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.

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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. 

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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.

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Unwrapping Christ’s Gifts :: Epiphany

Scripture Focus: Luke 4.18-20
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
    to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Reflection: Unwrapping Christ’s Gifts :: Epiphany
By John Tillman

The Annunciation of the birth of the King of Kings had come quietly to Mary, a young girl in Nazareth, and when that King’s time had come, he announced his kingdom in the same synagogue he studied in as a young boy. Mary’s son chose to announce his true identity to those who knew him best. He chose to proclaim the presence of the kingdom of God in a town from which true Israelites believed nothing good could come.

It should not surprise us that Jesus chose to make one of his earliest and most direct claims to being the Messiah not in a rabbinical school, not in the temple, not in a court of law, nor in the courts of political power.

Jesus consistently chose to minister in out of the way places to people life had pushed out of the way. But here in Nazareth, Jesus wasn’t burying the lead; he was burying a treasure in a field. Those who studied the prophecies knew that the Messianic ministry would dawn like a light in Galilee. Christ’s seeming retreat from more important locations, is actually a marker of his true nature as the foretold Messiah.

Christ’s gifts to us are at first concealed, like gifts under a Christmas tree. They are hidden in plain sight for us to wonder at, to shake, to puzzle over, and ultimately to open and rejoice over. But, after opening, gifts become a part of you when you accept them. Whether it is a tool that is used regularly, an item of clothing that is worn often, or a book, game, or other entertainment that engages our mind and imagination, good gifts integrate themselves into our lives and identities.

Christ’s gifts are meant to become integral to our lives and to become manifestations of himself to our family, friends, and communities. As we approach Epiphany over the next ten days, may we wear Christ’s gifts prominently, like new and well-loved items of clothing. Through the wearing, may we allow them to transform us into the manifestation of the giver.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Bless the Lord, you angels of his, you mighty ones who do his bidding, and hearken to the voice of his word.
Bless the Lord, all you his hosts, you ministers of his who do his will.
Bless the Lord, all you works of his, in all places of his dominion… — Psalm 103.20-22

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

Today’s Readings
2 Chronicles 32 (Listen -5:58) 
Revelation 18 (Listen -4:48)

This Weekend’s Readings
2 Chronicles 33 (Listen -4:01) Revelation 19 (Listen -3:47)
2 Chronicles 34 (Listen -6:23) Revelation 20 (Listen -2:49)

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 The Purchase Price of Peace :: Peace of Advent
The peace God spoke would come at a cost, and shedding his glory and light to be born in a dim and dirty animal stall, was only the down payment.

Read more about Supporting our Work
We need and pray for donors of all amounts, and for those who can donate every month as well as those who donate once-a-year or at other intervals.

The Energy of Expectancy :: Epiphany

Reflection: The Energy of Expectancy :: Epiphany
By John Tillman

When we wait for a long time, we can go from patient to despondent to complacent. We begin to wait in boredom, apathy and without expectation. 

One can watch this happen at long traffic lights. The people in the cars at the front waiting on the light stop looking expectantly for the green light. (After all, they have been waiting the longest…) They adjust the radio. They fix a child’s seat belt. They open their phones to text or scroll Facebook. They start fixing their makeup. Then suddenly, the cars behind are honking. They have missed the green light. Not only are they not going, no one else can go either.

In our waiting, we must not let our attentiveness slip. We must not sit at the front of the intersection, under the green light of the gospel, neither moving forward ourselves nor allowing others to move forward either. We must not take our eyes off the concerns of the gospel, turning to concerns of this world. We must not set our hands to the plow and turn back.

Last Friday, we shared a link to an exquisite two-and-a-half hour performance of Handel’s Messiah. Eclectic only begins to describe the shift to the song we share today, “Toy Jackpot” by Professor Break Speed, which was featured in Target ads several years ago. 

Although the song is not explicitly religious and could be interpreted through a solely commercialized lens, there is more here. Besides its themes of thankfulness, respect, sharing, love of family, and joy in togetherness, it illustrates the energetic expectancy with which we should await the gifts we long for in Christ. Paul tells us to “eagerly desire” the gifts of the Holy Spirit and that we should await Christ’s coming with expectancy and hope.

“All the energy is pent up
Time to express
Just waiting for the green light
Right foot press…” — Toy Jackpot, Professor Break Speed

It also hints at the reason for our expectant energy. Energy is stored so that it can be released. We wait and wait and wait so that we can begin to do something, to celebrate something, to enjoy something, and to share something.

Advent, the time of waiting, is past. The light is here. The starting pistol has fired. The gate is open. The race has begun. It is time to run with endurance the race set out before us.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Morning Psalm
With trumpets and the sound of the horn shout with joy before the King, the Lord… Psalm 98.6

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

Today’s Readings
2 Chronicles 31 (Listen -4:20) 
Revelation 17 (Listen -3:19)

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 Christmas is Upside Down :: Epiphany
Epiphany means manifestation and refers to Christ being “revealed” to the entire world—not just Israel.

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We produce over 100,000 words a year to:
Build up Christ’s body in the Word of God,
Support Christian disciples in practicing spiritual disciplines,
Encourage believers to engage the culture with the love of God.

