Leadership Material?

Scripture Focus: Judges 10.1, 10.3, 11.11a
10.1 After the time of Abimelek, a man of Issachar named Tola son of Puah, the son of Dodo, rose to save Israel.

10.3 He was followed by Jair of Gilead, who led Israel twenty-two years.

11:11a So Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him head and commander over them.

Reflection: Leadership Material?
By Judith S. Kimsey

The book of Judges describes twelve “judges,” or leaders (plus Abimelek, the anti-judge about whom we read yesterday). Twelve backstories, each different from the others. Twelve unique skill sets aligned with twelve significant moments in Israel’s history. 

Based on your experience, what are a few characteristics you would include on a checklist of good leaders? Take examples from the business world, church, or elsewhere. 

Now consider the five leaders’ stories we have already read in Judges: Othniel, Ehud, Shamgar, Deborah, and Gideon. Today we add three more: Tola, Jair, and Jephthah. How do these people align with your leadership checklist? Would any of them have been chosen by a placement agency? As we usually define it today, none were obvious “leadership material.” Do they want to lead? Gideon did not. In fact, we see reluctance among all of those who speak. And yet God used all twelve of these leaders according to their gifts in their specific situations. God doesn’t have a preset checklist of competencies for effective leaders.

We may remember Sunday School images of Gideon with his fleece or Samson pushing the pillars apart, but the point of Judges is not the people who led Israel. The point is the power of the One who calls those leaders. The Apostle Paul says it best: 

Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. (1 Corinthians 1.26-29)

By appointing the insignificant, the hesitant, and the rejected, God leaves room for his own power and sovereignty as he pursues his people. 

Today–just as he did in the period of the judges–God is calling up new leaders for our churches and communities. Is he calling some of us to lead at this significant moment in history?  Have we allowed our culturally-informed checklist of leadership criteria to hold us back? Let’s look up from that leadership checklist and check on the unexpected ways God is at work in unexpected people, including ourselves.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
O Lord, what are we that you should care for us? Mere mortals that you should think of us?
We are like a puff of wind; our days are like a passing shadow. — Psalm 144.3-4

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

Today’s Readings
Judges 10-11.11  (Listen 8:11)
1 Peter 2 (Listen 3:48)

Read more about Different Kind of Exile
Most people who don’t accept Christianity aren’t concerned with our theology. They are concerned by our actions.

Share a Readers’ Choice post!
#ReadersChoice is a time for you to share your favorite Park Forum posts from the year.
What post helped calm your fears?

Surrendering Hearts

Scripture Focus: Judges 10.6-7, 10-13
6 Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord. They served the Baals and the Ashtoreths, and the gods of Aram, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the Ammonites and the gods of the Philistines. And because the Israelites forsook the Lord and no longer served him, 7 he became angry with them. He sold them into the hands of the Philistines and the Ammonites,
10 Then the Israelites cried out to the Lord, “We have sinned against you, forsaking our God and serving the Baals.” 
11 The Lord replied, “When the Egyptians, the Amorites, the Ammonites, the Philistines, 12 the Sidonians, the Amalekites and the Maonites n oppressed you and you cried to me for help, did I not save you from their hands? 13 But you have forsaken me and served other gods, so I will no longer save you. 14 Go and cry out to the gods you have chosen. Let them save you when you are in trouble!” 
15 But the Israelites said to the Lord, “We have sinned. Do with us whatever you think best, but please rescue us now.” 16 Then they got rid of the foreign gods among them and served the Lord. And he could bear Israel’s misery no longer. 

Student Writers Month:

This month, The Park Forum welcomes college and seminary student writers pursuing ministry careers. For more info about our yearly Student Writer program, see our website.

Reflection: Surrendering Hearts

By Carolyn M. Soto Jackson

How many times did our parents tell us not to touch the hot plate? And what was the first thing some of us did? We touched the plate and burned ourselves. Most of us can agree our parents seemed to always be nagging us about something. Now as adults, we realize it was for our own good, we just could not see it. 

Things were not much different 2000 years ago. We read in the Book of Judges how the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, again. Not behind God’s back but blatantly in front of Him, serving multiple gods. These were gods of weather, finance, love, and sex. After years of blatant idolatry, eventually God was angered enough he turned them over to the Philistines and the people of Ammon. We know this broke God’s heart. By allowing them to be conquered and serve other gods He gave them what they desired. Like many injured and desperate children, the Israelites cried out after constantly being harassed and oppressed. Scripture goes on to say the children of Israel cried out to the Lord, but God said he would not deliver them. This would be the first time it was recorded that God would not save his children. In God’s rejection of the Israelites, it begs the question, what was lacking in their initial repentance? 

