Pride and Cowardice :: Readers’ Choice

Selected by reader, Brad Elledge
One of the things I love about Park Forum is the breadth and range of topics covered. And I especially love it when a historically significant Christians such as Charles Spurgeon or in this case, Soren Kierkegaard are featured. This particular selection convicted me for my addiction to the comfort and security that my oh-so middle class American life affords me. For my insensitivity to the Holy Spirit and my lack of courage to act on what promptings I have. May we all be quick to say “Yes Lord”, and not be cowards when decision is upon us.

Originally posted on June 16, 2017 with readings from Deuteronomy 21 and Psalm 108-109.

My heart, O God, is steadfast; I will sing and make music with all my soul. — Psalm 108.1

Reflection: Pride and Cowardice :: Readers’ Choice
By Søren Kierkegaard

The separation of cowardice and pride is a false one, for these two are really one and the same. The proud person always wants to do the right thing, the great thing. But because he wants to do it in his own strength, he is fighting not with man but with God. He wants to have a great task set before himself and to carry it through on his own accord. And then he is very pleased with his place.

The proud person, ironically, begins looking around for people of like mind who want to be sufficient unto themselves in their pride. This is because anyone who stands alone for any length of time soon discovers that there is a God. Such a realization is something no one can endure. And so one becomes cowardly. Of course, cowardice never shows itself as such. It won’t make a great noise.

Cowardice settles deep in our souls like the idle mists on stagnant waters. From it arise unhealthy vapors and deceiving phantoms. The thing that cowardice fears most is decision; for decision always scatters the mists, at least for a moment. Cowardice thus hides behind the thought it likes best of all: the crutch of time.

Cowardice and time always find a reason for not hurrying, for saying, “Not today, but tomorrow”, whereas God in heaven and the eternal say: “Do it today. Now is the day of salvation.” The eternal refrain of decision is: “Today, today.” But cowardice holds back, holds us up. If only cowardice would appear in all its baseness, one could recognize it for what it is and fight it immediately.

Therefore, dare to renew your decision. It will lift you up again to have trust in God. For God is a spirit of power and love and self-control, and it is before God and for him that every decision is to be made. Dare to act on the good that lies buried within your heart. Confess your decision and do not go ashamed with downcast eyes as if you were treading on forbidden ground. If you are ashamed of your own imperfections, then cast your eyes down before God, not man.

Prayer: The Request for Presence
Hide not your face from your servant; be swift and answer me…Draw near to me and redeem me… — Psalm 69.19-20

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

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Jeremiah 52 (Listen – 5:49)
Psalm 31 (Listen – 3:31)

Additional Reading
Read More about Risks of Faith
He who risks nothing appears to gain by his prudence, but he is rejected by you.

Read More about Pride and Shortsightedness
The recent falls of many Christian leaders have been dominating news cycles. As Beth Moore said, “These things ought to scare us to death…Only a fool gloats when others fail.”

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Learning from Judas :: Readers’ Choice

Selected by reader, Bruce Edwards, from Louisiana
More and more I grow closer and closer to our Lord because of writings like this. This was beautiful. I love J.C. SUPERSTAR and this devotional was a blessing.

Originally posted on April 4, 2018.

Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” — John 21.15

Also…

“Christ, you know I love you.” — The Crowd and Disciples, Tim Rice, Jesus Christ Superstar

Reflection: Learning from Judas :: Readers’ Choice
By John Tillman

Jesus Christ Superstar, from creators Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, has always been controversial. However, if we stop trying to sync it up to Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John, and instead make note of its contrasts, its factual and theological errors can be instructive.

The most important fact of the Gospel—The Resurrection—gets left out of Jesus Christ Superstar. But the show gives a very revealing look at our culture’s ideas about Jesus because it is told from the perspective of the disciple of Jesus with whom our culture has the most in common—Judas.

The production shows Jesus’ last week of ministry as the looming failure that Judas must have perceived it to be. The show, of course, is fictional and expands the narrative beyond what the scriptures tell us of Judas. But many of the show’s implications about him can be defended scripturally.

