The Faithfulness of God for Others

A Lenten reflection and prayer guide to prepare our hearts and minds for Holy Week. Curated by The Park Forum.

John 14.1
[Jesus said,] “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.”

Lenten Morning: Let Not Your Hearts Be Troubled | by Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Jesus was going to his last bitter agony, and to death itself, and yet he overflowed with sympathy for his followers. Had it been you or I, we should have asked for sympathy for ourselves. Our cry would have been, “Have pity upon me, O my friends, for the hand of God hath touched me!” But, instead of that, our Lord cast his own crushing sorrows into the background.

Jesus knew that he was about to be “exceeding sorrowful, even unto death;” he knew that he should soon be in an agony through bearing “the chastisement of our peace;” but ere he plunged into the deep, he must needs dry the tears of those he loved so well, and therefore he said most touchingly, “Let not your heart be troubled.”

Though he knows that he is to be put to a shameful death, yet feels no fear, but bids his disciples to trust him implicitly. The black darkness of the awful midnight was beginning to surround him, yet how brave his word — “Believe also in me!”

While we see here his confidence as man, we also feel that this is not a speech which a mere man would ever have uttered had he been a good man; for no mere creature would thus match himself with God. That Jesus is a good man few question; that he must be God is therefore proven by these words. 

Would Jesus bid us trust in an arm of flesh? Is it not written—“Cursed be the man that trusts in man, and makes flesh his arm”? Yet the Holy Jesus says, “Ye believe in God, believe also in me.” This association of himself with God as the object of human confidence in the time of trouble, demonstrates a consciousness of his own divine power and Godhead; and it is a mystery in whose difficulties faith takes pleasure, to see in our Lord Jesus the faith of a man for himself, and the faithfulness of God for others.

Lenten Evening Prayer: The Daily Examen
1. Opening prayer of invitation: become aware of God’s presence (2 minutes).
2. Review the day with gratitude (3 minutes).
3. Pay attention to your emotions (3 minutes).
4. Choose one feature of the day and pray from it (5 minutes).
5. Closing prayer: look toward tomorrow (2 minutes).

Today’s Readings
Exodus 35 (Listen – 4:31)
John 14 (Listen – 4:13)

Lenten Reflections
Part 2 of 5, read more on TheParkForum.org

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Accepting the Self-Humiliation of Jesus

A Lenten reflection and prayer guide to prepare our hearts and minds for Holy Week. Curated by The Park Forum.

John 13.8
“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”

Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” 

The Washing of the Disciples’ Feet (an excerpt) | by Richard C.H. Lenski

Some would call the act symbolical; but this is contradicted by Jesus himself (in verse 15). His act was an example; it was not staged as a symbol, it was performed as an actual service upon feet that actually needed washing. 

John endeavors to impress upon our minds the contrasts which make the last acts of Jesus stand out with love for the disciples—even in these last hours Jesus forgets himself and devotes all his efforts to them.

Sometimes this is understood rather superficially as though Jesus says, “Unless I wash thy feet, thou hast no part with me.” If, then, it seems strange that Jesus makes the salvation of Peter depend on his washing Peter’s feet, the remark is added that Peter’s refusal to have his feet washed by Jesus is rank disobedience, and persistence in this disobedience would exclude Peter from salvation. Yet the reply of Jesus says nothing about washing the feet of Peter and nothing about disobedience on Peter’s part. 

Peter will not accept the self-humiliation of Jesus. Yet by thus contending for the Lord’s greatness, which he will not have marred, he is really asserting his own greatness over against Jesus, as one who will not learn humility from the example Jesus is now setting him. 

Thus by seemingly contending for the greatness of Jesus, Peter is destroying this greatness and is thus separating himself from Jesus. In other words, by his refusal to have Jesus wash his feet, Peter repudiates the Lord as he is and demands a Lord who is otherwise. 

Jesus makes Peter’s having part with him depend, not on anything Peter does, but on something Jesus does for Peter: “unless I wash thee.”

Lenten Evening Prayer: The Daily Examen
1. Opening prayer of invitation: become aware of God’s presence (2 minutes).
2. Review the day with gratitude (3 minutes).
3. Pay attention to your emotions (3 minutes).
4. Choose one feature of the day and pray from it (5 minutes).
5. Closing prayer: look toward tomorrow (2 minutes).

Today’s Readings
Exodus 34 (Listen – 5:48)
John 13 (Listen – 5:06)

Lenten Reflections
Part 1 of 5, read more on TheParkForum.org

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God’s Presence in Vocation

Exodus 31.1-6
The LORD said to Moses, “See, I have called by name Bezalel… and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft. Moreover, I have appointed Oholiab… Also I have given ability to all the skilled workers to make everything I have commanded you.”

There are particular places we expect God to be present. In ancient Israel’s day we see God’s Spirit reside in the holy of holies — a space distinct from every part of common life. We also see the special relationship Israel’s leaders and pillars of faith had with him (Adam, Eve, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, and Aaron to name a few).

Bezalel and Oholiab are outliers to this expectation, but not to the way God’s Spirit works. Both men are tradesmen who are filled with God’s Spirit to engage in their vocation in a unique and transcendent way. (They are not the first to have this happen.)

