Cameos of Love :: Worldwide Prayer

Scripture Focus: Romans 16.1-4
I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae. I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of his people and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been the benefactor of many people, including me.

Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in Christ Jesus. They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them.

Reflection: Cameos of Love :: Worldwide Prayer
By John Tillman

A cameo is a “positive relief” image and is often a profile image of an individual. This means that the item is carved so that the image to be shown is raised up from the surface. The process of carving a cameo involves cutting away everything that is not a part of the image.

As Paul winds Romans to a close, he carves us a quick image of Phoebe and others who ministered with him. Phoebe was a deacon from the port city of Cenchreae, which served the region of Corinth. She was a co-worker with Priscilla and Aquilla of Corinth. She was being sent to Rome (either carrying this letter or following shortly after) and she was trusted with a mission that was in need of assistance. Paul is confident that her work, which scripture does not specify, will be of spiritual benefit for he testifies that her ministry has already blessed his own life. Paul’s brief description of Phoebe is like a cameo, raising up for us the most important details of her life. And when we look closely, what we see raised up is, in reality, an image of Christ.

May we pray this prayer from Australia, asking that God raise up in us the image of Christ, and carve away from us other parts of our lives to show to the world, his perfect cameo.

Cameos of Love
A prayer of Intercession from Australia

Creator God, all-compassionate Father,
Source of life whose heart is passionate towards all,
May we, your people, be cameos of your love and
compassion to a hurting and fragile world.
Daily we are confronted with the harsh reality of violence, greed,
abuse, unrest, and tragedy. Stir our response by owning your heart and mind.
May we be courageous in challenging injustice,
Ready to listen but hesitant to judge,
Willing to welcome the outcast,
Diligent in seeking and claiming truth.
Oh God of hope,
Your light never fails, is never extinguished.
Warm our hearts with the fire of Christ’s love so that wherever we go we will communicate Jesus Christ.
In His divine name we pray.

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

Divine Hours Prayer:  The Request for Presence
Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O  Lord, I lift up my soul. — Psalm 86.4

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

Today’s Readings
Job 12 (Listen -2:21)
Romans 16 (Listen -3:30)

Read more about Reflecting the Unity of Christ :: Worldwide Prayer
Dear Lord, mold us into that perfect image that reflects the beauty of Christ in a broken world.

Read more about Christ’s Supremacy :: A Guided Prayer
Help us to let go of anything which strives to take your place.
Make of us a body that serves, be our head which gives us purpose.

Content Mastery vs the Master of the Content

Scripture Focus: Romans 15.14
I myself am convinced, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with knowledge and competent to instruct one another.

Reflection: Content Mastery vs the Master of the Content
By John Tillman

Jeannette Clift George, in her book, Troubling Deaf Heaven, relates her early struggles with God’s word.

“Someone told me to read the Bible until I understood something from the reading. After an hour of intense reading I threw my copy of the Bible across the room and cried aloud to God, “Yes, I have learned something! I have learned that I don’t understand your Book! Now can I stop reading it?” And then, still muttering over the details of my problem, I went over and picked up my Bible, with it’s tossed pages all askew, and read again. My early Bibles show the wear and tear of my struggle.”

Kierkegaard asserts that the Bible is easy to understand and we merely feign misunderstanding to shirk its demands on us. However, many, especially in the early steps of discipleship and study, do struggle with it.

Too often, immature disciples approach the Bible as consumers, treating it as a store full of solutions to our problems. When we do this, we are easily overwhelmed by its shelves, confused by its organization, and frustrated by seemingly inexplicable products. The Word of God is not a store, a catalog, a manual, or a textbook, and our approach to scripture must go beyond scholarship. No accumulation of facts will feed our faith.

Our hope of gaining meaning from God’s Word is listening for his voice, personally calling to us. We must trust that the Holy Spirit Jesus promised will break the silence. George continues:

“Then, one day, one reading, all of a sudden I saw me in the Scripture. My need—my question for the day, my tears for the evening, my fears for the morning, me—in God’s Holy Word. That made all the difference in the world.

That’s why I keep praying even when God’s silence infers the communication is out of order. I found me in his Word because he put me there. God put me in his Word that I might hear him in the silence, that I might hear him in the midst of arguments with him, that I might know that he knows me and loves me because he said so.”

In our rhythms of prayer and reading, we do not pursue mastery of content as much as we pursue a relationship with the Master of the content—a relationship with the Holy Spirit that goes beyond bringing the text to life and joins us in walking through our life.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Test me, O Lord, and try me; examine my heart and mind. — Psalm 26.2

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

Today’s Readings
Job 11 (Listen -2:01)
Romans 15 (Listen -4:32)

Read more about How Not to Read Scripture
No one ever found joy and companionship from re-reading an instruction manual. The Bible is more akin to a pointillistic painting…You have to step back to see the likeness the artist has created.

https://theparkforum.org/843-acres/how-not-to-read-scripture/

Read more about The Scripture Cannot Be Set Aside
Considering all of Scripture together without breaking it apart requires patience and a deep familiarity with Scripture.

