Paul says we Christians are running a race. Here's what I'm looking at on my run toward Christ.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Rebuilding the Temple

I love seeing the Old Testament and the New Testament connections.  I love the reminders that God's plan did not change from Old Testament to New Testament.  Today I was reading Haggai Chapter 2 when I came across this awesome passage:

"'This is what the Lord Almighty says: 'In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land.  I will shake all nations, and the desired of all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,' says the Lord Almighty.  'The silver is mine and the gold is mine,' declares the Lord Almighty.  'The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,' says the Lord Almighty.  'And in this place I will grant peace,' declares the Lord Almighty."  Haggai 2:6-9.

Do you see this amazing news?  God is going to shake things up and bring all nations into His temple!  When you read this remember that He is talking about a physical temple.  God is encouraging the people of Israel to rebuild the temple.  But when you read this remember that He is also talking about the temple as a picture of the Kingdom.

God will bring the desired of all nations into His Kingdom and He will fill the Kingdom with glory.

The nation of Israel was a foretaste of what was to come.  Israel was a microcosm of the Kingdom that was to come and that has begun but is not completed.  To prove this point let's go to the New Testament.

"... remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.  But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ." Ephesians 2:12, 13

"Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief cornerstone.  In Him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.  And in Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit."  Ephesians 2:19-22

You see, Paul, the writer of Ephesians, understood Haggai.  God is shaking things up.  What Israel was a microcosm of is happening now.  God is rebuilding the temple to include the desired of all nations.

First of all, if you are a Christian you are one of "the desired".  That should blow your mind, but I don't have time to write about that now.

Secondly, so what?  What role do I have in the rebuilding of the temple, in the coming of God's Kingdom?

"The silver is mine and the gold is mine,' declares the Lord Almighty."  According to Haggai God has all the resources needed to rebuild the temple, to make His Kingdom come.  That being said we have a role in the job.

"For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ  Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."  Ephesians 2:10

Ok, what are these good works?  What would God will us to do?

"He (God) has made known to us the mystery of His will according to His good pleasure... to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ."  Ephesians 1:10

See, God has the resources and He has prepared us for the task of building His Kingdom.  We are to bring all things together under His rule.  Now, He is with us doing this too as He said in another part of Haggai Chapter 2.  But we all have a role in doing this.  Your role and my role in rebuilding the temple, making His Kingdom come, may be different but they are the roles we were made/prepared to do.  That's awesome!

God is shaking things up.  He desires to bring you and the desired from all nations into His new temple, His Kingdom.  Beyond that, He wants you to be a part of the holy process.  Do you want to be a worker in the temple reconstruction?  Do you want to be a part of making His Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven?  Do it.  Let's do things that build the temple today.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

Thanksgiving is just a couple of days away as I write this.  I hope all of you have plenty to be thankful for.  Please comment with things you are thankful for because I'd love to read them.

Saturday I was reading Ephesians Chapter 1 with my girlfriend and we came upon a familiar passage that has great meaning this time of year.

"For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.  I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better.  I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and His incomparably great power for us who believe.  That power is like the working of His mighty strength, which He exerted in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.  And God placed all things under His feet and appointed Him to be head over everything for the Church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills everything in every way."  Ephesians 1:15-23

There is so much rich truth in this passage.  This passage is a great one to pray for your church but I want us to look at reasons we have to be thankful according to this text.

1) We are to be thankful for the Church and our church.

Paul said he hadn't stopped giving thanks for the church at Ephesus.  That church had many problems, as Paul would later detail, but he couldn't stop thanking God for it.  The Church and our church is far from perfect but we have so many reasons to be thankful to God for it.  I'm thankful, like Paul, for the love my church has for all the saints and for its incredible generosity and the way it is focused on the Gospel.  What about your church are you thankful for?

2) We are to be thankful for the Spirit because it reveals God to us.

The Holy Spirit's main job is to point to God the Father and God the Son.  The Holy Spirit is the person of God that allows us to see God correctly; beyond that He is the person of God that lives in us.  How could we not be thankful for that?

3) We are to be thankful for what we have been given and not just hungry for more blessing.

Paul prayed that the church at Ephesus would have their eyes opened to the gifts God already had given them.  Those being: The hope to which they/we were called to; that rich inheritance.  The incomparable power we were given; the same sort of power that raised and exulted Jesus.  The direct leadership of Jesus in our lives; His lordship for our well-being.

What an awesome blessing!  So often we keep asking God over and over to bless us, which is a good and Biblical thing to do, but we've already been blessed to the hilt.  Does God want to bless us?  Absolutely.  But in addition to that He wants to open the eyes of our hearts to the immense blessings He has already so richly poured out on all of us.  These blessings are enough to live and die for.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving with your family.  Count your many blessings this week.  Thank God for the Church and your church.  Be thankful for the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Ask God to open the eyes of your heart to see the blessings He has surrounded you with today.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Unrequited Love

Take some time and read John 13:1-30.

This is the story of Jesus at the Last Supper and the washing of the disciples feet.  It is also a story of unrequited love from Jesus to Judas Iscariot.

Let me show you a couple of ways that Jesus showed love to Judas:

Verse 1 "... He now showed them (all the disciples) the full extent of His love."  Jesus was going to wash their feet as a visual parable of what he'll do at the cross. Jesus did this for even Judas whom the devil, verse 2, "had already prompted... to betray Jesus."