As portrayed in the show, Judas is a disciple who has little use for religion without tangible effects and tangible rewards. Judas is focused on outward appearances, on being politically expedient, on social justice (from his perspective), and on public shows of religious charity.

Judas would be a great prosperity gospel theologian. Judas would be quick to endorse or stand behind a corrupt political candidate if promised concessions from the government. Judas would attack the character of those who disagreed with him.

The great value of viewing Jesus Christ Superstar as a Christian is not to condemn Judas, but to see how like him we are.

How we long for Jesus to only say and do the things we are comfortable with him saying and doing!
How we long for Jesus to take down our enemies and lift us up!
How we long for recognition for all the difficult work we do “in his name!”

His practicality, his self-righteousness, and his faith in political maneuvering make Judas a disciple as fit for our modern age as his ancient one.

What we are called to is so much greater than the political deals we are willing to make and the causes we want to campaign for.

The Judas of Jesus Christ Superstar gives us a chance to see, and perhaps repent of, whatever it is that we would be willing to trade Christ for.

Prayer: The Greeting
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer. — Psalm 19.14

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

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Jeremiah 51 (Listen – 10:15)
Psalm 30 (Listen – 1:32)

Additional Reading
Read More about Dirty Feet
Shouldn’t the servants be washing their master’s feet? But, instead, Jesus washed each of the disciples’ feet, even Judas’.

Read More about Politically Ambiguous Religion
Constantine is known as a “Christian Emperor” but for most of his public life was a follower of Sol Invictus and seemed to be unable or unwilling to renounce publicly this politically advantageous faith, only being baptized in the last moments of his life.

Readers’ Choice
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A Berean Take on Fake News :: Readers’ Choice

Selected by reader, Sam J, from Texas
Information insulated. We’re encouraged regardless of our teams, to accept information that we like as truth and the information we don’t as fake. However, the Bereans remind us that there is no truth that is exempt from questioning, not even the words spoken by an authority like Paul. The deeper understanding, the stronger faith, the closeness with Jesus we long for comes through not just a willingness to question truth, but an insistence to do so.

Originally posted on October 16, 2017 with readings from 1 Kings 19 and 1 Thessalonians 2.

For you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of God’s churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own people the same things those churches suffered from the Jews who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. — 1 Thessalonians 2:14-15

Also…

Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. — Acts 7:11

Reflection: A Berean Take on Fake News :: Readers’ Choice
By John Tillman

Bereans do not have a Pauline epistle in the canon of scripture and the Thessalonians have two. However, the Jews of Berea are described in Acts as being “more noble” than those in Thessalonica. This nobility is characterized by engaging Paul’s teaching with intellectual curiosity and scriptural research.

Paul’s opponents in Thessalonica used tactics that were anti-intellectual and anti-scriptural and we should recognize them from our own Facebook feeds—exaggeration and falsification. Then as now, people ate it up. After they succeeded in running Paul out of town, they followed him to Berea, doxing him as a heretic and a political agitator. Even amongst the “more noble” Bereans, they were still able to cause enough trouble to force Paul to move on.

If you think people today are more sophisticated, more cultured, or more intellectual than those of the ancient world, you have been paying attention neither to ancient history nor to Facebook.

In our day, both progressive-leaning and conservative-leaning publications profit by pot-stirring. While it would be easy to point the finger at the media, we are responsible to choose a “more noble” path as consumers of content. Our sinfulness is the reason that inspiring fervor is much more profitable than dispensing facts and sensationalism is more clickable than sensible reporting.

In our Internet-connected world, cries of “Fake News” reverberate in the insulated echo chambers that we stroll (or scroll) through. These echo chambers are built for us by algorithms whose intent is to keep us scrolling, viewing, and reading and whose strategy is explicitly to not offend us with contradictory data, stories, images, or opinions that we don’t “like.”

Christians shouldn’t rely on algorithms to tell us what is important in the world. That is why we have Scriptures, the Church, and the Holy Spirit. Christians have a responsibility to not get swept up in hysteria, to not spread rumor as fact, and to not react in denial or anger when the facts cast a bad light on us or those we support.

