Jericho’s Wall :: Readers’ Choice

Selected by reader, Barbara, from Chattanooga
Following God is His call on us. We don’t “deserve” anything. Some hard, and exciting lessons in this story!

Scripture Focus: Joshua 5.13-14
Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?” 
“Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.”

Reflection: Jericho’s Wall :: Readers’ Choice
Originally published July 3rd, 2019
By John Tillman

If you ask Christians how the inhabitants of Jericho responded to Israel and their silent marching around the city, most will probably say they taunted them and that the point of the story is that the Israelites demonstrated faith by following God’s strange plan despite being made fun of. This is a complete fabrication. There is no textual evidence to suggest that the Israelites were teased or taunted at all by Jericho.  

Scripture doesn’t shy away from a great taunt. The scriptures are full of them. God himself delivers sharply barbed taunts. Even Jesus gently taunts Nicodemus. But no taunts are recorded here.

Jericho wasn’t in a taunting mood. They were terrified. No matter how funny the French Peas are in a Veggie Tales video, the reality is that scripture tells us multiple times how terrified everyone in Canaan was of Israel, but it never tells us once that they taunted Israel or made any comment about God’s plan of marching around the city.

It’s not difficult to see why Jericho was terrified. This gigantic group of former slaves destroyed the entire army of Egypt—the world-wide superpower of its day. Today, this would be comparable to the United States military being wiped out by an opponent. Then this same group traveled through the desert completely destroying any king or nation that stood up to them. Then, these desert-crossing, dangerous, religious fanatics show up at Jericho’s border, crossing the river without permission and in a miraculous fashion.

One possible reason for our extremely poor handling of scripture, in this case, is that, when teaching children, we are so uncomfortable with the idea of God ordering the Israelites to wipe out an entire city, we need a distraction. “Perseverance amidst taunting” is a kinder-gentler lesson to teach children. 

This erroneous reading of scripture turns the power dynamic upside down allowing us to feel “persecuted” like the Israelites and justified in destroying our enemies.

But God isn’t interested in destroying people we call our enemies. If the commander of the Lord’s army was not on Joshua’s side, we can rest assured that the commander of the Lord’s army is not on “our” side today. Especially if we define our side so narrowly as to exclude those outside of something so meaningless and trivial as a political party.

The lesson of Jericho’s wall is not that God’s plans are weird, and people will make fun of us, but we should follow God anyway. The lesson of Jericho’s wall is that it is God who initiates judgment, not us. The lesson is that we don’t deserve what God has given us and that if we are unfaithful, we too will face God’s wrath and no wall will stand in its way.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Cry of the Church
Even so, come Lord Jesus! — Revelation 22.20

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

Today’s Readings
Ruth 2 (Listen – 3:56) 
Acts 27 (Listen – 6:09)

This Weekend’s Readings
Ruth 3-4 (Listen – 6:24), Acts 28 (Listen – 4:56)
1 Samuel 1 (Listen – 4:13), Romans 1 (Listen – 5:02)

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.

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Read more about Over Jordan
On the other side of the river is the land that is promised, the land of blessing, the land of freedom, the land of rest, the land of satisfaction and plenty.

Creator of Worlds :: Readers’ Choice

Selected by reader, Michelle Perez, from New York, NY
This extols the beauty of the Lord’s creative work with such reverence and joy! I especially love that the prayer from Jamaica includes the importance and beauty of each created human life and pleads with the Lord to remember those who do not look at “life” through that lens.

Scripture Focus: Psalm 148.1-4
Praise the Lord from the heavens;
    praise him in the heights above.
Praise him, all his angels;
    praise him, all his heavenly hosts.
Praise him, sun and moon;
    praise him, all you shining stars.
Praise him, you highest heavens
    and you waters above the skies.

Reflection: Creator of Worlds :: Readers’ Choice
Originally published July 12th, 2019
By John Tillman

Scripture tells us that creation groans to be released from sin. If the beauty and wonder of creation is what shines through despite its being shackled with sin, how much more beautiful may it be when all has been restored?

And…if creation is still capable of beauty and wonder through its groaning and pain, so much the more are we. We are not mere rocks that cry out, but God’s children whose mouths are filled with ordained praise. 

We are not trees that clap our hands with the breeze but God’s own family who celebrate the grace of God our Father even with our faces set firmly against a blowing gale.

With joy, we join this prayer from Christian brothers and sisters in Jamaica, praising and calling on the Almighty God, creator of all worlds!

Creator of Worlds
Prayer for the preservation of creation from Jamaica

Almighty God: Creator of all worlds!

We honor you for the marvels of your creation, and thank you for that part of it which is our home— the mountains, the green fields, and the sea— the abundance and energy of life in us and around us.

We confess that we have often forgotten that the world is yours and so we have misused and abused your gifts, causing distress and pain to others and to ourselves.

Out of your forgiving grace—hear us now as we pray for healing in our world.

Remember those who behold but cannot appreciate your wonderful world and those who abuse and deface its beauty—that they may discover the joy of tending the garden of the Lord.

