Much Demanded—Readers’ Choice

Selected by reader, Jason Tilley from Texas
A lament for modern times. We are too quick to spread ideas that we have not thought about ourselves. When we do, we are responsible for the consequences. But unlike before, our spreading of false ideas does not die with the few who might have heard them. They live forever. We must own and confess our sins rather than try to re-create ignorance. We are no longer clueless. Let’s stop planting false clues.

Originally published, May 11, 2020, based on readings from Isaiah 9:8-10:4 & James 3.

Scripture Focus: Isaiah 9.14-16
14 So the Lord will cut off from Israel both head and tail,
    both palm branch and reed in a single day;
15 the elders and dignitaries are the head,
    the prophets who teach lies are the tail.
16 Those who guide this people mislead them,
    and those who are guided are led astray.

James 3.1
Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. 

Reflection: Much Demanded—Readers’ Choice
By John Tillman

There is an often repeated biblical principle—the more you are given, the more will be expected of you. 

We see its implications in Isaiah’s prophecy against the leaders. (Isaiah 9.14-16) James echoes it in his warning to “teachers.” (James 3.1) Christ worded it, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” (Luke 12.48)

Part of God’s righteousness, his justice, is not holding those with little accountable for their poverty. Whether a poverty of finances, of knowledge, of access, or of power, God judges those with little lightly and those with much heavily.

This should be sobering to us who are greatly privileged.

We live in an age of unprecedented availability of knowledge. We are more accountable to God for what we say and teach than ever before. We have an unprecedented ability to access the Bible at any time and on any device imaginable. We are more accountable to God for our ignorance of his scriptures than ever before. We have an unprecedented ability to reach around the world (or across the street) to know and befriend people of all races, backgrounds, and beliefs. We are more accountable to God for holding on to racial prejudice, divisions, and resentments than ever before. We are living in the most prosperous time in history with financial resources available to the majority of people that were unimaginable in prior ages of history. We are more accountable to God for abandoning and abusing those in poverty than ever before.

It is to our shame with such wealth that there are starving children.
It is to our shame with such connectedness that we cause divisiveness.
It is to our shame with such availability of the Bible that we do not avail ourselves of reading it.
It is to our shame with such access to expert knowledge that we scrape the basements of the Internet to find conspiracies that we like better than the facts. (Isaiah 8.12-13)

May we confess and repent, before God comes to settle accounts with us.
Much has been given to us. May we praise God in thankfulness for it.
Much has been given to us. May we serve our neighbor in humbleness with it.
Much has been given to us. May we challenge every form of oppression with it.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness; let the whole earth tremble before him. — Psalm 96.9
– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Jeremiah 38 (Listen – 5:18)
Psalms 11-12 (Listen – 1:59)

#ReadersChoice is time for you to share favorite Park Forum posts from the year.
What post reminded you of Christ’s love?https://forms.gle/DsYWbj45y9fCDLzi7

Read more about Confession as a Crucible
The crucible of COVID-19 is revealing in our society and ourselves the ugliest most sinful parts of our nature.

If You Can’t Say Anything Good— Readers’ Choice

Selected by reader, Jason Tilley from Texas
Words matter. As small as it is, your tongue is a powerful tool to build up or tear down another person. It gets that power from a much greater source; your mind. Thinking before you speak (or tweet) is quickly becoming a lost art.

Originally published, November 21, 2019, based on readings from 1 Chronicles 16 & James 3.

Scripture Focus: James 3.9-11
With the tongue, we praise our Lord and Father, and with it, we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?

Reflection: If You Can’t Say Anything Good— Readers’ Choice
By Jon Polk

Reading through James’ letter, one might get the impression that he has a pretty pessimistic view of our ability to control our speech with one another.

Without a tight rein on our tongue, our religion is worthless. (1.26)
No one is faultless in what they say. (3.2)
The tongue is a fire, a world of evil in the body. (3.6)
The tongue corrupts the whole person, set on fire by hell itself. (3.6)
The tongue is an untamable, restless evil, full of deadly poison. (3.8)
With our speech we curse one another. (3.9)
We slander and judge one another by our speech. (4.11)
We selfishly brag and boast. (4.16)
We grumble and complain against each other. (5.9)

Ouch.

Honestly, though, it sounds as if James could have been writing these words in 2019 rather than in the first century AD. And when he refers to our speech, we should certainly include our tweets, posts, and texts.

Before we start pointing our fingers at the world around us though, let us be reminded that James was writing not to unbelievers, but to an audience of those claiming to follow the way of Christ. Unfortunately, we know all too well based on our experiences (not the least of which is the unflattering stereotype of the church business meeting) that Christians can be the worst about using our words to wound rather than to speak grace and love.

We know this so well, in fact, that the Christian band Third Day turned James 3 into an unlikely #1 rock hit with the song, “Nothing At All”, from their debut album in 1996.

