Seeking Silence—Readers’ Choice

Selected by reader, Jon Polk, Hong Kong
In our hectic lives today, silence is rare. Can you remember the last time you sat for 15 minutes in silence to listen to the voice of God as this article suggests? I’m not sure I can either. This sad reality is to our detriment. We all need this reminder to put down the phone, turn off the news, shut down the browser and rediscover the spiritual discipline of silence. Not an empty silence, of course, but a silence that enables us to tune our hearts to listening close to the still, small voice of God.

Originally published, March 5, 2020, based on readings from Job 34 & 2 Corinthians 4.

Scripture Focus: 2 Corinthians 4.18
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Reflection: Seeking Silence—Readers’ Choice
By Matt Tullos

The sole cause of man’s unhappiness is he does not know how to stay quietly in his room. — Blaise Pascal

My wife and kids were away the night a violent thunderstorm hit our town and the electricity went out. At that moment I was watching a football game, scanning twitter, and listening to music.

When darkness arrived in a split second I realized that the battery on my iPhone was almost gone. A brief moment of panic ensued. I realized that in a matter of minutes I would be thrust into the lifestyle millions of people enjoyed in the 1800s!

The silence and lack of media connection was unnerving at first. It was then that I sensed the presence of God speaking to me about my addiction to noise. After 15 minutes I had rediscovered the beauty of silence.

These days, silence is something we must fight to achieve, but it is definitely worth the fight. The National Center of Biotechnology stated in a study that two minutes of silence is more relaxing than listening to “relaxing” music, based on changes in blood pressure and blood circulation in the brain.

However, this is not new knowledge for people of the Book. The Bible urges us to experience silence as a spiritual discipline.

Every day we are faced with the choice of constant communication, noise and blather or intentional, Jesus-focused silence.

Don’t wait for a power outage in order to spend time in silence. God might be trying to tell you something but all the ambient noise and entertainment leaves you deaf to His voice.
I believe we would be astounded by all God wants to say to us and yet He never gets a chance because of our preoccupation with news, messages, conversations and entertainment. Silence isn’t just golden, it is godly.

Ask yourself, “How am I seeking silence in my day?” and “Why is constant communication and auditory stimulation so addictive?”

Take time to spend 15 minutes in silence today. Allow God to speak into your soul.

Editor’s Note: Fasts of many different kinds are common during the Lenten season. In our modern world a fast from certain aspects of technology might be as important as any other type of fasting.

We pray that our fasting would not be merely self-improvement or self-fulfillment, but instead, a process of self-denial, seeking of God, and blessing of others. — John

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
The Lord lives! Blessed is my Rock! Exalted is the God of my salvation! — Psalm 18.46

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

Today’s Readings
Lamentations 4 (Listen – 3:42)
Psalm 35 (Listen – 3:21)

Read more about Supporting our Work
The Park Forum is grateful to our donors who enable us to provide short, smart, engaging, biblical content to people across the world for free with no ads.

Read more about From Silence, Peace
The God who turned his back, came back. He came to speak peace to the people who had chosen death instead of life.

God is Faithful, not Indebted—Readers’ Choice

Selected by reader, Sam, Texas
Too often I find myself feeling like Job’s friends, believing God owes good to the righteous and suffering to the wicked. Thankfully, as this devotional explores, God is not indebted to us, but faithful in His endless and sacrificial love.

Originally published, February 20, 2020, based on readings from Job 20 & 1 Corinthians 7.

Scripture Focus: Job 20.2-3
      My troubled thoughts prompt me to answer 
         because I am greatly disturbed. 
      I hear a rebuke that dishonors me, 
         and my understanding inspires me to reply. 

Job 21.4-6
      “Is my complaint directed to a human being? 
         Why should I not be impatient? 

