Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Oops, Monday a bit late

On Monday Jesus caused an uproar in the city of Jerusalem when He entered the Temple and found there were money-changers and swindlers and corruption. With righteous anger He threw them out and in a fit of rage took a whip to them. Did Jesus wake up on the wrong side of the bed or did He have a good reason to do this?
We see in the Scripture that Jesus' anger was based on the fact that the sacred place of God had been turned into a cheap marketplace where people were profiting off the need for sacrifices. These people took advantage of the religious sensitivities of the people, and made a fortune extorting their hard-earned money. Jesus' fury directed at them was righteous and just, He did not lose His temper and sin in His anger. There is a time in the Christian life for there to be "righteous anger" and it is an anger towards the things God hates. Anger is a passionate response and can be very valuable, when used in the right circumstances. Jesus was not stressed out and taking out His frustration on those around Him, He was right to be appalled at what was going on in the Temple. It was a sacred place where God Himself dwelt, and these people had cheapened it.
Jesus' entry into Jerusalem as the coming King had already caused enough discussion/trouble in the city, but His actions in the Temple definitely got people talking about Him and it caused people to pay attention to everything He did.
What does this mean for us? It means that we have to keep the place of God in our lives sacred, and keep that place free from the stain of corruption and greed. It means that we have reverence when we are in the presence of God. Not to draw comparisons to the Temple and the Church, but where has our reverence for the things of God gone these days? You go to a church now and it looks like a theater, and many times in churches we have gotten to where we look like a mini-city with activities and so much going on that we get lost in the shuffle. This is not an indictment against churches being active and busy, but it all has to come back to a reverence and fear of the Lord and a desire to keep His House clean from the filth of the world that would tell us to build bigger, have fancier stuff, and keep up with the Jones' down the street. God desires His house to be a house of prayer, which is what we are working towards at Broadmoor. We are far from perfect, but in keeping with the command of Jesus, we desire for God to be pleased with how we conduct ourselves and the attitude we have in church. Please keep the dwelling place of God clean in your lives, which is your heart. Don't let it get dirty and corrupt, may we never be guilty of corrupting the worship of the people for personal gain.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Palm Sunday

Posted it on the BBC Youth page, that's what I get for writing a post while I'm half asleep!

This is the first day of Jesus' final journey into Jerusalem. He was greeted by the crowds laying out their palm branches and calling out "Hosanna!" They knew that this man Jesus was someone very different than the other religious teachers of their day. They thought He was the one promised, that He would be the one to overthrow the Romans and restore the nation of Israel and be their Messiah-King.

But the King of the universe arrived in the great city riding on the back of a donkey. He came as one who was not blowing a trumpet announcing His own arrival. This King who came for His people would offer the ultimate sacrifice. Those who would follow Him would be set free, not from the oppressive rule of the Roman Empire, but from the crippling and deadly rule of sin that had forever separated man from God.
The book of Mark (11:11) also says that Jesus went into the Temple. The Temple in Jesus' day was the center of religious activity for the Jews. It is no surprise that is where Jesus went upon entering the city. It is great speculation but maybe He went to see what was really going on in there, which would culminate in His anger in the Temple the next day.
Praying for you! Hope you had a great time at the Grace's, I know I did!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Turning Point of Christ

Welcome to the first installment of the Holy Week Devotional. I'm hoping this will encourage you during this special time of the year when we think back to a dusty hill in Jerusalem where the curse upon the earth was broken by a man some thought was too insignificant to ever be more than a day laborer.
The Scripture I want us to think about is Luke 9:51 which says: As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem
Jesus' ministry up until this point was based on teaching, healing, ministering, and seeking disciples. Many great things happened during this time, thousands were fed, the blind were able to see, the lame were able to walk, tax collectors and sinners were converted, and Jesus modeled for us the way to live. During this time we truly see what it means to live as a child of God, by loving those who are unloved, and weeping for those who are outside the joy of salvation. We see a selfless life lived, one that is focused on the Kingdom of God. Jesus showed us how to love one another. He also was a miracle worker who displayed His power over creation and demonstrated that He came from God to do the work of God. Only God could forgive sin, and Jesus told many people that their sins were forgiven them. Only God could control the weather, and Jesus quieted storms.
And for many people, this is where the story ends. Many people believe that Jesus was only a good moral teacher who lived the exemplary life. And if this was where the Bible stopped, that would be true. But that isn't where the Bible stops. Luke says that Jesus turned and made a straight line for Jerusalem. The reason Jesus came was not just to show us to live and heal the sick, but more so He came to die. Jesus' ministry would not be complete without the cross. If He did not come to die, all we have is a cute baby at Christmas. But not only did He come to die, He came to die and conquer death! If He doesn't rise from the dead, all we have is a rotting corpse and no hope for salvation. But because the tomb is empty, we can have confidence that there is hope for us to be saved and spend eternity with God.
Jesus turns to Jerusalem and makes His way there because He knew that was His mission. We should not feel sorry for Jesus on the cross. He willingly and gladly the punishment for our sin. God was pleased to bruise Him, it says in Isaiah. Jesus turned to the cross and turned to death because that was the only way that we as lost sinners could ever come to God. He had to die in order to tear down the curtain that separated us from being with God.
This week as we look at what happened during those 7 days in Jerusalem, remember that Jesus gladly went to the cross for us and gladly bore our sin. I hope you are encouraged by the fact that the sinless Son of God, though He was meek and mild, held within Himself an amazing power to conquer sin, Satan, and the grave. He was no mere teacher, He is God! While many people thought He was just a man, there was power and strength beyond comprehension in Him, that He withheld on the cross, so that He could be led like a lamb without fighting, as One willing to be sacrificed for us.
Thank you for reading this, I pray that God blesses you during this Season.

