The Curse Reversed—Readers’ Choice

Selected by reader, Jason Tilley
God is perfect justice, perfect mercy, and perfect love. He is never one over the other; rather, they exist in him in harmony. When he is jealous, it is from love, when he rights wrongs, it is from love. To fear God is not to be afraid of God. It is to stand in awe of his perfect love.

Originally published, December 31, 2019, based on readings from 2 Chronicles 36 & Revelation 22.

Scripture Focus: Revelation 22.3, 17
No longer will there be any curse….The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.

Reflection: The Curse Reversed—Readers’ Choice
By John Tillman

In Eden, humanity hid from God because of sin and fear and from each other because of shame and blame. This carries on into our interactions today. We both hide from God and hide God from ourselves, pushing him away to make room for gods of our choosing and making. We take the power and dominion God gave as a blessing and curse ourselves with it. 

God spoke the curse of Eden but, in many ways, we wrote it. And Christ reversed it. 

Even as he speaks the curse of Eden, God purposes and promises to break it. Scripture describes a God constantly working to reverse the curse and speaking repetitions of the theme of the final paragraphs of the Bible, “Come.”

In Eden, God says, “Where are you?” 
At Sinai, God says, “Follow me.”
In Galilee, Christ says, “Here I am.”
In the wilderness, Christ says, “Return to me.”
In Samaria, Christ says, “Ask me for water.”
In his teaching, Christ says, “Abide with me.”
At the table, Christ says, “Remember me.”
In the garden, Christ begs, “Be with me.”
At the beginning of John’s vision, Christ says, “Come up here.”
And here, at the end of God’s vision for the world and for us, God says, “Come.”

In the curse of Eden, God commits himself to a course of intervention on our behalf. The curse is made to be broken.

Epiphany is the revealing of Christ to the nations. It is God breaking through all of our concealments, coming out of hiding, breaking the curse of banishment, and openly saying, “Come.” 

The visions of Revelation can be intimidating, but we must remember the character of the God we serve, perfectly revealed to us in Jesus Christ. He is the same in the throne room as he was in the manger, as he was in the upper room washing our feet, as he was on the cross, as he was pressing the fingers of doubters into his hands, and as he is now, tenderly reaching out to all humanity.

As we enter the new year, may we remember, we do not cower before a punitively petulant God who from his pedestal pronounces our doom.

We kneel before a compassionately caring creator, who kneels lower than us, so that he may lift our face to look in his eyes.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
How great is your goodness, O Lord, which you have laid up for those who fear you; which you have done in the sight of all. — Psalm 31.19

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

Today’s Readings
Lamentations 1 (Listen – 4:44)
Psalm 32 (Listen – 1:34)

Read more about Supporting our Work
The Park Forum strives to provide short, smart, engaging, biblical content to people across the world for free with no ads. Gifts to The Park Forum support this mission.

Read more about His Blessings, Our Curse :: A Guided Prayer
Jesus Christ became a curse for us…died to release the curse’s hold on us, then he rose to bring to us the full blessings of life that overflows with good things.

The Work of Faith—Readers’ Choice

Selected by reader, Kim
This simple introductory sentence opened my eyes to understand what Advent was about! Prior to this I never understood how or why we would wait for something that had already happened (Jesus birth). But now I understand that what we are really waiting for (Jesus’ return) hasn’t happened yet, but the fact that Jesus already came makes his second coming all the more near. Come Jesus, come! 

Originally published, December 10, 2019, based on readings from 2 Chronicles 10 & Revelation 1.

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…

Reflection: The Work of Faith—Readers’ Choice
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 Greeting
Out of Zion, perfect in its beauty, God reveals himself in glory.
Our God will come and will not keep silence; before him there is a consuming flame, and round about him a raging storm. — Psalm 50.2-3

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

Today’s Readings
Jeremiah 39 (Listen – 3:11)
Psalms 13-14 (Listen – 1:43)

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

Read more about Anticipating His Advent
Let’s wait for Jesus with patience, encouraging one another to expect and anticipate with pleasure his second Advent, when he will set all things right.

Peter’s Unfinished Work

Scripture Focus: Revelation 3.1-3
1 I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. 3 Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent.

Isaiah 33.14-15
14 Who of us can dwell with the consuming fire? 
Who of us can dwell with everlasting burning?” 
15 Those who walk righteously 
and speak what is right…

Reflection: Peter’s Unfinished Work
By John Tillman

We have both grieved and celebrated over this past weekend. 

Pentecost Sunday closes the season of Easter. As one season ends, Pentecost marks the beginning of a new one. Pentecost is the end of Jesus powerfully leading his disciples and the beginning of Jesus empowering his church to lead. Pentecost is the end of the season of training and the beginning of the season of work. 