God Shivering on Concrete :: Readers’ Choice

Selected by reader, Pastor Terri Phillips, from Fort Worth, Texas.
My daily routine these days includes moments, or even hours, of inner rage about injustice. Most of the time, I am limited in my verbal response, and often my hands feel tied in responding in action. This post reminded me to look for evidence of God’s love, even in the most wretched of circumstances and events.  And to remind myself that the loving justice of God is sure. I may not be an instrument to render justice, as I fantasize to do, but I can more than imagine ways to deliver the fruit of the Spirit to the “least” of those around me. I don’t have to wait for a politicized, public moment to express love, kindness, joy, patience, and goodness. I can purpose to do that every time I see a need. I can share the Gospel, AND I can give a cup of cold water, give my finances, and shield the helpless.  When I am with Jesus on the Concrete, I am empowered by the Holy Spirit of God.

Scripture Focus: Psalm 119.50-53, 61, 64
My comfort in my suffering is this:
   Your promise preserves my life.
The arrogant mock me unmercifully,
   but I do not turn from your law.
I remember, Lord, your ancient laws,
   and I find comfort in them.
Indignation grips me because of the wicked,
   who have forsaken your law…
Though the wicked bind me with ropes,
   I will not forget your law…
The earth is filled with your love, Lord;
   teach me your decrees.

Only the suffering God can help. — Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Reflection: God Shivering on Concrete :: Readers’ Choice
Originally published June 24th, 2019
By John Tillman

There is great wickedness in the world. Yet, in such a world, the psalmist proclaims God’s love, the power of God’s laws, and the strength of his desire to know his God more deeply.
Even in a world in which a person may be bound with ropes, or separated from their family, or denied justice, or put into a cage, or killed for the convenience of others, or hung from a tree, or gunned down in a church… Even in such a world, the psalmist tells us, “God’s love is evident.”

Wickedness is evident. But God’s love is also evident.

It is evident in the many Christian and secular organizations that move, at times into dangerous circumstances, to help the downtrodden, the poor, and those purposely excluded from justice. It is evident in the disaster that our God promises to bring upon a nation that ignores its responsibilities to the poor and to the foreigner. Our God humbles nations addicted to greed—including His own. Our God sends help to the helpless, no matter the owner of the goods, the ship, the truck, or the organization.

God’s love is evident in God’s help, but more so in his presence. Our God is with those who suffer. Our God lies on concrete floors under aluminum blankets with abandoned children. He bleeds on the floor of a sanctuary with victimized worshipers. His arms bear wounds of unjust captivity. He bears scars familiar to those who have been brutalized by government forces.

God’s love is, of course, most fully evident in what we call the gospel. The gospel puts wickedness to death in the way it deserves. Christ, through the cross, drags evil to Hell and abandons it there, setting free Hell’s captives. But merely chuffing about “the gospel” in the face of evil makes us into signposts on the road to Hell rather than gatekeepers in the house of our God.

One of the endlessly repeating themes of scripture and especially the Old Testament is that God’s people are to be kind and compassionate to foreigners and strangers.

Reach out in God’s love in any way that is available to you, whether through financial means or political. Even giving a cup of water in the name of Christ to the least of these will be remembered.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Blessed be the Lord! For he has shown me the wonders of his love in a besieged city. — Psalm 31.21

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
1 Samuel 18 (Listen – 4:30) 
Romans 16 (Listen – 3:30)

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 In Denial about Injustice
To judge our cities (to lead them) we cannot be in denial about injustice. Denying the existence of injustice is not how to be a patriot. It is how to get exiled.

Read more about Truth Unwanted :: A Guided Prayer
Remind us, Lord, that this world is not our home to defend, but it is the world you died for and we can expect to do no differently.

Breath, Reconsidered :: Readers’ Choice

Selected by reader, Steve Bostrom, from Helena, Montana
Typically, we view breath as insubstantial. This post significantly enlarges that thought. We go from ordinary breath to breath needed for a robust life envisioned by our Creator who breathed out not only sighs (Mark 7:34) but also gives his last breath on the cross so he can breathe upon us his invigorating Holy Spirit. Glory!

Scripture Focus: Psalm 144.3-4
Lord, what are human beings that you care for them,
mere mortals that you think of them?
They are like a breath;
their days are like a fleeting shadow.

John 3.5-8
Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

Reflection: Breath, Reconsidered :: Readers’ Choice
Originally published November 12th, 2018 
By John Tillman

We rightly think of the psalmist comparing us to breath as humbling. But not everything that humbles humiliates. When humbled we are prepared to be lifted up, by God.

In Aramaic and Greek the word for “Spirit,” “breath,” and “wind” is the same word. This makes Christ’s conversation with Nicodemus one in which we must carefully attune our ears to context. Jesus is purposefully mixing his meanings. As Eugene Peterson rhetorically asks in his book, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places, “What’s being talked about here, breathing, or weather, or God?”

