20161125

Vibrant Faith :: 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.

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


 

Restorative Silence

Once a spiritual discipline, silence is now more likely to be viewed as the uncomfortable penalty for those who do not have enough to do. But how can we hear the whispers of the Spirit without the cloister of silence?

 


 

David Brooks on Simplicity and Morality

Life seems to become perpetually more overwhelming, despite the time and money we spend simplifying—most of us feel underwater when it comes to work, family, and personal life.

 

 


 

The Bible’s Future

More versions of Scripture are available, while less people are reading and legally able to spread the word of God than ever before. It is time for Scripture’s seventh major transition.

 


 

Christian Civility

Civility falters when people live in fear—fear that their views may be wrong; fear that their power is limited; fear that there is no sovereign who cares for their interests.

 


 

Confronting Sin

Today’s calls for racial justice, if anything, understate the problem—white America, however well meaning, is astonishingly oblivious to pervasive inequity.

 


 

Today’s Reading
Jonah 4 (Listen – 1:56)
Luke 9 (Listen – 8:05)

This Weekend’s Readings
Micah 1 (Listen – 2:46) Luke 10 (Listen – 5:40)
Micah 2 (Listen – 2:11) Luke 11 (Listen – 7:33)

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20161124

Thanksgiving and Prayer

Reflection :: Gospel Community
Philippians 1.3-11

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

Prayer of Thanksgiving
from an undated and anonymous papyrus

On you we call, Lord God, all-wise, all-surveying, holy, the only true Sovereign. Your will is that all should be saved and come to knowledge of the truth.

With one voice we offer you praise and thanksgiving; full-hearted, full-throated we sing you the hymn you have right to at this hour. In your mercy you called us (holy the calling!), taught us and trained us, gave understanding, wisdom, and truth to us—gave us life eternal.

You brought us back with the pure and precious blood of your only Son, freed us from lies and error, from bitter enslavement, released us from the Devil’s clutches and gave us the glory of freedom. We were dead and you renewed the life of our souls and bodies in the Spirit.

Give us the strength of your support. Give us encouragement, give the light that goes with it. Make us live by the faith preached by your holy apostles and the high teachings of the gospels of our Savior, Jesus Christ. May we not be content only to hear and speak of them, but behave and act as they bid us.

Teach us to look upwards, to seek out and search the heavenly, not the earthly. If that is our attitude and if you act in us, what glory for your power, all-holy, omnipotent, worthy of all praise; glory through Jesus Christ, your beloved, with the Holy Spirit, now and through the ages.

Amen.

*Prayer abridged and adapted from an undated and anonymous papyrus, on display in Berlin, published in Patrologia Orientalis (18:442), 1907.

Today’s Reading
Jonah 3 (Listen – 1:31)
Luke 8 (Listen – 8:09)

 

20161123

The Joy of Christ

[Jesus said,] “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” — Luke 7.41-42

The most intellectually offensive part of Christianity is not its insistence on miracles—including the incarnation and resurrection—but its foundational teaching that each person is deeply marked with the pride and brokenness of sin. The modern mind, like the Pharisaical mind, is convinced it just needs a little forgiveness.

The core philosophy of internal goodness helps us hold the power and fullness of God at bay. If we are really not all that bad, we don’t really need all of Christianity—a touch of its ethic on top of our otherwise good hearts will suffice. And, if we do not require that much forgiveness, we are not all that indebted to God. Our relationship with him can function ad hoc—waxing and waning as we perceive need.

In Mere Christianity C.S. Lewis writes:

I think all Christians would agree with me if I said that though Christianity seems at first to be all about morality, all about duties and rules and guilt and virtue, yet it leads you on, out of all that, into something beyond. One has a glimpse of a country where they do not talk of those things, except perhaps as a joke.

Everyone there is filled full with what we should call goodness as a mirror is filled with light. But they do not call it goodness. They do not call it anything. They are not thinking of it. They are too busy looking at the source from which it comes. But this is near the stage where the road passes over the rim of our world. No one’s eyes can see very far beyond that: lots of people’s eyes can see further than mine.

