Choose to Hope in the Cross—Readers’ Choice

Selected by reader, GT, Dallas
This post came out shortly after we started working from home this year and not only work restrictions, but ministry restrictions were tightened. I read, and was reminded, that in all times, through all things, our Hope is in Christ. I forwarded this on to some missionaries I work with to help encourage them. To this time they have continued to follow His leading and have continued wonderful ministry in the midst of it all because of Christ. Thanks!

Originally published, March 19, 2020, based on readings from Proverbs 6 & Galatians 5.

Scripture Focus: Galatians 5.5-6
For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope…The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

Luke 23.42
Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

From John: The very thing the disciples despaired at, became the source of hope amidst any despair—the cross. In this time when many are despairing, our source of hope is still the cross. Those who have ears to hear, let them hear, that hope is hidden in the despair of the cross. 

Reflection: Choose to Hope in the Cross—Readers’ Choice
By Matt Tullos

Hope: When we look toward the constructs of eternity and find our true selves apart from our feeble flesh.

The two thieves represent two choices. One thief demands proof. The other pleads for hope. One looks to escape and the other looks to eternity. These choices stand as constant reminders that the cross of Christ demands a response.

Hope is personal. Very personal. Whether through worship, adversity, desperation or pain, we collide into the reality that our only hope is Jesus.

We can’t hope eternally in friends. Friends will fail us.

We can’t hope in institutions. Institutions over the course of eternity will evaporate like the ephemeral mist of the morning dew.

We can’t hope in hidden treasures. All treasures, short of grace, are water through our fingers.
We can’t hope in flowery platitudes because there will be a day when they will all wilt upon the parched, unforgiving soil of our brokenness.

Our hope is in the One who suffers next to us and says, “Today, you will be with me in paradise.” This glimpse of the cross reflects the absolute power of grace to snatch anyone from the jaws of destruction.

Was there anything the thief could do? Absolutely nothing. He couldn’t start a small group, feed the poor, go to the synagogue or study the scriptures. He found himself at the end of his life and the only thing he could do was to confess his sin and cry out to Jesus.

“Hope is the word which God has written on the brow of every man.”
— Victor Hugo


Hope was born on the cross.
Because hope was born we don’t have to be ashamed because he bore our shame.
Because hope was born we don’t have to constantly obsess about whether we could be good enough because He is our righteousness.
Because hope was born we are free.
Because hope was born we have purpose.
Because hope was born we are going to be okay.
And that’s worth celebrating!

Celebrate this scene of the darkest day! Grace rules even when we have no more time. Grace ruled the day then and now.

Have you ever felt like God has forgotten you?
What do you hope God will restore in your family, your heart, your church or your life?
Where is your hope waning?

*From a series Matt Tullos wrote called 39 Words. A few of these posts are available in audio form via Soundcloud.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Let not those who hope in you  be put to shame through me, Lord God of hosts; let not those who seek you be disgraced because of me O God of Israel. — Psalm 69.7– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Lamentations 5 (Listen – 2:03)
Psalm 36 (Listen – 1:29)

This Weekends’s Readings

Ezekiel 1 (Listen – 4:47), Psalm 37 (Listen – 4:21)
Ezekiel 2  (Listen – 1:38), Psalm 38 (Listen – 2:14)

Read more about Supporting our Work
The Park Forum is grateful to our donors who enable us to provide short, smart, engaging, biblical content to people across the world for free with no ads.

Read more about Peace in Crisis
Acting with prudent caution, we can fearlessly engage to aid our cities and communities, loving and serving with abandon.

Ladies First—Resurrection Appearances—Readers’ Choice

Selected by reader, Brad
I loved how this commentary highlighted afresh the especially current relevance of Jesus’ ministry, his focus on the marginalized, elevating their status and making them central figures in the gospel story.  As Jesus’ followers, we get to continue his example in treating all people with dignity and respect, being God’s image-bearers. 

