Fear in the Boat :: Readers’ Choice :: TBT

Selected by reader, Azikiwe Calhoun
This devotion spoke to me in a moment where I almost forgot where I was. The words reminded me of the faithfulness of Jesus. I pictured myself in that ‘boat’, and Christ showing me who he is, I was on the Rock.

Originally posted on June 28, 2018 with readings from Isaiah 60 and Matthew 8.

He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. — Matthew 8.26

Historically terrible decisions are often motivated by fear. Fear is the tool by which dictators gain and keep power. Dietrich Bonhoeffer preached this sermon in 1933 Berlin during a fearful time in Germany—right before Hitler seized power. It was only the beginning of a storm that would not soon end. — John

Reflection: Fear in the Boat :: Readers’ Choice :: TBT
By Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945)

Fear is in the boat, in Germany, in our own lives and in the nave of this church—naked fear of an hour from now, of tomorrow and the day after. That is why we become apathetic, why we complain, why we intoxicate ourselves with this and that.

But look here, right in the middle of this fearful world is a place that is meant for all time, which has a peculiar task that the world doesn’t understand. It keeps calling over and over but always anew, in the same tone, the same thing: Fear is overcome; don’t be afraid. In the world you are frightened. But be comforted; I have conquered the world!

Christ is in the boat!

And this place, where this kind of talk is heard and should be heard, is the pulpit of the church. From this pulpit the living Christ himself wants to speak, “You of little faith, why are you so fearful? I am in the boat.”

But the other side of the coin is also true. When Christ is in the boat, a storm always comes up. No one has to go through so much anxiety and fear as do Christians. But this does not surprise us, since Christ is the Crucified One, and there is no way to life for a Christian without being crucified.

So we will suffer and make our way through together with Christ, looking always to him who is with us in the boat and can soon stand up and rebuke the sea, so that it becomes calm.

Dear brothers and sisters, what do we know about what Christ can do and wants to do for us, this very evening, if we will only call upon him as we should, if we call out, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” That was fear all right, but it was faith in the midst of fear, because it knew where help comes from, the only place.

They were amazed, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?” We can well understand their amazement.

What sort of person is this on whom fear has no effect, who overcomes the fear in human life and takes away its power? By asking this question, we are already on our knees before him, praying to him, pointing to him, the wonder worker, and saying, This is God! Amen.

*Condensed for length. From The Collected Sermons of Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Let the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; let them be merry and joyful.— Psalm 68.3

– 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 37 (Listen – 3:25)
Psalm 10 (Listen – 2:13)

Additional Reading
Read More about The Wrong Fear
Fear has made Americans Christians a paranoid and unpredictable group. Liable to believe fake news, liable to vote for candidates and support policies that two decades ago would have been inconceivable, and liable to turn on each other.

Read More about Joy Through Surrender
When this surrender overrides your fear, your pride in the self-made life, and the anger you have because of old wounds, joy abounds.

Readers’ Choice
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Finishing Well :: Readers’ Choice

Selected by reader, Susan, adjacent to the Marble Mtn. Wilderness of Northern California
As a former Special Ed teacher, I am drawn to stories of “finishers.” The competitive suggestion of “winners” has ever been unproductive in my life with Jesus, stimulating as it does the worst parts of my character.

Originally posted on November 17, 2017 with readings from 1 Chronicles 9-10 and Hebrews 12.

And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. — Hebrews 12.1b-2

Reflection: Finishing Well :: Readers’ Choice
By Jon Polk

In 1968, John Stephen Akhwari, a long-distance runner, was one of four athletes sent from the East African nation of Tanzania to the Olympic Games in Mexico City.

Unaccustomed to the high altitude, Akhwari began to cramp up during the marathon event. He was also involved in a collision with other runners and dislocated his right knee. Encouraged to drop out, he instead received medical treatment and continued on with the race.

