Details, Doubt, and Destiny

Scripture Focus: Judges 6.11-13
​​11 The angel of the Lord came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. 12 When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.” 

13 “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”

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: Details, Doubt, and Destiny
By Nigel Robinson

This opening setting of this chapter seems much like our situation across the world as followers of Christ. Those who say they love God act contrary to his words, those who do not love God profit from God’s people without visible consequence, and God seems nowhere to be found. God will answer if we humble ourselves, stop rebelling against him, and ask him for help. Have you reached the point where life hurts badly enough you are willing to let God help? God loves us so much he will let life beat us down so we choose to look up to him!

Living in a world like this is difficult. This is where we meet Gideon. His life has been ravaged to the point that he is literally hiding in a pit so his enemies cannot see him in an attempt to provide food for himself and his family. The task of threshing is harder than normal as he has no level surface, wind, or oxen to aid him. When life is tough, will God find you surrendering to your problems or doing what you can to handle them? Gideon’s creativity here provides an example of how we can respond to difficulties. God wants to find our hands working because we believe God will come through for us and we have not given up on him. 

God talked to Gideon, but Gideon wasn’t quite ready to trust God. Gideon’s current circumstances brought on doubt. We face doubt because our experiences reveal life’s fragility and our limitations. However, God is not fragile nor limited. Questioning God is not wrong, but we must choose to act in accordance with what his answer reveals about us. Gideon questioned if what God said was true. But when God proved it was, Gideon responded in obedience. When was the last time you questioned what God told you? When he answered, did you act in accordance with what he said? We will never arrive at the destiny God has for us unless we believe him over our life experiences.

God uses the details of our lives to erase the doubt in our lives so we can arrive at his destiny for our lives. Gideon’s obedience allowed God to use his ordinary resources to achieve extraordinary results. What doubt is God addressing through the details of your life? Follow the details because God’s destiny is waiting.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
You are my hope, O Lord God, my confidence since I was young. — Psalm 71.5

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

Today’s Readings
Judges 6 (Listen – 6:15)
Acts 10 (Listen – 5:49)

Today’s Readings
Judges 7 (Listen – 4:39) Acts 11 (Listen – 3:52)
Judges 8 (Listen – 5:08) Acts 12 (Listen – 3:49)

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Read more about God of the Weak and Doubtful
The ones who touched with their hands experienced doubt. The ones who saw with their eyes struggled to believe.

Our Forgetfulness, God’s Faithfulness

Scripture Focus: Judges 2.11-14
11 Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Baals. 12 They forsook the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They aroused the Lord’s anger 13 because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths. 14 In his anger against Israel the Lord gave them into the hands of raiders who plundered them. He sold them into the hands of their enemies all around, whom they were no longer able to resist.

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: Our Forgetfulness, God’s Faithfulness
By Savannah Green

Forgetfulness leads to apathy.

After Joshua’s passing, Israel began worshipping other gods. The next generation did not know God, or remember the promises he made to his people. The Israelites had forgotten their covenant with God.

Just one generation before, God’s people had been faithful and obedient to him. Yet within a short time, Israel abandoned God. 

Their forgetfulness led to apathy.

Israel became unconcerned with serving and worshipping God. Instead, they served the Baals and Ashtaroth. Even more, their sin was not hidden; it was done before God’s eyes.

This is a testament to us as well. We are often quick to forget the faithfulness of God. We forget his promises. We forget his steadfast love for us.

Our forgetfulness leads to apathy.

When we lose the habit of recalling God’s faithfulness, we become apathetic in our relationship with him. Obedience to him becomes less of a priority, and the promise of salvation moves from the forefront of our minds. False idols shift our focus and receive our worship.

Inevitably, in our humanity, we will become forgetful of God and his promises. When apathy begins to trickle into our souls, may we call to mind our dependence on God. We resist forgetfulness and apathy by remembering God’s faithfulness.

Our Forgetfulness, God’s Faithfulness

Apathy
Found in people
Found in Israel
Found in me

God brought them to the land
Promised to their fathers
“I will never break my covenant.”
Swore the Father of fathers

But God’s people did what was evil
They abandoned the Lord
And forgot the promise sworn
God’s anger kindled against Israel

How familiar this sounds
How similar it reads
To my daily wandering
From the crowned-with-thorns King

A promise of a covenant
A promise of land
Like the promise of salvation
I mindlessly neglect

May Israel’s unfaithfulness
Remind me to not forget
God’s steadfast faithfulness
Covers my debt

Israel’s apathy
Reflects my apathy
And my need
Of the true King

Divine Hours Prayer: The Morning Psalm
As a doe longs for running streams, so I yearn for you, my God.
I thirst for God, the living God; when shall I go to see the face of God?
I have no food but tears, day and night; and all day long I am taunted, “Where is your God?”
This I remember, as I pour out my heart, how I used to pass under the roof of the Most High
Used to go to the house of God, among the cries of joy and praise, the sound of the feast. 
Why be so downcast, why all these sighs? Hope in God: I will praise him still, my Savior, my God. — Psalm 42.1-6

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

Today’s Readings
Judges 2(Listen – 3:19)
Acts 6(Listen – 2:35)

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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Read more about Remember Jesus Christ
Remembering in Scripture is often a calling to focus on God’s commands or to recall God’s intervention in history.

Going Where the Gospel Goes

Acts 11:17-18
“So if God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?” When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.”

Reflection: Going Where the Gospel Goes
By Jon Polk

News of the Gentile converts was a big deal in Jerusalem. When Peter arrived in the city, he had some explaining to do.

