Light for the Next Step :: Readers’ Choice

Selected by reader, Steve Bostrom, from Helena, Montana
To follow Jesus, we need the gift of faith. That faith uses a lantern to show us the next step. The next step. Not many steps but the next step. That requires humility and patience – but Jesus gives us those too. The illuminating quote from Amy Carmichael, a favorite of my sister, Judy, prompted me to send it to Judy. She was grateful to hear from her old mentor, Amy.

Scripture Focus: Psalm 119.105
Your word is a lamp for my feet,
a light on my path.

Reflection: Light for the Next Step :: Readers’ Choice
Originally published October 29th, 2018
By John Tillman

I’ve found the promises of light bulb companies to be some of the most blatant marketing falsehoods I’ve ever experienced.

In the past nine years living in the same house, I’ve replaced multiple CFL bulbs that claimed they would last over 10 years. Then I replaced those with LEDs claiming to last 13. Recently, I’ve replaced those with, slightly more honest LED bulbs that only claim to last 9 years. The truth will come out—or burn out, in this case.

The ease with which we access artificial light in our modern world makes it difficult for us to understand the world in which this Psalm was written. A lamp for our feet seems redundant when every space is illuminated. We will feel cheated by this verse if we mistake the light it promises for a prophetic career map.

According to the psalmist, God’s word isn’t a spotlight for our ego-centric quest. It isn’t automobile high beams enabling us to speed through the dark toward the future. God’s word, most of the time, provides one-step-at-a-time light. A lamp for our feet forces us to engage with where we are, not look only at distant destinations.

Serving in India, Amy Carmichael wrote about her experience of learning about this popular verse in a very practical way.

“Once when I was climbing at night in the forest before there was a made path, I learned what the word meant, Psalm 119.105: “They word is a lantern to my path”. I had a lantern and had to hold it very low or I should certainly have slipped on those rough rocks. We don’t walk spiritually by electric light but by a hand lantern. And a lantern only shows the next step—not several ahead.”

All the lights we trust in other than God’s Word, will one day fail.
The brightest lights we know and can design can’t show us what God’s Word can.
God’s Word is the light we need for everyday living.

Walking daily in this Word, meditating on it, breathing it in and out, making it a part of our thoughts and our prayers, charges an inner light of the Holy Spirit that we can trust to give us the next step. Carmichael explains:

“If the next step is clear, then the one thing to do is to take it. Don’t pledge your Lord or yourself about the steps beyond. You don’t see them yet.”

Daily spiritual disciplines keep oil in your lamp so that you may follow the steps of the bridegroom when he calls.

Divine Hours Prayer:  The Request for Presence
Show your goodness, O Lord, to those who are good and to those who are true of heart. — Psalm 125.4

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

Today’s Readings
Judges 21 (Listen – 3:47) 
Acts 25 (Listen – 4:10)

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.

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Read more about Cultivation Requires Planning
God, desiring to walk with humanity in relationship, knelt in the earth and planted a garden. We, in our pursuit of a deepening walk of faith, need to follow his example of supernatural cultivation.

God of the Weak and Doubtful :: Readers’ Choice

Selected by reader, Ann, from South Carolina
Because I often feel weak in faith and doubt my salvation.

Scripture Focus: Matthew 28.16-20
Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Reflection: God of the Weak and Doubtful :: Readers’ Choice 
Originally published January 28th, 2019
By John Tillman

Some of the details that ring the most truthfully from the scriptures regarding the resurrection of Jesus, is how long it took the disciples to fully believe and understand what had happened. They were incredulous. They did not trust their eyes that saw or their hands that touched. They couldn’t believe it. 

We sometimes skim over the many mentions of the disciples’ doubt looking for examples of strong faith to emulate. We should emulate faith. This is the purpose of the great chapter of faith in Hebrews and the descriptions of faithful moments in the lives of many throughout scripture. But we shouldn’t overlook the importance of the presence of doubters among the disciples. 

If God placed examples of faith in the scripture, he also placed doubt in the scriptures. Stories of faith come from doubt. When God shows us a story of the faithful, he points us to where he is calling us. When God shows us his doubtful children, he comes to where we are, puts his reassuring hand on our shoulder, and claims us as his children as well.

The ones who touched with their hands experienced doubt. The ones who saw with their eyes struggled to believe. Even up to the moment of Christ’s ascension into Heaven before their eyes, doubt was among them.

It was these doubtful few with whom Christ placed the responsibility of his most precious and vital mission. It is to this confused assemblage of rebels and failures, that Christ entrusted the gospel.

Oh, you of little faith…
He accepts and encourages you today. You who doubt his care. You who doubt his provision. You who doubt his presence with you. You who doubt that you are loveable, that you are valuable, that you are called, that you are his precious child… He calls. He loves. He holds out his hand, and trusts the gospel, to all of us doubters.

