Born to Serve

Scripture Focus: Philippians 2:5-8
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!

Reflection: Born to Serve
By Jon Polk

In what is traditionally known as the “Christ Hymn” in Philippians 2, Paul describes who Christ is, and by extension, who God is, and furthermore by example, who we should be.

Who is Christ? Christ was in his very nature God. He was God himself, even though he was uniquely human, too. 

However, Christ didn’t behave the way people expected gods to behave. In the first century, they were more familiar with the volatile, angry gods of the Greek pantheon, who used power to advance themselves or to subdue others. 

Gods didn’t live their lives in humility. Gods didn’t come among their people as servants. And gods especially didn’t sacrifice their lives for the sake of their subjects. 

Paul writes that Christ took the very nature of a servant. He uses the Greek word doulos, which is more properly translated “slave.” A slave existed in servitude to others without advantages, rights or privileges.

Christ became nothing. He emptied himself by pouring out his grace to others. He humbled himself by entering into relationship with lowly humans. He obeyed death, freely giving his life.

Who is God? God’s strength is not in his ability to manipulate or subdue his subjects, but in his willingness to take on the form of his subjects. Not only does God condescend to human form, he chose not to come as a ruler or king but a servant.

Jürgen Moltmann writes in The Crucified God, “God is not greater than he is in this humiliation. God is not more glorious than he is in this self-surrender. God is not more powerful than he is in this helplessness. God is not more divine than he is in this humanity.”

Who should we be? Paul states we should “have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.” Not only does Christ present us with a radical picture of who God is, he presents us with a radical challenge about who we should be: humble servants giving ourselves on behalf of others.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes “The church is the church only when it exists for others… It must not underestimate the importance of human example which has its origin in the humanity of Jesus.” 

Jesus Christ is our ultimate example. For certain, none of us could ever be sinless and perfect, but that’s not the example that Paul wants us to see. Jesus is the full representation of God, but he also represents what it means to be fully human: to live life completely in service of others. 

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
From this day forward all generations will call me blessed, for the Almighty has done great things for me. — Luke 1.48

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

1 Kings 11 (Listen – 7:05)
Phillipians 2 (Listen – 3:45)

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.

Read more about He Stoops to Raise
Christ’s entire life could be understood as a process of descending and ascending. He goes from the highest place, to the lowest place. And then, he ascends.

Read more about Sacrifice of Self
Ultimately we have been called to imitate our self-sacrificing savior, Jesus, by giving of ourselves to do good for the benefit of others.

Paul’s Example of Thankfulness

Scripture Focus: Philippians 1:3-5, 9-10

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now…And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ…

Reflection: Paul’s Example of Thankfulness

By Jon Polk

Who has been used by God to help you in your walk with Christ? Who has come alongside you during difficult times? Who has helped shape you into the follower of Christ that you are today?

In his letters, Paul frequently gives thanks for other Christians that have been important in his life and he has good reasons to have fond feelings for the church in Philippi.

There, Paul met Lydia and a group of “God-fearing” women praying down by a river. Lydia and her household responded immediately to the Gospel message and she invited Paul to stay in her home. The fledgling Philippian church started by meeting in her house.

There, Paul was imprisoned after incurring the wrath of a slave owner. While he was praying and singing hymns, an earthquake broke open the prison doors! Because Paul chose not to escape, the jailer and his household came to faith.

There, Paul would return to minister at least three times following his initial visit. The church in Philippi began to financially support his traveling ministry. Their support was so significant that Paul would brag about them in a letter to another church.

So it is no surprise that Paul writes about them, “I thank my God every time I remember you.” How many people in your life can you say that about, that you thank God for them every time you think of them? Not only does Paul thank God for them, he also prays for them on a regular and frequent basis.

What exactly does Paul pray for them? He prays that their love increases and grows to overflowing. He prays that as their love grows, so does their relationship with God. He prays that their actions and motives would be pure, driven by this profound love.

