Become More by Becoming Less

Scripture Focus: John 3.27-30
27 To this John replied, “A person can receive only what is given them from heaven. 28 You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him.’ 29 The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. 30 He must become greater; I must become less.” 

Reflection: Become More by Becoming Less
By John Tillman

The messages we are surrounded with at the turn of the year are consistent and insistent: become more.

Become more fit.
Become more wealthy.
Become more appreciated.
Become more sexually fulfilled.
Become more powerful.
Become more free.
Become more you.

Our culture is radically expansionist. It is not just our economy that must achieve growth at all costs. As individuals, we are pressured to justify our existence. “You aren’t enough the way you are now. Become more.”

Goals can be pursued sinfully or in purity. Paul tells us, “physical training has some value.” (1 Timothy 4.8) Even things that aren’t “physical fitness” such as becoming a better leader, or partner, or working more efficiently have value. But in at least one area, Paul was told by the Spirit, “my grace is sufficient for you.” (2 Corinthians 12.9)

It can be difficult to discern whether we are succumbing to societal pressure to “improve” or following a spiritual imperative to “press on” (Philippians 3.12-14) or “spur one another on.” (Hebrews 10.24) Being “normal” or “satisfied” is a sin in a culture of maximalism and extremism.

No one would call John the Baptizer “normal.” John was an insider who became an outsider. His birth was announced by an angel in the Temple but he left the Temple system and traditional ministry to became a vagrant, desert-dweller, offering harsh words in a harsh environment.

John rejected the gains others thought valuable and became less. He rejected the norms of earthly kingdoms to become more according to God’s kingdom.

Even John, and especially his followers, felt pressure to “become more!” As the crowds swelled around Jesus, they slimmed around John. John was comfortable becoming less. Are we?

Becoming less doesn’t mean physical or spiritual laziness or apathy. It means evaluating things according to a different, kingdom oriented, metric. Ask yourself, “Why do I want this? Where is this pressure coming from? How am I expected to achieve this?”

Through prayer seek guidance on areas in your life where settling for less actually means gaining more. Also, there may be areas where physical training and improvement can have double value by helping to improve your spiritual walk. When you step away from culture’s pressures, you’ll find blessings in the steps you take in discipleship. When you step back in one area, step forward in another.

A few suggestions to become more by becoming less:

  • Stack good things together: Listen to the Bible and pray while walking, exercising, or working. Memorize scripture while brushing your teeth or showering.
  • Less distraction, more connection: Give up some Internet or entertainment time to text or email a friend and pray for them.
  • Less conflict, more grace: Intentionally avoid controversies and post more practical biblical encouragement.
  • Less complaining, more learning: Complain less about what you read in the news and share weekly or daily about what you are learning in the Bible/your church/reading in devotionals, etc.
  • Less impatience, more presence: Reduce whatever it is you use to “escape” or “fill time” and be present, through conversation, prayer, meditation, observation, or even…silence.

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
Of John the Baptizer, it is written: When the Jews sent to him priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?”, he declared, he did not deny, but he declared, “I am not the Christ…I am, as Isaiah prophesied, “A voice of one that cries out in the desert: Prepare a way for the Lord; make his paths straight.” Now those who had been sent were Pharisees and they put this question to him, “Why are you baptizing if you are not the Christ, or Elijah, and not the Prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water, but standing among you—unknown to you—is the one who is coming after me: and I am not fit to undo the strap of his sandal.” This happened at Bethany, on the far side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing. — John 1.19-20; 23-28

Today’s Readings
Genesis 3 (Listen 4:14
John 3 (Listen 4:41)

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By Water and Blood — Love of Advent

Scripture Focus: 1 John 5.6
6 This is the one who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ.

John 3.5-6
5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.

Reflection: By Water and Blood — Love of Advent
By John Tillman

The coming of Jesus was long awaited. Afterward, it was long debated. Conflicts arose about the nature of Christ’s coming, especially among those who had prior beliefs about the world that they were unwilling to give up.

Gnostics believed flesh and matter were evil and only spirit was pure. God, a spirit, becoming flesh was unfathomable. They tried to find ways to explain the coming of Jesus without letting go of their preconceived beliefs. Perhaps Jesus was just an illusion? Perhaps a spirit that only appeared to have a body?

John pokes holes in these arguments just like Thomas poked his fingers into the holes in Jesus’ side and hands. Jesus came by water, a symbol for spirit, and by blood, a symbol of life and of death.