When Jesus took off his outer garment to wash the disciples' feet He was left with just His tunic on.  This was how slaves dressed when they served the meal.  Then Jesus washed their feet, which is something Jewish slaves wouldn't even do; only Gentile slaves were required to wash feet.  Jesus was placing Himself in the place of servanthood to those that He loved, including Judas.  However, slaves weren't the only ones that washed feet.  Wives washed the feet of their husbands, children washed the feet of their parents and disciples washed the feet of their teachers.  Jesus was demonstrating an intimate love for these men, including Judas.

Jesus humbly served these men, including Judas because of His deep love for them.  He was showing them "the full extent of His love."  Can you imagine that?  Jesus physically kneeling in front of you showing the full extent of His love.

That's why this story of unrequited love is so surprising and sad.

"Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, 'I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me."  Jesus was torn up inside thinking that one of His best friends would betray Him.

The unrequited love becomes even more shocking because Jesus shows the full extent of His love not just to the disciples as a group but He goes above and beyond for Judas Iscariot specifically.

When you think about the Last Supper you most likely invision the Di Vinci painting.  Well, throw that image out of your mind.  For this supper the 13 men were reclining on a couch.  Their left arms propped them up as they lay sideways and used their right arms to eat.  There were a few places of honor at the table.  Three men sat at the head of the horseshoe-shaped table (this is according to scholars) while the other five sat on each side of the horseshoe.  The three men at the top of the horseshoe were in the place of honor.  The man at the very top had the most honorable spot followed by the man who sat to the left of the guest of honor.  Because of how the dipping sequence goes, scholars assume that Judas was at the second most honorable spot.  Jesus gave him this spot as an expression of love.

After Jesus showered all of this love and honor on Judas one would think that Judas would change his mind.  The devil had prompted Judas to betray Jesus but to this point he had done nothing about it.  I would guess, theoretically, Judas could have said "no" to Satan's prompting.  Judas, however, did not say "no".

Jesus said when asked who would betray Him, "It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish."  Then Jesus dipped the bread and Judas accepted it.  Jesus knew Judas would betray Him yet He showered His love on him.  Judas could have backed out but he didn't.

Can you imagine this?  One of my biggest fears and a big fear for many is unrequited love.  Love isn't much fun unless it's mutual.  Unrequited love is the theme of many great works in the genre of tragedy.

Jesus loved Judas even though Judas decided not to love Him back.  Many wonder, "how could Judas do that?"  Here's the truth: Judas is one of millions.  Jesus has shown us all "the full extent of His love" at the cross.  We have a more perfect vision of this love than Judas did.  Here's the million dollar question: "How could we not love Jesus?"  Yet millions will reject Him.  Jesus knew that when He sacrificed Himself on the cross.  If that isn't love, I don't what is.

Love the one who loved you first today.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Protect Life

I want to begin by saying that this is not intended to be a purely political post.  I'm not dense enough to believe that this is not a politically charged post but that is not my primary focus.  In fact, I want you to know that although I have a political lean I have voted for both parties in the past.  That being said, I want to talk about the preservation of life, specifically abortion.

Abortion has been thrust at us again as a key issue in this year's election.  I see political ads with ominous music warning women about how evil Mitt Romney is in favor of overturning Roe v. Wade and ending legal abortions in this country.  While that ad is meant to scare folks into voting for President Obama I think it may also be galvanizing support for Romney.  It is galvanizing support for Romney because to me it stinks of irony.  "Evil ridding the country of abortion."  To me that's pure irony.

Before I continue, let me be clear that I'm not naive enough to think this is a one issue election. You are not evil if you vote for either man.  I truly believe that both men want what is best for my country and I'm serious when I say that.

But abortion is not a debatable issue.  It is wrong.  The Bible is clear about this.  Throughout scripture we see David talking about God knowing and forming him in his mother's womb, as does Jeremiah.  In Luke, Jesus and His cousin John the Baptist have a connection while still in their mothers' wombs.  The Bible is clear that life begins inside the mother at conception.

I know people will bring up the exceptions like: a mother who's life is threatened in pregnancy or pregnancy via rape.  To me life is life; but let's face it, the majority of abortions are done for the sake of convenience.  One study says 86% of abortions are done for convenience sake.

Abortion is a rampant evil.  More than 53 million lives have been aborted legally since the Roe v. Wade decision.  This is something I pray to see end.  Out of 53 million children how many of them would have been doctors, social workers, teachers, preachers, football players, mayors, world class chefs... I mean abortion is stealing great people from our society.

When my mother was pregnant with my sister her water broke early.  My mother was flown from Spencer to Iowa City to save my sister's life.  Miraculously my mom's water resealed and my sister was born on time instead of prematurely.  If my sister had died in my mom's womb that would have been a tragedy.  Why, because my parents wanted her?  If my mom hadn't wanted her and decided to abort my sister then it wouldn't have been a tragedy; it would have been a choice.  Seriously?!  If my sister would have died either through my mom's water breaking early or by the "choice" of an abortion (I should note my mom has never and would never consider an abortion) it would have been a tragedy.  My sister is a beautiful, 21 year-old woman who has a heart for social work.  To lose that would be a loss for everyone.

Or what about my brother?  He was the surprise child.  It was inconvenient for my mom and dad to raise two children who were 18 months apart.  Yet it would be an extreme tragedy to lose my brother who is a caring, loving 19 year-old young man who has a heart for the lonely and forgotten in his world.

I pray that abortion in our country goes the way of slavery.  I pray that my children will shocked by the idea that it was once legal to kill a person because you didn't want them around or because it made economic sense.  I pray that on Tuesday our nation elects a William Wilberforce type character and I couldn't care less what party he/she is from.

Take your vote seriously, it is a great privilege and responsibility.  Pray that the men and women elected are the best to end poverty, create economic fairness and protect life.  And please do what you can to end the murder of children today.