The Purchase Price of Peace :: Peace 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 others to help them subscribe.

Reflection: The Purchase Price of Peace :: Peace of Advent
By John Tillman

In the warmer climes of the Southern United States, tunes that regale listeners with images of snow, dancing snowmen, and icy winds strike an ironic chord when temperatures call for shorts. But in the Southern hemisphere, where cold days fall on the opposite side of the calendar year, they are openly amusing.

With Christmas falling near summer’s, rather than winter’s, equinox, those in Australia, South America, or Southern Africa have a more accurate weather outlook for what Christ’s actual birth was likely to have been like. Most scholars agree that the shepherds being in the fields indicate that the date of Christ’s birth would be in the Spring or Summer months.

It could have been cold on the night of Christ’s birth. But it would have been the kind of chill that settles in to the desert, arid climates of the world in spring and summer evenings. Although the shepherds were probably not shivering with cold, they definitely shivered in fear when the angel appeared to them even though he spoke to them of peace. (An angel’s first words are almost always some version of “do not fear,” which should tell us something about the awesomeness of their appearance.)

The peace on Earth that the angels proclaimed was not the peacefulness of a sleeping child or the artistic renderings of tranquility that we often see in nativity paintings and creches. That family’s peace would soon be shattered by men of war, sent to kill the child they sought and settling for killing all children his age.

The peace God spoke would come at a cost, and shedding his glory and light to be born in a dim and dirty animal stall, was only the down payment. Further installments of living under a corrupt government and worshiping in a corrupt Temple would come. He would know fear and danger, hunger and pain, poverty and isolation. He would suffer and struggle with sin as every other man. But peace ultimately came through the death he willingly suffered on our behalf. Jesus would not succumb to sin or to death. The final payment would come as an earthquake shook eternity when he stepped out of the tomb. This earthquake did not destroy the world, but instead began to set it right. 

Jesus came out of the tomb carrying the gift we glimpse in the manger—peace.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” — John 14.27

Divine Hours Prayer: The Cry of the Church
Even so, come Lord Jesus!

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

Today’s Readings
2 Chronicles 29 (Listen -6:49) 
Revelation 15 (Listen -1:29)

Christmas Day’s Readings
2 Chronicles 30 (Listen -4:56) 
Revelation 16 (Listen -3:17)

Thank You, Donors!
Thanks to our donors, in 2019 we have published 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 The Peace of Christ :: Peace of Advent
Do you have peace in this season? Or are you finding it difficult to rest in the Lord and allowing God’s peace to comfort and sustain you? You are not alone.

Read more about Supporting Our Work
We could not do this without our donors and we are thankful that God has blessed us to be able to do this work.

From Silence, Peace :: Peace 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 others to help them subscribe.

Scripture Focus: Revelation 14.12
This calls for patient endurance on the part of the people of God who keep his commands and remain faithful to Jesus.

Matthew 23.39
For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

Reflection: From Silence, Peace :: Peace of Advent
By John Tillman

Israel’s God was a speaking God. He spoke regularly and directly through his prophets. He did not speak in vague generalities but mandated specific actions. He did not only speak to nations and peoples, but personally to individuals. But Israel repeatedly ignored his words, scorned his pleas, and even his punishments. 

And God went dark. 
He snuffed the light. 
He dried up the prophets’ voices. 

The people suffered exile, slavery, and silence. Israel waited for her messiah not in literal darkness, but in the darkness of a continual silence from God. 

Cracks in that silence began to rumble in the Temple when Gabriel announced to Zechariah the birth of John the Baptist. Another foreshock rattled the town of Nazareth when Heli’s daughter, Mary, reported an angelic visitation. More foreshocks of the earthquakes to come.

Even when the Glory of the Lord shone around the shepherds and the angels appeared proclaiming peace on Earth and their song invaded the night sky, it was only an announcement. It was the invitation, not the party.

The God who turned his back, came back. He came to speak peace to the people who had chosen death instead of life and suffering instead of blessing.

We need the silence, the darkness, the waiting of Advent. 

We need this time to turn off the noise of our self-reliance and to sit in silence listening for God’s words of life. We need the weight of darkness to press out of us all hope of saving ourselves by our own wisdom, strength, wealth, or power. Only when we sit in darkness long enough can we lose the illusion that there is light in ourselves that can lead us anywhere other than deeper into the dark.

In this last week, as we celebrate the peace of Advent, take time to slow down and seek peaceful moments to separate from the seasonal clutter of noise and light and sit with darkness and silence for awhile, seeking God.

May we not wait for God to raise his voice in desperation over the ruckus of our lives to get our attention.
Seek silence and darkness for a time, so that you can meditate and wait to hear his intimate voice and feel the light of his peaceful presence.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord. — Psalm 31.24

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

Today’s Readings
2 Chronicles 27 (Listen -1:28) 
2 Chronicles 28 (Listen -4:59) 
Revelation 14 (Listen -3:51)

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 Under His Covering
Has God granted you a spiritual gift that you haven’t opened out of rebellion or apathy? Confess that to the Lord, and make things right with him.

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