Better Temples

Scripture Focus: 1 Kings 8.27, 30, 41-43
27 “But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built!… 30 Hear the supplication of your servant and of your people Israel when they pray toward this place. Hear from heaven, your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive.

41 “As for the foreigner who does not belong to your people Israel but has come from a distant land because of your name—42 for they will hear of your great name and your mighty hand and your outstretched arm—when they come and pray toward this temple, 43 then hear from heaven, your dwelling place. Do whatever the foreigner asks of you, so that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your own people Israel, and may know that this house I have built bears your Name. 

Ephesians 5.8-10, 13-14
8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord… 13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. 14 This is why it is said: 

“Wake up, sleeper, 
rise from the dead, 
and Christ will shine on you.” 

Reflection: Better Temples
By John Tillman

The dedication of the Temple was a momentous occasion for Israel. It was in many ways a culmination of God’s promise to Abraham to bless the nations. 

The dedication of the Temple and God’s indwelling of it was an event that later generations would look back to as part of God’s unique identity. He was the God who brought them out of Egypt and the God who sanctified his own Temple.

In many ways, Jesus is our Temple and Solomon’s prayers are better answered in Jesus than in the structure Solomon built.

Jesus’ life stands, like the Temple, as a miraculous work of God. He is the promised one who fulfills all of God’s promises.

Solomon asks the question, “Will God really dwell on Earth?” In answer, God’s Spirit fills the Temple as a cloud, but the more resounding answer was described by the apostle John, who, speaking of Jesus, said “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”

Solomon asked that the Temple be a channel of prayer, open to all people at all times. Regardless of location and even when being punished for their sin, he asked that God would hear from his Temple the prayers of his people. In Jesus, we become not just worshipers but family, able to cry to God as our father. God’s Holy Spirit hears us not from some distant structure, but from within our own hearts.

The most significant request Solomon repeats is that the Temple be a place of God’s forgiveness to which sinful people could cry out, cling to, and be saved. This is also answered in Jesus. The cross is an altar greater than Solomon’s. It’s sacrifice more precious. It’s forgiveness enduring forever. It is an event we look back to as a part of our God’s unique identity.

As believers, we are God’s Temple. (1 Peter 2.5; 1 Corinthians 3.16) We are God’s means of blessing for the world. We are his priests offering forgiveness to the world. 

May we be a better Temple, shining the light of truth that exposes sin but also celebrating and proclaiming forgiveness for all.

To a world asleep to sins of all kinds, both individual and collective sins, we must sound the call to wake up, return to God, and receive forgiveness and life forevermore.

“Wake up, sleeper, 
rise from the dead, 
and Christ will shine on you.” Ephesians 5.14

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
May God be merciful to us and bless us, show us the light of his countenance and come to us. — Psalm 9.11

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

Today’s Readings
1 Kings 8 (Listen – 10:23)
Ephesians 5 (Listen – 3:42)

Read more about Christ our Temple, River, and City
Christ himself is our temple. He is the gate, the doorway, through which we enter to worship.

Read more about Treasuring Our Temples
It is difficult to overstate how confident Judah was…It was unthinkable that the Temple would fall.

Becoming Light — Readers’ Choice

Readers’ Choice Month:
In August, The Park Forum looks back on our readers’ selections of our most meaningful and helpful devotionals from the past 12 months. Thank you for your readership. This month is all about hearing from you. Submit a Readers’ Choice post today.

Today’s post was originally published, December 4th, 2020, based on readings from Nahum 2.
It was selected by reader, Michelle Perez from New York City.
This was a most beautiful reminder of the hope and light we have in our Savior Jesus Christ.  After a very dark and trying year, we can rest in knowing:  “Our hope is unshakeable because God’s love for us is unshakeable.”  

Scripture Focus: Nahum 2.2
2 The Lord will restore the splendor of Jacob
    like the splendor of Israel,
though destroyers have laid them waste
    and have ruined their vines.

