Christ the Enemy of Death

Scripture Focus: 1 Kings 17.18
She said to Elijah, “What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?”

Colossians 4.3
Pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ.

1 Corinthians 15.26
The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

Reflection: Christ the Enemy of Death
By John Tillman

God’s plan may refer to the unchanging will of God that cannot, due to God’s sovereignty and purpose, be overturned. This is true of God’s eternal purpose for humanity to live eternally in peace with God. Eden was an expression of this plan, and the new earth to come, will be the completion of this unchangeable and inevitable sovereign plan of God. 

God’s plan can also refer to God’s direction for a specific situation. God’s direction to Elijah to stay with the Sidonian widow is an example of this. This granular and finite definition of “God’s plan” is not equivalent to God’s eternal, sovereign purposes.

Elijah assumes, and we often do as well, that God dictates every death as part of his plan. However, God consistently shows through scripture that he is death’s enemy, not death’s co-conspirator. 

God makes it clear—throughout scripture but most directly through the actions of Christ—that death itself is not part of his “plan.” 

Death is used in God’s plans in the same way God uses many evil and wicked things, diverting evil purposes for righteous purposes. God uses the death of wicked individuals in his working of justice. God uses suffering caused by death to conform us to the image of Christ. God tenderly cares for his people during the suffering of death, as a part of his loving-kindness. In many situations in the Old Testament and the New, God reverses death, resuscitating death’s victims in miraculous ways.

We can be comforted knowing God hates death. He hates the long, slow death of old age. He hates the crippling, painful death of cancer and other wasting diseases. He hates the sudden and tragic deaths of the young. He hates death that rides on the heels of war, conflict, violence, injustice, and abuses of power.  

Death is God’s enemy because it harms and hurts his children. Death is an evil attempt by Satan to violate God’s eternal plans and purposes. God is, from chapter three of Genesis, working his will against death, advancing his purpose to destroy death, and preparing his people to overcome death.  

Part of the mystery of Christ that Paul refers to is he confronts, on our behalf, our greatest enemies—sin and death. He has defeated them both on the cross and the Holy Spirit, our comforter today, is our guarantee that victory over sin and death will ultimately be ours.

Christ is the deadly enemy of death.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
You brought me up, O Lord, from the dead; you restored my life as I was going down to the grave. — Psalm 30.3

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

Today’s Readings
1 Kings 17 (Listen – 3:14)
Colossians 4 (Listen – 2:21)

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 The Gospel is an Uprising
The Anastasis—the Uprising—is…a visualization of Christ’s resurrection gleaned less from gospel accounts than from multiple sources throughout scripture.

Read more about He Stoops to Raise
He goes from the highest place, to the lowest place. And then, he ascends.

Christ’s Supremacy :: A Guided Prayer

Scripture Focus: Colossians 1.18
He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.

Reflection: Christ’s Supremacy :: A Guided Prayer
By John Tillman

What I often call “preacher stories” are stories, illustrations, and parables about modern faith that have been passed on and told in many versions by many preachers in many sermons.

One of my favorite “preacher stories” is about a new preacher at a church who keeps preaching the same sermon every Sunday. Eventually a church leader questions the pastor about it and requests a new topic for the following Sunday. The preacher responds, “When you start acting like you remember the first one, I can stop repeating it”

We all need repetition in our spiritual lives to reinforce the greatest truths of our faith. One of those truths is the supremacy of Christ. The supremacy of Christ may seem unassailable. How could we forget it? We all nod our heads and “amen” in agreement…

Yet in our actions and in our lives, we find many ways to place things before Christ. People, issues, politics, career—these things all push to the front of our minds and demand our supreme attention and commitment.

Pray this prayer over the weekend, and repeat as needed to proclaim in faith the supremacy of Christ over all in your life and subjugate everything else to him.

Christ’s Supremacy
We pray to Christ and proclaim his supremacy…

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation…For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible…

Nothing we create can displace Christ.
No government can cast him out, for they exist within his creation.
No discovery can reveal anything that Christ did not create.
No achievement or success can accomplish more than Christ’s redemptive work on our behalf.

He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased…through him to reconcile to himself all things…making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

We confess to you our pride, our naked greed, our self-deception, our poverty of principles and possessions.

