Overgrown by the Gospel

Psalm 15
Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent?
   Who may live on your holy mountain?

The one whose walk is blameless,
   who does what is righteous,
   who speaks the truth from their heart;
whose tongue utters no slander,
   who does no wrong to a neighbor,
   and casts no slur on others;
who despises a vile person
   but honors those who fear the Lord;
who keeps an oath even when it hurts,
   and does not change their mind;
who lends money to the poor without interest;
   who does not accept a bribe against the innocent.

Whoever does these things
   will never be shaken.

Reflection: Overgrown by the Gospel
By John Tillman

Psalm 15 lays out what David sees as God’s requirements for his holy people.

As we read through the list, we can, like the pharisees, deceive ourselves into thinking that God is describing us. But if we are humble and honest, we will be struck by how far short we fall, and how rare even one of these qualities is in our world, much less all of them together.

How then, can we ever hope to dwell with God? How can we become his people and live in his kingdom and its city?

This list is not intended to be a list of ways we must prove or earn our way into God’s kingdom. Those who will live with God, as described in the psalm, are those who respond to his call, and to whom he responds by sending the Holy Spirit. Paul describes the Holy Spirit as both a down payment and a renovator of our inner being.

The gospel can be interpreted as a transaction that happens in an instant, but it is also a transformation that accelerates over time. The qualities of the people of God are cultivated by God. They are the blossoms and blooms of actions that the Holy Spirit will plant in us when we surrender to him.

When the seed of the gospel begins to grow in us, it is like the springing up of a tree from a crack in our hardened, concrete heart. As it grows, the concrete doesn’t stand a chance. The roots swell and crush the rock, cracking it open to expose the earth beneath. Soon the concrete structure is unrecognizable and covered with green growth.

As we have written elsewhere, cultivation begins with destruction. May the gospel make ruins of our pride and selfishness. May we be overgrown by the gospel.

May our concrete hearts be cracked open by the swelling roots of the gospel in our lives. May our parking lots for our possessions become parks to share with our community. May every area that we have sealed off with reinforced concrete walls be ruined by the invading growth of our new nature. May our self-worshiping architecture be overgrown, cracked open, and torn down by the persistent growth of what the Holy Spirit cultivates in us.

May our controlled environments become reclaimed land that is transfigured into the wild beauty of the garden of God.

Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Come, let us bow down, and bend the knee, and kneel before the Lord our Maker.
For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand. Oh, that today you would hearden to his voice! — Psalm 95.6-7

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

Today’s Readings
Leviticus 13 (Listen – 9:34)
Psalm 15-16 (Listen – 2:03)

Thank You!
Thank you for reading and a huge thank you to those who donate to our ministry, keeping The Park Forum ad-free and enabling us to continue to produce fresh content. Every year our donors help us produce over 100,000 words of free devotionals. Follow this link to support our readers.

Read more about Cultivation Starts With Destruction
Cultivation is an act of peace, community, and faith. However, cultivation often begins with the smell of fire, the wielding of sharpened metal tools, and the sounds of chainsaws.

Read more about Cultivation Is Supernatural
A stronger faith, and a greater crop yield comes when we invest in cultivation. Cultivation is not natural. It is supernatural.

We Need Renewal :: Worldwide Prayer

Psalm 14.2-3
The Lord looks down from heaven
   on all mankind
to see if there are any who understand,
   any who seek God.
All have turned away, all have become corrupt;
   there is no one who does good,
   not even one.

Reflection: We Need Renewal :: Worldwide Prayer
By John Tillman

In Psalm 14 we see a picture of a searching God. He is searching, looking, hoping to see someone, anyone who is searching and looking for him. No one is. All have turned away to something else.

Sometimes when we read in the scriptures that there is no one who does good, we fool ourselves by thinking we are the exception. But God is clear. We are all corrupted and broken.  

The scripture says we do not seek God, but instead have turned away to corruption. That corruption is the reason there is no one who does good—even the good we do is corrupted.

Each one of us desperately needs the renewal and redemption entreated by both the above Psalm and the prayer below.

A prayer for renewal from the USA
Father,

We praise you for your Son who broke into history and through his life, crucifixion, and resurrection enables us to break out of our fallenness. We rejoice in the gift of His Spirit who leads us into abundant and eternal life.

Please forgive our failures in thought, speech, and action, those we omit as well as those we commit. We ask that you bring refreshment, revival, and renewal to your Church. Please visit the world again and again with awakenings by your Spirit that will sweep humanity into your Kingdom and bring greater justice and mercy into our homes, communities, and nations.

May our worship, witness, and work be prompted and empowered by the Spirit of Jesus. Grant that our assemblies and quiet moments be avenues of praise to the Triune God and guidance and power to God’s people in this our day of opportunity. We draw near to you and listen for the words of comfort and challenge that you know we need.*Prayer from Hallowed be Your Name: A collection of prayers from around the world, Dr. Tony Cupit, Editor.

Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Purge me from my sin, and I shall be pure; wash me, and I shall be clean indeed. — Psalm 51.8

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

Today’s Readings
Leviticus 11-12 (Listen – 7:20)
Psalm 13-14 (Listen – 1:43)

Thank You!
Thank you for reading and a huge thank you to those who donate to our ministry, keeping The Park Forum ad-free and enabling us to continue to produce fresh content. Every year our donors help us produce over 100,000 words of free devotionals. Follow this link to support our readers.

Read more about Emptiness Filled by Love :: Worldwide Prayer
Compassionate God, we are sinners in need of forgiveness. The emptiness within us can only be filled by your love.
We are hurting people in need of healing.
We are angry people in need of your calming presence.
We are broken people in need of wholeness.

Read more about Confession Destroys Denial
Nothing destroys denial except confession. Nothing repairs the damage of denial except repentance.

The Righteous Judge :: A Guided Prayer

Psalm 9.7-8
The Lord reigns forever;
   he has established his throne for judgment.
He rules the world in righteousness
   and judges the peoples with equity.

From John:
Some scholars believe that Psalm nine and ten were originally one Psalm. Today we combine them in a prayer to God, the only righteous judge and the only one who dispenses justice without failing. May he hear the cries of all victims. May he bring every wrong-doing to light. May those who seek to cover their secrets have their plans exposed by his light and truth.

Reflection: The Righteous Judge :: A Guided Prayer
By John Tillman

May our highest, most prized right, be to stand before you.

For you have upheld my right and my cause,
   sitting enthroned as the righteous judge.

May we learn from you, true judgement.
Make us a part of bringing your kingdom, your justice and righteousness on earth.
And this is your justice on earth—to be a refuge and stronghold for the weak and troubled.

He rules the world in righteousness
   and judges the peoples with equity.
The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed,
   a stronghold in times of trouble…
   he does not ignore the cries of the afflicted.

The Lord is known by his acts of justice;
   the wicked are ensnared by the work of their hands.
But God will never forget the needy;
   the hope of the afflicted will never perish.
Arise, Lord, do not let mortals triumph;
   let the nations be judged in your presence.

The world hates us, because it first hated you, Lord.
Trouble comes to us in different ways and in different levels of severity, in every corner of this world, God.

Why, Lord, do you stand far off?
   Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?
In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak,
   who are caught in the schemes he devises.
He says to himself, “Nothing will ever shake me.”
   He swears, “No one will ever do me harm.”
His mouth is full of lies and threats;
   trouble and evil are under his tongue.

In times of trouble, Lord, we look to you.
Do not abandon us to the schemes of the wicked.

But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted;
   you consider their grief and take it in hand.
The victims commit themselves to you;
   you are the helper of the fatherless.
Break the arm of the wicked man;
   call the evildoer to account for his wickedness
   that would not otherwise be found out.

You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted;
   you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,
defending the fatherless and the oppressed,
   so that mere earthly mortals
   will never again strike terror.

We commit ourselves to you, O Lord.
See our trouble. Hear our cry. Take our grief.
Give us courage to shake the world with your love.

Prayer: The Morning Psalm
For God alone my soul in silence waits; truly, my hope is in him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold, so that I shall not be shaken. — Psalm 62.6-14

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

Today’s Readings
Leviticus 8 (Listen – 5:06) 
Psalm 9 (Listen – 2:21)

This Weekend’s Readings
Leviticus 9 (Listen – 3:18) Psalm 10 (Listen – 2:13)
Leviticus 10 (Listen – 3:25) Psalm 11-12 (Listen – 1:59)

Thank You!
Thank you for reading and a huge thank you to those who donate to our ministry, keeping The Park Forum ad-free and enabling us to continue to produce fresh content. Every year our donors help us produce over 100,000 words of free devotionals. Follow this link to support our readers.

Read more about The Commission of Truth
We are acting according to our nature and our calling when we help facts come to light and when we stand up for truth and for truth-tellers.

Read more about Honoring The Truth
Seeking the truth is not only a spiritual quest. It is sometimes a civic one. Or a legal one. As followers of Christ, the Truth, we should ask, seek, and knock, not giving up until the truth is revealed.

Do Not Hold Men Up as Sinless :: Throwback Thursday

Psalm 7.3-5
Lord my God, if I have done this
   and there is guilt on my hands—
if I have repaid my ally with evil
   or without cause have robbed my foe—
then let my enemy pursue and overtake me;
   let him trample my life to the ground
   and make me sleep in the dust.

From John:
We must not fear the truth. When leaders prove guilty, we are fighting against God to prevent their fall. It is not worth tainting the gospel in an attempt to prevent the tainting of the earthly reputation of a human leader. We must stop confusing a man failing with the gospel failing.

Reflection: Do Not Hold Men (or Women) Up as Sinless :: Throwback Thursday
By Martin Luther

The cause we are called to defend, is not Peter’s cause, or the cause of our parents, or that of the government, or that of the world, but the cause of God. In defense of that cause we must be firm and unyielding.

Prophets have erred. Nathan told David that he should go ahead and build the Temple of the Lord. But his prophecy was afterwards corrected by the Lord. The apostles erred in thinking of the Kingdom of Christ as a worldly state. Peter had heard the command of Christ, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature.” But if it had not been for the heavenly vision and the special command of Christ, Peter would never have gone to the home of Cornelius.