Although the length of a breath may be a humbling downside, perhaps, there is also an upside.

Breath, Reconsidered
Lord, what are we that you care for us?
We are like a breath.

Like a breath, Lord, we pass from the earth.
Like a breath, Lord, insubstantial we seem.
Like a breath, Lord, some deep and some shallow.
Like a breath, Lord, we dissipate in the breeze.

But you gave us breath,
Your mouth on Adam’s lips.
And you redeemed breath
When Christ first drew it in
And you received his breath,
When his Spirit he released
He gave that Spirit to us
When on the disciples he breathed…

We are Adam’s first breath,
His first breath, re-breathed.

We are like a breath, we are a beginning
We are like a breath the first sign of life
We are like a breath, divine inspiration
We are like a breath, a baby’s first cry
We are the breath, of a worker,
drawn to take strength

We are the breath, of a mother,
that can warm frigid hands
We are the breath, of the preacher,
whose voice carries a dream
We are the breath, of a singer,
whose song fills the land

Breath sustains symphonies
Breath extinguishes candles
Breath ignites embers
Breath powers prophets
Breath connects lovers
Breath fills balloons
Breath is life

Breath serenades
Breath enlightens
Breath enlivens
Breath laughs
Breath shouts
Breath prays
Breath fills
Breath comes
Breath goes

Lord, what are we that you care for us?
We are like a breath.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
O Lord, I call to you; my Rock, do not be deaf to my cry; lest, if you do not hear me, I become like those who go down to the Pit. — Psalm 28.1

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
1 Samuel 15 (Listen – 5:46) 
Romans 13 (Listen – 2:35)

Today’s Readings
1 Samuel 16 (Listen – 3:45), Romans 14 (Listen – 3:28)
1 Samuel 17 (Listen – 8:59), Romans 15 (Listen – 4:32)

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.

Submit a Readers’ Choice
Let our community hear how your faith has grown. What post helped you heal?

Read more about He Stoops to Raise
He strips himself.
He lays aside
His Heaven
His throne
His clothes
His life

Whole Life Generosity :: Readers’ Choice

Selected by reader, cjs
There is definitely spiritual power in giving—whether it be money, possessions, or our time.  No one can out-give God. I have always felt the intense comfort and a spiritual ‘release’ when I have stretched myself to give more than what seemed necessary. I’ve done this in many formats, and I have never regretted it. Humbly, I must state that I’ve always been the one who has benefited the most!  My thoughts go to—what if EVERYONE did the same? How much better this world would be!  

From John:
We remain in a constant state of humble gratitude to those who make this ministry possible through their donations. We pray that all of our giving would expand in every area, assisting all around us in every way possible. Join our donors by following this link.

Scripture Focus: Acts 4.32
All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.

Reflection: Whole Life Generosity :: Readers’ Choice
Originally published July 17th, 2019
By John Tillman

Christian generosity is not merely passively giving a portion of our income as if we were being taxed by a government. Taxes push off our responsibility for others to an impersonal agency of government. Like Scrooge, we pay our taxes, pretending that it is our sole obligation. 

If we treat Christian generosity in this manner, we rob it of any spiritual power. No wonder we feel powerless. 

Francis Schaeffer rejects this concept, emphasizing that Christian generosity is not giving partially, but is a matter of sharing one’s whole life, irrevocably:

“In the Old Testament, the whole of life and culture was based upon the relationship of the people of God first to God and then to each other. It was not just a religious life, but the whole culture. It was a total cultural relationship, and through the New Testament no longer sees the people of God as a state, nevertheless there is still an emphasis upon the fact that the whole culture and way of life is involved in the vital diversity of love and communication. There is to be no platonic dichotomy between the “spiritual” and other things of life. Indeed, we read in Acts 4:31, 32: 

‘After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.’

The Bible makes plain here that this is not a communism of law or external pressure. In fact, Peter, speaking to Ananias about his property, stressed: “While it remaineth was it not your own and after it was sold, was it not in thy power?” (Acts 5:4). 

This sharing is not law, but true love and true communication of the whole man to whole man, across the whole spectrum of what humanity is. The same thing happened further abroad. Gentile Christians gave money to Paul to carry to Christian Jews. Why? So that there would be a sharing of material possessions. 

This is ten thousand times removed from the dead, cold giving of most Christians. This is not a cold, impersonal act as a bare duty, but a sharing of the whole man with the whole man. True Christian giving is in love and communication across the whole framework of the interplay between whole men.”

*Excerpt from True Spirituality, by Francis A. Schaeffer.


Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
O Lord, I cry to you for help; in the morning my prayer comes before you. — Psalm 88.14

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
1 Samuel 14 (Listen – 9:01) 
Romans 12 (Listen – 2:58)

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.

Submit a Readers’ Choice
Let our community hear how your faith has grown. What post helped you forgive?

Read more about God Shivering on Concrete
Wickedness is evident. But God’s love is also evident…in God’s help, but more so in his presence. Our God is with those who suffer.

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