It is bad practice to only trust news from organizations we feel share our values. No news organization shares your values. They value your “shares.” As Ed Stetzer has said, “Facts are our friends.” We need to seek the facts in more places than those that pander to us.

Christians need to develop a more Berean attitude about not only the scripture we read, but the news we share. It’s hard to share the incredible news of the Gospel when the rest of what we share is in-credible.

Prayer: The Greeting
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer. — Psalm 19.14

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

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Jeremiah 50 (Listen – 8:42)
Psalm 28-29 (Listen – 2:41)

Additional Reading
Read More from N.T. Wright on Political Allegiance
Christian faith does not result in a doubling down on political ideology as a means toward “peace and security.”

Read More about The Seductive Idolatry of Politics
Politicians and the media (which serves them) provide an ecclesiastically complex structure of priests and prophets. Schisms, conspiracies, and scandals aren’t bugs in the system; they are features.

Readers’ Choice
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When Help Isn’t Help :: Readers’ Choice

Selected by reader, Michele, from Colorado
One can embrace a sense of confidence and peace. One can. It’s a voice. But do we? Can we embrace confidence and peace without sensing it? Maybe that’s a place to start.

Originally posted on February 5, 2018 with readings from Job 4 and Romans 8.

Think! What innocent person has ever perished?
When have those who do the right thing been destroyed?
As I’ve observed, those who plow sin
and sow trouble will harvest it.
When God breathes deeply, they perish;
by a breath of his nostril they are annihilated. — Job 4.7-9

Reflection: When Help Isn’t Help :: Readers’ Choice
By Jada Swanson

After seven days of silence, Eliphaz speaks to Job. Eliphaz is somewhat gentle and appears to sincerely attempt to bring comfort to his friend, Job. Yet, it doesn’t take long for one to see that his belief about his friend’s plight is that it is due to sin in Job’s life. In verse seven, he states, “Think! What innocent person has ever perished? When have those who do the right thing been destroyed?”

For we all reap what we sow, don’t we?

Unfortunately, this is a common view of pain and suffering, even in the Church today. No doubt, statements have been made such as, “I wonder what she did to bring this upon herself?” or “If you’re living right, you will surely have a blessed life.”

Yet, if this is an accurate assessment, it begs the question, “What had Job done to bring such pain and suffering into his life?” and “Wasn’t he ‘living right’?”

The reality is that God never promises that his children will have a life free of trial, hardship, pain, or suffering. In fact, James 1 tells us to consider it pure joy whenever we face such situations and circumstances, because the hardships one endures brings about perseverance, which is needed to become mature and complete.

Most certainly, “Considering it all joy” does not mean one rejoices in the cruelty, suffering, shame, injustice, or destruction. It does not mean there will be no tears or sense of loss. Rather, amidst these constraining circumstances, one can embrace a sense of confidence and peace.

Although Eliphaz meant well, his response was insensitive to his friend’s plight. It bears considering if Job’s circumstance brought to the surface some of his own concerns and vulnerabilities. Perhaps, he thought he had matters of faith and God figured out. Yet, God does not fit into a neatly packed box of predictability. In fact, we are told his ways are mysterious (Isaiah 55:9).

Everything is not always what it appears on the surface. Most often, there is more to the story, necessary details and nuances that hover just below the surface to which the public is not privy. As such, one needs to be careful in expressing personal opinions about the circumstances another is facing, regardless if this person is a family member, friend, or acquaintance.

May we understand that times of trial and hardship will come into our lives. May we embrace peace amidst suffering. May we listen to understand, not merely to respond. And when we do respond, may it be with sincerity and sensitivity.

Prayer: The Request for Presence
Hear the voice of my prayer when I cry out to you, when I lift up my hands to your holy of holies. — Psalm 28.2

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

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Jeremiah 49 (Listen – 7:15)
Psalm 26-27 (Listen – 3:13)

Additional Reading
Read More from Jada about For Such a Time
God calls us to obedience during the dark and the daring moments of our lives. In his word, he has promised never to leave us or forsake us.