Originally published, April 13, 2020, based on readings from Proverbs 31 & 1 Timothy 2.

Scripture Focus: Mark 16.9
He appeared first to Mary Magdalene…

Luke 24.22-25
In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”
He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken!”

John 20.19
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”

Reflection: Ladies First—Resurrection Appearances—Readers’ Choice
By John Tillman

“Firsts” are important in the scriptures. So we cannot imagine that it is a coincidence or a mistake that Jesus appears first to the women. 

One reason Jesus may have done this is that they, along with John, were with him to the end. They were the last faces he saw as he gave up his spirit. It makes sense that he would honor them to be the first to behold his now glorified face, raised by the Spirit’s power.

Jesus did this despite knowing that no one would believe them. A woman’s testimony was considered invalid in court. Today, a woman’s testimony counts according to the technicalities of the law, but still counts for less in the general culture. All these centuries later, we still have problems in our society taking a woman at her word.

If the gospel accounts had been written late, with intentional warping of the facts to make plausible an extraordinary claim, the women’s testimony, which not even Jesus’ closest followers believed, would have been deleted and replaced with that of Nicodemus or someone else with moral standing. (See more on the trustworthiness of the Resurrection accounts here.)

Instead, Jesus not only appeared to women first but gave his most personal resurrection greeting to a woman shamed by her culture for having been demon-possessed. Mary Magdalene is also (probably falsely) accused by history of having been a prostitute. 

Jesus was intentionally exalting the humbled, by placing the women, and scorned outcasts, at the center of the narrative in an irreplaceable and immovable way.

He also was intentionally confronting the disciples with their cultural blindness and propensity to doubt. This was not to pile shame on them but to build faith in them. He was weaning them off of faith by sight, knowing that soon they too must believe in him without seeing him.

Faith by sight is faith limping along on a crutch. Faith by sight dies in the dark. Faith by sight is blind to the Spirit, for it never looks beyond the physical. But the worst thing about faith by sight is that even it still fails.

What is extraordinary about humanity is not that we are capable of believing without seeing. It is that we are capable of seeing, and still refusing to believe.

Like the women, we will be doubted. But let us still run and tell, “I have seen the Lord!”
He is risen! He is risen, indeed!

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things. — Psalm 98.1– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Jeremiah 34 (Listen – 4:15)
Psalms 5-6 (Listen – 2:45)

Read more about Easter—The Happy Beginning
Easter is a season in the church calendar, not a day. But in our lives, it can be an evergreen season that blooms throughout the year.

#ReadersChoice is time for you to share favorite Park Forum posts from the year.
What post helped you better understand scripture?https://forms.gle/DsYWbj45y9fCDLzi7

Ladies First—Resurrection Appearances

Scripture Focus: Mark 16.9
He appeared first to Mary Magdalene…

Luke 24.22-25
In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”

He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken!”

John 20.19
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”

*This Easter week as we shelter in our homes due to COVID-19, we may feel more like the fearful gathered disciples than we ever have before. We will look this week at the appearances of Jesus, who comes to stand in our troubled midst and say, “Peace be with you.”

Reflection: Ladies First—Resurrection Appearances
By John Tillman

“Firsts” are important in the scriptures. So we cannot imagine that it is a coincidence or a mistake that Jesus appears first to the women. 

One reason Jesus may have done this is that they, along with John, were with him to the end. They were the last faces he saw as he gave up his spirit. It makes sense that he would honor them to be the first to behold his now glorified face, raised by the Spirit’s power.

Jesus did this despite knowing that no one would believe them. A woman’s testimony was considered invalid in court. Today, a woman’s testimony counts according to the technicalities of the law, but still counts for less in the general culture. All these centuries later, we still have problems in our society taking a woman at her word.

