Diminishing God

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“Wherefore, as I live, says the Lord God; surely, because you have defiled My sanctuary with all your detestable things, and with all your abominations, therefore will I also diminish you; neither shall My eye spare, neither will I have any pity.” Ezekiel 5:11

 

How often do we think of desolation of the Temple as coming from within? This is so easy to miss. When thinking about the destruction of the Holy Temple we think about Rome coming in and forcing a pig to be offered to desecrate the Temple. Or maybe we think of the final desecration of the rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem before the last days, and an anti-Christ who does the same. But God is telling us in Ezekiel that desecration is closer than we think, that God’s own people desecrate the temple.

Isn’t that a terrible thought? The Jews themselves were guilty of defiling the sanctuary and bringing detestable things within its walls. The Jews themselves, yes, the people of God, were bringing abominations in. Really? Were they bringing pigs and things like that in? No. But they were busy bringing diminished ideas of God inside His own temple.

 

That word for diminished is gara in Hebrew. It means “to clip, diminish, restrain, keep back, withdraw.” Now listen to what Eliphaz said to Job, “Do you hear the secret counsel of God, and limit wisdom to yourself? (Job 15:8) That’s a good question. Do I hear God’s word and then think I can interpret it how I want? Do I really understand everything as I ought? Can I really know it on my own or do I need the Holy Spirit, the forefathers and other believers who have really dug in? Is this a process of becoming or do I know all right now? Can I decide for myself or is this something I live out in the community of believers? Would I really think so highly of myself as to “limit God’s wisdom to my understanding?”

Do I forget that though God comes to us individually and leaves the 99 for the 1 that is lost, the goal is to bring the 100 into the fold? Do I forget that the power of God exists in community, in unity with God and with other believers? Do I forget that I need accountability? Do I forget that I need others to help me see in myself what I’m blind to? Do I forget that the Holy Spirit will never teach me or lead me in a way that is against God’s words?

But that’s what happens when I diminish God and His word. Yes, God comes to people personally, but not for us to be our own people. He comes to us personally so that we can choose to become His people, grafted in as one, grafted in not only with each other, but grafted in with Him. Therefore, we live like Him and love like Him and respond like Him and make much of Him because He becomes our everything and all those who are held so dear to Him become dear to us.

When I think I am the gift of God, I make living about me, not about God and not about His people. I make my goals and my desires more important. I diminish God and make myself a type of god. I think I have the right to point out specks in other people’s eyes and not see the log in my own. (Luke 6:41) I bear fruit of my own liking and not of God, bad fruit instead of good, bad fruit that I somehow convince myself tastes and looks good. (Luke 6:43) I call God, “Lord,” but I don’t treat You as Lord because really I’m my own lord. (Luke 6:46) I hear what You say but I don’t do it because I’ve diminished Your agenda and glorified my own.

When I take care of number 1, you know, me, I desecrate Your Holy Temple because that’s not what You desire. Your command is to love God and to love others. Acts 4:32 expressed true “temple” worship, “and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them.” And that’s the truth that doesn’t defile. Everything I have or am is because God has given it to me or in me. The Temple belongs to God. The instruments are His, the design is His, how it works is His idea. My purpose is to fulfill His idea, not mine. My purpose in life is to be fit in like His divine puzzle piece. I don’t even have the ability to fit myself. To think I do is the greatest farce. This is God’s playwright, He wrote it, it’s His, and we’re His players, and that’s the best place to be, looking to Him as Director so we get it right.

Lord, I don’t want to diminish You by having an attitude that I have it all under control or even know what I’m doing. I want to live under Your direction and I want to be sensitive to the direction of those who have heeded before me and along with me. I want to remember that I’m not a lone player and that I don’t get to write the script, or my script, or any one else’s script, but that You are the Script Writer. I don’t want to look clean on the outside and be a nasty cup on the inside because I’m in control. I want You to be in control, because who in the world am I to even think otherwise? I concede. After all, the temple was just a model of something greater. And Jesus, You told us, “something greater than the temple is here.” And I’m more than willing, I’m desperately in need of surrendering to You because the one who created the temple is greater than the temple. I want You to be God. Don’t let me diminish You in my life or in anyone else’s life. Let me let You be God in my life and all those around me. You know, You’re gonna be God because it’s who You are and I or anyone else can’t stop it. But I can keep myself and others from seeing it. Lord, don’t let that happen. I want to see You as You are. And I want to be an instrument that allows others to see You in Your fullness also.

