Neither Despair Nor Nostalgia

Readers’ Choice Month:
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Scripture Focus: 1 Kings 6.11-13
11 The word of the Lord came to Solomon: 12 “As for this temple you are building, if you follow my decrees, observe my laws and keep all my commands and obey them, I will fulfill through you the promise I gave to David your father. 13 And I will live among the Israelites and will not abandon my people Israel.”

Reflection: Neither Despair Nor Nostalgia
By John Tillman

Covenants have at least two participants. Husbands and wives make covenants of love, support, and faithfulness. Business partnerships are covenants of capital, intellectual property, and labor. Governments (even non-democratic ones) are philosophically based on a sacred covenant that leaders will protect and provide for the people and the people will support the needs of the government as it does so.

In many ways, Solomon’s era was the golden age of Israel’s covenant with God, but the roots of unfaithfulness are also visible. In golden ages, we often find excesses that will bankrupt the future. Solomon instituted forced labor and was consumed by pleasures of wealth, sex, and power. Solomon built beautiful buildings but failed to build a beautiful community. He raised a glorious Temple but raised a spoiled and foolish son who caused a civil war. (1 Kings 12.13-17)

Like Solomon, we have sacred work to do in our world. Like him, our efforts are often incomplete and imperfect. We see this in the broken covenants of marriage, business, and, especially government. When struggling for the reins of power, leaders will harm anyone if they score some political points. No one is sacred—not families fleeing communism, children hiding from gunmen, unborn babies, or victims of sexual assaults.

Frustration with the present can birth longings for a golden age or despair for the future. We think, “if only things could be like they were.” The writer of Kings almost certainly held some nostalgia for Solomon’s Temple. Jesus’ disciples were also impressed with its eventual replacement, built by the wicked king, Herod. (Matthew 24.1-2) We easily get lost in the grandeur of the descriptions of the temple, the “greatness” of the past, impressive (if wicked) kings, or imagining what we might build for God. 

Rather than despair or nostalgia, let us focus on faithfulness in the present. Don’t get lost in the grandeur of the past or dreams of future glory. Opulence, craftsmanship, and “greatness” don’t impress God. God says, “As for this temple you are building…” then pointedly ignores the sculptures, gold, and cedar. Obedience and faithfulness are what God seeks.

Regardless of corporate unfaithfulness, the faithful remnant will see God’s covenant fulfilled. Abusive governments or corrupted Temples may fall but the promise made to Solomon is still alive in Christ. God will tabernacle with his remnant, even in exile. He will not abandon his people.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
My heart is firmly fixed, O God, my heart is fixed; I will sing and make melody. — Psalm 108.1

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

Today’s Readings*
Ezekiel 3 (Listen 4:41)
Romans 6 (Listen 3:28)

*We have diverted into 1 Kings and Ephesians for this week. Devotionals on our daily readings will continue next week.

Read more about Gods of Ruin and Ridicule
We must decide every day whom we will serve. The gods of this world bring ruin and ridicule.

Paul’s Prayer for the Power of Faith

Scripture Focus: Ephesians 3.16
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being

Reflection: Paul’s Prayer for the Power of Faith
By John Tillman

Paul does not presume faith or spiritual power and neither can we. We also must kneel humbly, admitting our powerless state and our tendency towards unbelief. Let us pray this prayer on our own behalf and on behalf of our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world.

Prayer for the Power of Faith:

“For this reason I kneel before the Father…”

We are your children, adopted through Christ into your family.
We kneel, humbling ourselves, acknowledging our poverty, our nakedness, our need.

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being”

We do not need your power only for great deeds of faith.
We need your power for every moment and miniscule act of goodness.

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.”

We need Christ to dwell in our hearts by faith. 
It is not that we do not have faith, Lord.
We do not lack belief. But we struggle with putting our faith in other things.
We are full of self-belief. We believe in our wealth. Our faith is in stockpiling resources. Our faith is in our human wisdom. 
Empty us of these beliefs.
Fill us with true faith in you alone.

“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

Fill us with the Spirit as Jesus prayed.
May we fulfill the words of Christ when he said that we would do greater things than he did.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine…

Our imaginations are sinful, Lord. Do immeasurably more than we can imagine.
Do immeasurably more than give us wealth. 
Do immeasurably more than give us power. 
Do immeasurably more than give us honor.
Give us service to perform.
Give us needs to meet.
Give us debts to cancel.
Give us trouble for which you are the only answer.

“…according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.”

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. — Matthew 5.6

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

Today’s Readings
1 Kings 6 (Listen – 4:30)
Ephesians 3 (Listen – 2:41)

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Read more about His Blessings, Our Curse :: A Guided Prayer
May we hear in God’s Word, always the tender love of our father who wants blessings for us.

Read more about The Miracle of Faith
Jesus’ greatest miracles were helping the faithless to believe again, helping the cynical to trust again, helping the hardened to love again.