If the gospel accounts had been written late, with intentional warping of the facts to make plausible an extraordinary claim, the women’s testimony, which not even Jesus’ closest followers believed, would have been deleted and replaced with that of Nicodemus or someone else with moral standing. (See more on the trustworthiness of the Resurrection accounts here.)

Instead, Jesus not only appeared to women first, but gave his most personal resurrection greeting to a woman shamed by her culture for having been demon-possessed. Mary Magdalene is also (probably falsely) accused by history of having been a prostitute. 

Jesus was intentionally exalting the humbled, by placing the women, and scorned outcasts, at the center of the narrative in an irreplaceable and immovable way.

He also was intentionally confronting the disciples with their cultural blindness and propensity to doubt. This was not to pile shame on them, but to build faith in them. He was weaning them off of faith by sight, knowing that soon they too must believe in him without seeing him.

Faith by sight, is faith limping along on a crutch. Faith by sight dies in the dark. Faith by sight is blind to the Spirit, for it never looks beyond the physical. But the worst thing about faith by sight is that even it still fails.

What is extraordinary about humanity is not that we are capable of believing without seeing. It is that we are capable of seeing, and still refusing to believe.

Like the women, we will be doubted. But let us still run and tell, “I have seen the Lord!”

He is risen! He is risen, indeed!

Divine Hours Prayer: The Cry of the Church
Christ has died. Christ has risen. Christ will come again.

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

Today’s Readings
Proverbs 31 (Listen -2:50)
1 Timothy 2 (Listen -1:38)

Read more about Easter—The Happy Beginning
Easter is not a happy ending. It is a happy beginning.

Read more about A New Day :: Worldwide Prayer
May we follow the example of the first witnesses: the women who were more faithful than the betrayers, braver than the soldiers, and the first to believe in and spread the gospel.


Cry, Creator, Cry!


Scripture Focus: Isaiah 53.10
Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
    and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
    and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.

Proverbs 28.13-14
Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper,
    but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.
Blessed is the one who always trembles before God,
    but whoever hardens their heart falls into trouble.

Luke 29.41-43
We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Reflection: Cry, Creator, Cry!
By John Tillman

The cross is not necessarily the only way Jesus might have died. As an exercise of theological hypothesis, one can entertain the question, “What if Jesus had died another way?” 

In his moving epic poem, The Singer, author, pastor, and professor, Dr. Calvin Miller reimagined Jesus as The Singer, who sang the song of Earthmaker, the Father-Spirit. During his trial, The Singer’s lyre and his hands with which he played Earthmaker’s song are crushed by a mallet. Then, with his musical hands crushed into inoperability and unrecognizable form, he is stretched by a machine of death built into the wall of the city.

The people of the city toss into a hopper great stones representing the sins and crimes The Singer is accused of and the weight of them turns the great, geared, machine which, through cogs and levers, tightens the cables, stretching The Singer’s body until he dies.

The World Hater, Miller’s analogue for Satan, dances on the cables of the machine, crying out to the Creator with mockery:

“Look how he dies. Cry, Creator, Cry!
This is my day to stand upon the 
breast of God and claim my victory 
over love. You lost the gamble. In 
but an hour your lover will be pulp 
upon the gallows. Did you tell him 
when his fingers formed the world, 
that he would die on Terra, groaning 
with his hands crushed and whimpering 
in my great machine?”

Today on Good Friday, the crosshairs of the cross seemed to be centered on Jesus. Sin’s weight is heavy upon him as the hammer of God’s wrath comes down. But the target of God’s wrath is Sin. Sin dies in the crosshairs of the cross. Yes, Jesus dies, too. But for Jesus and for us, Sunday is coming. Resurrection Day. The Eighth Day. The first day of the New Creation.

But until that day comes, we sit mourning in the chaos and darkness. What we mourn, if we do so with proper understanding, is not a man’s death or a failed rebellion. What we mourn is our own participation in his trial. We mourn our own sin upon his back. We mourn our hands upon the nails and the hammer and our hands forcing bitter drink into his mouth.