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The Joy That is You

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“And many nations shall come, and say, ‘Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths:’ for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.” Micah 4:2

This is exciting stuff here.  This isn’t something that happened yet at the time of Micah’s prophecy from You, Lord.  This was a promise of hope.  It was a promise of hope to the Israelites, to the people of God, and we must never forget that part of Your plan for the people of God was to be a light to the rest of the world so that they could become people of God.  Here we see not only that reminder, but that You will make that plan come to pass.

I’m pretty sure that the latter days started to come into place at the resurrection of Jesus.  And I’m pretty sure that we are still in the latter days.  But the latter days aren’t completed yet, and I don’t know if we only have hours or years or decades before they will be, but I do know this one thing, it will come.  It will be finished.  There will be a time when You have finalized Your plan.  I don’t just know that because of Micah.  Isaiah also affirms that by Your word.  “So shall My word be that goes forth out of My mouth: it shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11)  So this is exciting stuff here!  Maybe if we open our eyes to look for what You’re doing, we’ll get to see it unfolding and be in the midst of that unfolding!

Now, I know we’re not totally there yet because of the position of Jerusalem.  She’s not yet high and exalted “above the hills” in the eyes of all people yet.  As a matter of fact, there are still a multitude of nations trying to squash her and debase her.  Sorry, but that’s not going to happen.  Try as you might, but you just can’t negate God’s plan.  Sorry, but you just don’t know better and you haven’t got that kind of power no matter how much you want it. 

So even today, we see all these nations fighting against God.  There are many people, Jew and Gentile alike, who won’t acknowledge Jesus as the Son of God, as our Savior and Lord, as God’s chosen One for the forgiveness of our sins and the redemption of HIs people.  But God hasn’t finished working or speaking yet.  And God is involved, intimately, with the affairs of men.  Your plan is for Israel to still be alight to the world, to draw nations to Your holy mountain.  But here’s what I think about that idea of coming to Your holy mountain and to Your house, the house of God, or the house of the Lord.

When I think about it, the house of the Lord has always been a place, a place that people could enter, a place where people came to be in the presence of the Lord.  First there was the Tabernacle that could move with the people wherever they went, from place to place, because God is always with us wherever we go.  There, I suppose, You were showing how You weren’t just with us wherever we went but You took us there and lead us there and stayed with us.  Your pillar of fire or smoke lead us on and guarded us.  It was more than a place to worship.  It was more than a tabernacle.  It was a relationship of You with Your people, one by one, and as a nation.  It was intimate.  You were involved.  You were there and so were they. 

Then You established a “resident” Temple on the mount in Jerusalem.  And it wasn’t that You weren’t guiding and protecting and walking with Your people any more.  It was that You were trying to remind them that they were to be a city on a hill, shining forth their light, the Light of You, to the nations, and inviting the nations into that same relationship with You.  I don’t think it was ever really about the building, but always to be about the relationship, the protection, the being drawn to You and the abiding and living in You. 

Think about it, nations are going to come, and haven’t they already started?  They are going to come and say, “Let’s go to the house of the God of Jacob, and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths.” (Micah 4:2)  Now we haven’t come to the point of every man sitting under his vine and fig tree without fear but that day is coming.  So maybe we ought to figure out how to prepare for it.  And maybe that preparation has to do with understanding the nature of Your house.

What is the nature of the House of the Lord?  Let’s listen to Jesus’ words, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer?’” (Mark 11:17)  Let’s go back to Isaiah 56.  God is sharing about His house.  He’s not just talking about the children of Israel.  He’s inviting strangers, and eunuchs, and anyone who will turn and cling to Him and His ways.  And here’s the beauty of His plan and promise to those who come to Him in faith and trust and obedience.  “Even unto them will I give in My house and within My walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off.  Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the LORD, to serve Him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be His servants, every one that keeps the sabbath from polluting it, and takes hold of My covenant; even them will I bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon My alter; for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all people.”  This is what the Lord, who gathers the outcast of Israel, says about gathering other outcasts outside of Israel.  And this is what His house is all about.

