Light for the Next Step

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

Reflection: Light for the Next Step
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.

Prayer: The Morning Psalm
Let your hand be upon the man of your right hand, the son of man you have made so strong for yourself.
And so will we never turn away from you; give us life, that we may call upon your name.
Restore us, O Lord God of Hosts; show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved. — Psalm 80.16-19

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

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 31 (Listen – 4:57)
Psalm 119:97-120 (Listen – 15:14) 

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 about The Good of Christ
Remember the parable of the foolish virgins: they were not harlots or profane, but “virgins.” They were not persecutors, blasphemers, or malicious, but “foolish”—supine, careless, negligent: they had lamps in their hands, but no oil in their hearts.

Read more about In the Wealth of a Dying World
The ineffable source from which this lamp borrows its light is the Light which shines in darkness, but the darkness cannot comprehend it.

The Stretching Arm of Salvation :: A Guided Prayer

Psalm 119.81
My soul faints with longing for your salvation,
    but I have put my hope in your word.

Reflection: The Stretching Arm of Salvation :: A Guided Prayer
By John Tillman

The gospel is not a lifehack. Salvation is not a touch-up job on a fender bender. Sanctification is not akin to the marginal improvements available by the effort of will and self-determination. Jesus is not a self-help guru.

Self-help righteousness has been tried. It failed. Despite the fact that Moses tells the people that it, “is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach,” the rest of Israel’s history proved otherwise. Israel lived by sight yet could not avoid idolatry and judgment. We live by faith and our failures, in many ways, are more spectacularly evil than theirs. 

We cannot reach salvation. Salvation reaches for us—and His arm is not too short.

We pray, today, along with a section of Psalm 119, a prayer for those in need of salvation. It is a prayer for those suffering oppression, injustice, and persecution. We pray on behalf of those suffering worldwide, but we remember with special focus those inside our own borders who are suffering now the sting of unjust treatment and the careless disregard of the powerful. May God move on their behalf and may he do it through us. 

For Salvation
My soul faints with longing for your salvation,
    but I have put my hope in your word.


Extend to us the stretching arm of salvation, promised in your holy word and fulfilled in The Word who became flesh for us.

My eyes fail, looking for your promise;
    I say, “When will you comfort me?”


We seek not the comforts of this world but those of the next, “on earth as it is in heaven.”

Though I am like a wineskin in the smoke,
    I do not forget your decrees.


May suffering burn up our pride and vanity and fill us with your Word.

How long must your servant wait?
    When will you punish my persecutors?
The arrogant dig pits to trap me,
    contrary to your law.


Your law is abused, Lord. 
Twisted to harm rather than protect.
Used to excuse abuse rather than to empower love and mercy.

All your commands are trustworthy;
    help me, for I am being persecuted without cause.
They almost wiped me from the earth,
    but I have not forsaken your precepts.
In your unfailing love preserve my life,
    that I may obey the statutes of your mouth.


We can obey your commands with joy, for they are good.
Your love will not fail us.
Amen.

Prayer: The Call to Prayer
…Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress.
He stilled the storm to a whisper and quieted the waves of the sea.
Then they were glad because of the calm, and he brought them to the harbor they were bound for. 
Let them give thanks to the Lord for his mercy and the wonders he does for his children. — Psalm 107.28-31

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

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 30 (Listen – 3:12)
Psalm 119:73-96 (Listen – 15:14) 

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 about Suffering and Sin
We feel less responsible for problems in the world when we can believe that only the lazy are poor.

Read more about Meaning In Suffering
God has come into the world himself and actually suffered with us. No other religion says that God is both a sovereign and a suffering God. — Tim Keller

God Shivering on Concrete

Psalm 119.50-53, 61, 64
My comfort in my suffering is this:
   Your promise preserves my life.
The arrogant mock me unmercifully,
   but I do not turn from your law.
I remember, Lord, your ancient laws,
   and I find comfort in them.
Indignation grips me because of the wicked,
   who have forsaken your law…
Though the wicked bind me with ropes,
   I will not forget your law…
The earth is filled with your love, Lord;
   teach me your decrees.