“You went into the house of a Gentile?” “You actually shared a meal with his family?” “Peter, you of all people. What were you thinking?”

To participate in the church community, Gentiles needed to be purified by observing the Torah—specifically circumcision—so discovering that Peter had welcomed uncircumcised Gentiles into fellowship was a cause of consternation among the believers in Jerusalem.
Lest we underestimate the radical importance of this event, Luke, the author of Acts, records the account of Cornelius the Gentile’s conversion three times: the original event in chapter 10, Peter’s recollection here in chapter 11 and Peter’s argument before the Jerusalem council in chapter 15. Peter’s first-hand experience with Cornelius and the other Gentiles in Caesarea changed the attitudes of the early Jewish followers of Jesus and opened the door of fellowship for the Gentiles.

It was Peter’s story that was convincing. Not theological arguments. Not propositional statements. Not disconnected rationalizations. Real stories of real people and their real experience with God made the difference. Peter’s own attitude about Gentiles was changed and likewise, when the believers in Jerusalem heard his story, they also dropped their objections.
In Innocents Abroad, Mark Twain wrote, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

We could apply the same principle from travel to any experiences with peoples or cultures outside of our own. It is easy to pass judgment from afar, but sharing a conversation or a meal allows us to see first-hand that the same Spirit of God that we hold dear also works in the lives of others very different from us.

Our modern lives are becoming increasingly segregated by our social-media echo-chambers, our holy huddles of the like-minded, and prevailing negativity towards anything—or anyone—outside of our safe preconceived notions and beliefs. If we allow ourselves to step outside of our familiar circles, we might find that we understand Peter’s assessment of God’s acceptance of the Gentile converts, “Who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?”

Prayer: The Small Verse
The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; on the inhabitants of a country in shadow dark as death a light has blazed forth. — Isaiah 9.1

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

Today’s Readings
Judges 6 (Listen – 4:39)
Acts 11 (Listen – 3:52)

Thank You!
Thank you to our donors who support our readers by making it possible to continue The Park Forum devotionals. This year, The Park Forum audiences opened 200,000 free, and ad-free, devotional content. Follow this link to join our donors with a one-time or a monthly gift.

Read more about Slavery, Racism, and a Lone Christian Voice
Fifteen hundred years later, we are still fighting the anti-slavery, and anti-racism, and anti-oppression battles. We may be victorious yet, but it will take all of us to engage the battle.

Read more about Racism Wears a Mask
We have allowed racism to rise, wearing a mask decorated with other concerns. In our government. In our businesses. Even in our churches.

Readers’ Choice Submissions

Help us fill August with reflections from you about the post or posts from the past eleven months that have challenged and comforted you and helped you find new meaning in the scriptures.

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

A Mutual Conversion

Acts 10:34-35
Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.”

Reflection: A Mutual Conversion
By Jon Polk

Cornelius was a big deal in Caesarea. A Roman centurion stationed in the city as a member of the Italian Regiment, Cornelius and his entire family were “God-fearing” Gentiles, regularly praying to the God of the Jews. He was also known for his generosity to the poor and needy.
None of this, however, is why Cornelius is recorded in the history of the early church. Instead, he is remembered for a vision and a summons.

During the middle of the day, Cornelius was visited by an angel, who instructed him to send for Peter. Marshaling his resources, he sent two servants and a trusted soldier on the mission to persuade Peter to come visit.

Meanwhile, Peter was experiencing his own vision in which he was instructed by God to eat unclean animals. While Peter wrestled with the meaning of his vision, Cornelius’ entourage arrived and convinced him to accompany them to Caesarea.

Impressed by Cornelius’ faith, Peter began preaching to the crowd gathered in the house, opening with the words, “I realize now that God does not show favoritism, but accepts anyone who fears him.” He then recounted for those assembled the gospel story of Jesus Christ.
Peter’s opening statement indicates a change in his own understanding. As a good Jew, it was unlawful for him to even associate with Gentiles. It was incomprehensible to him that uncircumcised Gentiles could become disciples of Jesus, but that’s exactly what happened. We witness a mutual conversion, both of Cornelius the Gentile and of Peter the Jew.

Scholar Beverly Gaventa writes, “The end of [verse 36, chapter 10] may be the most important line in the drama: ‘He is Lord of all’ means not only that there is no other Lord but that no one can be excluded from his Lordship.”

Through the conversion of Cornelius and company, the news of God’s impartial love for all humanity impacted Peter, but it also compels us as well. Because God shows impartial love to all kinds of people, we have a responsibility to show the same kind of love to all people. As God seeks out relationships with all people, we too are called to open ourselves to relationships outside our own social and cultural spheres.

It took the power of the Holy Spirit to bridge a relationship between Peter and Cornelius. That same Spirit empowers us in our calling to love others.

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

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

Today’s Readings
Judges 6 (Listen – 6:15)
Acts 10 (Listen – 5:49)

Thank You!
Thank you to our donors who support our readers by making it possible to continue The Park Forum devotionals. This year, The Park Forum audiences opened 200,000 free, and ad-free, devotional content. Follow this link to join our donors with a one-time or a monthly gift.

Read more about Love, Suffering, and the Struggle for Racial Equality
When we work for racial equality we are not doing political work—we are doing God’s work.

Read more about The Responsibility of Racial Reconciliation
It is the responsibility of the more powerful party to ensure the equitability of any reconciliation.

Readers’ Choice Submissions

Help us fill August with reflections from you about the post or posts from the past eleven months that have challenged and comforted you and helped you find new meaning in the scriptures.

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

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