Your house isn’t just a house or a temple or a church or a tabernacle.  It never was just that.  Your house is about family.  It’s about being a member of Your family.  It’s about being adopted because even Abram was like an adopted child, adopted out of the family of Ur and into the family of God.  Adam and Eve lived in Your house before there ever was a building as we know it because the building was already there.  Their building has always been You.  Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 5:1 “that we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”  And Paul explains in Hebrews 9 how Christ, who became our high priest, through a “greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands,” obtained eternal redemption for us through His blood.  Through Christ we enter into an eternal relationship with God that allows Him to dwell in us and allows us to dwell in Him.  By this relationship we are able to live in Him and for Him.

But what of this house of prayer?  This is essential to understanding.  I think of Hezekiah, that king who became sick to the point of death.  And he prayed fervently to the Lord for life.  And God heard and answered. (2 Kings 20:5)  But what made prayer special?  Was it just Hezekiah’s desperation? The Hebrew word for prayer is tefilla.  It has to do with “discernment, judging, intercession, and reflection.”  It’s also associated with the word naval in Hebrew.  Naval means to fall.  Is that what I think about when I think about prayer?  Do I think about falling?  Do I think about falling before You “and feeling [Your] presence on an intimate level…falling before [You], feeling [Your] love, sensing that one is never alone, that [You are] near and caring”? (Avraham Weiss)

I think of the story Jesus shared of the Pharisee and the tax collector who came to the temple.  The Pharisee came because of tradition and to extoll his goodness.  He had no relationship with You.  It wasn’t even about You.  It was all about him and his goodness.  He knew nothing of Your mercy and compassion for others or even how it had been extended toward himself.  He was coming to a house where he paid tribute to it’s Owner in his way by blessing it with his own presence.  But the tax collector, well, he was different.  The tax collector knew the Owner of the house.  He knew he was a sinner standing on ground that had been made holy by the One who prepared it.  He knew he wasn’t just in a building.  He wasn’t just in a house.  He knew he was in the presence of the Owner.  He knew what mercy and compassion it took to let him even come in the house.  That’s what the house of the Lord is about.

It’s not about what we think about the Lord.  It’s about what He has shared that we can know about Him.  It’s not about understanding everything.  Or else we wind up on the outside looking in like the Pharisee.  It’s about falling down before You and letting You reveal Yourself.  It’s about falling down into Your word.  It’s where I’m not in control of You, but You are in control of me and what I think and what I do and how I feel.  It’s when my words aren’t enough, like now.  It’s when I haven’t got it all but You do.  It’s when I’m empty unless I have You.  And I can’t just have You in my mind, I have to experience You.  This is what the house of the Lord is about.  It’s about a relationship.  It’s about entering into the intimacy that resides within the family of God.  It’s a real family with a real Father, and a real everything that we need.  It’s where we come to learn to live and feel and be.  This is the place of trust and life.

I’m pretty sure Abram went there all the time even though he didn’t have a tent or a building to enter.  That first tabernacle was just a pattern according to God.  It already existed in Him before Adam and Eve and before Abram.  And it still exists today.  In Revelation 7:15 we hear of how God shall spread His tabernacle over those before the throne.  And the great voice declares, in Revelation 21:3, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He shall dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God…”

And thinking on these things brings me to David’s thoughts in Psalm 27:4, “One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and to meditate in His temple.”  Do you hear what David is saying?  He got it.  Who would want to dwell in the Lord’s house all the days of his life if You weren’t present there, God?  I want to draw into Your presence like that.  I want to behold Your beauty.  I want to see You as You are, full of kindness, and favor, and pleasantness.  And I get to see it, just like David, by just being there, present, with You, by Your permission.   But I have to choose to meditate on You, by seeking and studying You.  I have to be involved in real prayer, real searching of Your word, really looking for security in You. 

What David was asking for was what the priests got to do.  But he was a warrior, a king, whose hands were stained with blood.  But his greatest heart’s desire was “to be in God’s holy presence and experience favor. David’s song is a pipe dream.  It is also my pipe dream.” (Skip Moen)  His obligations, whether important or trivial, prevented him from total absorption in You, in Your presence and being absorbed in Your word.  Don’t our obligations today have a tendency to do the same?  And like David, the permission isn’t ours to grant to come.  But the permission is Yours to grant, Lord.  And if we seek, and ask, and let ourselves fall, You invite, and You come, and You draw us to You.  It’s like Mary, who took flack from Martha, but You said she made the right choice.  I want to make that right choice.  I want to sit down, or fall down, and just be in Your house, in Your presence all the days of my life.  So help me, Lord, because You’re the One who can.  And help me to bring other family members into Your house so we can dwell together in the joy that is You.