Reflection: God is Faithful, not Indebted—Readers’ Choice
By John Tillman

Chapter 20 begins with Zophar speaking up because he is offended: “I hear a rebuke that dishonors me…” Then as now, when making arguments, people get emotional, tend toward exaggeration and aggression, and take personal offense at the other person’s comments. It is notable that in chapter 19, Job was not responding to Zophar, but to Bildad. The last we heard from Zophar was in chapter 11. 

How often have we (have I) taken offense at an argument or comment not directed at me on Facebook and lashed out? Probably more often than it is comfortable to admit.

Zophar spends this speech defending the idea that the wicked succeed only momentarily before being destroyed. Something Job easily demonstrates as false in the next chapter. Most of Zophar’s speech is gleeful descriptions of what he believes will happen to the wicked. It reads a bit like revenge fantasy.

Zophar and the rest of Job’s friends have a deep, fear-based need to show that Job’s sin caused his suffering. If they can convince Job and themselves that Job messed up and brought this on himself, then they are safe because God owes them protection.

Prior to these events, Job and his friends believed in an indebted God who owed good to the righteous, owed suffering to the wicked, and never made late payments. 

The God Job begs audience with, whom he desires to stand before, is a different God.
He is an un-indebted God. It is we who are the debtors. 
If God does owe us anything, it is wrath—wrath which he is forestalling payment of, holding that debt in arrears until such time as Christ would pay it.  

God proves more faithful than Job’s friends, and as he came to Job, he also comes to us. God comes to sit in the dust with us when we suffer. God does not attempt to make himself look good in comparison to us, as Job’s friends did, instead he comes to trade places with us, taking our suffering, experiencing it as his own.

Rather than an indebted God, we serve a faithful God. He does not treat us as we deserve. He has laid on Christ the iniquity and punishment owed to us. He has imputed to us the righteousness won and proved by Christ. By his poverty we are enriched. By his stripes, we are healed.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
O Lord, I call to you; come to me quickly; hear my voice when I cry to you.
Let my prayer be set forth in your sight as incense. — Psalm 141.1-2

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

Today’s Readings
Jeremiah 47 (Listen – 1:21)
Psalm 23-24 (Listen – 2:03)

Read more about Supporting our Work
The Park Forum strives to provide short, smart, engaging, biblical content to people across the world for free with no ads. Gifts to The Park Forum support this mission.

Read more about Christ, Our Undeserved Friend :: A Guided Prayer
That I might swap with him my place,
That I might be changed by his grace,
That I might be healed through his wounds,
That I might live, he be entombed.

Convicted by Job’s Righteousness—Readers’ Choice

Selected by reader, Paula, Columbia SC
This spoke to my heart when I first read it and after but a few months it was even more meaningful in light of everything going on nationally and world-wide. Let us look to Jesus and what He did for us.

Originally published, March 2, 2020, based on readings from Job 31 & 2 Corinthians 1.

Scripture Focus: Job 31.13-14, 28
“If I have denied justice to any of my servants, 
         whether male or female, 
         when they had a grievance against me, 
what will I do when God confronts me? 
         What will I answer when called to account? 
…then these also would be sins to be judged, 
         for I would have been unfaithful to God on high.

Reflection: Convicted by Job’s Righteousness—Readers’ Choice
By John Tillman

There are many lists of sins in the Bible that should give the thoughtful Christian pause and send us to our knees in confession. Job’s list of sins in Chapter 31 contains famous verses, such as “I have made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a young woman,” (verse 1) and several more regarding sexual sins (verses 9-12) that I remember being pounded with as a youth and in college. But the majority of the sins Job lists in his denial have nothing to do with sex and are often skipped or skimmed over by preachers.

May we read verses 13-40 with opened eyes for our own sins and those of our leaders, both religious and political. If Job was defenseless before God, unable to stand before him despite all his blameless actions, what will we do when God confronts us?

May we run to Christ, the mediator that Job prophesied, with this confession.

