Forward-Looking Remembering :: Readers’ Choice

Selected by reader, Lauren Nichols from Fort Wayne, IN
I have often read of the folly of living in the past, or looking back mournfully as if we could turn back time. This post is an excellent reminder of the value of remembering God’s past faithfulness as a way to be encouraged to trust Him for the future.

Originally published, February 1, 2018 based on readings from Esther 9 and Romans 4.

Mordecai recorded these events, and he sent letters to all the Jews throughout the provinces of King Xerxes, near and far, to have them celebrate annually… the time when the Jews got relief from their enemies, and… when their sorrow was turned into joy and their mourning into a day of celebration. He wrote them to observe the days as days of feasting and joy and giving presents of food to one another and gifts to the poor. — Esther 9:20-22

Reflection: Forward-Looking Remembering :: Readers’ Choice
By Jon Polk

A visit to the National Mall in Washington, D.C. is a testament to the significant power of memory. In the heart of the United States’ capital are numerous monuments dedicated to the memory of great historical figures – Lincoln, Washington, King and others – and significant human sorrows – World War II, the Vietnam War, the Holocaust. Standing in front of the impressive white marble statue of the great American president Abraham Lincoln, one cannot help but be overwhelmed with a sense of history that goes far beyond the memory of personal life experiences.

Many of us have our own memorials in a prominent place in our home: the refrigerator door. There on that sleek magnetic surface, the faces of family and friends stare back at us from treasured moments that have come and gone. There, kindergarten artwork is treated like a rare, priceless Van Gogh. There we find notes and cards that remind us of the ones we love.

At the conclusion of the story of Esther, her uncle Mordecai instructs the Jews to annually celebrate by remembering the attempted genocide and their escape from it. This inaugurates the Jewish Festival of Purim, a memorial of the time when sorrow turned to joy and mourning to celebration.

Remembering is not “living in the past” or “longing for the good ole days,” instead it informs our hope for a future that God has for us. At Purim, the Jews were to look back to the story of Esther and their deliverance in order to look forward to find a hope for their future. This remembering caused them to not only feast and celebrate, but also to give gifts to the poor. Memory of God’s favor on us should compel us to share that same grace with others.

It is often noted that Esther is the one book in the Bible where God is not specifically mentioned. Reading the story with the benefit of hindsight reveals that God was indeed present and working behind the scenes.

We would be wise to regularly recall God’s intervention and provision in our own lives, giving thanks and praise for how God has delivered us and cared for us, especially in those times when we may have not been able to immediately recognize his presence.

What spiritual memories are we hanging on the refrigerator doors of our hearts that we look to regularly for hope and to say, “Thanks be to God”?

Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Our days are like the grass; we flourish like a flower of the field. — Psalm 116.14-4

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

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Jeremiah 30-31 (Listen – 11:21)
Mark 16 (Listen – 2:34)

This Weekend’s Readings
Jeremiah 32 (Listen – 7:32) Psalm 1-2 (Listen – 2:05)
Jeremiah 33 (Listen – 4:46)Psalm 3-4 (Listen – 1:56)

Additional Reading
Read More about Finishing Well
For a faith focused on the ideals of selflessness and sacrifice, it seems odd that biblical writers draw parallels with sports events focused on individual winners.

Read More about Going Where the Gospel Goes
“Who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?” — Apostle Peter

Readers’ Choice
We still have room for you to suggest your favorite posts of the year. Submit a Readers Choice post.
Tell us about a post and what it meant to you.

Support our Work
Over 4,000 people every week read an email devotional from The Park Forum. Support our work with a monthly or a one time donation.

When We Fast From The Feast :: Readers’ Choice

Selected by reader, Steve Bostrum from Helena, Montana.
“Christian, or you who will someday follow Jesus, we are astonished that a holy God loves sinners like us. But, he does. And when similarly astonished people get together, a unique culture forms—a Gospel culture. This column calls us from the seductions and pressures of contemporary culture—ones we often wolf down—back to a way of living that actually connects us with God and each other. Tasting that the LORD is good.”

Originally posted March 23, 2018, based on readings from Proverbs 10-12 and Ephesians 3-5.

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. — Ephesians 4.22-24

At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, “Come, for everything is now ready.” But they all alike began to make excuses.— Luke 14.17-18

Reflection: When We Fast From The Feast :: Readers’ Choice
By John Tillman

We already know how to fast. We have simply been fasting from the wrong things.

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.

Our culture tells us that rather than read scripture in the mornings, we must pound through more emails. Productivity trumps biblical literacy.

We are told rather than praying at noon, we should skip lunch to work at our desk or take lunch with a valuable business contact. Productivity and self-promotion trumps prayerfulness and relational spirituality.

Rather than living simply and giving extravagantly, we reverse the equation, making our giving a simple percentage that satisfies a legalistic requirement or gains a tax benefit. Moral satisfaction trumps active compassion.