Relationship, Better than Choice

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“Fire shall be kept burning on the altar continually; it shall not go out.”  Leviticus 6:13

There is no such thing as an offering without a fire, at least not by Your standards, God.  In Leviticus, You say, “The fire on the altar shall be kept burning on it; it shall not go out.  The priest shall burn wood on it every morning, and he shall arrange the burnt offering on it and shall burn on it the fat of the peace offerings.  Sometimes the test of Your acceptance of an offering was whether You fully consumed it by fire or not.  It’s not until Leviticus 9 that the priests begin their ministry.  And Moses and Aaron obey the Lord in preparing the sacrifices, they come out of the tent of meeting, bless the people, and the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people.  Then, to affirm Your approval of the sacrifices, a “fire came out from before the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the pieces of fat on the altar, and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces.”(Leviticus 9:24)

It’s not like You share this Old Testament stuff with us just because it’s archaic and outdated and we need to know some historical facts and ways You used to act.  You share this stuff with us because You are the same God yesterday, today, and always.  You still have a standard, which is Yours, for what You require in a sacrifice.  You still have a standard, which is Yours in the heart of the sacrifice we bring.  You still have a standard for the depth and the length and the height of that sacrifice.  And if we weren’t so afraid of sacrifices being about trusting in works, we could start understanding the real message of the sacrifices that You intended.

I need to know, and we all need to know that there is an authorized, acceptable sacrifice.  There is a sacrifice that is commanded by You.  Nothing else is acceptable.  Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, found that out the hard way.  I suppose it was pretty exciting and powerful to see the way that fire came from You, God, and just consumed that offering.  And I suppose for those who are impressed and desirous of power, more than a right relationship, it’s pretty tempting.  So Nadab and Abihu, “each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them.”  (Leviticus 10:1)  And what happened?  Exactly what they were looking for, only not the way they were expecting.  “…[F]ire came out from before the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord.”  And Moses’ response to their father, Aaron was, “This is what the Lord has said: ‘Among those who are near Me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.'”  Wow, pretty harsh, huh?

But here’s the thing.  The sacrifices were established by You, God, as a way to allow man, you know, us humans, to draw near to You again.  This was a way for You to draw us near and sanctify us.  This was a way for us to demonstrate our relationship with You and Your relationship with us.  You are the only God who draws near to His people and asks His people to draw near to Him.  How did that work?

How in the world was slaughtering an animal about drawing near to You, God?  And how does that consuming fire comfort me instead of making me cower in fear?  These are good questions.  It’s ok to ask You questions.  After all, unless we receive the kingdom of God like a child we won’t enter it. (Luke 18:17)  And my little children asked lots of questions and they didn’t ask me from far away.  We were close, sometimes they were on my lap.  Heck, they’re grown and we still like to cuddle up next to each other.  Yeah, children who love and trust their parents ask them things and their parents who love them take the time to answer.

Let’s just look at the tabernacle and answer some questions there.  See, even the tabernacle, the tent of meeting (about meeting with God), was a combination of physical and spiritual.  The tabernacle was constructed from stuff obtained from the Egyptians when the Israelites fled.  But the instructions for the tabernacle were spiritual, God-given to Moses on the mount.  He came down with these physical commandments written on stones, but he came down with the instructions for the tabernacle within his mind straight from God.  Then God gave two other men knowledge of how to build the physical to meet His spiritual standards.

When all was built and the instructions for the offerings given, You invited the priests to sit at the entrance of the tent of meeting and eat.  This was the place where You met with them, where the physical and spiritual joined. A little more about the tent of meeting.  Outside was a rectangular court that all could enter.  It was 100 cubits long but it was divided into two 50 by 50 cubit squares.  It was surrounded by posts with white linen hangings like curtains.  It was open to the elements with a grass, dirt, and sand floor.  Here was the bronze altar where the sacrifice was burned and the bronze laver with the water for washing.   Think of it as representing the physical aspect.

If we continue further, we are taken to the entrance of the tent of meeting, covered with animal skin.  This tent consisted of two rooms.  The first room that the priests would enter was the Holy place which consisted of the table of showbread, the menorah, and the altar of incense.  Behind that was a cubicle room called the Holy of Holies that only the high priest could enter and only one day of the year, Yom Kippur, the day of atonement.   Within this room was the ark of the covenant which was the seat where Your presence, God, would appear.