*What we pray today is not a confession of individual sins, although any of these sins may be committed by one person. Instead, it is a corporate confession, as would be offered by the high priest or a faithful prophet on behalf of the people. As we confess sins of our communities and nations, we step into our role as a kingdom of priests. This does not mean we deny our own culpability. Instead it means that we say that we ARE culpable and confess each one as if it were our own individual sin.

Prayer of Confession
Based on Job 31:13–40

We confess, Lord, we are not like Job. (Job 31.13)

We have denied and delayed justice to servants, workers, women, and outcasts, propping up the reputation of abusive men and staining the reputation of Christ’s church.

We confess, Lord. (Job 31.14-15)

We have dishonored and disenfranchised those in the womb, though they, just like us, are being formed by the hand of God.

And we have discriminated against those who are born, who are our brothers and sisters, born equal before God but treated by our hands as unworthy and spoken of as if they were animals.

We confess, Lord (Job 31.16-23)

We have behaved heartlessly and selfishly toward the poor and the outcasts.

We have blamed them, denied our responsibility, and held them accountable for their deaths caused by our hand.

We have seen those perishing due to lack of bread, lack of clothing, lack of freedom, lack of shelter, and said, “It is their own fault.”

We confess, Lord, (Job 31.24-28)

We have cared more for economic health than spiritual health.

We have trusted more in gains of the stock market, than storing up treasures in Heaven.

We have made success our idol and wealth our god.

We confess, Lord, (Job 31.29-30)

We rejoice in the suffering of our enemies.

We cheer insults, we encourage and participate in violence, we mock our opponents’ tears and laugh to see them suffer.

We confess, Lord, (Job 31.38-40)

That the land and its people cry out against our abuse.

Neither the Earth, nor our brothers and sisters who live on it are more valuable to us than reaping wealth.

We pray for your forgiveness, Lord, but more than that, we pray that you would change the hearts of the oppressors, and may you begin in our hearts.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Our God will come and will not keep silence; before him there is a consuming flame, and round about him a raging storm. — Psalm 50.3

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

Today’s Readings
Jeremiah 41 (Listen – 3:36)
Psalms 17 (Listen – 1:58)

#ReadersChoice is time for you to share favorite Park Forum posts from the year.
What post challenged or convicted you?https://forms.gle/DsYWbj45y9fCDLzi7

Read more about Righteousness Sets Things Right
Righteousness, as Job describes it, is marked by formidable, positive actions on behalf of justice.

Prayer of Pleading

Scripture Focus: 2 Corinthians 12.8-9
Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you.

The following post comes from an excellent series Matt Tullos wrote called 39 Words. Matt is a longtime friend and mentor in ministry and writing who graciously allows us to share his writings for the benefit of our community. — John

Reflection:  Prayer of Pleading
By Matt Tullos

When we run out of pretty prayers and Sunday School answers, pleading is an intimate, ugly cry that dares to cast away its pride.

If it be your will,
If there is a choice,
Let the rivers fill.
Let the hills rejoice.
Let your mercy spill.
On all these burning hearts in hell
If it be your will
To make us well.
— Leonard Cohen

As He begins this final journey toward the cross, Jesus prays a haunting, surprising prayer: “If it be your will, let this cup pass from me.” This plea reveals both His humanity and divine nature.

He knows that life will close in on Him.
No escape.
No turning back.

The world He came to save is now turning against Him. At this moment, one of His followers combs through the garden with a band of conspirators to capture Him. At the time of His greatest need, His dearest companions are comatose and negligent.

He is utterly alone and the weight of the harrowing pain-every kind of pain including isolation, torture, shame, nakedness, blood and farewells, would soon appear under the rays of the moon and the poor light of a covered sun.

We see Him in the garden, a different garden that served as the arena of the man’s fall, and He pleads, “If it be your will…”

Ultimately this cup is the cup of God’s fury. People often glibly use the phrase, “The wrath of God.” There is only One who experienced the wrath of God in its completeness, in its fearful symmetry, in a place where the constructs of evil converge into one horrible event.