In humility, Christ, we accept from you…
Peace we are incapable of procuring,
Redemption beyond our means to purchase,
Rescue from darkness of our own making.

Help us to let go of anything which strives to take your place.
Make of us a body that serves, be our head which gives us purpose.
May we continue in faith…

…established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
I will confess you among the peoples, O Lord; I will sing praises to you among the nations.
For your loving-kindness is greater than the heavens, and your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. — Psalm 108.3-4

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

Today’s Readings
1 Kings 14 (Listen – 5:22)
Colossians 1 (Listen – 4:18)

This Weekend’s Readings
1 Kings 15 (Listen – 5:30), Colossians 2 (Listen – 3:27)
1 Kings 16 (Listen – 5:31), Colossians 3 (Listen – 3:09)

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 Solus Christus
There has never been and will never be a clearer portrait of God than the person of Jesus himself.

Read more about Downgrading Grace
When we downgrade grace through faith, we chip away the cross of Christ, making it an additive to our life rather than the sole source of our life.

Seeing the Lord

Scripture: Colossians 4.2-3
Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains.

Reflection: Seeing the Lord
By John Tillman

Seeing the Lord—finally seeing him truly for who he is—is a huge part of the resurrection story. Perhaps seeing him truly as Lord is why so many did not, at first recognize him. He is not just a gardener. He is not merely a traveling scriptural scholar. He is so much more than a sea-side campfire chef.

May we see the Lord fully in this season of Easter. May we celebrate his mercy and take on the challenge of telling others what and who we have seen.

I Saw the Lord
By Matt Tullos

In the year of disappointment, loneliness, fear
in the year of confusion, desperation and chaos
I saw the Lord.

My eyes had been blinded by amusement, toys,
by savings and wealth
dreams and aspirations in the midst of the
sandcastles of my own self-importance.

My eyes were blinded by the temporal, until an
eternal God shook the doorposts of my soul.
He came to me. And I saw myself for who I
was outside of Him, naked, dying, cold,
starving, and helpless. He didn’t come in the sanctuary.

He didn’t come in the crowds.
He didn’t come in the ceremonies,
in the shifting dance of the day-to-day.
He came into my deepest closet of
hopelessness.

He didn’t come with four laws.
He didn’t come with three points and a poem.
He visited me at midnight when I least
expected to hear His voice. He came to me
at a time when my hopes were dashed, when
my future appeared bankrupt.

He came to me when every solid foundation
seemed to collapse. He came to me in the
wilderness of my own destitution.
He came to me in the poverty of my own
understanding.

He came to me when I laid down my toolbox
My first aid kit and my cookbook. He came to me!
Hallelujah! With a quick fix? No.

He came to me… with a list of seminars and
books to read?
No.

He came to me and there was nothing,
absolutely nothing, I could offer in my own
strength.

The masks, alibis, and diplomas faded under
the light of His passionate gaze.
He didn’t need me. He didn’t need my talents.
He didn’t need my knowledge, my money,
or my influence.

On the contrary, He came to me because for the
first time in my life, I knew that I was
utterly helpless. I didn’t have the answers.

For the first time in my life I knew that no
word, no thought, no event would change
me. Only God. Christ alone could change
my heart.

He came to me. He wrapped His arms around
me and said,

“My beloved, I’ve been waiting for you.”

(From And Now You Know the Rest of His Glory 1999)

Prayer: The Request for Presence
Show us the light of your countenance, O God, and come to us. — based on Psalm 67.1

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

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Proverbs 21 (Listen – 3:12)
Colossians 4 (Listen – 2:21)

Waking up to Easter

Scripture: Colossians 3.1, 17
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above,…And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Reflection: Waking up to Easter
By John Tillman

In Surprised by Hope, N.T. Wright questions how we approach and celebrate Easter.

I regard it as absurd and unjustifiable that we should spend forty days keeping Lent, pondering what it means, preaching about self-denial, being at least a little gloomy, and then bringing it all to a peak with Holy Week, which in turn climaxes in Maundy Thursday and Good Friday…and then, after a rather odd Holy Saturday, we have a single day of celebration.