Remember those who squander and waste resources you have entrusted to them, but are not concerned that others are starving.

Remember those who respect not life, your precious gift, in themselves and in others, and who from greed, or anger, or malice destroy human life without pity or fear.

Remember those who bear rule in communities and nations, acting with arrogance and without wisdom—that they may know that power is a trust for which they must give an account to you the only Absolute Ruler. May they in humility exercise the stewardship you have allotted them. May their labors promote peace and prosperity among the peoples of our troubled lands.

Oh Lord, help us all to be good stewards of this beautiful universe your mighty hand has brought into being.

In Jesus’ great name.

*Prayer from Hallowed be Your Name: A collection of prayers from around the world, Dr. Tony Cupit, Editor.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Morning Psalm
The trees of the Lord are full of sap, the cedars of Lebanon which he planted,
In which the birds build their nests, and in whose top the stork makes his dwelling.
The high hills are a refuge for the mountain goats, and his stony cliffs for rock badgers. — Psalm 104.17-19

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

Today’s Readings
Ruth 1 (Listen – 3:33) 
Acts 26 (Listen – 5:17)

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.

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Read more about Overgrown by the Gospel
May the gospel make ruins of our pride and selfishness. May we be overgrown by the gospel.

Light for the Next Step :: Readers’ Choice

Selected by reader, Steve Bostrom, from Helena, Montana
To follow Jesus, we need the gift of faith. That faith uses a lantern to show us the next step. The next step. Not many steps but the next step. That requires humility and patience – but Jesus gives us those too. The illuminating quote from Amy Carmichael, a favorite of my sister, Judy, prompted me to send it to Judy. She was grateful to hear from her old mentor, Amy.

Scripture Focus: Psalm 119.105
Your word is a lamp for my feet,
a light on my path.

Reflection: Light for the Next Step :: Readers’ Choice
Originally published October 29th, 2018
By John Tillman

I’ve found the promises of light bulb companies to be some of the most blatant marketing falsehoods I’ve ever experienced.

In the past nine years living in the same house, I’ve replaced multiple CFL bulbs that claimed they would last over 10 years. Then I replaced those with LEDs claiming to last 13. Recently, I’ve replaced those with, slightly more honest LED bulbs that only claim to last 9 years. The truth will come out—or burn out, in this case.

The ease with which we access artificial light in our modern world makes it difficult for us to understand the world in which this Psalm was written. A lamp for our feet seems redundant when every space is illuminated. We will feel cheated by this verse if we mistake the light it promises for a prophetic career map.

According to the psalmist, God’s word isn’t a spotlight for our ego-centric quest. It isn’t automobile high beams enabling us to speed through the dark toward the future. 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.

Serving in India, Amy Carmichael wrote about her experience of learning about this popular verse in a very practical way.

“Once when I was climbing at night in the forest before there was a made path, I learned what the word meant, Psalm 119.105: “They word is a lantern to my path”. I had a lantern and had to hold it very low or I should certainly have slipped on those rough rocks. We don’t walk spiritually by electric light but by a hand lantern. And a lantern only shows the next step—not several ahead.”

All the lights we trust in other than God’s Word, will one day fail.
The brightest lights we know and can design can’t show us what God’s Word can.
God’s Word is the light we need for everyday living.

Walking daily in this Word, meditating on it, breathing it in and out, making it a part of our thoughts and our prayers, charges an inner light of the Holy Spirit that we can trust to give us the next step. Carmichael explains:

“If the next step is clear, then the one thing to do is to take it. Don’t pledge your Lord or yourself about the steps beyond. You don’t see them yet.”

Daily spiritual disciplines keep oil in your lamp so that you may follow the steps of the bridegroom when he calls.

Divine Hours Prayer:  The Request for Presence
Show your goodness, O Lord, to those who are good and to those who are true of heart. — Psalm 125.4

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

Today’s Readings
Judges 21 (Listen – 3:47) 
Acts 25 (Listen – 4:10)

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.

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Read more about Cultivation Requires Planning
God, desiring to walk with humanity in relationship, knelt in the earth and planted a garden. We, in our pursuit of a deepening walk of faith, need to follow his example of supernatural cultivation.

God of the Weak and Doubtful :: Readers’ Choice

Selected by reader, Ann, from South Carolina
Because I often feel weak in faith and doubt my salvation.

Scripture Focus: Matthew 28.16-20
Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Reflection: God of the Weak and Doubtful :: Readers’ Choice 
Originally published January 28th, 2019
By John Tillman

Some of the details that ring the most truthfully from the scriptures regarding the resurrection of Jesus, is how long it took the disciples to fully believe and understand what had happened. They were incredulous. They did not trust their eyes that saw or their hands that touched. They couldn’t believe it. 

We sometimes skim over the many mentions of the disciples’ doubt looking for examples of strong faith to emulate. We should emulate faith. This is the purpose of the great chapter of faith in Hebrews and the descriptions of faithful moments in the lives of many throughout scripture. But we shouldn’t overlook the importance of the presence of doubters among the disciples. 