Only the suffering God can help. — Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Reflection: God Shivering on Concrete
By John Tillman

There is great wickedness in the world. Yet, in such a world, the psalmist proclaims God’s love, the power of God’s laws, and the strength of his desire to know his God more deeply.

Even in a world in which a person may be bound with ropes, or separated from their family, or denied justice, or put into a cage, or killed for the convenience of others, or hung from a tree, or gunned down in a church… Even in such a world, the psalmist tells us, “God’s love is evident.”

Wickedness is evident. But God’s love is also evident.

It is evident in the many Christian and secular organizations that move, at times into dangerous circumstances, to help the downtrodden, the poor, and those purposely excluded from justice. It is evident in the disaster that our God promises to bring upon a nation that ignores its responsibilities to the poor and to the foreigner. Our God humbles nations addicted to greed—including His own. Our God sends help to the helpless, no matter the owner of the goods, the ship, the truck, or the organization.

God’s love is evident in God’s help, but more so in his presence. Our God is with those who suffer.

Our God lies on concrete floors under aluminum blankets with abandoned children. He bleeds on the floor of a sanctuary with victimized worshipers. His arms bear wounds of unjust captivity. He bears scars familiar to those who have been brutalized by government forces.

God’s love is, of course, most fully evident in what we call the gospel. The gospel puts wickedness to death in the way it deserves. Christ, through the cross, drags evil to Hell and abandons it there, setting free Hell’s captives. But merely chuffing about “the gospel” in the face of evil makes us into signposts on the road to Hell rather than gatekeepers in the house of our God.

One of the endlessly repeating themes of scripture and especially the Old Testament is that God’s people are to be kind and compassionate to foreigners and strangers.

Reach out in God’s love in any way that is available to you, whether through financial means or political. Even giving a cup of water in the name of Christ to the least of these will be remembered.

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

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 29 (Listen – 4:14)
Psalm 119:49-72 (Listen – 15:14) 

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 Truth Unwanted :: A Guided Prayer
Malachi testifies: “I will come to put you on trial. I will be quick to testify against those who…deprive the foreigners among you of justice,” says the Lord Almighty.”

Read more about In Denial about Injustice
The sins that brought God’s judgment and caused the exile of Israel were multi-faceted. But there is a common thread—injustice. Having a justice system is not the same as having justice.

Occupation of Meditation

Psalm 119.23-24
Though rulers sit together and slander me,
your servant will meditate on your decrees.
Your statutes are my delight;
they are my counselors.

Reflection: Occupation of Meditation
By John Tillman

In a letter to a frustrated friend, Amy Carmichael wrote:

“Did you notice the words ‘occupied in Thy statues’ in Psalm 119.23 (Prayer Book Version)? It is a beautiful word. I have nothing to do today but to please Thee.

That is true of you, for this weariness is part of life, bonds that are allowed to be. But I do hope for health and ask for it. He knows what He is doing. ‘Jesus himself knew what He would do.’ (John 6.5-6) There will be a lovely ending to this story of frustration, something worth all it has cost.”


The word Carmichael refers to as “occupied in” is translated “meditate on” in most modern translations. Siyach carries an additional meaning beyond pondering or thinking. It also implies telling, speaking, and producing thoughts and words. As Carmichael implies, meditation is more than just privately “thinking” about God’s word. It is occupation—something that implies action.
Prayer and meditation are real for Christians not only because our relationship with God is real, but because the results of true prayer are tangible actions on our part, empowered by God to make a difference in our world.

This is illustrated in the biblical story Carmichael references. In John, Jesus is asking Phillip how to feed a large crowd. Feeding the crowd is impossible for Phillip. It is even impossible for the united power of the disciples working together. But it is Christ’s will that they act in faith—doing what little they can do. Christ accepts our ineffectual actions when accompanied by effectual faith. He then miraculously works his power through us to change the world.