… Is it any wonder people find it hard to believe in the resurrection of Jesus if we don’t throw our hats in the air? Is it any wonder we find it hard to live the resurrection if we don’t do it exuberantly in our liturgies? Is it any wonder the world doesn’t take much notice if Easter is celebrated as simply the one-day happy ending tacked on to forty days of fasting and gloom? It’s long overdue that we took a hard look at how we keep Easter in church, at home, in our personal lives, right through the system. And if it means rethinking some cherished habits, well, maybe it’s time to wake up.

“Waking up” to Easter may be a disruptor to our ordinary lives. If we are honest, we’d rather get on with the world now. We want to go back to eating whatever we surrendered to Lent. Go back to doing. Go back to achieving.

We want to go back to winning at life and move past all of this gloomy suffering and servanthood. We want to go back to Emmaus with Cleopas and his companion and back to business-as-usual fishing with Peter.

But the truth is that Easter is a season, not a day. Christ’s appearances, spread over 40 days after his resurrection were leading and preparing the disciples for Pentecost and the birth of the church.

As we move through the season of Easter, may we continue to “throw our hats in the air.”

May we find ourselves interrupted on the road to Emmaus by Christ, our unexpected guest. May we break bread with him and find our mind opened to the scriptures.

May our business-as-usual days of fishing be interrupted by unexpected advice as Christ’s voice calls from the distant shore. May we shed our business-as-usual attitude, abandoning our work to swim to shore.

Let us see what the risen Christ will say to us today.

Prayer: The Cry of the Church
Christ has died. Christ has risen. Christ will come again!

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

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Proverbs 20 (Listen – 3:19)
Colossians 3 (Listen – 3:09)

Walking the Way of Pain

Scripture: Colossians 1.17-20
He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Scripture: Luke 23:46
Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last.

Reflection: Walking the Way of Pain
By Jada Swanson

Poetry has a way of putting into language that which we are unable to speak on our own. It communicates poignant, intentional thoughts, feelings, and expressions of all that we hold dear, but, perhaps, have never uttered aloud.

On this Good Friday, we are sharing Wendell Berry’s poem, “The Way of Pain”, which shares a perspective of sacrifice and grief and pain.

Although our world tells us that we are to be in a constant state of motion and busyness and productivity, the season of Lent has been a time of preparation of remembering and waiting. Lent leads us and points us towards Holy Week, which culminates in the celebration of our Savior’s resurrection.

However, may we not be too anxious to move past the mourning and the grieving of what took place on Good Friday. For in this remembrance, we are able to grasp the magnitude of all that our Savior, Jesus Christ, willingly sacrificed on our behalf. As Wendell Berry so eloquently states, “Unless we grieve like Mary at His grave, giving him up as lost, no Easter morning comes.”

The Way of Pain
By Wendell Berry
1.
For parents, the only way
is hard. We who give life
give pain. There is no help.
Yet we who give pain
give love; by pain we learn
the extremity of love.
2.
I read of Abraham’s sacrifice
the Voice required of him,
so that he led to the altar
and the knife his only son.
The beloved life was spared
that time, but not the pain.
It was the pain that was required.
3.
I read of Christ crucified,
the only begotten Son
sacrificed to flesh and time
and all our woe. He died
and rose, but who does not tremble
for his pain, his loneliness,
and the darkness of the sixth hour?
Unless we grieve like Mary
at His grave, giving Him up
as lost, no Easter morning comes.
4.
And then I slept, and dreamed
the life of my only son
was required of me, and I
must bring him to the edge
of pain, not knowing why.
I woke, and yet that pain
was true. It brought his life
to the full in me. I bore him
suffering, with love like the sun,
too bright, unsparing, whole.
––Wendell Berry, 1980

Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Know this: The Lord himself is God; he himself has made us, and we are his; we are his people and the sheep of his pasture. — Psalm 100.2

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

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Proverbs 17 (Listen – 2:58)
Philippians 4 (Listen – 3:20)

This Weekend’s Readings
Proverbs 18 (Listen – 2:23) Colossians 1 (Listen – 4:18)
Proverbs 19 (Listen – 3:09) Colossians 2 (Listen – 3:27)

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