Rather than draw away from the world to worship in community with other believers, we draw away from others to worship with our headphones in—shutting the world out via podcast or streaming music and worship services.

When we have had just enough of God to make us feel more emotionally healthy and morally superior, we wish to move on to productivity, profit, and success. (All with the implied blessing of God of course.)

Many of us, when Christ has enabled us to overcome one or two sins that were an obvious nuisance, are inclined to feel (though we do not put it into words) that we are now good enough. He has done all we wanted him to do, and we should be obliged if he would now leave us alone. — C.S. Lewis

We’ve pushed our chairs back from the banquet table of God’s Word and placed our hand over our glass to prevent being refilled with the wine of his Holy Spirit.

God invites us to the feast of the kingdom. But many are fasting from God’s feast in order to binge on the benefits we can wring from the world.

May we return to the table and to the fellowship of believers with gusto, pushing aside distractions and false supplements that aren’t real spiritual food. As the voice of Christ cries through the prophet, Isaiah, “Why spend money on what is not bread?

Spiritual disciplines of daily Bible reading, prayer, and meditation are not the spices and subtle flavorings of life—they are the main course. Everything else is sprinkles of garnish.

Prayer: A Reading
When Jesus spoke to the people again, he said: “I am the light of the world; anyone who follows me will not be walking in the dark; but will have the light of life.” — John 8.12

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

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Jeremiah 28 (Listen – 3:05)
Mark 14 (Listen – 8:37)

Additional Reading
Read More about Fasting to Benefit Others
When Jesus was critiqued regarding fasting and feasting, he responded by saying, “wisdom is proved right by her deeds.”

Read More about Fasting for All
Fasting may be the most important spiritual discipline for the church to focus on in the next decade.

Readers’ Choice
We still have room for you to suggest your favorite posts of the year. Submit a Readers Choice post.
Tell us about a post and what it meant to you.

Support our Work
Over 4,000 people every week read an email devotional from The Park Forum. Support our work with a monthly or a one time donation.

Editor’s Choice :: Readers’ Choice

Starting in August (tomorrow) we will be looking back at our readers’ favorite posts of the year. We still have room for your submissions! Follow this link to submit. You can submit more than one post by refreshing the form when you are done. — John

Scripture: Mark 13.31
Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

Reflection: Editor’s Choice :: Readers’ Choice
By John Tillman and our writing community

Readers’ Choice is one of my favorite times of the year at The Park Forum because it is a time that reminds me of our worldwide community that is praying, reading, and walking through God’s Word to cultivate their faith.

When I began writing for The Park Forum, I knew that I didn’t want to do it alone. So I asked for help. I sought out writing mentors and ministry friends from the past, asking them to contribute their voices to this journey. I’m so glad they responded, “Yes.”

So, to kick off Readers’ Choice, I’d like to go first.

I’ve chosen one paragraph from each of our guest writers so far this year: Jada Swanson, Matt Tullos, and Jon Polk.

Thank you deeply to our readers, the donors who make this possible, and to these wonderful contributors to our community. — John


From Jada Swanson: Complaining in Prayer
The majority of people are hesitant to share their true feelings in the normal circumstances of life, much less when life blows up. Throughout the Bible, we are encouraged not only to identify our feelings, but to express them. Take for instance the life of our Savior. In the Gospels, we discover that Jesus expressed various emotions. He grieved when his friend died. He got angry at the money-changers in the temple. And he wept for the people of Jerusalem.


From Matt Tullos: Surrender
When we enter into the story of Christ we see a point in time when we cannot use our hands to control anything. Our will, determination, ambition, and skill are nailed to the holy cross of Christ. While the world’s system teaches us how to control others and change ourselves, the cross has no such purpose. On the cross, our hands are not busy. They are surrendered.


From Jon Polk: Faith of the Flawed
These women and men found their place in God’s story not because they were flawless and perfect examples of obedience. They didn’t always follow the right path and make the best choices. But to the best of their ability in the midst of their circumstances, they acted in faith. They are applauded for their faith, because without it, we cannot please God.
(This piece, along with Jon’s piece, Finishing Well, were re-published this year in issues of Queensland Baptist Magazine.)


May we, flawed as we are, surrender our complaints, our wills, our work, and our wants, submitting ourselves to his Word that will never pass away.

Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Great are the deeds of the Lord! They are studied by all who delight in them. — Psalm 111.2

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

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Jeremiah 27 (Listen – 3:52)
Mark 13 (Listen – 4:32)

Additional Reading
Read More The Park Forum: Transitions
Our purpose at The Park Forum is, and will continue to be, to aid believers working in the economy of a secular empire to hear the chime of God’s kingdom and to connect their spiritual practice to their practical, physical life.

Readers’ Choice
We still have room for you to suggest your favorite posts of the year. Submit a Readers Choice post.
Tell us about a post and what it meant to you. What post helped you connect faith to your work?

Support our Work
Over 4,000 people every week read an email devotional from The Park Forum. Support our work with a monthly or a one time donation.