If God placed examples of faith in the scripture, he also placed doubt in the scriptures. Stories of faith come from doubt. When God shows us a story of the faithful, he points us to where he is calling us. When God shows us his doubtful children, he comes to where we are, puts his reassuring hand on our shoulder, and claims us as his children as well.

The ones who touched with their hands experienced doubt. The ones who saw with their eyes struggled to believe. Even up to the moment of Christ’s ascension into Heaven before their eyes, doubt was among them.

It was these doubtful few with whom Christ placed the responsibility of his most precious and vital mission. It is to this confused assemblage of rebels and failures, that Christ entrusted the gospel.

Oh, you of little faith…
He accepts and encourages you today. You who doubt his care. You who doubt his provision. You who doubt his presence with you. You who doubt that you are loveable, that you are valuable, that you are called, that you are his precious child… He calls. He loves. He holds out his hand, and trusts the gospel, to all of us doubters.

Christ did not allow Peter to sink in the waves when his faith was too weak. He will extend his loving hand to you as well.
He did not turn away the father who struggled to believe. He will not turn you away.
Thank God, that he is the God of the weak and the doubtful.
In doubt hold out your hands.
In weakness cling to him.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Let me hear of your loving-kindness in the morning, for I put my trust in your; show me the road that I must walk, for I lift my soul to you. — Psalm 143.8

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

Today’s Readings
Judges 20 (Listen – 7:13) 
Acts 24 (Listen – 4:11)

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.

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Let our community hear how your faith has grown. What post calmed your fears?

Read more about Rend Your Hearts
Joel’s admonition is to go beyond public signals of mourning or confession. It is our heart that we must rend in mourning and confession, because God looks at the heart, not our outward appearance.

Meditation in Spiritual Rhythm :: Readers’ Choice

Selected by reader, Jennifer K, Brooklyn, NY
“Meditation is not new to Christianity, but it has often been forgotten on the shelf,” what a beautiful statement to read as a Christian and daily meditator. Prayer and meditation go hand in hand with my spiritual practice, truly a spiritual rhythm. Thank you for this edition that speaks volumes to my soul!

Scripture Focus: Psalm 88.1-2
Lord, you are the God who saves me;
day and night I cry out to you.
May my prayer come before you;
turn your ear to my cry.

Reflection: Meditation in Spiritual Rhythm :: Readers’ Choice
Originally published October 4th, 2018
By John Tillman

As Thomas Merton poetically wrote about humanity, “He is the saddest animal. He drives a big red car called anxiety.”

Meditation is a breathing apparatus to help us survive in a poisonous atmosphere polluted by anxiety and fear.

Meditation is not new age, but old. However, in the modern age, it has often been forgotten on the shelf as many Christians and Christian leaders followed our culture into frenetic clamor instead of leading our culture from a place of peace and rest.

Today we look back a few hundred years or so, to a collection of thoughts on meditation that were not considered radical or strange in their time, but simply a prudent, practical, and effective Christian discipline.

George Müller (1805-1898)
Now what is food for the inner man? Not prayer, but the Word of God; and here again, not the simple reading of the Word of God, so that it only passes through our minds, just as water passes through a pipe, but considering what we read, pondering over it and applying it to our hearts.

This exercise of the soul can be most effectively performed after the inner man has been nourished by meditation on the Word of God, where we find our Father speaking to us, to encourage us, to comfort us, to instruct us, to humble us, to reprove us. We may therefore profitably meditate with God’s blessing though we are ever so weak spiritually; nay, the weaker we are the more we need meditation for the strengthening of our inner man.

Richard Baxter (1615-1691)
Nor should we imagine it will be as well to take up with prayer alone, and lay aside meditation; for they are distinct duties, and must both of them be performed. We need the one as well as the other, and therefore we shall wrong ourselves by neglecting either. Besides, the mixture of them, like music, will be more engaging; as the one serves to put life into the other. And our speaking to ourselves in meditation, should go before our speaking to God in prayer.

William Bridge (1600-1670)
Begin with reading or hearing. Go on with meditation; end in prayer…Reading without meditation is unfruitful; meditation without reading is hurtful; to meditate and to read without prayer upon both, is without blessing.

From these writings and ones like them, we draw a pattern, a spiritual rhythm, that we want to promote for all our readers: Read, reflect, pray…repeat.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Let the Name of the Lord be blessed, from this time forth for evermore.
From the rising of the sun to its going down let the Name of the Lord be praised. — Psalm 113.2-3

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

Today’s Readings
Judges 19 (Listen – 4:52) 
Acts 23 (Listen – 5:15)

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.

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Let our community hear about your faith. What post refreshed your relationship with God?

Read more about The Practice of Meditation :: Tea
Christian meditation does not seek emptiness, but fullness. We do not seek unconscious, impersonal revelation, but personal revelation from a conscious and communicative God.

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