Now this tent was a representation of the spiritual, of the hidden, of the out of sight.  It was wood covered by beautiful gold.  The ceiling was covered with scarlet and purple and blue and embroidered with cherubim.  Every aspect pointed to Your presence, God,  and preparation for Your presence.

It’s funny.  Sometimes we get so focussed on the physical, we think that’s all there is.  And sometimes, we get so focussed on the spiritual, that we loose sight of the physical.  The whole sacrificial system was Your reminder to us that You designed us to balance both in You.  If You didn’t care for us to think about this stuff in Leviticus, why does Paul tell us, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?  You are not your own, for you were bought with a price.  So glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19)?  Maybe we need to understand how You put the physical and spiritual together.  Maybe, just maybe, we’ve got some things wrong about how to be temples just like some of the Jews had the sacrificial system wrong.  It’s not an error in Your required sacrifice or in Your tabernacle design.  The error is always in our understanding.  And we won’t understand if we don’t look and we don’t take time to ask You.

See, we are physical creatures created to be filled spiritually.  As temples, created in Your  image, God, we can be filled in our Holy of Holies with You or we can be empty there.  When You breathed into Adam’s nostrils, and Adam became a living soul, You placed the spiritual into the physical.

We’re called tabernacles of the Holy Spirit.  We are the place where the spiritual and physical meet.  This is where all our problems come from too.  Our Holy of Holies can be filled with You, God, or empty.  You breathed into Adam’s nostrils life, and Adam became a living soul.  You placed the spiritual into the physical.  When James warns us in 1:8 about the double-minded man, that he is unstable, he’s warning us about the man who has that balance all wrong.  In James 4:8 he tells us the solution, “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.  Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”  We can only get our spiritual and physical act together if we draw near to You, God, and we can only draw near to You, Your way, and Your way is through Jesus, by faith.

Bringing a sacrifice was about identifying with that sacrifice.  It wasn’t intended as a light ritual.  That sacrifice gave its life for something meaningful.  It could have been left home to die naturally, or by a preditor, or by disease, or for dinner, but then it’s death wouldn’t have had the same meaning.  The one who brought the sacrifice, was bringing it to stand in for himself.  He laid his hands upon that sacrifice and prayed as though it was himself being asked to pay the penalty of death.  But this sacrifice was taking his place.  To the one who understood, to the one who cared about his condition before God, this was mercy, this was grace.  To ignore the sacrifice would be to choose life without You, God.  To choose the sacrifice would be choose life with You, God.  To choose death of the sacrifice was to choose life with You, God.  To choose to avoid death would be to choose the absence of You, God.

This was never meant to be external.  The spiritual and physical come into contact inside of you.  Luke 17:21 reminds us “the kingdom of God is within you.”  I apply all that Jesus is inside me both physically and spiritually.  That’s what should have transpired walking away after the sacrifice.  Look at Jesus.  Look at the life He lived.  He was spiritual because He was God, yet He was physical because He was man.  How did He combine the two?  “I must be about my Father’s business.”  Therefore, His spiritual rules apply within my physical temple and to all that is mine.  I must apply God’s will to myself.  I can choose to rule over myself and allow Him to rule over me and live by His rule.  I can control my temple in Him.  Just as Jesus applied the love of God to others, so can I.  Just as Jesus reached out and touched others, so should I.  Just as Jesus sought out the lost and found them so that He could restore them to right relationship with His Father, so ought I.

Now, jumping back to things of the temple.  There was something else that was the same shape as the outer court.  It was the breastplate that the priests wore.  It was also a rectangle, folded in half to make two squares when worn to cover the priest’s front and back.  And where it came together were the urim and tumim.  No one today is quite sure of exactly what the urim and tumim were, but we do know that somehow they gave answers to questions asked of God.  Isn’t that interesting that God made a way for priests to know His will?  Just a side note here but urim starts with aleph, the “alpha” in the alphabet, and tumim is the omega.  Lots of pictures here, aren’t there?  See, God brings together the physical and the spiritual in us and that is how He speaks.  He designed us to be spoken through and spoken to.  I mean, there are lots of ways God speaks, even through nature, but we are the most visible and vocal expression of Him.  Do I get that?  I am Your temple where You make Your presence known.