Read More about Room For Hannah
Church staff and attendees often reflect an unspoken belief that Christian Life has no place for sadness.

Readers’ Choice
We have a couple spots left for your favorite posts of the year. Submit a Readers Choice post. Tell us about a post and what it meant to you.

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Over 4,000 people every week read an email devotional from The Park Forum. Support our work with a monthly or a one time donation.

Doing All Things Well :: Readers’ Choice

Selected by reader, Zachary, from Raleigh
As a Christian who has an artistic calling, I often find myself caught between cultures. Knowing that Jesus was able to live and minister in multiple cultures is so refreshing and encouraging. Jesus truly is the author and perfecter of our faith.

Originally posted on July 25, 2018 with readings from Jeremiah 21 and Mark 7.

People were overwhelmed with amazement. “He has done everything well,” they said. — Mark 7.37

Reflection: Doing All Things Well :: Readers’ Choice
By John Tillman

Mark’s seventh chapter begins with Pharisees, who never seemed to think Jesus did anything right. It ends with Gentiles in the Decapolis who proclaimed with amazement that Jesus did all things well.

The Pharisees were a culture within a culture. Paul uses his pharisaical background as a superlative, calling himself a “Hebrew of Hebrews.” The Decapolis was a region of Gentile cities that many observant Jews would avoid.

Jesus models for us a comfortable and powerful confidence that allows him to move with freedom and authority between these two different cultures. He is equally comfortable exposing the inward sinfulness of the religious elite as he is exposing the bright light of the Gentiles’ faith and both groups’ desperate need for the gospel.

That Jesus would even spend time in Gentile territory would be scandalous to the Pharisees. That he would claim that the only true God is the God of Israel would be scandalous to the Gentiles. Christ’s teaching of the gospel shocked everyone. His gospel was not watered-down, feel-good niceties. It offended easily. But it was, and is, the only source of life.

As we follow Christ, we are meant to take on this mantle of confidence and comfort. This is not a confidence in our ability or a comfort in our own power, but an indwelling, filling, and freeing expression of the Holy Spirit with us.

The crowds in the Decapolis would have known Jesus as a source of transformation and life before he arrived because Jesus had already sent a missionary there to prepare the way. Though not recorded in scripture, it is not hard to imagine that Christ, upon arriving in the cities of the Decapolis, may have been greeted with crowds led by the former demoniac of Gerasene.

May we be so transformed. May we be so sent. May we undertake whatever task is asked of us for the cities to which God sends us. May they say of us as they say of Christ, that we “doeth all things well.”

Hymn:
All the way my Savior leads me;
What have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt His tender mercy,
Who through life has been my Guide?
Heav’nly peace, divinest comfort,
Here by faith in Him to dwell!
For I know, whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well,
For I know, whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well. — Fanny Crosby (recording by Rich Mullins)

Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lesson
One thing have I asked of the Lord; one thing I seek; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life… — Psalm 27.5

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

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Jeremiah 45-46 (Listen – 6:41)
Psalm 22 (Listen – 3:49)

This Weekend’s Readings
Jeremiah 47 (Listen – 1:21) Psalm 23-24 (Listen – 2:03)
Jeremiah 48 (Listen – 7:31) Psalm 25 (Listen – 2:18)

Additional Reading
Read More about Thankful Workers for Peace
Just as Jesus left the Gerasene man to spread the gospel to the Decapolis, he would soon leave the disciples to spread the gospel to the world, and he has left us here to follow in their footsteps.

Read More about Kingdom Manifestation :: A Guided Prayer
Ask God to make you the answer to this prayer. You are called to make manifest the kingdom of God.

Readers’ Choice
We have a handful of spots left for your favorite posts of the year. Submit a Readers Choice post. Tell us about a post and what it meant to you.

Support our Work
Over 4,000 people every week read an email devotional from The Park Forum. Support our work with a monthly or a one time donation.

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