This is the place where Jesus is kneeling—in the crosshairs of deep malevolence and holy, blood-soaked redemption. And Jesus knows this. He knows this well.

When we plead, we come to the end of ourselves and stumble toward the One who loves us. Beggars are never rejected at the footstool of the Almighty.

Pleading is messy prayer. It’s when we can do nothing else but beg. Are you a beggar today, pleading for God’s attention?

Are you so hungry that you’d be satisfied with the crumbs of the Divine?

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Let your loving-kindness be my comfort, as you have promised to your servant.
Let your compassion come to me, that I may live, for your law is my delight. — Psalm 119.76-77

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

Today’s Readings
Job 42 (Listen -2:41)
2 Corinthians 12 (Listen -3:54)

This Weekend’s Readings
Proverbs 1 (Listen -3:12) 2 Corinthians 13 (Listen -2:19)
Proverbs 2 (Listen -1:53) Galatians 1 (Listen -3:05)

Read more about Liquid Wrath and Liquid Forgiveness
The cup of God’s wrath is taken for us by Christ. He begs not to drink it, and yet he does. Leaving us not a drop to taste after him.

Read more about The Efficacy of Prayer
The thing we pray for may happen, but how can you ever know it was not going to happen anyway? — C.S. Lewis

Unobligated God

Scripture Focus: Job 41.11
Who has a claim against me that I must pay?
    Everything under heaven belongs to me.

Job 42.10-11
After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before. All his brothers and sisters and everyone who had known him before came and ate with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him over all the trouble the Lord had brought on him, and each one gave him a piece of silver and a gold ring.

Reflection: Unobligated God
By John Tillman

“Who can stand against me?” God says to Job. “Who has a claim against me that I must pay?”

In the beginning of the book of Job, the adversary, Satan questions God’s justice. He says, in effect, “You are just bribing Job, God. He doesn’t really love you.”

Through many of their arguments, Job and his friends question God’s justice. They suppose that Job must be sinning in some way, otherwise, God is unjust.

We often question God’s justice today, asking many of Job’s same questions. Why do the wicked thrive? How is it that the innocent suffer? Why is the world not just, if God is just?

When we question whether God is just, we question the author of justice.
We think God owes us something because we live in an unjust world.
But it is us who have made this world unjust, wrestling it from God’s will along the way.

We have sinned against God. Not the other way around. God is not a debtor. We are. Our sinful condition means that we are not the victims but the perpetrators. Sin makes us into God’s enemies.

God does not owe us salvation and forgiveness. 

But thank God that he pays debts that he does not owe. He is a God who gives when he has no obligation. He is a God who comes to us, as we suffer in the highways and the byways, and compels us to come into his lavish banquet.

In the last chapter of Job (tomorrow’s reading) we see that God restored Job’s fortunes. I suppose we picture God handing Job a reimbursement check. 

But there is an important detail that we should not skip over. Job’s fortunes were restored by God, yes. But God used the means of Job’s friends to carry it out. Scripture says everyone Job had ever known came to give him a financial gift. 

Part of God’s restoration of Job was carried out in the community and by the community. When God sets out to redeem someone and rebuild their lives, he typically uses people to do it. 

May we cry to God for his justice, his righteousness, to be done on earth among us.
May we be a part of communities that line up to help the suffering as people helped Job.
May our actions be empowered by the Holy Spirit to demonstrate God’s justice in the world.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
My lips will sing with joy when I play to you, and so will my soul, which you have redeemed. — Psalm 71.23

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

Today’s Readings
Job 41 (Listen -3:03),
2 Corinthians 11 (Listen -4:46)

Read more about God is Faithful, not Indebted
Job and his friends believed in an indebted God who owed good to the righteous, owed suffering to the wicked, and never made late payments.

Read more about God of the Weak and Doubtful
Thank God, that he is the God of the weak and the doubtful.
In doubt hold out your hands.
In weakness cling to him.

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