Revelation of Love :: Love of Advent

*Advent is a wonderful time for new readers to join us. At this time of year, we are covering familiar biblical content and people are open to spiritual pursuits. Also at this time, people desperately need the balance of spiritual practice that The Park Forum provides. In this season, consider sharing our devotionals with others and inviting them to join our community. Share this post with someone to help them subscribe.

Scripture Focus: Revelation 4.1
After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here…”

Reflection: Revelation of Love :: Love of Advent
By John Tillman

Revelation turns attention to Christ’s second Advent for which the season of Advent is designed to prepare us. In Revelation, we see through John’s eyes into Heaven and into a future that is both made already and in the making. 

Too often, I remember being terrified by ministers and laypeople teaching or preaching Revelation from the viewpoint of fear. These well-meaning souls leaned into the horrors of being left behind and doubled down on the troubling imagery of the tribulation, hoping, I think, to scare us spiritually straight. The fear of God, properly taught and understood is biblical and is part of learning about God. But fear-based teaching is doomed to fail. Fear, as a dominant motivation leads only to bad places. Decisions dominated by fear lead to selfish evil. Churches dominated by fear sanctify hatred. Governments dominated by fear commit atrocities. 

Ultimately, fear is not what Revelation is about. It is about love. Jesus starts his Revelation of the future to John by saying, “Come up here,” and those three words are a summary of the message of the book. The story of Revelation is a promise that none of God’s children will be left behind. All God’s children will come home. (”All God’s children” except those who refuse to. As C.S. Lewis said and we have often quoted, “the doors of Hell are locked on the inside.”)

No matter the evil forces, evil governments, spiritual powers, or societal pressures that grasp at us or stand in our way, we who answer Christ’s call will go home to Heaven. Revelation is the story of all of the obstacles to our homecoming being systematically unlocked, opened up, or destroyed—including the ones we built ourselves. Christ’s apocalyptic second Advent is about releasing God’s love and about releasing us to be received by God’s love.

Through Revelation, we can imagine three Advents. The first is that of the babe in the manger. It is quiet, humble, marked with beauty, and harried by danger. The second is that of the all-conquering king. It is loud, triumphant, marked with power, and restoration of justice. The third is not Christ’s advent but ours. It is our advent to the Kingdom of God as his lost children returned. It is celebratory and joyous and marked with tears, embraces, and laughter.

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
Of the Baptizer, scripture says: “A feeling of expectancy had grown among the people, who were beginning to wonder whether John might be the Christ, so John declared before them all, ‘I baptize you with water, but someone is coming, someone who is more powerful than me, and I am not fit to undo the strap of his sandals; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn; but the chaff he will burn in a fire that will never go out.’ And he proclaimed the good news to the people with many other exhortations too.” — Luke 3.15-18

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

Today’s Readings
2 Chronicles 14-15 (Listen -5:49)
Revelation 4 (Listen -2:09)

Today’s Readings
2 Chronicles 16 (Listen -2:51) Revelation 5 (Listen -2:39)
2 Chronicles 17 (Listen -2:48) Revelation 6 (Listen -3:12)

Thank You, Donors!
Thanks to our donors, in 2019 we will publish approximately 100,000 words of free, and ad-free, devotional content. Without donor support, continuing this ministry would be impossible. As the end of the year approaches, consider whether the Holy Spirit might be prompting you to help support our 2020 content with an end-of-year gift or by becoming a monthly donor. Follow this link to our giving page.

Read more about Do We Know Him? :: Love of Advent
We fail to realize how his identity affects ours and how our identity in Christ should affect the way that we treat others in his name.

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Your gifts now support our 2020 content.

The Endurance of Hope :: Love of Advent

*Advent is a wonderful time for new readers to join us. At this time of year we are covering familiar biblical content and people are open to spiritual pursuits. Also at this time, people desperately need the balance of spiritual practice that The Park Forum provides. In this season, consider sharing our devotionals with others and inviting them to join our community. Use the sharing links included in the email below to help them subscribe.

Scripture Focus: Revelation 3.11
I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have…

1 Thessalonians 1:3, 9b-10
We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.

From John: As we continue in John’s apocalyptic book of Revelation, which speaks in dreams and visions about Christ’s second Advent, we conclude, with thanks to Jon Polk, this short series of reflections. They are based on Jon’s recent Advent sermon out of 1 Thessalonians. The Thessolonians were particularly concerned with questions of Christ’s Advent, and we have benefited from the lessons herein. Come Lord Jesus.