“Well, on and on and on and on and on it goes
Now look who’s the one playin’ the fool
Criticizing, telling lies, putting down
Ain’t you got nothin’ better to do?
But if you can’t say nothin’ good, don’t say nothin’ at all”

But wait! There is hope! James also says that with our mouths we can speak on behalf of God (5.10), pray for ourselves (5.13) and each other (5.16), sing songs of praise (5.13) and confess our sins (5.16). 

When we learn to control our tongues, we can bring great teaching, healing and joy to many.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s rule for the students of his seminary classes was that no one should speak about another student in their absence. Many of his former students admitted they frequently broke this rule, but they learned a great deal from their mistakes about the power of our words to damage the body of Christ.

Oh, how would our speech be different today if we tried to follow Bonhoeffer’s rule?

*Song, “Nothing at All” by Third Day

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation. — Psalm 119.14

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

Today’s Readings
Jeremiah 32 (Listen – 7:34)
Psalms 1-2 (Listen – 2:05)

Read more about The Language of a Good Neighbor
The words we speak plant seeds that come from our hearts. When those seeds are violent winds, we reap the whirlwind of violent actions.

#ReadersChoice is time for you to share favorite Park Forum posts from the year.
What post did you share with a friend?https://forms.gle/DsYWbj45y9fCDLzi7

Seeking Righteousness

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 Vienna Scott, a student at Yale University.

Scripture Focus: Isaiah 57:1-2
1 The righteous man perishes, 
   and no one lays it to heart;
devout men are taken away,
    while no one understands.
For the righteous man is taken away from calamity;
2 he enters into peace;
they rest in their beds
    who walk in their uprightness.

Reflection: Seeking Righteousness
By Vienna Scott

Like many places today, Isaiah’s Israel was a nation rife with unrest. The prophet writes to a people living under unjust and oppressive rulers. Her leaders failed to care for their people. Isaiah 57 outlines the cost of such tragedy. What happens to good people when they don’t live under good leaders? 

Isaiah warns that wicked leaders ignore and persecute the righteous. But God is still with them. The righteous man is taken away from calamity. He enters into peace. But it doesn’t guarantee that the world does. 

We don’t live in biblical-era Israel. But the question is pertinent nonetheless. In our own time, the lack of harmony between people and their rulers is causing strife. Christians should wonder what righteousness looks like when it isn’t clearly modeled by our leaders.  

Unlike in the time of Isaiah, freedom for the righteous is not tied to a physical place, Jerusalem. The gospel message brings the Holy Spirit into the hearts of his people. The fruits of the spirit are virtues we carry with us like peace, patience, and gentleness. Peace that was once found away from calamity can now be carried through it. 

These principles can help us navigate a time where anger and vengeance drive the hearts of many people. There should be a clear and recognizable difference in the way that Christians interact with social and political unrest because we are not a people of unrest.  However, our inner peace does not make us people at rest. We walk, or march, in uprightness. The fruits of the spirit are still relevant in such a time as this. We should allow His Holy Spirit to carry us forward, in the pursuit of justice, as sons and daughters of righteousness, as people of peace. 

“For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.” James 3:16-18

Prayer:
Give us your peace
Grant us your wisdom
Enlighten our leaders
Deliver us from disorder

Make us peacemakers
Carrying our communities through calamity 
Sharing the fruits of the spirit
Sowing peace
And harvesting righteousness

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Love the Lord, all you who worship him; the Lord protects the faithful, but repays to the full those who act haughtily. — Psalm 31.23

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

Today’s Readings
Isaiah 57 (Listen – 3:37) 
Matthew 5 (Listen – 6:03)

Read more about Peacemaking Versus Peacekeeping
We should not waste our time or energy with peacekeeping. Instead, we should strive with all that we are to be peacemakers.

Read more about Righteousness Sets Things Right
Righteousness, as Job describes it is marked by formidable, positive actions on behalf of justice…When Job walked in, the powerful trembled. Who gets nervous when you approach?

Much Demanded

Scripture Focus: Isaiah 9.14-16
14 So the Lord will cut off from Israel both head and tail,
    both palm branch and reed in a single day;
15 the elders and dignitaries are the head,
    the prophets who teach lies are the tail.
16 Those who guide this people mislead them,
    and those who are guided are led astray.

James 3.1
Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. 

Reflection: Much Demanded
By John Tillman

There is an often repeated biblical principle—the more you are given, the more will be expected of you. 

We see its implications in Isaiah’s prophecy against the leaders. (Isaiah 9.14-16) James echoes it in his warning to “teachers.” (James 3.1) Christ worded it, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” (Luke 12.48)

Part of God’s righteousness, his justice, is not holding those with little accountable for their poverty. Whether a poverty of finances, of knowledge, of access, or of power, God judges those with little lightly and those with much heavily.