The Gift of Noticing

Starting in August (this Wednesday) we will be looking back at our readers’ favorite posts of the year. We still have room for your submissions! Follow this link to submit. You can submit more than one post by refreshing the form when you are done. — John

Scripture: Mark 12.28; 34
One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.

Reflection: The Gift of Noticing
By John Tillman

Among all the debates and arguments with Christ that are recorded in scripture, one has always stood out to me and grown more important as I’ve grown older—the wise teacher of the law.

When I was younger, I was more interested in who this man was. Could it be Nicodemus, who came to Jesus at night? Could it be Joseph of Arimathea? As I’ve grown older, I care less about his identity and more about his amazing gift of noticing the good in a perceived enemy.

Our culture is so adversarial, every interaction seems a zero-sum game. A guaranteed, click-driving word for content is “destroys.” (As in, destroying your opponent. Sometimes this motivates people to literally attempt to destroy your opponents.)

Our culture sees debate not as a learning experience but as a path to the domination of others through destruction. We have little in common with the rabbinical system of religious debate and question-driven teaching that Jesus knew. This process was normal and typically genial and healthy. We see it with Christ’s first visit to the temple as a child and throughout his ministry.

There were times (including in this chapter) Christ’s enemies attempted to get Jesus to say something that they could use to prove criminal intent. But, as the other religious leaders lost their objectivity in their attempts to discredit Jesus, the wise teacher found a better path.

Matthew’s account of this event leaves out the context of Mark—causing the question to seem more adversarial. But in Mark, the interaction plays out as more of a search for knowledge than an attack. The men connect with each other across their differences through the gift of noticing.

The wise teacher is not listening to attack or to destroy. He is not listening to craft a counter-argument. Through opposition and questioning we see him find in Jesus a kinship and common ground of faith. The teacher notices Jesus; Jesus notices him.

Jesus came to seek and to save not to seek and destroy.

When we face opposition, when we question and argue, when we are confronted in debate, may we receive from the Holy Spirit the gift of noticing. May we notice our opposition, seeking to understand them, seeking to see them as Christ does. When we do, we will find how greatly they are loved by Jesus, who sees them.

Prayer: The Greeting
Whom have I in heaven but you? And having you I desire nothing upon this earth. — Psalm 73.25

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

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Jeremiah 26 (Listen – 4:04)
Mark 12 (Listen – 6:10)

Additional Reading
Read More about Choosing Gentleness Over Violence
By posting, liking, and retweeting articles about our ideological rivals being “destroyed” we are revealing not our ideological righteousness, but our theological sinfulness.

Readers’ Choice
In August we will look back at our readers’ favorite posts of the year. Submit a Readers Choice post.
Tell us about a post and what it meant to you. What post made you think?

Humble, Welcoming Servants :: A Guided Prayer

Scripture: Mark 9.50
“Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt among yourselves, and be at peace with each other.”

Guided prayers and meditations are a common part of Christian spiritual practice. Return to this prayer through the day or over the weekend, as it will be a different experience based on your mood and surroundings. — John

Reflection: Humble, Welcoming Servants :: A Guided Prayer
By John Tillman

We confess to you, Lord…

When our immaturity demands miracles on our terms
When we struggle to accept the people whom you are calling us to accept
When we take offense
When we are ungrateful for how much you have transformed our lives
That, so many times, it is our own ambitions and selfishness that stand in the way.

Just like the twelve, just like any numbered group, we are concerned about being number one. We argue and attempt to dominate one another.

He asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest. — Mark 9.33-34

Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all. — Mark 9.35

Help us to serve all and humbly welcome those whom you place in the center of our gatherings.

He took a little child whom he placed among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.” — Mark 9.36-37

Help us to support those outside our groups who are willing to work in Christ’s name.

We told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”

“Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us. — Mark 9.38-40

Lord, it is not what we see that causes us to stumble, it is our own eyes. It is not what we touch that causes us to stumble, it is our own hands. It is not what we lust for that causes us to stumble. It is our own heart.

If your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell. — Mark 9.47

Help us to remove from our lives what causes us to stumble.
Help us to humbly work with those who will work with us.
Help us to be servants to all-comers, not contestants against all-comers.
Help us to remember with thanks the transformative work you have done in our lives.

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

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

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Jeremiah 23 (Listen – 7:13)
Mark 9 (Listen – 6:16)

This Weekend’s Readings
Jeremiah 24 (Listen – 1:54) Mark 10 (Listen – 6:42)
Jeremiah 25 (Listen – 6:12) Mark 11 (Listen – 3:59)

Additional Reading
Read More about Prayers of Woe and Weeping :: Guided Prayer
Weep with Christ prophetically. He weeps that our hypocrisy not only harms us, but blocks the path of redemption for others.

Readers’ Choice
In August we will look back at our readers’ favorite posts of the year. Submit a Readers Choice post.
Tell us about a post and what it meant to you. What post made you think?

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