Over an hour after the winning time, Akhwari finally entered the stadium, where only a handful of spectators remained. Struggling to put one foot in front of the other, he limped across the finish line, coming in dead last among the 57 who completed the race (18 others had quit along the way).

When interviewed afterwards, Akhwari was asked why he persevered through such a painful experience. He replied, “My country did not send me 5,000 miles to start the race. They sent me 5,000 miles to finish the race.”

Athletic imagery is a common New Testament analogy for the Christian life. For a faith focused on the ideals of selflessness and sacrifice, it seems odd that biblical writers draw parallels with sports events focused on individual winners. A closer look at a few of these passages, however, reveals that there is more at stake in our spiritual life than winning.

In 1 Corinthians 9, Paul emphasizes an athlete’s need for training and rigorous discipline. In Philippians 3, Paul talks about pressing on, or persevering, toward the goal. Reflecting back on his own life in 2 Timothy 4, Paul does not mention winning, but states that he is one of many who has finished the race.

The author of Hebrews also discusses training through strengthening of arms and knees, stresses running the race with perseverance, and encourages us to follow the example of Jesus who finished the task God set before him and now sits at God’s right hand, the ultimate finish line.

Our spiritual goal is not to win (as if we could somehow “win” the Christian life), but to finish the race set before us and to finish well because we’ve trained properly and persevered through difficulties and trials.

To do this, we must keep our eyes on the example of Jesus, who ran the race before us and endured great suffering on our behalf so that we might follow him on a lifelong journey of putting one foot in front of the other along the path of faith.

Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Let Israel rejoice in its Maker; let the children of Zion be joyful in their king. For the Lord takes pleasure in his people and adorns the poor with victory. — Psalm 149.2, 4

– 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 36 (Listen – 5:54)
Psalm 9 (Listen – 2:21)

Additional Reading
Read More about The Beautiful Feet of Lepers
We may be diseased and unclean but we share the undeserved victory we have discovered.

Read More about The Uniqueness of Prayer
By no power or worthiness of our own, we are welcomed on a personal level—ushered in hastily to a God who has been waiting for us to join him.

Readers’ Choice
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Prayer as Relationship :: Readers’ Choice

Selected by reader, Kim in Vancouver, BC
When I grow tired (or heaven forbid, bored) of praying, I realize it’s because I see prayer as my Christian “duty” or “obligation” (usually involving a checklist of requests). I pause; take a moment to switch gears, and remember that Jesus views prayer as relationship. Then somehow, there is a magical transformation: praying is now a delight.

Originally posted on July 9, 2018 with readings from Jeremiah 5 and Matthew 19.

Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them.
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” — Matthew 19.13-14

Reflection: Prayer as Relationship :: Readers’ Choice
By John Tillman

Many have faithfully lived out Christ’s command to let the little children come to him. But perhaps no one in history has lived it out affecting as many children as Fred Rogers.

In her book, The Simple Faith of Mister Rogers, Amy Hollingsworth gives an up-close look at the foundational Christian faith that made Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood a sacrament carried on secular airwaves.

The show had an intangible quality that captivated children and defied expectations. In the recently released documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor, one of the show’s producers, Margy Whitmire, said, “If you take all of the elements that make good television, and do the exact opposite, you have Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”

One possible reason for the show’s intangible and unlikely success is the simple spiritual discipline of its founder. According to Amy Hollingsworth:

Everything Fred Rogers did was a prelude to—or an outcome of—prayer….the essence of prayer is relationship, and Fred understood that.

One of the greatest things Mister Rogers may have modeled for children about God, is that he listens to and accepts their concerns, their emotions, and them as their true selves. Hollingsworth relates his answer to a child about not getting what she prayed for.

“Now, you know prayer is asking for something, and sometimes you get a yes answer and sometimes you get a no answer,” he carefully explained. “And just like anything else you might get angry when you get a no answer. But God respects your feelings, and God can take your anger as well as your happiness. So whatever you have to offer God through prayer—it seems to me—is a great gift. Because the thing God wants most of all is a relationship with you, yeah, even as a child—especially as a child. Look how Jesus loved the children who came around Him,” he told her.