Reflection: The Endurance of Hope :: Love of Advent
By Jon Polk

Introduction: Advent is the season in which we anticipate and wait for Jesus’ return by remembering his first coming. Paul’s letters to the Thessalonian church are filled with references to Christ’s second coming, encouraging the believers to be actively waiting as they fully expected that Jesus would come back in their lifetime.  Paul commends their work of faith, labor of love and endurance of hope.

Hope is the conviction that God will complete his good work in us until the day of Christ’s return, but what does Paul mean by the “endurance of hope”? The expectation of the imminent return of Christ was commonplace among the early believers. They looked forward to that day and found their great hope in the second coming of Christ. Some 2000 years later, it can be difficult for us to live our lives with the same sort of hopeful expectation that Jesus’ return could happen at any moment. For Paul the basis of our hope is found in the resurrection, giving us confidence that Jesus will do just as he as promised. Enduring hope is not wishful thinking born from an unsure tomorrow but it is absolute certainty about our future with Christ and longing for that day to come!

Charles Wesley, younger brother of English preacher John Wesley, was a theologian himself and a prolific hymn writer. He captures this enduring hope and longing for the return of Christ in the familiar, yet simple Advent carol, Come Thou Long Expected Jesus. Wesley was influenced by the poor living conditions of the orphans in the areas of the city around him and was impacted by the stark class divisions in Great Britain in the mid-1700s. Expressing a longing and enduring hope for the return of Christ who would ultimately set things right, he penned these words.

Come, thou long expected Jesus,
born to set thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us,
let us find our rest in thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
hope of all the earth thou art;
dear desire of every nation,
joy of every longing heart.

Born thy people to deliver,
born a child and yet a King,
born to reign in us forever,
now thy gracious kingdom bring.
By thine own eternal spirit
rule in all our hearts alone;
by thine all sufficient merit,
raise us to thy glorious throne


Wesley intended that celebrating Advent and Christmas would not only be a commemoration of the birth of Jesus, but also a preparation for the return of Jesus. This is the enduring hope for those who actively wait for the return of Christ, a hope intimately intertwined with the first coming of his birth.

Actively waiting for the return of Jesus is fueled by the endurance of hope. This Advent season, are you living with the endurance of hope, actively singing in your heart, “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus”? If not, what are you waiting for?

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Let integrity and uprightness preserve me, for my hope has been in you. — Psalm 25.20

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

Today’s Readings
2 Chronicles 13 (Listen -7:17) 
Revelation 3 (Listen -3:00)

Thank You, Donors!
Thanks to our donors, in 2019 we will publish approximately 100,000 words of free, and ad-free, devotional content. Without donor support, continuing this ministry would be impossible. As the end of the year approaches, consider whether the Holy Spirit might be prompting you to help support our 2020 content with an end-of-year gift or by becoming a monthly donor. Follow this link to our giving page.

Read more about Love that Points to the Cross :: Love of Advent
All of Advent’s hope, points to the cross, where Advent’s love is demonstrated.

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Gifts to support our ministry are really to support the spiritual growth and development of thousands of daily readers across the world.

The Labor of Love :: Love of Advent

*Advent is a wonderful time for new readers to join us. At this time of year, we are covering familiar biblical content and people are open to spiritual pursuits. Also at this time, people desperately need the balance of spiritual practice that The Park Forum provides. In this season, consider sharing our devotionals with others and inviting them to join our community. Use the sharing links before the scripture readings in the email below to help others subscribe.

Scripture Focus: Revelation 2.4
Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first.

1 Thessalonians 1:3, 6, 9b-10a
We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.
They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven…

From John: As we continue in John’s apocalyptic book of Revelation, which speaks in dreams and visions about Christ’s second Advent, we are excited to continue this short series of reflections by Jon Polk. They are based on his recent Advent sermon out of 1 Thessalonians. The Thessolonians were particularly concerned with questions of Christ’s Advent, and there are wonderful lessons here for us all. Come Lord Jesus.

Reflection: The Labor of Love :: Love of Advent
By Jon Polk

Introduction: Advent is the season in which we anticipate and wait for Jesus’ return by remembering his first coming. Paul’s letters to the Thessalonian church are filled with references to Christ’s second coming, encouraging the believers to be actively waiting as they fully expected that Jesus would come back in their lifetime.  Paul commends their work of faith, labor of love and endurance of hope.