Peter also erred in this matter of circumcision. If Paul had not publicly censured him, all the believing Gentiles would have been compelled to receive circumcision and accept the Jewish law. We are not to attribute perfection to any man. Luke reports “that the contention between Paul and Barnabas was so sharp that they departed asunder one from the other.” The cause of their disagreement could hardly have been small since it separated these two, who had been joined together for years in a holy partnership. Such incidents are recorded for our consolation. After all, it is a comfort to know that even saints might and do sin.

Samson, David, and many other excellent men, fell into grievous sins. Job and Jeremiah cursed the day of their birth. Elijah and Jonah became weary of life and prayed for death. Such offenses on the part of the saints, the Scriptures record for the comfort of those who are near despair. No person has ever sunk so low that he cannot rise again. On the other hand, no man’s standing is so secure that he may not fall. If Peter fell, I may fall. If he rose again, I may rise again. We have the same gifts that they had, the same Christ, the same baptism and the same Gospel, the same forgiveness of sins. They needed these saving ordinances just as much as we do.

*Condensed from Commentary on Galatians.

Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
My eyes are upon the faithful in the land, that they may dwell with me. — Psalm 101.6

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

Today’s Readings
Leviticus 7 (Listen – 5:13) 
Psalm 7-8 (Listen – 2:58)

Thank You!
Thank you for reading and a huge thank you to those who donate to our ministry, keeping The Park Forum ad-free and enabling us to continue to produce fresh content. Every year our donors help us produce over 100,000 words of free devotionals. Follow this link to support our readers.

Read more about Our Opportunistic Opponent
The disciples, physically present with Jesus, were surrounded by, and succumbed to, temptations of greed, lust for power, anger, vengeance, selfishness, and self-righteousness.

Read more about In Denial about Injustice
The Spirit of God is moving now. He is moving as he did through the city of Jerusalem and the population of the exiled, looking for those who will stand in the gap for the oppressed, maligned, and neglected.

Honoring The Truth

Psalm 5.9
Not a word from their mouth can be trusted;
   their heart is filled with malice.
Their throat is an open grave;
   with their tongues they tell lies.

Reflection: Honoring The Truth
By John Tillman

A common theme taken up by many psalmists, including David’s pleas from today’s reading, is being slandered by one’s enemies.

The Scriptures, and Christ himself, see clearly that not every accusation is motivated by a desire for truth or justice. But in our culture, many have stooped to the level of conspiracy theorists when defending the leaders they love. Some communities have chosen to shame accusers, rather than listen to them and investigate. This is harmful to the cause of truth because it discourages anyone, anywhere from reporting anything.

Yesterday we examined a scripture telling us that those who withhold information about wrong-doing, bear part of the responsibility. If we, because of shaming and blaming victims who report abuse, suppress the truth from coming out, we also bear part of this blame.

How can we honor the call for testimony, while dealing with the reality of potential slander and false accusations? How can we give proper scrutiny to testimony without discouraging truth-tellers from coming forward? There are no easy answers. Here are three principles we can apply.

Be guided by reputation, but not blinded by it. While it is true that a good reputation is valuable (Proverbs 22.1, 1 Timothy 3.7) and can save someone from a false accusation, we cannot allow a good reputation to blind us to potential wrongdoing, prevent us from due diligence, or cause us to treat those bringing accusations in an unloving manner.

Follow the example of Jesus. Peter counseled persecuted church leaders to follow Christ’s example. Christ, “did not retaliate…made no threats,” and “entrusted himself to him who judges justly.” With Christ’s example before us it is inexcusable for believers to allow accusers (even false accusers) to be threatened or to seek retaliation against them. We must pray for and pursue the truth and trust that even if earthly justice fails, God’s justice, provided through Christ, never will.

Remember that it could be true. Even though today’s psalm from David is the cry of an innocent man who was slandered, eventually there came a day when accusations against David were true. Nathan’s words, “you are the man” stand as a prophetic example for every Christian. We all need to be prepared to speak this way to well-loved leaders when needed.

Seeking the truth is not only a spiritual quest. It is sometimes a civic one. Or a legal one. As followers of Christ, the Truth, we should ask, seek, and knock, not giving up until the truth is revealed.

Prayer: The Request for Presence
Send out your light and your truth, that they may lead me, and bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling… — Psalm 43.3

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

Today’s Readings
Leviticus 6 (Listen – 4:17) 
Psalm 5-6 (Listen – 2:45)

Thank You!
Thank you for reading and a huge thank you to those who donate to our ministry, keeping The Park Forum ad-free and enabling us to continue to produce fresh content. Every year our donors help us produce over 100,000 words of free devotionals. Follow this link to support our readers.

Read more about You Are The Man — Embracing Prophetic Responsibility
Everyone challenges those they oppose to change. Followers of Christ are called to challenge the communities and individuals we are closest to.

Read more about In the Face of Mockery and Shame
We, as a culture, demand to shame others. We seem to think it is our right. The mob justice of destruction and vengeance through shame is the only system of justice our culture trusts.

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