Ephesians 5.8
8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.

1 Thessalonians 5.5
5 You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness.

Reflection: Becoming Light — Readers’ Choice
By John Tillman

As we close out the first week of Advent, we move from hope to love.

We can have hope because God has love for us as his motivation. The core of who God is, is love. Therefore, we can have hope.

No matter what army comes…
No matter what sickness stalks…
No matter what calamity crashes down on us…
No matter what attack the enemy brings against us…
No matter what destroyers come and lay our work to waste…
God is our restorer and he will work in us to bring forth his splendor.

Our hope is unshakeable because God’s love for us is unshakeable. Even in the judgment that Israel faced, even in the exile that would come in a few years for Judah, God was still working things together for their good. He was refining them through the struggle and the exile into a people who would become a light for the nations. This was always God’s intention for them and is his intention for us as well.

What does it take to be a light to the nations? Let us pray using some of Paul’s words from Ephesians 5.7-14 and 1 Thessalonians 5.4-8.

Remind us, Lord, we are not of the darkness 
We are children of the light and children of the day. 
We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. 
So then, help us not be like those who are of the dark.
They are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. 
Since we belong to the day, let us put on faith and love and hope as armor.

We were once darkness, Lord, but now you are making us light. 
Help us to live as children of light
May the fruit of the light shine from us.
May goodness, righteousness, and truth beam from us.
May this be pleasing to you, Lord. 
We reject the fruitless deeds of darkness and seek to expose them
In our communities and in our own hearts.
May everything exposed by the light be confessed and repented of.
By your grace, may we be transformed and become a light
We do not want to sleep any longer.
Wake us up.
Raise us from darkness and death to light and life.
Shine on us and through us, O Christ.

Divine Hours Prayer: Greeting
The Lord, the God of gods, has spoken, he has called the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting.
Out of Zion, perfect in its beauty, God reveals himself in glory.
Our God will come and will not keep silence; before him there is a consuming flame, and round about him a raging storm. — Psalm 50.1-3

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

Today’s Readings
Ruth 3-4 (Listen – 6:24)
Acts 28 (Listen – 4:56)

Read More about Readers’ Choice 2021
Have we heard from you yet? Tell us about posts from the past year (September 2020 – July 2021) that have helped you in your faith.

Read more about The Gift of Hope :: Hope of Advent
The hope of Advent is not a naive or weak hope, but one that perseveres into the darkness.

The Way of Love Amidst Fear

Scripture Focus: Ephesians 5.1

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

*Photo credit: Texas Baptist Men delivering 10,000 N95 masks, 2,000 biohazard suits and four decontamination tents to Texas Division of Emergency Management officials in Austin

Reflection: The Way of Love Amidst Fear
By John Tillman

In an email to students enrolled in his online course on the book of Philippians, (which I highly recommend) Professor N.T. Wright said concerning the pangs of social distancing, “It’s like an odd Lenten discipline, without any idea of when we might celebrate the Easter victory over this wretched disease once and for all.”

As people of hope not fear, we know that the Easter victory professor Wright refers to is coming. The one on the calendar will be here in 18 days. At the current pace of rising infection rates it is highly probable churches may not meet for this most sacred day of the year. I pray that if this occurs, it will make Easter more precious to us and more holy, not less.

It will be a difficult moment for the church as a whole, but one that reminds us that we live in between the resurrection of Christ and our ultimate resurrection victory on the last day. During this time, we live in suffering and groaning—even Creation itself groans with us. 

Meanwhile, in the groaning in-between in which we live, Paul challenges the Ephesians and us to walk in “the way of love,” following the example of Christ who went before his disciples into suffering and is with us now in the suffering we endure. We are to offer ourselves as he did, “a fragrant offering.”