Christ did not allow Peter to sink in the waves when his faith was too weak. He will extend his loving hand to you as well.
He did not turn away the father who struggled to believe. He will not turn you away.
Thank God, that he is the God of the weak and the doubtful.
In doubt hold out your hands.
In weakness cling to him.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Let me hear of your loving-kindness in the morning, for I put my trust in your; show me the road that I must walk, for I lift my soul to you. — Psalm 143.8

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

Today’s Readings
Judges 20 (Listen – 7:13) 
Acts 24 (Listen – 4:11)

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.

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Let our community hear how your faith has grown. What post calmed your fears?

Read more about Rend Your Hearts
Joel’s admonition is to go beyond public signals of mourning or confession. It is our heart that we must rend in mourning and confession, because God looks at the heart, not our outward appearance.

Meditation in Spiritual Rhythm :: Readers’ Choice

Selected by reader, Jennifer K, Brooklyn, NY
“Meditation is not new to Christianity, but it has often been forgotten on the shelf,” what a beautiful statement to read as a Christian and daily meditator. Prayer and meditation go hand in hand with my spiritual practice, truly a spiritual rhythm. Thank you for this edition that speaks volumes to my soul!

Scripture Focus: Psalm 88.1-2
Lord, you are the God who saves me;
day and night I cry out to you.
May my prayer come before you;
turn your ear to my cry.

Reflection: Meditation in Spiritual Rhythm :: Readers’ Choice
Originally published October 4th, 2018
By John Tillman

As Thomas Merton poetically wrote about humanity, “He is the saddest animal. He drives a big red car called anxiety.”

Meditation is a breathing apparatus to help us survive in a poisonous atmosphere polluted by anxiety and fear.

Meditation is not new age, but old. However, in the modern age, it has often been forgotten on the shelf as many Christians and Christian leaders followed our culture into frenetic clamor instead of leading our culture from a place of peace and rest.

Today we look back a few hundred years or so, to a collection of thoughts on meditation that were not considered radical or strange in their time, but simply a prudent, practical, and effective Christian discipline.

George Müller (1805-1898)
Now what is food for the inner man? Not prayer, but the Word of God; and here again, not the simple reading of the Word of God, so that it only passes through our minds, just as water passes through a pipe, but considering what we read, pondering over it and applying it to our hearts.

This exercise of the soul can be most effectively performed after the inner man has been nourished by meditation on the Word of God, where we find our Father speaking to us, to encourage us, to comfort us, to instruct us, to humble us, to reprove us. We may therefore profitably meditate with God’s blessing though we are ever so weak spiritually; nay, the weaker we are the more we need meditation for the strengthening of our inner man.

Richard Baxter (1615-1691)
Nor should we imagine it will be as well to take up with prayer alone, and lay aside meditation; for they are distinct duties, and must both of them be performed. We need the one as well as the other, and therefore we shall wrong ourselves by neglecting either. Besides, the mixture of them, like music, will be more engaging; as the one serves to put life into the other. And our speaking to ourselves in meditation, should go before our speaking to God in prayer.

William Bridge (1600-1670)
Begin with reading or hearing. Go on with meditation; end in prayer…Reading without meditation is unfruitful; meditation without reading is hurtful; to meditate and to read without prayer upon both, is without blessing.

From these writings and ones like them, we draw a pattern, a spiritual rhythm, that we want to promote for all our readers: Read, reflect, pray…repeat.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Let the Name of the Lord be blessed, from this time forth for evermore.
From the rising of the sun to its going down let the Name of the Lord be praised. — Psalm 113.2-3

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

Today’s Readings
Judges 19 (Listen – 4:52) 
Acts 23 (Listen – 5:15)

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.

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Let our community hear about your faith. What post refreshed your relationship with God?

Read more about The Practice of Meditation :: Tea
Christian meditation does not seek emptiness, but fullness. We do not seek unconscious, impersonal revelation, but personal revelation from a conscious and communicative God.

A Trinity of Neglect :: Readers’ Choice

From John: I am thrilled to begin Readers’ Choice this year with a selection from a ministry mentor of mine. Bruce is in my prayers regularly for his health, but I regularly get group texts that he is praying for me, among many other friends. Bruce is certainly one who puts love and faith into action. It is a privilege to know him and be prayed for by him, and by other Park Forum readers as well. Thank you all.

Selected by reader, Bruce, from Louisiana
I love this. It certainly reminds us that loving others requires action not staying in our comfort zone, investing time not hiding our gifts, and doing the right thing not just thinking about it.

Matthew 25.37-40
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

1 Timothy 4.13-15
Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you.
Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.