Love is the present and continuing relationship between God and his people through Christ, but how about this “labor of love” that Paul references? It is a phrase typically used to refer to something we do out of a deep passion, motivated by love for those involved. But love is so wonderful and light that to pair it with a word like labor seems almost incongruent. So why labor? In Paul’s description the labor in labor of love speaks in part to the ability to continue to follow God in the middle of struggle and persecution.

Certainly, persecution and suffering was common in the days of the early church, but what was happening to the believers in Thessalonica? It actually was partly the fault of Paul. In Acts 17, when the local Jews discovered Paul was there preaching and teaching, they ran him and his team out of the city. So if the other Jews didn’t like Paul, then certainly they were not too happy with all these ‘imitators’ of Paul also proclaiming the gospel message. Whether or not there was physical persecution, their suffering certainly started with social ostracization, conflicts with their Jewish friends and neighbors, and pressure from the Gentiles as well. Thessolonica was a multi-cultural port city and you just don’t go around in a pluralistic society proclaiming an exclusive one true God without people being offended. 

But the believers were transformed by the labor of love within them. Their attitude towards their suffering had changed. Instead of complaints and laments, there was joy inspired by the Holy Spirit. Rejoicing through afflictions is a mark of the labor of love at work. As they actively waited for Jesus to return, they found joy in their suffering. We actively wait for Christ by doing the things God has called us to do because he loves us and will ultimately provide rescue and relief for us.

Actively waiting for the return of Jesus is supported by the labor of love. This Advent season, are you practicing the labor of love, enduring trials and difficulties with the confidence that God will see you through, and in so doing are you becoming an example to others? If not, what are you waiting for?

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lesson
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled — Matthew 5.6

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

Today’s Readings
2 Chronicles 11 (Listen -2:58)
Revelation 2 (Listen – 4:59)

Thank You, Donors!
Thanks to our donors, in 2019 we will publish approximately 100,000 words of free, and ad-free, devotional content. Without donor support, continuing this ministry would be impossible. As the end of the year approaches, consider whether the Holy Spirit might be prompting you to help support our 2020 content with an end-of-year gift or by becoming a monthly donor. Follow this link to our giving page.

Read more about Involving Christ :: Love of Advent
We carry the gift of involving Christ. Christ is lovingly interested in being involved in our embarrassments, difficulties, and failures.

Read more about The Value of Words
The value of words for Christians is vastly different than others, for our Savior is known as The Word made flesh.

The Work of Faith :: Love of Advent

*Advent is a wonderful time for new readers to join us. At this time of year, we are covering familiar biblical content and people are open to spiritual pursuits. Also at this time, people desperately need the balance of spiritual practice that The Park Forum provides. In this season, consider sharing our devotionals with others and inviting them to join our community. Use the sharing links before the scripture readings in the email below to help others subscribe.

Scripture Focus: Revelation 1.3
Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy…because the time is near.

1 Thessalonians 1:3, 5a, 9b-10a
We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
…our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction…
They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven…

From John: As we enter John’s apocalyptic book of Revelation, which speaks in dreams and visions about Christ’s second Advent, we are excited to bring you this short series of reflections by Jon Polk. They are based on his recent Advent sermon out of 1 Thessalonians. The Thessalonians were particularly concerned with questions of Christ’s Advent, and there are wonderful lessons here for us all. Come, Lord Jesus.

Reflection: The Work of Faith :: Love of Advent
By Jon Polk

Introduction: Advent is the season in which we anticipate and wait for Jesus’ return by remembering his first coming. Paul’s letters to the Thessalonian church are filled with references to Christ’s second coming, encouraging the believers to be actively waiting as they fully expected that Jesus would come back in their lifetime.  Paul commends their work of faith, labor of love and endurance of hope.

Faith is the assurance that God has acted for our salvation in Christ, but what is Paul talking about when he refers to the “work of faith”? He is not referring to some action or work that we must do in order to receive faith. No, we know that saving faith is ours by the free gift of God’s grace, instead, he is referring to the transforming work that faith does within us once we receive the gospel message.

