In Trouble for Good

Scripture Focus: Acts 4.7-12
7 They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?”

8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! 9 If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, 10 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11 Jesus is 
“ ‘the stone you builders rejected, 
which has become the cornerstone.’ 
12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” 

Reflection: In Trouble for Good
By John Tillman

In Acts, Luke writes nearly as often about apostles in a jailhouse as he does about apostles in a churchhouse. (Or a house church.)

New Testament church leaders always found trouble. Beginning with Peter and John and continuing through Stephen, Paul, and others, they were harassed, chased out of towns, arrested, thrown in jail, stoned to death or executed in other ways. (Matthew 10.17-18) Later, Peter and other apostles would rejoice that they had suffered for the name of Jesus. (Acts 5.40-41

There are still Christians today who rejoice in being persecuted. But are they suffering for the name of Jesus or for something else? Are they suffering for healing, like Peter and John, or for harming?

Peter told the church that we should suffer for doing good, not evil. (1 Peter 3.17) When Jesus said we would be hated, it wasn’t for being hateful. (Luke 6.22) Whether through words or actions, we should be doing good to our enemies, not scoring points with insults.

It insults truly persecuted Christians when those who are suffering the consequences of being cruel claim to be suffering for Christ. Yet, we cannot, for the sake of being loved by the world stay silent about the gospel.

Therefore, simply being “in trouble” doesn’t prove we are following Jesus. However, if we consistently follow Jesus, we will be in trouble for good—in trouble for doing good things and in trouble continually.

Have you been called a “troublemaker?” (1 Kings 18.17-18) Have you been in trouble for doing good? For correcting a bad representation of Jesus? For loving the unlovable? For forgiving the unforgivable? For sharing the gospel?

Our world pressures us to have silent faith—individual and private—which does nothing that can be seen and says nothing that can be heard. But Jesus models a public faith that does good, speaks the truth, and demonstrates the loving heart of God.

What does it take to boldly love and act despite the trouble that may come?

Jesus modeled an inward life of devotion that led to an outward life of service and speech. It is what we cultivate in our inner spiritual lives that must come out in our actions. Without this inner spiritual formation, we are more likely to swing swords, like Peter in the garden, than heal the lame, like Peter at the Temple. (John 18.10-11; Acts 3.6-8)

Let’s put down our swords and take up prayer, healing, and the gospel.

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
So they reached Jerusalem and he went into the Temple and began driving out the men selling and buying there; he upset the tables of the money changers and the seats of the dove sellers. Nor would he allow anyone to carry anything through the Temple. And he taught them and said, “Does not scripture say: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all peoples?’ But you have turned it into ‘a bandits’ den.’ This came to the ears of the chief priests and the scribes, and they tried to find some way of doing away with him; they were afraid of him because the people were carried away by his teaching. And when evening came he went out of the city. — Mark 11.15-19

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

Today’s Reading
Leviticus 7 (Listen 5:13)
Acts 4 (Listen 5:15)

Read more about Judas, Peter, and Satan
As we practice the presence of God, we are arming ourselves for the presence of evil.

Read more about The Sword Versus The Cross
We have been sifted, tricked, by Satan. The only way back is to repent and take up the cross instead of the sword.

Following and Fishing

Scripture Focus: Matthew 4.18-21
18 As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed him. 

21 Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, 22 and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him. 

Acts 4.13
13 When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.

Reflection: Following and Fishing
By John Tillman

It’s interesting that Matthew emphasizes that at least one-third of the 12 were fishermen. Jesus’ closest disciples, the three, were all fishermen.

We aren’t told the occupations of most of the disciples, but we know they were politically and economically diverse. Among them were those very close to the High Priest (John 18.15-16), those close to Herod (Luke 8.3), those advocating rebellion against Rome (Matthew 10.4), and those working for Rome (Matthew 9.9-11). Matthew had been a Roman tax collector. He was hated because of his collaboration with the occupiers and for having a lavish lifestyle and sinful friends.

Perhaps Matthew highlighted the fishermen because he recognized that they would be more sympathetic to his Jewish audience. Eventually, these simple tradesmen would stand before the most learned council of religious experts and stump them with their understanding of scripture and of God. The council would note that although they were “ordinary” they “had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4.13) By simply being with Jesus, they had “seen the Father” (John 14.9) more clearly than many on the council. How did that happen?

When they started, the disciples may only have understood how to fish or how to collect taxes for an empire. But they learned how to fish for people and how to distribute the blessings of the Kingdom of Heaven.

