Theology is Like a Watch

Scripture: Mark 2.7, 16, 18, 24
“Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
“Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
“How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?”
The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”

Reflection: Theology is Like a Watch
By John Tillman

Jesus wasn’t sinless because he never broke laws. He constantly broke them.

In this one short chapter of Mark, Christ breaks (or supports those who are breaking) five separate laws (some of which were punishable by stoning): he blasphemes, he eats with ceremonially unclean people, he eschews required religious fasting, he defends working on the sabbath, he defends David’s eating of the holy bread.

Richard Baxter (1615-1691) described the interdependence of laws and truth when advising new disciples learning about theology and the scriptures for the first time:

“Truths have a dependence on each other; the lesser branches spring out of the greater, and those out of the stock and root. Some laws are but means to other laws, or subservient to them…Therefore it is one of the commonest difficulties among cases of conscience, to know which law is the greater.”

Christ recognized the priority of the greatest laws. We see this in Christ’s teaching. Jesus referred to “lesser” laws with language that exposed their second-tier authority. He often said, “your traditions,” or “Moses permitted,” or “you have heard it said…” Baxter continues:

“Upon this ground, Christ healed on the Sabbath day, and pleaded for his disciples harvesting the heads of grain, and for David’s eating the shewbread, and told them, that ‘the sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath,’ and that ‘God will have mercy, and not sacrifice.’”

Baxter refers to theology as an intricate watch—meaningless unless all the parts are in proper order:

“Theology is a curious, well-composed frame. Just as it is not enough that you have all the parts of your watch or clock, but you must see that every part is in its proper place, or else it will not go, or answer its end; so it is not enough that you know the various parts of theology or law, unless you know them in their true order and priority.”

When Jesus is asked what the two greatest commandments are, his answer tells us how to set our watch by the two guideposts on which hang the entire law—Love God and love others.

*Richard Baxter selections condensed and language updated from A Christian Directory.

Prayer: A Reading
Jesus taught us, saying: “Again, you have heard how it was said to our ancestors, You must not break your oath…But I say this to you, do not swear at all…All you need say is, ‘Yes’ if you mean yes, ‘No’ if you mean no…” — Matthew 5.33-37

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Genesis 31 (Listen – 7:47) 
Mark 2 (Listen – 3:55)

Join Our New Facebook Group:
This weekend, in our new Facebook group for email subscribers, we will continue a series of short live videos discussing some simple, practical tools of spiritual practice using modern technology. Join the group to discuss them with us.

Follow this link to find the group. When you request to join, you will be prompted to answer questions about the email that you have used to subscribe to The Park Forum. Once we check that you are a subscriber, we will approve you to join the group.

Read more from The Heart of the Reformation
Luther’s intention wasn’t division, but renewal. The heart of the Reformation is the recovery of the gospel, inside the Church, for the good of the world.

Read more about Created Anew
The rabbis speak of “right intentions”: yetzer ha-tov (the good inclination) vs yetzer ha-ra (the evil inclination). It is possible to serve the Lord out of joy and it is possible to serve him out of duty. On the outside, acts of service appear the same: “but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Grace that Makes Us :: Worldwide Prayer

Mark 1.14-15
Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

Reflection: Grace that Makes Us :: Worldwide Prayer
By John Tillman

Through his grace our weakness is made strong.
Through his grace he leads us from doubt on to faith.
Through his grace we can share the gospel with others.
His grace makes us his own.

This prayer from Brazil celebrates and thanks God for his grace and its effects in our lives.

A prayer of thanksgiving from Brazil
Our Heavenly Father,

We praise your name and adore you with all our heart. We lift our hearts with joy because you are a great God who, regardless of our sins, loves and watches over us. With great compassion and love you have led us through the valleys and up the mountains to the right paths. Help us to overcome our weakness and lack of faith.

Lord,
It is your grace that makes us what we are. We are not worthy to stand before you, but at Calvary you bought us with a price which we cannot measure nor understand. You have given us a new name and a new life. We praise you and offer ourselves to you.

Lord,
Help us to remember we are strong only in you. We ask that the Holy Spirit will control our lives. It is you Lord Jesus who holds onto us in every circumstance. Renew our faith in you, expect us to “bear fruit” and make us willing to share with people around us, the needy, the lost, those who need a word of hope.

May all see Jesus in us.

For it is in Jesus’ holy name we pray.

Amen.

*Prayer from Hallowed be Your Name: A collection of prayers from around the world, Dr. Tony Cupit, Editor.

Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Come, let us sing to the Lord; let us shout for joy to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving and raise a loud shout to him with psalms. — Psalm 95.1-2

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Genesis 30 (Listen – 6:10) 
Mark 1 (Listen – 5:05)

Join Our New Facebook Group:
This weekend, in our new Facebook group for email subscribers, we will continue a series of short live videos discussing some simple, practical tools of spiritual practice using modern technology. Join the group to discuss them with us.

Follow this link to find the group. When you request to join, you will be prompted to answer questions about the email that you have used to subscribe to The Park Forum. Once we check that you are a subscriber, we will approve you to join the group.

Read more about Free to Become Like Children :: Worldwide Prayer
Spirit of God, we thank you
That you have brought the riches of salvation
Into the poverty of our human experience.

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.


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.

Spur a spiritual rhythm of refreshment right in your inbox
By joining this email list you are giving us permission to send you devotional emails each weekday and to communicate occasionally regarding other aspects of the ministry.
100% Privacy. We don't spam.