Faith is more than just belief, it is a power from God that works in us and changes us from within. Faith makes you turn from wrong to right, from the darkness of a selfish, harmful way of living to a true, generous and healthy way of loving, or as Paul puts it, faith makes you turn away from idols to serve the living and true God. We don’t simply decide to leave all our worldly idols and then stumble around until we find God. Rather, God pursues us and reveals himself to us and when we discover his glory and goodness, we leave behind all the cheap imitations.

Lee Strobel is the author of one of the premier books on Christian apologetics, The Case for Christ. Strobel had a law degree from Yale University and was an award-winning journalist for the Chicago Tribune. He was an unlikely candidate to write such a book because he was an atheist and a skeptic. However, in 1979, Lee’s wife Leslie became a Christian and she began to live and model her new faith in such a way that it caused him to undertake a two-year journey of investigative research which eventually led to him also putting his faith in Christ. The transformation brought about by the work of faith in his life was so obvious that it caused their 5-year old daughter Alison to remark to her mother, “Mommy, I want God to do for me what He’s done for Daddy.”

Actively waiting for the return of Jesus begins with the work of faith. This Advent season, are you experiencing the work of faith, being transformed by the work of God within you, and inspiring others to do the same? If not, what are you waiting for?

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Bless God in the Congregation; bless the Lord, you that are of the fountain of Israel.

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

Today’s Readings
2 Chronicles 10 (Listen -3:01)
Revelation 1 (Listen – 3:43)

Thank You, Donors!
Thanks to our donors, in 2019 we will publish approximately 100,000 words of free, and ad-free, devotional content. Without donor support, continuing this ministry would be impossible. As the end of the year approaches, consider whether the Holy Spirit might be prompting you to help support our 2020 content with an end-of-year gift or by becoming a monthly donor. Follow this link to our giving page.

Read more about Love in His Name :: Love of Advent
“Love in his name,” is both what we receive and what we must do.

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The Park Forum strives to provide short, smart, engaging, biblical content to people across the world for free with no ads.

Invitation

Scripture: Revelation 22.17
“The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.”

Reflection: Invitation
The Park Forum

What is the purpose of Christian living? We know what it looks like when it’s done wrong. Moralism breeds guilt for failure, intolerance toward others, and pride in perceived successes. Rejection of morality and discipline erodes the transformative power of sacramental living. To understand the purpose we have to look toward the goal.

Like a masterfully arranged symphony, the final note of Scripture rings with wonder and beauty: “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.” Grace—and not just grace, but an invitation for others to come into grace. Gregory the Great observed:

Hear how John is admonished by the angelic voice, “let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’” He into whose heart the internal voice has found its way may, by crying aloud, draw others into where he himself is carried.

There are predictable ways a religious text could end: rules, admonition, veiled threats—yet the Christian Scriptures end with open arms. Charles Spurgeon believed that invitation, “come,” is the motto of the gospel:

The cry of the Christian religion is the simple word, “Come.” The Jewish law said, “Go, pay attention to your steps—to the path in which you walk. Go, and if break the commandments, and you shall perish; Go, and if keep them, and you shall live.”

The law was a dispensation of the whip, which drove men before it; the gospel is just of the opposite kind. It is the Shepherd’s dispensation.

The Shepherd goes before his sheep, and bids them follow, saying, “Come.” The law repels; the gospel attracts. The law shows the distance between God and man; the gospel bridges that distance and brings the sinner across the great fixed gulf which Moses could never bridge.

Evangelism is not an action, but the culmination of Christian living. As we cultivate Christian practices—personal devotion, service to the marginalized, and commitment to community—our lives, workplaces, and cities flourish.

In this way Christian living is sacramental. Devotion cultivates peace, peace flows—like living water—into a dry and thirsty world. Gregory the Great concludes:

For the Church dwells in the gardens, in that she keeps the cultivated nurseries of virtues in a state of inward greenness.

Prayer: The Request for Presence
Show us the light of your countenance, O God, and come to us. — Psalm 67.1

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

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Isaiah 52 (Listen – 2:46)
Revelation 22 (Listen – 3:59)

Additional Reading
Read More about Liquid Wrath and Liquid Forgiveness
We exchange the cup of God’s wrath that we deserve for the cup of living water that Christ freely offers to us.

Read More about the Meaning of the Ascension
He has not taken his heart from us, nor his care from us, nor his interest from us: he is bound up heart and soul with his people.

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