God creates work as an invitation into creation and empowers it as a pathway into deeper relationship with Him. Work’s transcendent value comes from him.

“If the God of the Bible exists,” posits Timothy Keller in Every Good Endeavor, “and there is a True Reality beneath and behind this one, and this life is not the only life, then every good endeavor, even the simplest of ones, pursued in response to God’s calling, can matter forever.”

God’s presence reaches into every part of the world as his Spirit empowers people of faith in each vocation. 

“No single piece of our mental world is to be hermetically sealed off from the rest,” insists Abraham Kuyper. As an advocate for God’s presence in all things, Kuyper proclaims, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’”

Prayer
Father, thank you for creating, empowering, and valuing work. Give us the ability to engage in our vocations in ways which bring honor and glory to you. Give us vision for your Kingdom in our fields and in the lives of those we work with. Help us to see our work, as Dr. Keller says, as your “assignment to serve others.”

Today’s Readings
Exodus 31 (Listen – 2:32)
John 10 (Listen – 4:44)

Ancient Symbols, Modern Faith
Part 5 of 5, read more on TheParkForum.org

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This Weekend’s Readings

Saturday: Exodus 32 (Listen – 5:47); John 11 (Listen – 6:37)
Sunday: Exodus 33 (Listen – 3:49); John 12 (Listen – 6:26)

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TBT: Justification by Faith Alone

Exodus 30.11-12, 16
Then the LORD said to Moses, “When you take a census of the Israelites to count them, each one must pay the LORD a ransom for his life at the time he is counted… It will be a memorial for the Israelites before the LORD, making atonement for your lives.”

TBT: Justification by Faith Alone | by Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758)

Christ by suffering the penalty, and made atonement for us, removed the guilt of our sins, and sets us in the same state that Adam was in the first moment of his creation. It is no more fit that we should obtain eternal life only on that account. 

Adam did not have the reward merely on account of his innocence; if so, he would have had it fixed upon him at once, as soon as ever he was created. He was as innocent then as he could be. But he was to have the reward on account of his activeness in obedience; not on account merely of his not having done ill, but on account of his doing well.

On the same account we have not eternal life merely as void of guilt, which we have by the atonement of Christ; but on the account of Christ’s activeness in obedience, and doing well. 

Christ is our second federal head, and is called the second Adam. He acted that part for us which the first Adam should have done. When he had undertaken to stand in our place, he was looked upon and treated as though he were guilty with our guilt.

The second Adam brought himself into the state in which the first Adam was on the first moment of his existence — a state of mere freedom from guilt — and hereby was free from any obligation to suffer punishment. 

There was need of something further, a positive obedience, in order for him to obtain — as our second Adam — the reward of eternal life.

God does, in the sentence of justification, pronounce a man perfectly righteous. This, according to the established rule of nature, reason, and divine appointment, is a positive, perfect righteousness.

Prayers from the Past
Glory to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Holy God, deathless, strong,
pity us, save us,
Son of God, our Savior.
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

— Anonymous prayer discovered on a pottery fragment, published in 1900.

Today’s Readings
Exodus 30 (Listen – 5:06)
John 9 (Listen – 4:56)

Ancient Symbols, Modern Faith
Part 4 of 5, read more on TheParkForum.org

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One Reason Why We Needed the Sacrificial System

Exodus 29.44-45
[God said,] “So I will consecrate the tent of meeting and the altar and will consecrate Aaron and his sons to serve me as priests. Then I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God.”

We have a tendency to believe that our sin is unique. In order to manage the guilt of sin, some people respond by jettisoning whatever transcendent truth reveals their actions as sinful. Others discipline themselves, crafting elaborate (and often painful) pathways of penance. Many disconnect from genuine community, for fear they’ll be found out. 

At first glance the sacrificial system solved all of these problems. First, everyone in the community participated — it was clear no one was alone in sin. Second, it gave a tangible action to pay the debt of sin. Most importantly, it gave people a way home. 

God’s presence fell on the tabernacle, and his glory guided his people. One would expect this would have reoriented the hearts of the ancients — but sin persisted. The sacrificial system proved insufficient to pay the price of sin, let-alone restore humankind’s relationship with God. 

We must ask ourselves, then, why we needed the sacrificial system at all.

I’m not sure we would believe that we can’t restore our own relationship with God without the track record of the Old Testament. As modern people, we can do anything. Why wouldn’t we be able to reestablish our relationship with God?

The first covenant was broken, not by God, but by humankind. We’d already been proven impotent. And yet, it was God — in his love — who would pay the price of restoring all that was lost.

“For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests,” Hebrews teaches, “but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.”

It is our salvation, not our sin, that is unique. Christ came as the true and better high priest and — this is the scandal of the gospel — the true and better sacrifice. Because his sacrifice was complete we can live freely under grace, engage whole-heartedly in community, and rest assured in the promise Christ will complete that which he has started.

Prayer

Father God, our hearts long for you. Forgive us for trying to manage our own sin and pay our own debts. Help us to create communities where sinners like ourselves are welcome, where healing can take place, and where your Son can be glorified through our love for one another.

Today’s Readings
Exodus 29 (Listen – 6:23)
John 8 (Listen – 7:33)

Ancient Symbols, Modern Faith
Part 3 of 5, read more on TheParkForum.org

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