As evidenced by both the murder of George Floyd and some of the broken and tragic responses to it, the church has much work left to do. Surely Christ’s words to the church at Sardis apply to us today, “I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God.”

We have written consistently (because God’s Word speaks of it consistently) about the centrality to the gospel of destroying racism. There does not exist a gospel that ignores racism. Any “gospel” that does not confront racism is not the gospel. Pentecost testifies strongly to this as the Holy Spirit moved Peter to preach that what people were witnessing was the promised outpouring of God’s Spirit on “all flesh.” (Acts 2.17; Joel 2.28)

Peter went on to struggle throughout his ministry to overcome the racism that he was raised in. May we take up Peter’s unfinished work. Overcoming racism cannot be done by one sermon, one vision, one visit, one protest, or one condemnation. Opposing both individual and systemic racism is a lifetime of work that the Church cannot give up on. 

Ending racism was a Christian idea from the beginning and we are possessed of the only ideology that can do it—the gospel. When pastors and ministers address racial issues, they are not abandoning the gospel, they are speaking from its heart.

Pray this prayer this week, based on parts of Isaiah 33, asking that we may be the kind of people who work the justice of the Kingdom of God into our lives and communities.

Prayer for Justice
We long to dwell with you, Lord, our consuming fire.
Burn away our sinfulness and selfishness without which racism cannot stand.
Help us to be those who walk righteously 
and speak what is right.
Help us to reject gain from extortion and oppression 
Let us not passively participate in murder.
Let us not shut our eyes to deny evil, but shut our hearts to joining in it.
Let us be instruments of your peace.

*We forgo the Divine Hours prayers today replacing them with the above and focusing our prayers on ones for justice and peace, which must come before reconciliation and revival which we also pray for..

Today’s Readings
Isaiah 33 (Listen – 3:45) 
Revelation 3 (Listen – 3:53)

Read more about Putting To Death Racial Hostility
Our culture’s concept of human equality is based not in science, but in Christ. The wellspring of the concept of racial equality is the cross of Christ.

Read more about Slavery, Racism, and a Lone Christian Voice
Fifteen hundred years later, we are still fighting the anti-slavery, and anti-racism, and anti-oppression battles. We may be victorious yet, but it will take all of us to engage the battle.

The Curse Reversed :: Epiphany

Scripture Focus: Revelation 22.3, 17
No longer will there be any curse….The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.

Reflection: The Curse Reversed :: Epiphany
By John Tillman

In Eden, humanity hid from God because of sin and fear and from each other because of shame and blame. This carries on into our interactions today. We both hide from God and hide God from ourselves, pushing him away to make room for gods of our choosing and making. We take the power and dominion God gave as a blessing and curse ourselves with it. 

God spoke the curse of Eden but, in many ways, we wrote it. And Christ reversed it. 

Even as he speaks the curse of Eden, God purposes and promises to break it. Scripture describes a God constantly working to reverse the curse and speaking repetitions of the theme of the final paragraphs of the Bible, “Come.”

In Eden, God says, “Where are you?” 
At Sinai, God says, “Follow me.”
In Galilee, Christ says, “Here I am.”
In the wilderness, Christ says, “Return to me.”
In Samaria, Christ says, “Ask me for water.”
In his teaching, Christ says, “Abide with me.”
At the table, Christ says, “Remember me.”
In the garden, Christ begs, “Be with me.”
At the beginning of John’s vision, Christ says, “Come up here.”
And here, at the end of God’s vision for the world and for us, God says, “Come.”

In the curse of Eden, God commits himself to a course of intervention on our behalf. The curse is made to be broken.

Epiphany is the revealing of Christ to the nations. It is God breaking through all of our concealments, coming out of hiding, breaking the curse of
banishment, and openly saying, “Come.” 

The visions of Revelation can be intimidating, but we must remember the character of the God we serve, perfectly revealed to us in Jesus Christ. He is the same in the throne room as he was in the manger, as he was in the upper room washing our feet, as he was on the cross, as he was pressing the fingers of doubters into his hands, and as he is now, tenderly reaching out to all humanity.

As we enter the new year, may we remember, we do not cower before a punitively petulant God who from his pedestal pronounces our doom.
We kneel before a compassionately caring creator, who kneels lower than us, so that he may lift our face to look in his eyes.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
I will call upon God, and the Lord will deliver me.
In the evening, in the morning, and at noonday, I will complain and lament, and he will hear my voice.
He will bring me safely back…God, who is enthroned of old, will hear me. — Psalm 55.17

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

Today’s Readings
2 Chronicles 36 (Listen -4:26) 
Revelation 22 (Listen -3:59)

Tomorrow’s Readings (Happy New Year!)
Ezra 1 (Listen -2:03) 
Acts 1 (Listen -3:58)

Thank You, Donors, for a wonderful End-of-Year Giving response!
End of Year giving has increased again, for the second year in a row, with many increasing their gifts and also many first time donors. We are so thankful to God for your generosity. These end-of-year gifts will help us continue to improve the spiritual discipleship of readers around the globe with free, and ad-free, devotional content throughout 2020.