Most people aren’t going to just run and pick up a Bible first thing.  But they are going to see us.  Paul said, “You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men: forasmuch as you are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.” (2 Corinthians 3:2)  You and I are the living epistle of God that people will see.  So what do they see?  Do they see someone delighting in God and in everything He has laid before us, whether it’s in our marriage, our job, our recreation, our situations, or how we love?  This is something unique to human beings and God designed it that way.  When people see me, what kind of temple am I inviting them into.  What will they know of You, God, from me?

God is restoring us to right relationship.  But right relationship is truly relational.  Sounds like a no-brainer, right?  But the thing is, we have a hard time remembering that we have to look at things through Your perspective, God.  We always try to see things through our perspective, but our perspective is severely flawed.  And we can only see through Your perspective if You open our eyes to see it.  The more we look at what You shared, the more You’ll open our eyes.  There’s symbolism there for our benefit.  Even down to the “ickiness” of blood from the sacrifice being placed on the priest’s ear.  It was placed on his right ear, right thumb, and right toe, not the left.  Why?  Because the right represents spiritual things and the left, the physical.  It’s not that the physical is bad.  It’s just physical, what’s seen and tangible, and not so eternal.  The physical needs the spiritual.  It wasn’t created to stand on it’s own.  It can’t; it’s not eternal.

Even the placement of objects in the tabernacle according to compass direction is significant.  In the Middle East, east is at the top instead of north.  It’s the word for head and west is behind.  On the left of the holy chamber is the showbread, pointing to our physical, our body.  To the right is the menorah which represents light or the spiritual; after all, scientists don’t even fully understand it’s workings.  We need to understand all this from God’s view.

We could even look at Israel.  Look at northern Israel.  It’s beautiful and lush.  All your physical needs are met.  Then look at southern Israel.  It’s a desert, it’s where people go to pray, it’s the spiritual.  It’s where Jesus went to fast for 40 days and 40 nights.  But we were never intended to only stay in one area.  Here’s something interesting I heard.  If you go far enough south from Israel, you come to Egypt.  You can go too far spiritually.  There is a caution to stay in the boundaries of God’s word.  If you keep going, here’s the problem, you cross out of Israel and into occultism and spiritual darkness.  Why?  Because God created the physical and spiritual to work together.  Jesus even prayed for us concerning this.  “I do not ask that You take them out of the world, but that You keep them from the evil one.  They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.  Sactify them in the truth; Your word is truth.  As You sent Me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.”  (John 17:15-18)  Jesus didn’t stay in the desert.  He relied on His spiritual relationship to pursue physical relationships with those in the world.  It was His spiritual strength that allowed Him to meet people’s physical and emotional needs.  If I am to be spiritual, my life must be lived in relationship with others, demonstrating physically the power of the spiritual relationship I have with You, God.  Then I become a living epistle to others.  Then I become the image of Christ.  Then You develop Your likeness in me.

The priest was where the spiritual and physical came together.  And priests weren’t just for the tabernacle and now they’re gone.  Peter shared God’s perspective on the priesthood.  “As you come to Him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ…But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”  (1 Peter 2:4,5,9)  The priesthood is for now.  Then, they were to be demonstrating the will and perspective of God.  Now, we are still called to demonstrate the will and perpective of You, God, in our lives.  It was never intended to only be lived out in the tabernacle.  It was intended to be lived out in the tabernacle, in our neighborhood, in our home, in our world.  And now ought to be an even clearer picture since the temple is me, and I am fully portable!  The sacrifice is my life, and I’m a fully visible image.

In Genesis 1:26 and 27, You defined the purpose for humans.  You said, “‘Let us make man in Our image, after Our likeness.  And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’  So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”  Humans were created to be a representative figure of the God who created us.  We were to be like a “phantom” image of Him, an illusion to Him, to resemble Him.  But here’s the thing, an idol is also a representative figure.  And that’s what we become when we leave Him out of our perspective.  I become an empty idol of something that isn’t even really God.  Instead of representing You, we often choose to represent ourselves.  It’s not what we were created for.

We were created to bear Your image, to resemble You but that only comes when we choose to accept Your likeness.   There are lots of people who have this shadowy image of You, God.  Actually, all men are created with that image.  It’s why every life is valuable because every life was created to shine forth You as Your holy vessel.  Yet only those who learn to let You have their whole lives and all that is theirs ever learn to be formed in Your likeness.  A likeness is different than an image.  A likeness is a resemblance also, but it is a concrete model.  You can see it and touch it and it is just like the original in fashion and manner and similitude.  That’s not an idol, an empty representation.  It’s a walking, living, breathing example.