When you think about those who have been influential in your life, is this the way you pray for them? Do you pray that they might have so much love that they can’t expend it all? Do you pray that their relationship with God grows and deepens? Do you pray as frequently for your friends as Paul says he does for the Philippians?

Perhaps we should.

So why don’t you take a moment now to thank God for significant people in your life. But don’t stop there. Like Paul did, send them a note letting them know how much you appreciate them. Surprise someone with encouragement today. You’ll be glad you did. And so will they.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting

The Lord lives! Blessed is my Rock! Exalted is the God of my salvation!
Therefore will I extol you among the nations, O Lord, and sing praises to your Name.

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

1 Kings 10
 (Listen – 4:27)
Phillipians 1 (Listen – 4:03)

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.

Read more about Paul’s Anti-Anti-Intellectualism
Paul’s intent was that developing faith should not be dependent on the eloquence of a speaker or the artfulness of argumentative tactics.

Read more about Paul’s First Sermon
Paul’s sermon is in response to a call for exhortation. The word Luke uses, paráklēsis, can imply an entreaty for help and is often translated as “comfort”

Walking the Way of Pain

Scripture: Colossians 1.17-20
He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Scripture: Luke 23:46
Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last.

Reflection: Walking the Way of Pain
By Jada Swanson

Poetry has a way of putting into language that which we are unable to speak on our own. It communicates poignant, intentional thoughts, feelings, and expressions of all that we hold dear, but, perhaps, have never uttered aloud.

On this Good Friday, we are sharing Wendell Berry’s poem, “The Way of Pain”, which shares a perspective of sacrifice and grief and pain.

Although our world tells us that we are to be in a constant state of motion and busyness and productivity, the season of Lent has been a time of preparation of remembering and waiting. Lent leads us and points us towards Holy Week, which culminates in the celebration of our Savior’s resurrection.

However, may we not be too anxious to move past the mourning and the grieving of what took place on Good Friday. For in this remembrance, we are able to grasp the magnitude of all that our Savior, Jesus Christ, willingly sacrificed on our behalf. As Wendell Berry so eloquently states, “Unless we grieve like Mary at His grave, giving him up as lost, no Easter morning comes.”

The Way of Pain
By Wendell Berry
1.
For parents, the only way
is hard. We who give life
give pain. There is no help.
Yet we who give pain
give love; by pain we learn
the extremity of love.
2.
I read of Abraham’s sacrifice
the Voice required of him,
so that he led to the altar
and the knife his only son.
The beloved life was spared
that time, but not the pain.
It was the pain that was required.
3.
I read of Christ crucified,
the only begotten Son
sacrificed to flesh and time
and all our woe. He died
and rose, but who does not tremble
for his pain, his loneliness,
and the darkness of the sixth hour?
Unless we grieve like Mary
at His grave, giving Him up
as lost, no Easter morning comes.
4.
And then I slept, and dreamed
the life of my only son
was required of me, and I
must bring him to the edge
of pain, not knowing why.
I woke, and yet that pain
was true. It brought his life
to the full in me. I bore him
suffering, with love like the sun,
too bright, unsparing, whole.
––Wendell Berry, 1980

Prayer: The Call to Prayer
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.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Proverbs 17 (Listen – 2:58)
Philippians 4 (Listen – 3:20)

This Weekend’s Readings
Proverbs 18 (Listen – 2:23) Colossians 1 (Listen – 4:18)
Proverbs 19 (Listen – 3:09) Colossians 2 (Listen – 3:27)

Dirty Feet

Scripture: Philippians 3.10-11
I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

Scripture: John 13:14-15 (CEB)
So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you too must wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example: Just as I have done, you also must do.

Reflection: Dirty Feet
By Jada Swanson

If you knew that you were going to die tomorrow, what would you do? What would you say?

Imagine walking into a tiny upper room, crowding around a table, passing plates of food to eat, but knowing tomorrow was the day. This is the situation Jesus faced on the Thursday before he was crucified.