Today, being the last day of 2019, is the last opportunity for tax-deductible contributions for this year. If you have not yet given and intend to give, please follow the giving link or put your check in the mail today. Follow this link to our giving page or mail checks to:
The Park Forum
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Spread the Word
If you are not able to support us financially, another simple action that tangibly helps our ministry is to share about The Park Forum. Liking or commenting on our social media posts (but especially sharing them) helps more people to see them. This type of exposure is far better than when we spend money on ads to promote our posts. 

Forwarding our emails or sending links to our website to friends is another way to spread the gospel and to encourage Bible Literacy in your community of believers. Share a post with others to help them subscribe to our emails.

Read more about Supporting our Work
We are thankful for our donors’ gifts because they show the work of God in our donors’ hearts and their willingness to contribute to improving the spiritual discipleship of readers around the globe.

Read more about His Blessings, Our Curse :: A Guided Prayer
Jesus Christ became a curse for us…died to release the curse’s hold on us, then he rose to bring to us the full blessings of life that overflows with good things.

Ache for Renewal :: Epiphany

Scripture Focus: Revelation 21.5, 6
“I am making everything new!…It is done.”

Reflection: Ache for Renewal :: Epiphany
By John Tillman

We have a constant, longing ache for renewal right down in our souls where we sense Eden’s loss. In Epiphany we can find the blossoming, the revealing, the renewal that we long for.

This ache is magnified during the days surrounding New Year celebrations. Despite the depth of the ache in our souls, the renewals that we focus on are typically shallow and self-improvement-driven.

We want to change our diets.
We want to change our jobs. (or maybe just our boss…)
We want to lose weight. 
We want to gain knowledge or skills.
We want to stop a bad habit. 
We want to start a good habit.

It is good for us to work better, live better, grow in knowledge, grow in health, take a new career direction, or upgrade the food we eat. Even these surface-level changes typically improve not just ourselves, but the world around us.

We may smile more. We may feel better. We may be better able to live as loving revelations of Christ. But there is also a danger of merely enacting a secular (and selfish) ritual of self-improvement. 

In Christ’s description of exorcism, the ousted demon finds the person he just left clean and empty with plenty of room for even worse spiritual corruption. If we do not deal with the demons at the root of our discontent, then we will only sweep out of our homes last years’ messes, to make room for new and worse in the coming year.  The last state of our souls is worse than the first.

Christ declared to John, “I am making all things new,” then later, “It is done.” It is Christ, who is the author and finisher of our faith. Christ declared his suffering finished on the cross, and he will eventually declare his renewal of the Earth finished. 

The end of the Earth will be, rather than complete destruction, complete reconstruction. The world and everything in it, including us, will be renewed.

So rather than attempt to sweep our own house clean and empty, may we instead invite Jesus into our mess, and let him do the renewing, revealing work within and through us. He has work of renewal for us to join him in now. And he who begins a good work in us, will see it through to completion. When he is finished, we will have revealed Him to the world.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Truly, his salvation is very near to those who fear him, that his glory may dwell in our land. — Psalm 85.9

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

Today’s Readings
2 Chronicles 35 (Listen -5:25) 
Revelation 21 (Listen -4:34)

Thank You, Donors!
We are thankful for our donors’ gifts because they show the work of God in our donors’ hearts and their willingness to contribute to improving the spiritual discipleship of readers around the globe. We could not do this without them! Thanks to our donors, in 2019 we have published approximately 100,000 words of free, and ad-free, devotional content. 

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.

Spread the Word
If you are not able to support us financially, another simple action that tangibly helps our ministry is to share about The Park Forum. Liking or commenting on our social media posts (but especially sharing them) helps more people to see them. This type of exposure is far better than when we spend money on ads to promote our posts. 

Forwarding our emails or sending links to our website to friends is another way to spread the gospel and to encourage Bible Literacy in your community of believers. Share a post with others to help them subscribe to our emails.

Read more about We Need Renewal :: Worldwide Prayer
Please visit the world again and again with awakenings by your Spirit that will sweep humanity into your Kingdom and bring greater justice and mercy into our homes, communities, and nations.

Read more about Supporting our Work
Whether or not you choose to donate and support us, please be in prayer for our donors that they will give freely, without compulsion, guided by the Holy Spirit.

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