I don’t like blood and gore.  I don’t like hard, difficult things.  But life and death would be a lot more terrible if I had to experience them without Your grace and redemption that comes through these difficult things.  I can’t forget that life was honky dory, so to speak, in the beginning for Adam and Eve. They walked in absolute fellowship with You.  That was the perfect choice with no blood and gore and no difficult stuff in life.  But even though that was truth and that is where they were, they chose something else when it was presented to them.   The serpent enters the scene and presents another choice where life wasn’t just about fellowship with You, God.  Here came the first fork in the road.  I have a choice.  Wow!  I can choose.  Isn’t that wonderful?  I can choose God and the tree of life, or I can choose to know things myself and choose the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  It’s no longer a matter of relationship.  Now it’s all a matter of choice.  Isn’t that great?

Really?  Is choice better than relationship?  Every time we come to one of these so called forks-in-the-road, we have to live to one choice and die to the other.  If I choose the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, I have to die to the tree of life.  If I choose the tree of life, then I must die to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Choice means I always have to die to something I want to have the other.  I can’t eat both.  Choosing one means going against the other.  Death didn’t enter after Adam and Eve sinned.  Death enters with our choice to choose something over fellowship with You, God.  That’s death, separation from a God who designed us to live in fellowship with Him.  That’s the total opposite of what we were created for.  In order to be in Your likeness, I have to die to everything else.  I must choose You.  I must choose a relationship with You.  That’s what the sacrifices were reminding us. They remind us of what it is to draw near to You and the price we pay to choose anything else.  I can only grow into Your likeness by choosing to go through the door of death of my own desires and choose You and Yours.

This is so necessary that before time began, You, God, had already determined that Christ would be the one sacrifice for all time who could truly redeem Your creation to You.  We were ransomed “with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.  He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.” (1 Peter 1:19-21)  We must choose Him and die to self, and die to any other option.  We must say no to other things.

Sacrifices were always about giving myself to God.  I can choose to live like the walking dead, like an empty temple, or I can choose to be a living sacrifice.  I can let death control me or I can let God have control.  I’m bought with a price.  That price is worth giving my future, my talents, my weaknesses, my finances, my relationships, my future relationships, my schedule, my family, my everything to God.  I can waste my life or let God repair it.  I can walk as a dead man and in fear, or I can die to fear and as the walking dead, as a total believer who has been animated by His life, I can allow You, God, to determine what You want to do with this sacrifice of me.

Scripture says that You are a consuming fire.  That’s a scary thing for those who aren’t already dead.  But Jesus, You layed down Your life willingly out of complete and total love for us.  You received the full wrath of God, that consuming fire that we should have received.  I’m asked to lay down my life willingly out of complete and total love for You.  I must choose death to other things.  I must choose life in You.  This is my free choice.  I can live according to my flesh or spirit.  Or, I can allow the spiritual and physical to come together.  I can submit my flesh to Your spirit.  I can die to self and my desires and live to You.

I can die to what I want and live to Your desires.  I can delight myself in the Lord and understand the beauty of sacrifice.  Lord, make me an acceptable sacrifice.  May I so delight in You that I would be willing to die to everything of me and of the world that is not of You.  May I not only be created after Your image, but will You, please, build me into Your likeness as I continue to learn to surrender to You and die to self more and more every day as You place choices before me in my life.  May our relationship always be the deciding force in every choice I make.

More Than A Coincidence

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Jesus answered and said unto them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”  John 2:19

Lord, I really think this is more than just coincidence.  In my “daydreaming” session with You this morning as I was brushing my teeth it was all about our body as the temple of the Lord.  So I have to think that this is where You want me today.  This is where You and I will focus our attention, on our body, the temple of the Lord, Your temple.

Now, what started me thinking on the body as Your temple, Lord, I mean, beside You putting it on my mind?  Well, I suppose, simply brushing my teeth started it.  Because brushing my teeth reminds me of my dear, dear friend Jessica who is a full time missionary in the Philippines.  She’s a dentist.  And I’ve learned more in the last four years since we’ve become close about brushing my teeth than I have in my whole life!

