening day, He speaks to the beloved ones of his life: “Woman behold thy son. Son, behold thy mother.”

This moment of compassion seems insignificant considering the immensity of humanity that would be forever changed. Jesus was a Savior but indeed He was still somebody’s boy. We hear Him tie up the loose ends of His next of kin. These details would not escape the attention of Jesus.

We look back at the compassion of Jesus as He stood at the grave of a close friend. Those around Lazarus tomb that day observed His grief.

Jesus wept. The community said, “See how he loved him!

Jesus knew the end of the story. He would call out and Lazarus would come forth, but He stepped into the moment. He stepped into the pain. He stepped into the plaintive wails of a grief-stricken family.

What are you mourning today? He is mourning with you.

He has compassion and is making accommodations on your behalf to get through this. You’ll get through it together. We often forget that even though there are pressing issues on every continent, he still has a heart for the small.

There are kings and presidents and war on every side, but Jesus still has the capacity to know your secret wounds and weep over the tombs of your cloistered dreams. He is a God of compassion. He took care of the people He loved. When we fail to remember this, we struggle.

Jesus’ eyes aren’t solely fixed on the White House, the Vatican or the United Nations. His eyes are in the marriage counselor’s office, at the funeral of a grandfather, and under the bed of an abused child who prays for the gift of peace.

He’s there, too.

The shape of the cross is the template of compassion. In order to die on the cross your arms must be open.

God of Wonder,
King of Glory,
Grant us the courage to look beyond our own pain and enter into the pain of another.
For in this act we receive a more glorious vision of the cross of our slain Savior, Jesus Christ.
In Whose Name we pray,
Amen

*From a series Matt Tullos wrote called 39 Words. A few of these posts are available in audio form via Soundcloud. — John

Prayer: The Morning Psalm
The Lord will make good his purpose for me; O Lord, your love endures for ever; do not abandon the works of your hands. — Psalm 138.8

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

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Proverbs 29 (Listen – 2:44)
2 Thessalonians 3 (Listen – 2:16)

The Crux of Repentance

Scripture: 2 Thessalonians 2.13-14
But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as firstfruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Reflection: The Crux of Repentance
By John Tillman

We acknowledge that Jesus said “It is finished.” But still we often want to “do our part.” We are like a patron in a five star restaurant being served a dish prepared by a master chef which we then we drown in ketchup.

The unmerited favor of Christ is an acquired taste. Most of us are gauche enough to like our grace flavored with a little bit of earning it.

But, don’t we have to do… something? What about repentance? What about sanctification? What about growing more like Christ?

Where the call of the gospel, the work of Christ, our belief in him, and the first steps of our sanctification meet is the crux of repentance.

If you believe, you must every day renounce, as dung and dross, your privileges, your obedience, your baptism, your sanctification, your duties, your graces, your tears, your meltings, your humblings, and nothing but Christ must be held up. — Thomas Wilcox

We often are so unwilling to renounce anything. So unwilling to part with anything. So unwilling to lay down anything.

If only our repentance looked more like that of the thief on the cross. His hands are open, holding nothing. He is naked, hiding nothing. He is humble, asking nothing. He simply believes.

Our hands are full of work and achievements. Our sins we dress in the finest of intentions. Our demands are not only for Heaven in the future, but tangible blessing now. We want one pie in the sky and one on earth too.

It is important to distinguish that acts of repentance are not a precursor or a down payment that secures our forgiveness. On the contrary, the Holy Spirit—no longer behind the veil of the temple but living in us—is our down payment from Christ.

Just as Christ completed his work on the cross for us, his Holy Spirit will complete a transforming work in us, if we let him.

May we repent as the thief and allow Christ to do his work. The man lived mere hours as a believer, but look what God has done with those hours.

If a dying Saviour saved the thief, my argument is, that he can do even more now that he liveth and reigneth. All power is given unto him in heaven and in earth; can anything at this present time surpass the power of his grace? — Charles Haddon Spurgeon

What may the Holy Spirit do in you?

Prayer: The Call to Prayer
I will lift up my hands to your commandments, and I will meditate on your statutes.” — Psalm 119.48

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

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Proverbs 28 (Listen – 3:07)
2 Thessalonians 2 (Listen – 2:32)

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