We are happy to welcome ministry-focused college and seminary students from around the country and overseas to write in June of 2020 for The Park Forum. Each of them is pursuing a career in ministry and received free coaching on their writing as a part of the program. For more information about the program and a profile of each of our student writers, visit our Student Writers Month page.

Today’s student writer is Morgan Fikkert, a student at Covenant Theological Seminary.

Scripture Focus: Isaiah 49:5-6
And now the Lord says—
    he who formed me in the womb to be his servant
to bring Jacob back to him
    and gather Israel to himself,
for I am honored in the eyes of the Lord
    and my God has been my strength—

he says:
“It is too small a thing for you to be my servant
    to restore the tribes of Jacob
    and bring back those of Israel I have kept.I will also make you a light for the Gentiles,
    that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”

Reflection: Beyond Self-Centered Religion
By Morgan Fikkert

Israel’s religion was fake, shallow, self-centered. They wanted God for what he could do for them, and God was deeply grieved. He wanted them to turn to him, but time and again they turned towards empty idol worship. 

But despite Israel’s insincerity, The Servant—Jesus himself—shows up and announces hope.

But who does he announce it to? To none other than the “islands” and the “distant nations”— not just Israel (Isaiah 49.1). Yahweh’s response to Israel’s sin is that he will extend salvation not just to Israel but to everyone. 

God’s whole-earth, every-nation, plan for all-time is unfolding before us! We are humbled and amazed that we are caught up in it. But how often do we, just like Israel, make the entire story about us as if God is only around to make us happy?

G.C. Berkouwer’s sobering term for this is “soteriological self-centeredness” (The Return of Christ). Satan has convinced us, like Israel, to believe the lie that God is our servant who fulfills our desires, makes us feel better, and enables self-actualization. The Christian life is not only about our personal relationship with Jesus.

God does absolutely care about every one of us—our needs and desires and hopes and dreams. But we, like Israel, have been invited into something much larger than our own, often selfish, worries and desires. We actually participate in this cosmic plan! 

Jesus didn’t save our souls and leave us waiting for heaven. He’s given us a mission now as his people, as members of his Body here. We, like The Servant, are a light for the nations. We proclaim His salvation to the ends of the earth. (Matthew 5.14; John 9.5)

This changes how we read the Bible. How we pray. How we treat that crazy person on Facebook. We are so small in God’s cosmic plan. And yet he calls us to action.

God is, even now, spreading his light throughout all the world. You are a first-hand witness to the incredible work he is doing. You have a part to play in a story much larger than your own. It is too small a thing to wait around for God to accomplish our purposes. Let’s choose instead to participate in his cosmic work of renewal in our homes, our neighborhoods, and our work.

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

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Isaiah 49 (Listen – 4:55) 
Revelation 19 (Listen – 3:47)

Read more about Ennobled by the Incarnation
Jesus did real things in the real world and calls us to be real human beings who act to benefit our world in real, tangible ways.

Read more about Light Shines in the Darkness
It should be light which dispels darkness, not the other way around.