Not their voice, but their hearts. 

It is one thing to say something and it is another to express it with action and a surrendered heart. All along, this is what God wanted, a relationship with His children. After ridding themselves of false gods and demonstrating true repentance, God’s heart was moved with compassion by their change of heart. God’s soul could no longer endure the misery of Israel.

Like many loving parents, it is difficult for God to see his children in misery, but he knows we have to humble ourselves because it is good for us. Our unfailing and unchanging God still wants our fullest attention and our whole hearts. You can be confident to know our parents may discipline us (Hebrews 12.10) for our own good, but our God knows what is best for not only us but for the Kingdom. 

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading

Jesus taught us, saying: “ I give you a new commandment: love one another; you must love one another just as I have loved you. It is by your love for one another, that everyone will recognize you as my disciples.” — John 13.34-35

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

Today’s Readings
Judges 10-11:11 (Listen – 8:13)
Acts 14 (Listen – 3:54)

Read More about Readers’ Choice 2021
It is time to hear from you about the posts from the past eleven months (September 2020 – July 2021) that have challenged, comforted, and helped you find new meaning in the scriptures.


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These groups are spiritual indicators, testifying to the condition of the hearts of those who claim to follow God.

Paul’s First Sermon

Acts 13.15
“Brothers, if you have a word of exhortation for the people, please speak.”

Reflection: Paul’s First Sermon
By John Tillman

Scripture takes many forms. Poems, songs, dialogue, histories, genealogies, visions, and even sermons are recorded in God’s Word. Responding to each as it is intended is a valuable spiritual practice. Whenever you encounter a sermon in Scripture, one way to approach it is to take notes as if you were hearing it along with the listeners.

Today, we encounter Paul’s first recorded sermon and take some notes to reflect on.

Paul’s sermon is in response to a call for exhortation. The word Luke uses, paráklēsis, can imply an entreaty for help and is often translated as “comfort” (Luke 2.25; 6.24; Acts 4.36).

Paul’s message is one of comfort but also a call to action; encouragement but also an energizing challenge.
Paul’s message is for Jews and Gentiles—for all who worship God.

God chose the Jews from among the nations.

  • He showed his goodness in blessing them.
  • He showed his power in saving them.
  • He showed his mercy in bearing with and forgiving their sins and weaknesses.
  • He showed his faithfulness in fulfilling his promises to them.

David was chosen from among them.

  • He was a man God chose to bless.
  • He was a man God used to display his power.
  • He was a man to whom God showed mercy for his sins and weaknesses.
  • He was a man through whom God chose to fulfill a greater promise.

Jesus came from David.

  • As promised by God.
  • As prophesied by prophets throughout Israel’s history.
  • As proclaimed publically by the prophet, John the Baptist.

Jesus completed God’s promised salvation.

  • Through his fulfillment of Scripture.
  • Through his submission to death.
  • Through his physical resurrection.

Through his fulfillment of Scripture, his submission to death, and his physical resurrection, Jesus has made manifest God’s promises of forgiveness and salvation.

The offer of salvation is real.

  • Salvation is a work done by God.
  • Salvation can be ignored.
  • Salvation can be accepted.

The implications of Paul’s sermon:

  • We are chosen by God like Israel, like David, like Paul.
  • God has demonstrated his power in us through Christ’s resurrection and our salvation.
  • God bears with our weakness and sin, forgiving us.
  • God carries his appeal to the world through us.

We, like Paul, are responsible to respond to the world’s need for paráklēsis— for encouragement, comfort, and exhortation.  
We must say as Paul did, “Therefore, my friends…the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you.”

Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Know this, the Lord himself is God; he himself has made us, and we are his; we are his people and the sheep of his pasture. — Psalm 100.2

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

Today’s Readings
Judges 9 (Listen – 8:22)
Acts 13 (Listen – 7:36)

Today’s Readings
Judges 10-11.11 (Listen – 2:18) Acts 14 (Listen – 3:54)
Judges 11.12-40 (Listen – 5:53) Acts 15 (Listen – 5:43)

Thank You!
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Considering all of Scripture together without breaking it apart requires patience and a deep familiarity with Scripture.

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Our culture has steadily, for decades, been encouraging us to abstain from spiritual disciplines in favor of activities that we are led to believe are more profitable.

Readers’ Choice Submissions

It has been so good to hear from many of you about posts for Readers’ Choice, but we still have some room in August for your input.

Share with our community about the post or posts from the past eleven months that have challenged and comforted you.

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

For any questions contact John Tillman at john@theparkforum.org