In the Psalm, the writer is being slandered and attacked by rulers, representatives of government and this world’s systems of power. The psalmist’s response of meditation is not one of plugging one’s ears with God’s Word so as to retreat from the world. It is that of filling one’s mind, and then one’s mouth with God’s Word—speaking that truth to the powers of the world.

Whatever our earthly frustrations, and whatever the tactics of the powerful princes and rulers who would slander or attack us, our source of strength is not human wisdom. Only meditation on and occupation with God’s Word can bring us peace in our frustrations, and give us power to oppose evil and help the suffering in this world.

Prayer: A Reading
Jesus taught us, saying: “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord’ and not do what I say?… — Luke 6.46

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

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 26 (Listen – 3:13) 
Psalm 117-118 (Listen – 2:52) 

This Weekend’s Readings
Deuteronomy 27-28:19 (Listen – 13:27), Psalm 119:1-24 (Listen – 15:14) 
Deuteronomy 28:20-68 (Listen – 10:11), Psalm 119:25-48 (Listen – 15:14) 

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 about A Discipline for the Anxious
The psalmist writes of being “too troubled to speak,” yet he cries to God…in the midst of doubts and fears, he remembers God’s faithfulness in the past. He meditates on these memories in the heated moment of stress.

Read more about Meditation in Spiritual Rhythm :: Throwback Thursday
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.

What to Expect when Suffering :: A Guided Prayer

Psalm 116.11
…in my alarm I said,
“Everyone is a liar.”

Reflection: What to Expect when Suffering :: A Guided Prayer
By John Tillman

When in suffering, we can at times be surprised by the emotions that are stirred. We can encounter deep sadness, anguish, and even rage.

Suffering comes in many forms and many intensities. But our response follows a predictable pattern. Hope, impatience, despair, rage, doubt, rejection, redemption, and praise are all a part of the template of prayer that the psalmists show us. There is comfort in acknowledging the emotional rollercoaster that is the psalmists’ testimony.

Don’t be surprised or ashamed of the emotions that come in times of struggle and pain. With faith in God, we can move through cycles of emotions to the peace that God gives us in his presence.

Today we will follow a guided prayer with portions of Psalm 116 from today’s reading.

What to Expect When Suffering
“The cords of death entangled me,
the anguish of the grave came over me;
I was overcome by distress and sorrow.”


Oh God, in times of stress, despair, and struggle
We are overcome and need your comfort.

“I trusted in the Lord when I said,
‘I am greatly afflicted’”


But the world frustrates us, teaching us that any degree of suffering is waste.

“in my alarm I said,
‘Everyone is a liar.’”


You are the only trustworthy one, Lord,
But in our alarm, amidst fear and emotion
We sometimes call the wrong things lies

May we not reject community, simple kindness, praise, and loving words from those around us.
May we not reject being reminded that we are loved.

Instead we call the world a liar.
When they say a good life is pain-free
When they say pain proves God is not with us

“Precious in the sight of the Lord
is the death of his faithful servants.
Truly I am your servant, Lord;”


Rarely are our current sufferings deadly.
But, Oh God, even when they are…

You are with us now and in the hour of our death
We are precious to you at all times and in every outcome

And if the worst the world can imagine should happen to us
In our death, we simply enter your precious presence in “the courts of the house of the Lord.”

May we not wait until death to experience the peace of walking in your courts.
Help us to live, bringing the reality of your courts, on Earth as it is in Heaven.

Prayer: The Greeting
To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul; my God, I put my trust in you; let me not be humiliated, nor let my enemies triumph over me.
Let none who look to you be put to shame. — Psalm 25.1-2

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

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 25 (Listen – 2:38) 
Psalm 116 (Listen – 1:34) 

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 When Suffering Lingers :: Readers’ Choice
Early rabbinic writings understood the bush to be a symbol of ancient Israel—persevering under the flame of Egypt’s brutality. Though we burn, we are not consumed. This is the mere beginning of God’s grace.

Read more about The Crucible of Suffering
In the midst of suffering—when we don’t sense any positive change in our circumstances—we can start to question God’s goodness and his love.