What is coming is the most important morning since God first said, “let there be light.”
So, let us mourn tonight. For joy comes in the morning.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? And are so far from my cry and from the words of my distress? — Psalm 22.1

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

Today’s Readings
Proverbs 28 (Listen 3:07) 
2 Thessalonians 2 (Listen -2:32)

This Weekend’s Readings
Proverbs 29 (Listen 2:44), 2 Thessalonians 3 (Listen -2:16)
Proverbs 30 (Listen 3:51), 1 Timothy 1 (Listen -2:59)

Read more about The Prayer From the Cross
So, on this Good Friday, we will join Christ in his suffering, praying excerpts from this psalm prayed on the cross.

Read more about Choose to Hope in the Cross
The two thieves represent two choices…These choices stand as constant reminders that the cross of Christ demands a response.

The Context of The Widow’s Mite

Luke 20.47; 21.2-4, 6
They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely…
He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.””…
“As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down.”…

Reflection: The Context of The Widow’s Mite
By John Tillman

Many lessons about the widow’s mite focus on how beautiful her faith is. 

The widow’s faith is beautiful because it is centered on God, not on an institution that is corrupted by sinful leadership. Her gift is beautiful because it shows how deep her faith goes—all the way down to her last pennies. Her gift is beautiful because it shows where her treasure truly lies.

We should praise the widow’s faith, as Jesus did, but taken in context, this scripture has more to say about unscrupulous religious leaders than about generous poor people. It tells us that judgment is coming on leaders who take advantage of the poor. 

In Luke and in Mark, the widow enters in the middle of a scene where Christ is confronting the religious leaders’ materialism and hypocrisy and, just afterward, tells his disciples that the Temple they value so much will be torn down and destroyed.

Luke includes the detail that Jesus “looked up” and saw the widow’s deed in the midst of his teaching. The words just off of his lips are ones of judgement on religious leaders who “devour widows’ houses.” When Jesus points out the widow, he is showing us that his meaning is not metaphorical. The widow’s story gives us someone to emulate in faith, but also points out someone we should serve with action.

Scripture doesn’t tell us what happened to the widow. Some propose that God would miraculously provide for her. If forced to conjecture, I pray that one of Christ’s disciples, being as concerned about the destruction of the widow’s life as about the destruction of the Temple, would take her in. Sometimes miracles are simply disciples taking practical action. (I like to imagine that perhaps it was Mark.)

The bright light of the widow’s faith shines within the darkness of hypocrisy and abuse. What does the Spirit of Christ speak to you in the light of her faith? 

Are we like the religious leaders? Are we projecting piety while living extravagantly?

Are we like the rich? Are we giving because it looks good or until we feel good?

Are we like the disciples? Are we over impressed with wealth and success, equating it with God’s favor?

Can we learn to live like the widow? Are we able to live in faith, despite our systematic victimization, despite our poverty, and despite the existence of corruption? 

Prayer: The Request for Presence
Let your loving-kindness be my comfort, as you have promised to your servant. Let your compassion come to me, that I may live, for your law is my delight. — Psalm 119.76-77

Today’s Readings
Exodus 19 (Listen – 4:04)
Luke 22 (Listen – 7:58)

This Weekend’s Readings
Exodus 20 (Listen – 3:21), Luke 23 (Listen – 6:39)
Exodus 21 (Listen – 4:44), Luke 24 (Listen – 6:16)

Thank You!
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Read more from A Cry to God for the Poor from Zimbabwe :: Worldwide Prayer
It grieves us and must grieve you that so many defenseless people live without shelter, clean water, primary healthcare, education, food. Help us, Lord Jesus, to care and share with the less privileged the material resources you have graciously blessed us with.

Read more about Good News to the Poor
Our manifestation of Christ will be in direct proportion to our acknowledgement of needing him more than we need our comforts, our possessions, our luxuries, or even our daily bread.

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