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Not only that, but one of the mission organizations that she partners with is CCI.  And I was recently able to sit in on their Community Health Education (CHE) teacher training sessions.  I loved it.  It’s a holistic approach to teaching people health care.  What does that mean?  It means caring for aspects of spirit, soul, and body when teaching.  It doesn’t matter if it’s dental care, devotion, how to govern a small group, or how to plant in small areas.  Not just the physical is covered.

So, this morning, I was thinking holistically with You, Lord.  And I was thinking about teaching dental hygiene to kids.  And what if a kid said, “I can’t stand the taste of toothpaste!”  Why keep brushing?  Which led me to think about the value of their body to You, that each of us was created to be a temple of the Lord, Your temple.  Holistically, we were created to be Your temple, for You to dwell inside.  After Adam and Eve’s fall, sin robbed us of that automatic indwelling.  Now, we are holistically born with a hole, a hole that is designed to be filled with You, because we were created to be Your temple, each one of us.   So it matters how we care for our bodies, these temples.  And it matters what comes out of these bodies, our temples.

So, it’s pretty amazing to me that this morning as I read Your Word, You brought that up.  “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”  That day, around 2000 years ago, You had just shaken things up in the “physical” temple in Jerusalem.  They had been misusing the temple court by selling the things needed for the offerings in a way to make gain.  And they shouldn’t even have been selling anything in the temple court.  So You overthrew the tables and scared the living daylights out of the moneychangers and sellers and drove them out.  So the Jewish leaders there wanted to know what kind of sign You were going to show them so they would know You really had the authority to do what You just did.  I’m not sure why You needed a sign.  They should have already never have let it happen.  But I guess that’s what happens when you turn a blind eye to true righteousness.

Well, then You give one of those answers again that is a play on words.  “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”  And right away they think of the temple of Jerusalem.  “It took 40 years to build and you are going to tear it down in three days?  That’s incredulous!”  But John tells us that You were speaking of Your body.  And today, we know that is true.  It was torn down, crucified for us.  Three days You spent in the grave and then, THEN, YOU ROSE!

Lord, You always set the example for us.  So thank You for reminding me that just as Your body was the temple of God, so is mine.  But it’s not only about taking care of my temple (Your temple!), and letting the right things go into and out of the temple, but it’s also about knowing how and when to sacrifice my temple.  I need to know who I owe everything to, who I am dependent upon, who makes me to even exist.

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6, “But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit…Don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which you have of God, and you are not your own?  For you were bought with a price:  therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (1 Cor. 6:17, 19, 20)  Seems like You want us to deal with things holistically here, Lord, mind, body, soul, spirit, actions.  They all belong to You.

Because if I read the things Paul shares earlier in that chapter, it’s not just running away from doing bad things, and it’s not just doing good things; it’s about making sacrifices like suffering ourselves to be defrauded or allowing ourselves to suffer wrong, so we don’t have to be the one to hurt someone else.  It means caring more about mending a relationship than having to be right.  It means being honest about our struggles with other brothers and sisters in the faith.  I guess this isn’t the kind of temple we are used to.  Who would have thought that a purified temple didn’t have a perfect paint job?  Who would have thought that God’s holy temple would constantly have to have maintenance to keep it holy?

So, why brush if it’s yucky?  For the same reason that Christ suffered the cross for us.  Out of love for the Lord, out of delight in Him, I care for my body, I care for others, and I honor and obey Him in all I do.  For the love of You and by the power of Your love, I brush my teeth, I wash my hands and body, I eat right, I talk right, I read the right things, I choose not to argue and have to be right, I give things up.  But I can’t do it on my own.  I am so glad that my temple is filled with You.  I never have to do this alone.

Well, Lord, I am so grateful that You are continually teaching me to be more like You.  And I’m glad that You use things like toothbrushes and toothpaste, and dentist friends, and organizations like CCI to teach these things through the power of Your Word and Your love.  It’s amazing that You choose out of love to make us Your holy temples.  But we can only be Your temples if we have allowed Your Holy Spirit to fill us and continually make us pure and holy and more and more like You.  Lord, I thank You that You began that work in me when I was fifteen.  I remember the moment.  And I am so glad that You are continually maintaining the work You have begun.  And Lord, I look forward to You adding more and more temples to Your kingdom every day.  Make me a beautiful temple, Lord, beautiful like You so that others want to be temples too.  Lord, thank You that nothing is just by coincidence.