Monday, March 10, 2008

More thoughts on the church

Last night we got into a great discussion over the nature of the church, what it is and the characteristics involved in it. One of the greatest things in studying theology is the broad view you get of the landscape of Scripture. And over and over again the Bible is clear that the church is unlike anything else on the earth. The church has a very unique place in society. We as the church are not only thinking about life here on earth, but the Bible calls us citizens of heaven. Our identity is found in Jesus Christ, and He is the source of our joy, strength, and hope. We might live in Memphis TN in the USA, but our spiritual "passport" says we have a mansion in heaven prepared for us. The church has a forward-thinking view of itself, and therefore should be free from the trappings of petty disagreements, bickering, differing opinions, and what color the carpet is.
Sadly though many churches do get into these arguments over such trivial things. The goal of the church existing is to give us as Christians a foretaste of heaven, where every tribe, tongue, and nation will join together to worship the Lord; and to be the City on a Hill to show the Way for those who are lost. We as a church exist to make Jesus known. The word ekklesia does mean "the called out ones" and God has called us out from everyone else and given us a divinely-appointed mission, to share the Gospel with the entire world. A daunting task I will admit, but Jesus told the Disciples that they (and we) would not be alone, they (and we) have the Holy Spirit to serve as a Guide, Comforter, and Helper. This is the only way that us as ordinary average Joe's can make an impact on such a fallen world.
What can YOU do this week, as one who has been called out, to make Jesus known?

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Newest Golden Cow

The idea of the "Golden Cow" comes from the story of the Exodus as told in the Bible. After Moses ascends Mount Sinai to receive a direct word from the LORD, the people of Israel are left at the bottom of the mountain. Up until this point, the Hebrews have seen the Red Sea split, received manna from heaven, and other miracles orchestrated directly by the hand of God. In chapter 32 however, they rebel against the very God who had brought them out of bondage and carried them through the desert. Aaron, the brother of Moses, calls for the people to bring their gold and makes a golden cow out of the melted gold. This was quickly put down by Moses who had the cow melted and crushed to powder and put in water, and then made the people drink it.
Over the course of history many things have been placed on the altar rightly occupied by the Lord. These are not always so obvious as a statue made of gold, but rather may be internal matters or private obsessions and idols. The point is that it always follows a cycle.
The cycle begins with something that makes you happy, which causes you to love it, loving it then causes you to desire it, desire causes dependence, dependence causes this to become first in our hearts, and whatever is first in our hearts is what we worship.
I want to suggest that the latest golden cow is not even something that can be seen, though it does take on an appearance in a white cup with a sleeve on it. The newest golden cow is community. The first thing you're going to think is that I was going to bash Starbucks. Well, I will, but not directly. They are a good company to work for with great benefits and flexible hours. I will however be taking them to task because they are creating a generation of people who are naive and blinded by the fact that they are seeking community and satisfaction from a cup of hot water, sugar, and milk. One of Starbucks' goals is to create the idea of a "Third Place" where one can go and find community and connect. Christians who find their sense of community and connection outside of the church and settle for manufactured community are running the risk of becoming idolaters. The golden cow of our day is the idea that a cup can give you community and you can find your satisfaction in that. Starbucks has made a fortune off the basic human desire to relate with other people, and has taken the fact that we all crave community with other people and turned it into marketing genius.
One of the reasons why I think they attract so many Christians is because I think the Church (universal) has failed as a worldwide institution to adequately give community. We have become a Church of programs, initiatives, vision statements, growth strategies, and catchy slogans so that have lost sight that one of the principal functions of the Church is community. Now there are many local congregations who have succeeded at this, and I feel like I am part of such a congregation.
The point of this blog is not to bash Starbucks or their product, which I think overall is a good product. The thing I want to do with this post is to call for Christians everywhere to find their community not in a cup but in the Christ. Our community should be based on Jesus Christ and the salvation that we have together in Him. This, not a latte, should be the driving force for us to find community with one another. There are many golden cows out there vying for our attention, love, and adoration, and many others are very indirect in their approach. The goal of Satan is not to get you to sacrifice a goat on an altar, it is to get you to replace Jesus Christ with something else in your heart. Whatever you love more than Jesus Christ is an idol, and I hope we never get to the point where we love a cup of coffee more than Him.