Prayer was the purpose of the children coming to Jesus. Jesus didn’t merely greet the children. When the Bible says he “placed his hands on them” it isn’t referring to casual pat on the back, but a purposeful, prayerful blessing. That kind of welcoming and blessing is something we can receive from God, and give to others.

As we pray, about personal problems or about weighty national issues, we would do well to keep in mind the simple teaching of Mister Rogers, that also is the teaching of Jesus—prayer is about relationship.

Prayer: The Request for Presence
Let me hear of your loving-kindness in the morning, for I put my trust in you; show me the road that I must walk, for I lift up my soul to you. — Psalm 143.8

– 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 35 (Listen – 3:43)
Psalm 7-8 (Listen – 2:58)

Additional Reading
Read More about Prayer as Vocation :: Readers’ Choice
Prayer that connects vocation, God’s presence, and his mission is how we live all of life in this world to the glory of God and in love for our neighbor. — Steve

Read More about Prayer Beyond Petitions
It is more important that we know God through prayer than petition him. God answers Hezekiah’s unasked prayer through relationship.

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Prayer as Vocation :: Readers’ Choice

Selected by reader, Steve Froehlich from Ithaca, NY, and Eleanor, in NC
Steve: Luther said that spirituality is “life in this world oriented to God.” Work is our everyday worship, and the world is holy ground. Prayer that connects vocation, God’s presence, and his mission is how we live all of life in this world to the glory of God and in love for our neighbor.

Eleanor: I thought it was particularly relevant in that it highlighted the value of the work that each of us does everyday and the importance of ministry to children. 

Originally published, July 10, 2018, based on readings from Matthew 20 & Jeremiah 6.

Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.” — Matthew 20.25-26

Reflection: Prayer as Vocation :: Readers’ Choice
By John Tillman

In his book, Letters to Malcolm, Chiefly on Prayer, C.S. Lewis complains that he finds it ironically unhelpful to turn into a church for midday prayers.

“There always seems to be someone practicing the organ or noisily going about cleaning and mopping. “Of course, blessings on her,” Lewis says. “‘Work is prayer,’ and her enacted oratio is probably worth ten times my spoken one.”

We have not held tightly to the concept of work as prayer. We see work as occupation—something that takes time we would spend elsewhere. Christians have the unique opportunity to see work as vocation—choosing to give to others on behalf of Christ.

To some, it might be a surprise that one of the primary definitions of the word “vocation” is a divine calling. One does not have to be a staff member of a church or an employee of a Christian ministry (or even a volunteer, noisily cleaning up the sanctuary and disturbing an Oxford don’s prayers) to turn grudging occupation into prayerful vocation.

One prominent example of prayerful, secular work is Fred Rogers. Despite the lack of overt religious expression on his show, Mister Rogers was an ordained minister whose specific assignment was to serve children and families through mass media. And serve them he did.

Paying tribute to Rogers’ on NBC Nightly News, reporter Bob Faw said, “The real Mister Rogers never preached…he never had to.” Following his spiritual calling in no way interfered with Rogers becoming one of the most successful and respected television professionals of all time.

For every believer, the gospel is our vocation. We learn to express it through our occupations.

Rogers’ spiritual discipline and sensitivity to the Holy Spirit made his show a vehicle for the gospel without explicit language of faith. Many of our readers work in faith-negative environments where faith is unwelcome, but that doesn’t mean each action can’t communicate a gospel-filled love to others.

In our careers we have a choice between the drudgery of meaningless tasks and the honor of serving others around us in Christ’s name. If we need a picture of what that looks like, it may be helpful to us to turn on an episode of the neighborhood.

May we make our work our prayer.
By every action may we pray for our co-workers, for our customers, for our city, and for our world.

Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Let the Name of the Lord be blessed, form this time forth for evermore.
From the rising of the sun to its going down let the Name of the Lord be praised. — Psalm 113.2-3

– 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 34 (Listen – 4:15)
Psalm 5-6 (Listen – 2:45)

Additional Reading
Read More about Prayer as Relationship
Everything Fred Rogers did was a prelude to—or an outcome of—prayer….the essence of prayer is relationship, and Fred understood that.

Read More about Praying Through the Stress of Work
In his journals Jonathan Edwards reveals the way his spiritual life is burdened by stresses of his vocation.

Readers’ Choice
We still have room for you to suggest 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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Forward-Looking Remembering :: Readers’ Choice

Selected by reader, Lauren Nichols from Fort Wayne, IN
I have often read of the folly of living in the past, or looking back mournfully as if we could turn back time. This post is an excellent reminder of the value of remembering God’s past faithfulness as a way to be encouraged to trust Him for the future.

Originally published, February 1, 2018 based on readings from Esther 9 and Romans 4.

Mordecai recorded these events, and he sent letters to all the Jews throughout the provinces of King Xerxes, near and far, to have them celebrate annually… the time when the Jews got relief from their enemies, and… when their sorrow was turned into joy and their mourning into a day of celebration. He wrote them to observe the days as days of feasting and joy and giving presents of food to one another and gifts to the poor. — Esther 9:20-22

Reflection: Forward-Looking Remembering :: Readers’ Choice
By Jon Polk

A visit to the National Mall in Washington, D.C. is a testament to the significant power of memory. In the heart of the United States’ capital are numerous monuments dedicated to the memory of great historical figures – Lincoln, Washington, King and others – and significant human sorrows – World War II, the Vietnam War, the Holocaust. Standing in front of the impressive white marble statue of the great American president Abraham Lincoln, one cannot help but be overwhelmed with a sense of history that goes far beyond the memory of personal life experiences.

Many of us have our own memorials in a prominent place in our home: the refrigerator door. There on that sleek magnetic surface, the faces of family and friends stare back at us from treasured moments that have come and gone. There, kindergarten artwork is treated like a rare, priceless Van Gogh. There we find notes and cards that remind us of the ones we love.

At the conclusion of the story of Esther, her uncle Mordecai instructs the Jews to annually celebrate by remembering the attempted genocide and their escape from it. This inaugurates the Jewish Festival of Purim, a memorial of the time when sorrow turned to joy and mourning to celebration.

Remembering is not “living in the past” or “longing for the good ole days,” instead it informs our hope for a future that God has for us. At Purim, the Jews were to look back to the story of Esther and their deliverance in order to look forward to find a hope for their future. This remembering caused them to not only feast and celebrate, but also to give gifts to the poor. Memory of God’s favor on us should compel us to share that same grace with others.

It is often noted that Esther is the one book in the Bible where God is not specifically mentioned. Reading the story with the benefit of hindsight reveals that God was indeed present and working behind the scenes.

We would be wise to regularly recall God’s intervention and provision in our own lives, giving thanks and praise for how God has delivered us and cared for us, especially in those times when we may have not been able to immediately recognize his presence.

What spiritual memories are we hanging on the refrigerator doors of our hearts that we look to regularly for hope and to say, “Thanks be to God”?

Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Our days are like the grass; we flourish like a flower of the field. — Psalm 116.14-4

– 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 30-31 (Listen – 11:21)
Mark 16 (Listen – 2:34)

This Weekend’s Readings
Jeremiah 32 (Listen – 7:32) Psalm 1-2 (Listen – 2:05)
Jeremiah 33 (Listen – 4:46)Psalm 3-4 (Listen – 1:56)

Additional Reading
Read More about Finishing Well
For a faith focused on the ideals of selflessness and sacrifice, it seems odd that biblical writers draw parallels with sports events focused on individual winners.

Read More about Going Where the Gospel Goes
“Who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?” — Apostle Peter

Readers’ Choice
We still have room for you to suggest 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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