If Jesus only “appeared” on Earth, instead of living here, then Advent’s love is an illusion and a half-truth. But John assures us that this is not true. The Incarnation, John testifies, was not a Zoom call, or a holodeck adventure, or an experience in augmented reality. John touched, saw, heard, and believed in Jesus. The Jesus John loved (John 13.23), was not some phantasm. He was a physical, sweaty, sometimes napping, mud-making, foot-washing, blood-sweating Jesus. (Mark 4.38; John 9.11; 13.12; Luke 22.44

When placed in the hay as a baby, his tender skin itched. When he got a splinter in his father’s carpentry shop, his small fingers bled. When angry enough to swing a whip in the Temple, blood rushed to his face. When he stood at a friend’s grave, his guts roiled with emotion and tears rolled down his cheeks. When he knelt in the garden, his mind clouded with stress, anxiety, and fear as blood burst from his capillaries through his skin. When the soldiers punched him, their knuckles raised fleshy bruises. When they pulled out his beard, the blood and hair stuck to their hands and clothes.

Jesus was real. This means his love is real too. The love Jesus has for us is not some long-distance affection. He came close. His love for us is visceral and he lived that love out with passion in our physical world. He will come close to us if we draw close to him. You probably aren’t a Gnostic (although Gnostic-ish concepts are popular in our culture). However, you might have to let go of some cultural beliefs as you draw closer to Jesus.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. — Matthew 5.6

Today’s Readings
Esther 8 (Listen 3:41)
1 John 5 (Listen 3:00)

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Good King Wenceslas—Readers’ Choice

Readers’ Choice Month:
This September, The Park Forum is looking back on readers’ selections of our most meaningful and helpful devotionals from the past 12 months. Thank you for your readership. This month is all about hearing from you. Submit a Readers’ Choice post today.

Today’s post was originally published, on December 8, 2021, based on 3 John 3-6 and Luke 6:38
It was selected by reader, EN: 
“Hymns and carols have always been close to my heart. This was a wonderful reflection.”

Scripture Focus: 3 John 3-6
3 It gave me great joy when some believers came and testified about your faithfulness to the truth, telling how you continue to walk in it. 4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.
5 Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers and sisters, even though they are strangers to you. 6 They have told the church about your love. Please send them on their way in a manner that honors God.

Luke 6:38
Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

Reflection: Good King Wenceslas—Readers’ Choice
By Jon Polk

In 921, the Duke of Bohemia (in modern Czech Republic) died when his son Wenceslas was only 13 years old, too young to rule. Wenceslas’ late grandfather converted to Christianity under the influence of Byzantine missionaries and his grandmother had seen to his education, so she was made regent in his stead.

At age 18, Wenceslas was made Duke of Bohemia and his reign was characterized by his Christian heritage. He became known for acts of charity and almsgiving, winning the admiration of his subjects.

Historian Cosmas of Prague wrote about Wenceslas in 1119:

His deeds I think you know better than I could tell you; rising every night from his noble bed, he went around to God’s churches and gave alms generously to widows, orphans, those in prison and afflicted by every difficulty, so much so that he was considered, not a prince, but the father of all the wretched.

Wenceslas’ legacy helped shape the medieval concept of the righteous king, whose power is based on great piety in addition to regal authority.

Written by English hymn writer John Mason Neale in 1853, the carol “Good King Wenceslas” recounts one incident of love and generosity by the good king.

Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the Feast of Stephen
When the snow lay round about
Deep and crisp and even
Brightly shone the moon that night
Though the frost was cruel
When a poor man came in sight
Gathering winter fuel

The king orders his servants to gather food, drink and firewood and summons his page to help him deliver the goods to the poor peasant. 

Page and monarch forth they went
Forth they went together
Through the rude wind’s wild lament
And the bitter weather

As the weather worsens, the page insists he can go no further; the king suggests that the page simply follow boldly in his footsteps. Upon doing so, the page discovers that he is warmed by the sod where snow had melted under his master’s footprints.

The Christmas season often prompts many people to engage in acts of charity and kindness. There are toy drives, meals served in soup kitchens and generous donations made to notable causes, all our expressions of God’s love.

Unfortunately, however, our generosity usually ends on December 26th.

While the carol recounts only one incident at Christmastime, Wenceslas was remembered for a life of generosity and love for those in need.

We follow a Righteous King who lived his whole life as a servant. He invites us to simply walk boldly in his footsteps, serving others not only for a few weeks during the Christmas season, but consistently throughout the year.

Therefore, Christian men, be sure
Wealth or rank possessing
Ye who now will bless the poor
Shall yourselves find blessing

Listen: Good King Wenceslas by Downhere
Read: Lyrics from

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. — Matthew 5.6

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Lamentations 4(Listen 3:42)
Romans 2(Listen 4:13)

Readers’ Choice is Here!
Thanks for sharing your recommended posts from the last 12 months. We have loved hearing from you!

Read more about He Became a Servant — Love of Advent
Jesus is our perfect and complete picture of what God is like. He is still among us as one who serves and we are to be like him.