This should be sobering to us who are greatly privileged.

We live in an age of unprecedented availability of knowledge. We are more accountable to God for what we say and teach than ever before. We have an unprecedented ability to access the Bible at any time and on any device imaginable. We are more accountable to God for our ignorance of his scriptures than ever before. We have an unprecedented ability to reach around the world (or across the street) to know and befriend people of all races, backgrounds, and beliefs. We are more accountable to God for holding on to racial prejudice, divisions, and resentments than ever before. We are living in the most prosperous time in history with financial resources available to the majority of people that were unimaginable in prior ages of history. We are more accountable to God for abandoning and abusing those in poverty than ever before.

It is to our shame with such wealth that there are starving children.
It is to our shame with such connectedness that we cause divisiveness.
It is to our shame with such availability of the Bible that we do not avail ourselves of reading it.
It is to our shame with such access to expert knowledge that we scrape the basements of the Internet to find conspiracies that we like better than the facts. (Isaiah 8.12-13)

May we confess and repent, before God comes to settle accounts with us.

Much has been given to us. May we praise God in thankfulness for it.
Much has been given to us. May we serve our neighbor in humbleness with it.
Much has been given to us. May we challenge every form of oppression with it.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
O God, you have taught me since I was young, and to this day I tell of your wonderful works. — Psalm 71.17

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

Today’s Readings
Isaiah 9:8-10:4 (Listen – 3:36) 
James 3 (Listen 2:38)

Read more about Confession as a Crucible
The crucible of COVID-19 is revealing in our society and ourselves the ugliest most sinful parts of our nature.

Read more about Confession Destroys Denial
We give our lives and bodies as Mary did to be used by you to bring down rulers from their thrones, lift up the humble, and fill the hungry with good things.


If You Can’t Say Anything Good

Scripture Focus: James 3:9-11
With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?

Reflection: If You Can’t Say Anything Good
By Jon Polk

Reading through James’ letter, one might get the impression that he has a pretty pessimistic view of our ability to control our speech with one another.

Without a tight rein on our tongue, our religion is worthless. (1:26)
No one is faultless in what they say. (3:2)
The tongue is a fire, a world of evil in the body. (3:6)
The tongue corrupts the whole person, set on fire by hell itself. (3:6)
The tongue is an untamable, restless evil, full of deadly poison. (3:8)
With our speech we curse one another. (3:9)
We slander and judge one another by our speech. (4:11)
We selfishly brag and boast. (4:16)
We grumble and complain against each other. (5:9)

Ouch.

Honestly, though, it sounds as if James could have been writing these words in 2019 rather than in the first century AD. And when he refers to our speech, we should certainly include our tweets, posts, and texts.

Before we start pointing our fingers at the world around us though, let us be reminded that James was writing not to unbelievers, but to an audience of those claiming to follow the way of Christ. Unfortunately, we know all too well based on our experiences (not the least of which is the unflattering stereotype of the church business meeting) that Christians can be the worst about using our words to wound rather than to speak grace and love.

We know this so well, in fact, that the Christian band Third Day turned James 3 into an unlikely #1 rock hit with the song, Nothing At All, from their debut album in 1996.

“Well, on and on and on and on and on it goes
Now look who’s the one playin’ the fool
Criticizing, telling lies, putting down
Ain’t you got nothin’ better to do?
But if you can’t say nothin’ good, don’t say nothin’ at all”


But wait! There is hope! James also says that with our mouths we can speak on behalf of God (5:10), pray for ourselves (5:13) and each other (5:16), sing songs of praise (5:13) and confess our sins (5:16). 

When we learn to control our tongues, we can bring great teaching, healing and joy to many.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s rule for the students of his seminary classes was that no one should speak about another student in their absence. Many of his former students admitted they frequently broke this rule, but they learned a great deal from their mistakes about the power of our words to damage the body of Christ.

Oh, how would our speech be different today if we tried to follow Bonhoeffer’s rule?

*Song, “Nothing at All” by Third Day

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
No good thing will the Lord withhold from those who walk with integrity.—Psalm 84:11

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

Today’s Readings
1 Chr 16 (Listen -5:21)
James 3  (Listen -2:38)

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 Waiting at the Beautiful Gate
Jesus has left his church work to do in this world. They are waiting for us at the Beautiful Gate. We are their miracle

Read more about The Language of a Good Neighbor
The words we speak plant seeds that come from our hearts. When those seeds are violent winds, we reap the whirlwind of violent actions.

Read more about Killing With our Hearts
We rush to soften Christ’s teaching about violent thoughts and words because we are unwilling to let go of them.

Spur a spiritual rhythm of refreshment right in your inbox
By joining this email list you are giving us permission to send you devotional emails each weekday and to communicate occasionally regarding other aspects of the ministry.
100% Privacy. We don't spam.