Cultivating Vibrant Faith :: The Weekend Reading List


Our mission at The Park Forum is to cultivate vibrant faith and sharpen cultural insight through curated devotionals and scripture readings. Each day over 4,000 of us read, pray, and expand our faith through this community.

Over the last year we’ve sought to grow not only our knowledge of Scripture, but our understanding of the culture we live in. We believe that fostering an informed faith is one of the first steps in making the grace and peace of Christ known in our communities.

To that end, we created The Weekend Reading List (and broke our standard 400 word post format on Fridays) this past July. These more in-depth pieces explore the practice of faith in the modern world and have been ordered around five key themes.

Today, for the final Weekend Reading List of the year, we want to take a look back at some of our favorites.



Oct9Our hearts, like fine instruments, need to be tuned. Getting to the Heart sought to transcend legalism and find true transformation in the gospel. (Includes audio from Timothy Keller.)




Sept 4Humor’s Moral Purpose looks at the intersection of Stephen Colbert, John Oliver, Amy Schemer, and theology. (We’ve also explored the comedy of Louis C.K.)





Nov6In a topic appropriate for today, we’ve looked at David Brooks on Simplicity and Morality—although, depending on your day, you may want to read Rest for the Weary or Faith and the NFL.




Oct16“God will, generally speaking, not compete for our attention,” says Dallas Willard. In There’s (Not) An App For That we look at the way technology can evaporate solitude and silence.





Stories of the Oppressed was our most shared piece of the year. The love of God embracing refugees through our arms is critical for evangelism today. (More on Syria herehere & here.)



Today’s Reading
1 Chronicles 23 (Listen – 4:20)
1 Peter 4 (Listen – 2:50)

This Weekend’s Readings
1 Chronicles 24-25 (Listen – 7:01) 1 Peter 5 (Listen – 2:11)
1 Chronicles 26-27 (Listen – 11:09) 2 Peter 1 (Listen – 3:06)


A Hymn and Prayer for Thanksgiving

“Feeling new strength,” Beethoven scribed across one of the last string quartets he would write. It’s a remarkable statement; the master was completely deaf at this point and had just recovered from a near-fatal illness. Far from despondent, he titled the third movement of his string quartet opus 132, “Holy Song of Thanksgiving by a Convalescent to the Divinity, in the Lydian Mode.”

We offer Beethoven’s Hymn of Thanksgiving today along with the words of David. This prayer of thanksgiving, found in Psalm 103, holds the words of another man who knew both glory and suffering yet chose to rest in thankfulness and worship:
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

The Lord works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed. He made known his ways to Moses, his acts to the people of Israel.

The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.

As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.

As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; or the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more. But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children, to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments. The Lord has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all.

Bless the Lord, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his word, obeying the voice of his word! Bless the Lord, all his hosts, his ministers, who do his will!

Bless the Lord, all his works, in all places of his dominion. Bless the Lord, O my soul!
Listen: Beethoven’s Hymn of Thanksgiving: String Quartet No. 15, Op. 132: III. Molto adagio. Tokyo String Quartet (16:03).

Read more and listen to the entire String Quartet No. 15 on NPR Music.

Today’s Reading
1 Chronicles 22 (Listen – 3:25)
1 Peter 3 (Listen – 3:30)


Goodness and Mercy

1 Peter 2.9-10
Proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 

As we prepare to spend a day of thanksgiving, I’m reminded that I’ll say thanks to God far more often than I’ll follow the instruction of 1 Peter 2 and proclaim my thankfulness for God.

The Scottish minister Robert Murray M’Cheyne, whose Scripture reading plan we follow on The Park Forum, explains why we can be thankful for God:
1. He is good. Believers should praise God for what he is in himself. When a sinner is brought to Christ, he is brought to the Father. Jesus gave himself for us, “that he might bring us to God.” Oh! what a sight breaks in upon the soul, the infinite, eternal, unchangeable God!

Praise him for his pure, lovely holiness, that cannot bear any sin in his sight. Cry, like the angels, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty.” Praise him for his infinite wisdom, that he knows the end from the beginning. In him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Praise him for his power, that all matter, all mind, is in his hand. The heart of the king, the heart of saint and sinner, are all in his hand. Hallelujah! for the Lord God Omnipotent reigns. Praise him for his love; for God is love

2. For his mercy, for what he has done for us. “Bless the Lord, O my soul!” Praise him, O my people! for he is good; for his mercy endures for ever. You were in the burning; the pains of hell were actually getting hold on you. You had a hell in your own hearts; but the Lord snatched you from the burning. Will you not praise him?