On this day, Jesus celebrated his final Passover with His disciples. However, on this occasion, he did something quite different. At the very beginning of the traditional meal, Jesus washed each of the disciples’ feet. Something he had never done before.

In the Old Testament foot washing occurs frequently (Genesis 18:4; 19:2; 24:32; 43:24; Judges 19:21; 1 Samuel 25:41; 2 Samuel 11:8; Song of Solomon 5:3; Psalms 58:10). In ancient times, foot washing was considered a tremendous act of hospitality, and was done before entering someone’s home or tent. One’s status (rich or poor) determined whether the guest washed their own feet with water provided by the host, or if a slave performed this act, which was considered the lowliest of services.

However, as often is the case with Jesus, he turned everything upside down. Surely, shouldn’t the servants be washing their master’s feet? According to customs of this time, this should have been the case. But, instead, Jesus washed each of the disciples’ feet, even Judas’ (John 13:2).

Jesus gathered the disciples around him, took a towel, poured water into a basin, and washed their feet. He served them with love and humility. As his followers, we are called to do the same.

Although we do not know the hour or the day of our final moments on earth, we do have an example of how to live our life. Jesus is our example, and his life demonstrates love and service to others. On the final evening with his disciples, he included an act of service. As his modern-day disciples, may we all continue to carry on his example by serving others each and every day of our lives.

Prayer: The Request for Presence
Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; knit my heart to you that I may fear your name. — Psalm 86.11

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

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Proverbs 16 (Listen – 3:15)
Philippians 3 (Listen – 3:21)

Fasting and Feasting

Scripture: Philippians 2.3-5
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.

Reflection: Fasting and Feasting
By John Tillman

The one biblical feast most Christians know about is Passover or Pesach. This celebration is a combination of fasting and feasting. Families abstained from specific ingredients and indulged in others. Modern Jewish Seders are large, celebratory meals intended to be shared with guests and specifically the poor.

Christians have stripped this feast down to a cracker and a thimble.

This isn’t to say Christians have completely abandoned feasting. Liturgical churches designate many feasts and times of fasting throughout the year. Evangelicals have not completely abandoned feasting or fasting but have abandoned any structure or organization to their observance.

However, many Christians still don’t think of “feasting” as a holy activity. As much as we love potluck suppers and dinner-on-the-grounds, they are rarely held up as anything other than a social event. Even when meals are institutionally celebrated feasts, Christians of all denominations tend to speak of these celebratory meals with apologetic tones. Many an honored deacon or pastor has publicly prayed, “Lord, bless our bodies despite that of which we are about to partake.”

We shouldn’t flagellate ourselves much for misunderstanding and misinterpreting feasting and fasting. They have always been topics of controversy and religious struggle.

John the Baptist came fasting and Jesus came feasting, and both faced harsh critique. John was damned for doing it and Jesus was damned because he didn’t.

Many of the condemnations of the biblical prophets concern violations of the spirit of, if not the actual practice of, the festivals and feasts that God had established.

Like the Israelites’ celebrations, which went from being a trumpeted memorial before God to being something God despised, our fasting and feasting can easily become meaningless rituals that make us feel good about ourselves but are despised by God.

To prevent this we can’t allow the purpose of these observances to become obscured by the details of their practice. To do so robs them of any spiritual power.

Whenever there is a form devoid of spiritual power, law will take over because law always carries with it a sense of security and manipulative power. — Richard Foster

As we engage in feasting or fasting, during the season of Lent and beyond, may we not grow secure in legalistic, moralistic rules, but stay insecure, relying on God and seeking him more fervently than legalistic perfection.

Prayer: A Reading
Just at this time, some Pharisees come up. “Go away,” they said. “Leave this place because Herod means to kill you.” He replied, “You may go and give that fox this message: Look! Today and tomorrow and the next day I must go on since it would not be right for a prophet to die outside Jerusalem.” — Luke 13.31-33

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

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Proverbs 15 (Listen – 3:36)
Philippians 2 (Listen – 3:45)

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.