In the Evangelical Commentary on the Bible, Knox Chamblin points out a two-stage process of being a disciple. The Greek word translated disciple is mathētēs, which means one who learns. However, Chamblin says, “A disciple is not first a learner, but a follower. Jesus calls first for a commitment to his person, which in turn entails obedience to his teaching.”

You don’t have to know everything before following Jesus. You just have to be willing to follow him. The disciples were often confused, often wrong, often frightened, and often in danger. But the longer they were with Jesus, the more fearless, the more reliable, and the more knowledgable they became.

You may be, like the disciples, confused or fearful and you may not have a perfectly formed theology. Follow him. In doing so, you will be formed by him. He will show you what God is like. (Colossians 1.15) He’ll teach you to fish.

The disciples left their tax collecting booths and fishing nets to follow Jesus. What will you leave in order to spend time with Jesus in scripture and prayer?

Whatever it is, it will be worth it.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Proclaim the greatness of the Lord our God and worship him upon his holy hill; for the Lord our God is the Holy One. — Psalm 99.9

Today’s Readings
Genesis 43 (Listen 5:02
Matthew 4 (Listen 3:09)

This Weekend’s Readings
Genesis 44 (Listen 4:38Matthew 5 (Listen 6:03)
Genesis 45 (Listen 4:10Matthew 6 (Listen 4:35)

Read more about Who Needs Anger?
“Why are you angry?” is a great question I need to remind myself of often, especially in this particular season where there is so much anger being spewed…

Read more about A Restoring Sabbath
Think and pray about ways in which you can abstain from technology’s addictive elements, while still using its powerful tools to spur your spiritual growth.

Doing Unassailable Good

Scripture Focus: Titus 3.1-2
Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.

Acts 4.16, 21
“What are we going to do with these men?” they asked. “Everyone living in Jerusalem knows they have performed a notable sign, and we cannot deny it…They could not decide how to punish them, because all the people were praising God for what had happened.

Reflection: Doing Unassailable Good
By John Tillman

In Titus chapter 2 Paul said to “show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.” And today, in Titus 3.2, he implores us to, “slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.”

In today’s climate of tweetstorms, rants, fake news, and the never-ending escalation of meaningless arguments, it may seem impossible to take Paul’s words to heart. Is it really possible to live in such a way that our critics would have nothing to say? That they would be ashamed to have accused us? 

Can we really be expected not to counter-attack those who attack us with falsehoods? Rather than turning the other cheek, we prefer that if they slander us in the left-wing news, we must slander them in the right-wing news. And vice-versa.

Living in our current culture of social media outrage (and the monetization of that outrage by social media companies) we tend to answer Paul by saying, “Sorry, Paul. That’s not possible or practical.” And it may not be possible. Not without a miracle, anyway.

In Acts chapter 4, we read of Peter and John before the Sanhedrin after performing a miraculous healing. Despite the fact that Peter and John proclaimed a resurrection that the Sanhedrin was paying bribes to cover up, they could not ignore the goodness of what Peter and John had done.

We cannot, without compromising the gospel, please everyone. This is demonstrated by the suffering and death that Peter and John eventually experience. But when the church acts in incontrovertibly beneficial ways on behalf of the community, those who oppose us will confess the goodness of our works, even if they deny the goodness of our gospel.

Christians need to repent from seeking to speak stridently enough to destroy our enemies. Instead, we need to seek to act miraculously, benefiting our communities, living out Christ’s model of servanthood, and enacting his resurrection before the world.

Peter and John were drawn to their miracle on their way to afternoon prayer. Perhaps one reason we do so few miracles in our world is that we are so seldom “on our way” to prayer as Peter and John were. 

In your prayer life today, what miraculous, unassailable good will the Holy Spirit draw you to enact?

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
O God, you know my foolishness, and my faults are not hidden from you. — Psalm 69.6

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.Today’s Readings
Ecclesiastes 11 (Listen – 2:33) 
Titus 3 (Listen -2:04)

This Weekend’s Readings
Ecclesiastes 12 (Listen – 2:38) Philemon (Listen -2:52)
Song of Songs 1 (Listen – 2:33) Hebrews 1 (Listen -2:15)

Read more about Choosing Gentleness Over Violence
We cannot continue posting and liking things that are resentful, quarrelsome, and the opposite of gentle, yet expect to represent Christ and the Gospel in the world.

Read more about Paul’s Stance on Gentleness
Ad-hominem attacks, meanness, violent language, and unkindness are not rhetorical tools that should be in the arsenal of Christians in the public square.

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)

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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

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