As Christ prepared for his own suffering, he also prepared the disciples for the suffering they would endure both at that time and in the future. He told them, “A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home (…as we are scattered…). You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone (…just as we are not alone…), for my Father is with me. I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16.32-33)

Fear is natural and one shouldn’t be ashamed of being afraid. However, the response of a Christian must be supernatural. As we have written before, we can respond TO fear instead of responding IN fear. (1 John 4.18)

While maintaining an abundance of caution, for the protection of the vulnerable, and following all CDC guidelines, to support the flourishing of our community, we can be known as people of peace rather than panic, people of faith rather than fear, people of sharing rather than hoarding, and people of sacrifice rather than self protection.

This is how we live the way of love in a time of fear.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Let us make a vow to the Lord our God and keep it; let all around him bring gifts to him who is worthy to be feared. — Psalm 76.11

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

Today’s Readings
Proverbs 12 (Listen 3:07) 
Ephesians 5 (Listen -3:42)

Read more about The Opposite of Hoarding
Hoarding is a natural response to fear…we are not to give in to our natural responses, but instead to respond supernaturally.

Read more about Revelation of Love
Fear leads only to bad places. Decisions dominated by fear lead to selfish evil. Churches dominated by fear sanctify hatred. Governments dominated by fear commit atrocities.

From Privilege to Prisoner to Priest

Scripture Focus: Ephesians 4:1-2

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

Many churches in the United States celebrate the Feast of St Francis of Assisi on October 4 each year. The feast commemorates the life of St Francis, who was born in the 12th century. Jon provides us an excellent reflection on today’s reading in Ephesians drawn from events of Francis’s life.

Reflection: From Privilege to Prisoner to Priest
By Jon Polk

St. Francis of Assisi is generally known for his peaceful disposition and love for animals and nature. The Prayer of St. Francis (authorship uncertain, but often attributed to Francis) begins…

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.

However, this devoted follower of Christ, widely regarded for his vow of poverty, did not begin life in a humble way. Francis was born in Italy around 1181 to a wealthy cloth merchant and his beautiful French wife. By age 14, Francis, spoiled by luxury, dropped out of school and gained a reputation as a rebellious teen, known for drinking, partying, and vanity.

His privileged upbringing afforded him training in archery and horsemanship and when war broke out in 1202, he joined the cavalry. Having no combat experience, Francis was easily captured by opposing forces and imprisoned for a year before ransom was negotiated.

But during his time as a prisoner of war, Francis began to receive visions from God and arrived home a changed man. He turned his heart towards God and spent time in prayer, seeking direction.

Eventually, he felt the call of Christ to serve the Church and to live a life of extreme poverty—fully devoted to Christianity. He is considered by many to be one of the purest examples of living the Christian life, other than Jesus himself.

Certainly, Francis embodies Paul’s encouragement to the Ephesians to “live a life worthy of the calling you have received” and to “be completely humble and gentle.”

Francis’ deep dedication and gratitude to God is seen expressed in these excerpts from a song he composed, Canticle of the Sun. May these words guide our worship and service to Christ.

Most High, all powerful, good Lord,
Yours are the praises, the glory, the honor,
and all blessing.
To You alone, Most High, do they belong,
and no man is worthy to mention Your name.
Blessed are those who endure in peace
for by You, Most High, they shall be crowned.
Woe to those who die in mortal sin.
Blessed are those whom death will
find in Your most holy will,
for the second death shall do them no harm.
Praise and bless my Lord,
and give Him thanks
and serve Him with great humility.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Come now and see the works of God, how wonderful he is in his doing toward all people. — Psalm 66.5

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

Today’s Readings
1 Kings 7 (Listen – 7:47)
Ephesians 4 (Listen – 3:58)

This Weekend’s Readings
1 Kings 8 (Listen – 10:23) Ephesians 5 (Listen – 3:42)
1 Kings 9 (Listen – 4:16) Ephesians 6 (Listen – 3:17)

Thank You!
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Read more about Paul’s Prayer for the Power of Faith
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.


Read more about How to Know When to Give
As the Corinthians’ generosity caused Paul to celebrate, may our generosity bring joy and refreshment to those doing good in the world.