Dear children of God, unite your praises. Let your hearts no more be divided. Join in one cry: “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain; thou art worthy to open the book; thou art worthy to reign in our hearts.” And, oh! be fervent in praise. Lift up your voices in it; lift up your hearts in it.
M’Cheyne observes that in the Scriptures “thanksgiving brings down the Spirit of God.” In this way, gathering with our family and friends to say thanks is an act of worship.

Today’s Reading
1 Chronicles 21 (Listen – 5:03)
1 Peter 2 (Listen – 3:48)


Thanksgiving in Times of Trial

1 Peter 1.6-7

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 

The first-century church suffered greatly under the foot of Rome’s hostility. The first Christians were heavily persecuted under the Roman emperor Nero, banished by Domitian (John wrote Revelation after he was exiled by the emperor), and excluded from commerce and public office by Trajan.

The book of 1 Peter highlights the differences between the early church and its culture in a surprising way. “We expect injunctions to reject the ways of the world; instead we find admonitions to follow the path of Christ,” says Miroslav Volf. “The faith of the Petrine community is nourished more on its own in­trinsic vision than on the deprecatory stories about others.”

Dr. Volf, who is the founder of the Yale Center for Faith & Culture, notes that, “The author seems less interested in hurling threats against the unbelieving and ag­gressive non-Christian neighbors, than in celebrating Christians’ special status before God. Christian hope, not the damnation of non-Christians, figures centrally in the letter.” Volf explains:

Identity can be forged through two related but clearly distinct processes: either through a negative process of rejecting the beliefs and practices of others, or through a positive process of giving allegiance to something distinctive. It is significant that 1 Peter consistently establishes the difference positively, not negatively. There are no direct injunctions not to behave as non-Christians do. Rather, the exhortation to be different centers primarily on the positive example of a holy God and of the suffering Christ.

When we encounter negative examples of how Christians should not behave, then our attention is drawn not so much to the life-style of non-Christians as to “the de­sires of the flesh that wage war against the soul” (2:11). These are, as 1 Peter points out ex­plicitly, the former desires of Christians themselves. The force of the injunction is not “Do not be as your neighbors are!” but “Do not be as you were!”

The first Christians were thankful in suffering because their focus rested not on the storm around them, but on the solid rock of Christ. The Church was, as it is today, the earthly testimony that the miracle of grace always outshines the darkness of suffering.

Today’s Reading
1 Chronicles 19-20 (Listen – 4:52)
1 Peter 1 (Listen – 3:53)


Collective Thanksgiving

James 5.13
Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. 

“Community thanksgiving is the voice of the church,” says former Zondervan editor-in-chief Al Bryant. “You are an individual, but you are also a member of society.” In a week where giving thanks is top of mind we cannot miss the opportunity to lead our communities in collective thanksgiving.

Divisions dominate too often; Bryant’s prayers over groups of people—uniting them through gratitude—are a breath of fresh air:
We thank God for life and health. These we share together. When plague strikes a city, terror reigns. Thank God for conscious well-being and supply of daily needs.

We are thankful for the benefits of civilization, for ordered government, for scientific improvements, for education, good streets, institutions of benevolence, industry, and art. America has done much to improve the lot of the common men and women like ourselves. We must share it with the world.

We are thankful for a Christian environment where temperance and goodwill are encouraged, and fellowship with kindly folk is possible for us all. What would we be without the church, the open Bible, and the Gospel of Christ? These are values beyond man’s power to estimate.

We are thankful for faith in the midst of tragedy. There is a God who understands and cares. Dark and mysterious is our life, but His way is good and true. Our trust is in our salvation.

We are grateful for the vision of better things to be, for the promise of Christ’s kingdom and universal brotherhood in Him. It is our highway from despair, cynicism, and degeneracy.

We thank God for the hope eternal. This life is but the seed of a life that will blossom into unimaginable glory according to the promise of God.
It seems natural to remember to pray when we suffer. How quickly comfort, privilege, and luxury sap our intimacy with God. James reminds his readers that prayer and praise are essential not only to personal growth, but to the life of our community.

May we use this week to engage our communities—church, work, and home—in thanksgiving for what God is doing in and through us.

Today’s Reading
1 Chronicles 18 (Listen – 2:36)
James 5 (Listen – 3:01)