Reflection: A Trinity of Neglect :: Readers’ Choice
Originally posted, January 25, 2019
By John Tillman

Matthew 25 is famous for the sheep and the goats parable. But really, the entire chapter is about people who shirked their responsibilities to themselves, to their master, and to others. The foolish virgins, the wicked servant, and the goats are a trinity of spiritual neglect.

Pray this weekend through the three stories. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you warning signs if you are following the path of one of these neglectful souls.

May we avoid the neglect of The Foolish Virgins…
We need not stumble into extravagant sin to endanger our relationship with you, Lord.

The virgins excluded from the banquet were not lascivious, or lustful. They were not greedy or cruel. They simply were irresponsible and unthoughtful.

May we never fall into the dim thoughtlessness of complacency, and may we regularly refresh ourselves with the oil of your Holy Spirit to brighten our lamps when called on.

May we avoid the lazy apathy of The Wicked Servant…
We need not squander your blessings to use them unworthily, oh Lord.

The servant given one bag of gold didn’t lose it, or gamble it away. He didn’t try to steal it. He just didn’t try to use it. The servant failed to understand, and so do we, that the king wasn’t investing his money with people. He was investing in people with his money. The king expected growth in the servant. Growth of the gold would only be a side effect. He would have found more mercy in the master had he tried and failed, than in failing to even try.

May we dare to step out with whatever seemingly insignificant gift he has given us. You, oh Lord, do not despise small beginnings or small gifts well and truly used in faith.

May we avoid the careless denial of responsibility of the goats…
We need not be ignorant of you, Lord, to miss Heaven. We need only be uninvolved and unconcerned for others.

The goats didn’t actively cause hunger, or thirst, or homelessness, or refugees. They didn’t cause nakedness, or crime, or unjust punishment, or oppression, or sickness. They just didn’t do anything about it. This was enough to show that Christ had no place in their lives and they had no place with Christ in his eternal life.

Dwell with the Holy Spirit this weekend, asking him to enlighten you about areas in which you may be prone to following in the missteps of the virgins, the servant, or the goats.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Morning Psalm
Our iniquities you have set before you, and our secret sins in the light of your countenance… — Psalm 90.8

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

Today’s Readings
Judges 16 (Listen – 5:59) 
Acts 20 (Listen – 5:22)

This Weekend’s Readings
Judges 17 (Listen – 1:50), Acts 21 (Listen – 5:55)
Judges 18 (Listen – 4:39), Acts 22 (Listen – 4:26)

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.

Submit a Readers’ Choice
We still have room for your voice. What post comforted you?

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Let our community hear how your faith has grown. What post helped you see your work in a new light?

Hope Sees Us :: Editor’s Choice

Luke 19.4, 9
So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.
…Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house…”

Reflection: Hope Sees Us :: Editor’s Choice
By John Tillman

The post quoted below, Hope on a Limb, was originally published on December 5th as a part of our Advent series. It struck a chord and resonated, picking up so much traffic in the remaining twenty-five days of December that it was our most viewed page on our entire website in 2018. Seven more months have passed and it is still keeping ahead of other posts. People are still looking for hope.

The post is about hope and where we place it. But it is also about how Jesus is not the king that our flesh cries out for. Instead, Jesus is the king that our broken and busted souls need.

As much as we do not understand why Jesus chooses to, he still loves us. Our problem is that we don’t like all of the people whom Jesus also loves…

“He gave the gift of his presence, salvation, and peace to Zacchaeus—a traitor, a government thug, and a corporate thief.
He gave a warning parable about an unwanted king, “because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once.”
He gave, in his parable, more resources to the already rich, over the objections of the crowd.
Then he ran the rich and powerful out of the Temple in order to give it back to the outcasts, the foreigners, the blind, and the lame.

Jesus is, for some, the unwanted king of the parable. His Advent will frustrate those who wait for earthly adulation and success.

But Jesus is for others, the yearned-for King of Glory. He endlessly supplies those whose hopes rise higher.

What we hope for in Advent is not a political power broker.
What we hope for in Advent is not a market economist.
What we hope for in Advent is not a government regulatory watchdog.
What we hope for in Advent is not a resource of earthly wealth, success, fame, and power.

The king we hope for brings healing.
The king we hope for brings peace.
The king we hope for brings love.

In the season of Advent, we climb out, hopefully, on a limb with Zacchaeus.”

Not just in Advent, but in every season of the year, if we climb out on a limb searching for Jesus, he will come by. Hope sees us out on that limb. He will call us down. And he will make himself at home at our table.

Prayer: A Reading
Jesus taught us, saying: “Come to me, all you who labor and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.” — Matthew 11.28

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

Today’s Readings
Judges 15 (Listen – 3:13) 
Acts 19 (Listen – 5:47)

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.

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We still have room for your voice. What post made you want to share?

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