While the central message of Christianity assumes our brokenness, it is not predicated on it. In this way, Christianity is surprisingly focused on a relationship between God and man—with pride and brokenness on display as the key barrier to that relationship.

Jesus draws attention to the forgiven debt not as the foundation of his relationship with the generous woman in Luke 7, but as the context for her gratitude. She discovered something the prideful religious leaders had not: the joy of pursuing something of ultimate worth and joy.

Today’s Reading
Jonah 2 (Listen – 1:20)
Luke 7 (Listen – 7:14)

 

20161122

The Sand of Self Reliance

Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. — Luke 6.47-48

Jesus presented his followers with a question: are you willing to build your house on a foundation that will cost you more, take you longer, and require more energy to build? Building a house on sand is quick and simple—the supports sink down easily, the shelter rises more quickly, and stasis is established more readily. Such is the way of legalism.

Humans are surprisingly resilient and wonderfully strong. We can overcome adversity and will ourselves into whatever we perceive as best. Yet external change without internal transformation is sinking sand.

In Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones’ Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Its Cure, the pastor warns:

To make it quite practical I have a very simple test. After I have explained the way of Christ to somebody I say “Now, are you ready to say that you are a Christian?” And they hesitate. And then I say, “What’s the matter? Why are you hesitating?” And so often people say, “I don’t feel like I’m good enough yet. I don’t think I’m ready to say I’m a Christian now.” And at once I know that I have been wasting my breath. They are still thinking in terms of themselves….

It sounds very modest to say, “Well, I don’t think I’m good enough,” but it’s a very denial of the faith. The very essence of the Christian faith is to say that He is good enough and I am in Him.

As long as you go on thinking about yourself like that and saying, “I’m not good enough; Oh, I’m not good enough,” you are denying God—you are denying the gospel—you are denying the very essence of the faith and you will never be happy. [You’ll] think you’re better at times, and then again you will find you are not as good at other times… You will be up and down forever.

“Therefore,” the author of Hebrews writes, “let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken.” For though community is costly, though meditation, reflection and prayer take time, though it takes energy to live an examined life, it builds our future on an unshakable foundation.

Today’s Reading
Jonah 1 (Listen – 2:29)
Luke 6 (Listen – 6:46)

 

20161121

Three Pictures of Christ

[Jesus said,] “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” — Luke 5.4

“Master,” Peter replied, “we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” The other masters of the world lorded their power over people like Simon Peter; he was a mere fisherman, dependent on what he pulled from the water for his well-being.

Christ revealed himself as a master worth following—a master who provided for the needs of the day while calling Peter to a life of sacrifice, service, and meaning beyond what he would have achieved on his own.

And when Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.” — Luke 5.20

There were many then, and now, that Christ would not stand in front of to touch and heal, so in his healing he drew attention to something greater. Jesus taught it is sin that is our deepest and most debilitating pain. In healing pride and brokenness—which have paralyzed our true nature—Jesus shows himself as the true Lord and Healer.

Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” — Luke 5.31-32

Tax collectors were notoriously corrupt. Eating at Levi’s table is the equivalent of sipping wine from Bernie Madoff’s cellar—it’s offensive to even think of an upright person partaking in the fruit of corruption. Jesus wasn’t there to enjoy exquisite food and drink, he was there to give himself as a friend.

Jesus befriends outcasts to his own detriment—sacrificing reputation as the elite scorn him and offering his life as the proud reject him. Jesus is the living example that there is no greater love than a man laying down his life, even while we are yet sinners.

[Jesus said,] “And no one after drinking old wine desires new, for he says, ‘The old is good.’” —Luke 5.39

Instead of unapproachable power, Simon Peter found blessing. Instead of a God removed from the pain of life, the sick found intimacy and healing. Instead of judgment that precluded relationship, Levi found sacrifice that allowed for embrace.

Christ shows himself as our greatest provider, the solution to our deepest problem, and loving friend who lays down all to live in relationship with us.

Today’s Reading
Obadiah 1 (Listen – 3:28)
Luke 5 (Listen – 5:04)