Learning to Live in the Land

Scripture Focus: Judges 1.1-2
1 After the death of Joshua, the Israelites asked the LORD, “Which tribe should go first to attack the Canaanites?” 2 The LORD answered, “Judah, for I have given them victory over the land.” 

From John: We have five bonus Student Writers this year who are writing for us this July. These students attended meetings and trainings with our other students and received similar coaching on their writing submissions. We are so thankful to everyone who helped make this year’s Student Writers Month the biggest we’ve ever done, including the students themselves, our special guests and speakers, and of course our donors who make everything we do possible.

Reflection: Learning to Live in the Land
By Alyssa Stockdill

The book of Judges begins on the heels of Joshua’s “happily ever after.” What has, until this point, been a story of getting to and conquering the land, now becomes a story of trying to live in the land. 

God continues to remind Israel that as he has already he will continue to bring victory, but for them to truly settle down, the current inhabitants must be driven out. 

Judah and Simeon are successful. They live and fight based on the reality of God’s promise. Others are not. God’s intent was to keep Israel set apart from the people and influence of Canaan, but when faced with opposition, they settle for a tenuous arrangement. They allow the Canaanites to remain, either as forced laborers or uneasy neighbors. God’s vision for the flourishing of his people required faithful execution of his commands and faith in his promises. This compromise sets the stage for colossal failure ahead. Israel’s turn from, and return to, Yahweh is a cycle that will repeat throughout the rest of Judges and far beyond.

As followers of Jesus, we have already found our victory in him. However, we are also on a lifelong journey of transformation into his image (2 Corinthians 3.18). We may have arrived in the land, but now we must learn to live in it.  

Do you feel that you are in a battle for the life God promised to you? Sometimes we battle against our own flesh (Galatians 5.17), struggling to live in freedom from our sin and brokenness. Sometimes we battle against the powers and the principalities of this world (Ephesians 6.12). This is the heartache of living in the “already-but-not-yet.”

Will we compromise and allow the challenges we face to sow seeds for future failure? Or will we fight these battles with confidence that God has already done so on our behalf? Will we take heart because we know the one who has already overcome the world? 

The good news is that we serve a God who is faithful even when we are faithless. Failures big and small may play heavily into our story, but they are never the final word. The course charted in these early pages heads straight for destruction and exile, but this is the story of a God who is willing to go to the greatest lengths to bring his people home.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Small Verse
The earth is the Lord’s and all the fullness thereof, the world and we who dwell within. Thanks be to God.

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

Today’s Readings
Judges 1 (Listen 5:08)
1 Timothy 2 (Listen  1:38)

Read more about Transformed by Koinonia
Within us are exalted idols and habits that must be torn down…fruits of the spirit that we have trampled under selfish feet.

Share a Readers’ Choice post!
What post helped you forgive?


The Church of Acts

Acts 5.38-39
Keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. 

Reflection: The Church of Acts
By John Tillman

Everyone loves a good start-up story. The work of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs working away in their garages is enshrined in the Disney attraction, Spaceship Earth at EPCOT, as a key moment in the history of humanity’s advancement. 

But the most unlikely of start-up stories, is recorded in Acts. Christianity entered a marketplace of religious ideas that was glutted with more attractive, easy to follow religions that stroked the deepest lusts of humanity’s urges. 

The hostile empire of Rome was very protective of its state religion. Christianity had no political backing. No cultural influencers. 

In a sermon, Timothy Keller asked how Christianity “not only forced the most powerful state in the history of the world to come to terms with it, but even was able to outlive and survive the complete destruction of the very civilization and government that sought to destroy it?”

There’s not an investor that would have given the early church a dime. Nothing accounts for the speed and scale at which Christianity spread.

Gamaliel, of the Sanhedrin, wisely saw that the young group of untrained men had little chance of success short of the miraculous intervention of God. His policy of non-interference did not seem to win out, however. A few short chapters later, Stephen will be stoned by this same group and Gamaliel’s own student, Saul would become a scourge to the community of Christians.

Yale historian Kenneth Scott Latourette, in his seven-volume series, A History of the Expansion of Christianity, concludes:

“It is clear that at the very beginning of Christianity, there must have occurred a vast release of energy, unequalled in the history of the race. Without it, the future course of the faith is inexplicable… Something happened to the men who associated with Jesus. That burst of energy was ascribed by the early disciples to the founder of their faith. Why this occurred may lie outside the realms in which historians are supposed to move.”

Acts is not a step-by-step program to cut-and-paste into modernity. It isn’t a start-up handbook. The growth of the early church was and remains inexplicable. But it is no flash-in-the-pan start-up. The light of the world cannot be hidden under our bushels of greed—at least not for long.

The clue Luke gives us is in the title—Acts. They will know we are Christians by our love. By our actions. Let us be found working when he comes.

Prayer: A Reading
Jesus taught us, saying: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that bears no fruit he cuts away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes to make it bear even more. You are pruned already, by means of the word that I have spoken to you.” — John 15.1-3

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

Today’s Readings
Judges 1 (Listen – 6:49)
Acts 5 (Listen – 5:08)

Thank You!
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Readers’ Choice Submissions

It is once again time for us to seek out the voices of our readers and hear from you about posts from the past eleven months that have challenged and comforted you and helped you find new meaning in the scriptures.

Readers’ Choice posts will be republished during the month of August and periodically throughout the Fall.

Follow the link to fill out the form. Feel free to fill out the form multiple times for multiple submissions. Please limit your submissions to posts published this calendar year, between September of 2018 and today.

For any questions about The Park Forum, or to make suggestions of posts via email, contact John Tillman at john@theparkforum.org

Read more about Jesus with Axe and Fire
May he baptize us in fire, making of us a light for the world and a spark to ignite God’s love in our communities.

Read more about Names of Christ—Vine, Resurrection, and Door
Do the pleasures of the world seduce you? Turn all the more to the Cross of Christ to find solace in the sweetness of the vine that clustered there.