Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Dwelling Place

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How many places have you worshipped in your life time? I have always loved going to different churches and experiencing worship. I have had the privilege of attending many different worship services in a variety of settings. As a little girl, I attended in a country church surrounded by corn fields and pastures. In high school, we moved to a different church that was on a hill in the city next to a busy street. I have worshipped in a clay and brick building in the middle of the Amazon as well as an acoustically-rich Cathedral in California. I have sat in a tiny hospital room and worshipped alongside family as we watch a loved one pass away as well as celebrate with residents in a Children’s Hospital. I have sat around a campfire overlooking a calm and peaceful lake and I have been on top of a mountain over-looking miles of trees. Hidden down a path in the woods, I have worshipped in a beautiful chapel surrounded by a pond as well as a warehouse-like brick building among the homeless men of New York City. Although the setting of a worship service may be beautiful; vaulted ceilings, stained glass windows, and polished pews, nothing will compare with the temple we who proclaim the name of Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior will experience one day:

“A New Heaven and a New Earth
1 Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,”[a] for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’[b] or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
6 He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. 7 Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. 8 But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”

The New Jerusalem, the Bride of the Lamb

9 One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” 10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. 11 It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. 12 It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. 13 There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. 14 The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
15 The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls. 16 The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia[c] in length, and as wide and high as it is long. 17 The angel measured the wall using human measurement, and it was 144 cubits[d] thick.[e] 18 The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. 19 The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, 20 the fifth onyx, the sixth ruby, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth turquoise, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst.[f] 21 The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of gold, as pure as transparent glass.
22 I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. 24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. 25 On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. 26 The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. 27 Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”
Revelation 21 NIV

Notice shortly after the measurements taken by the angel are described in verses 15-21, verse 22 states something that, to me is unfathomable. “I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.” Think about that. How beautiful of a picture that will be. God will be our dwelling place of worship: not a building built by human hands or even a setting on top of a hill—these are but slums in comparison to temple we will worship in one day in the presence of the Lord!

What do we do then until that wonderful day is upon us? In the letter to the church of Ephesus, Paul touches on this subject of worship:
13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
We are to worship our chief cornerstone, Jesus Christ and through him, we become a place for God to dwell. 1 Corinthians 3 re-iterates that we are the God’s temple through Jesus Christ:

“10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. 14 If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames. 16 Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple.”

Is that not great? We have the privilege of being a temple of the living God now! God could have dwelt in anywhere else but he chose to dwell in you! Do what the Word says and continue to build this temple on Jesus. Do not put your hope in temporary materials but rather in a firm foundation found in the Word of God. And keep in mind there will come a day when we will enter a temple far greater than anything we could ever imagine as it states in Isaiah 2

The Mountain of the LORD
1 In the last days
the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established
as the highest of the mountains;
it will be exalted above the hills,
and peoples will stream to it.
2 Many nations will come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
to the temple of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways,
so that we may walk in his paths.”

Monday, November 15, 2010

Conforming Out of Reverence for Christ

Image is compliments of my amazingly-talented and beautiful friend, Heidi :)

Instructions for Christian Households

21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing[b] her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”[c] 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

A girl very close and dear to me expressed a degree of disappointment after hearing a message on this passage. It wasn’t that she saw the passage of scripture as offensive or even really that difficult but rather she saw the passage as something she could not apply in her season of singleness. Although I can relate to the disappointment at times (ok the girl was me!ha), I cannot thank God for the revelation of scripture passages like this to me in efforts to prepare my heart for what may come when I do enter into a relationship someday, but at the real-life application right now! We need to see scripture the way God has intended it: in the light of our relationship with Christ and NOT in our current season of life, circumstance or situation. Think of Paul! He wrote the passage (inspired by God of course) and he didn’t touch marriage with a ten-foot pole! There is obviously something to be obtained from the passage no matter what your ‘status on facebook’ maybe!

I know I could go at this from a thousand different angles and we could sit an talk about it for hours however, I wanted to make this short and sweet and to the point (this is rare for me!) Right away in verse 21 Paul tells the church of Ephesus to “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” I feel like that verse alone summarizes what is to follow. When you submit to one another it’s not just to be nice to one another; it’s an act of worship towards Christ. This concept is repeated throughout several other passages of scripture (Matt. 25:36; Matt. 5:16;1 Peter 2:12) The passage that came to my mind as a parallel to this one in Ephesians is John 15:1-17. In this passage, Christ talks about Himself being the vine and we are the branches. A vine and it’s branches are one; together; connected; if you were to chop off a branch, you would be impacting the entire vine. When you accept Christ as both Lord and Savior of your life, you are submit to Him and ultimately, conform yourself to Him (Romans 8:29). This concept of unity is nothing new—glance back to Genesis 1:26-27. God created us in his image, “in our likeness” (Ding, ding, ding—Trinity passage: another topic for another day!). 1 and 2 Corinthians address this as well: “And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man.” (15:49); “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (3:18). Colossians 3:9-11 states this:

“9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.”

In a culture that tells you that “You must define yourself! Make yourself unique! Stand out—get attention,” it is pure ludicrous to even think about conforming to the humble image of Jesus Christ. There’s a song by LaCrae that talks about being a rebel and conforming to Christ rather than the world. On this particular recording I have, John Piper is in the background preaching about what a “true rebel” looks like. When people think that they are actually ‘rebeling’ or ‘defining themselves’ and attempting to set themselves apart from the crowd, they are actually conforming to the world. HA somewhat of a dizzy concept! But going back to the passage in Ephesians, we read that;

“31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”[c] 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.”

Becoming one flesh means that you conform to one another and are represented as ‘one person.’ No, I am not saying that you loose all identity when you become married and you are completely changed into the person you married (although, I’m convinced that couples begin to look like one another do they not? Isn’t that crazy? HA, it’s kind of fun to look through pictures of couples and totally see how they somewhat look like each other).

The big take-home message that I was able to take from this passage more than the obvious submission to one another/wedding passage was that if you cannot conform to the likeness of Christ by submitting to Him as both Lord and Savior of your life, marriage is going to be pretty challenging! If you don’t experience the self-sacrifice daily in your relationship with Christ who is perfect, how do you think you’ll react when you try doing life with another person who is imperfect! So rather react like my friend :) to passages of scripture addressing the topic of marriage in disappointment, apply what it’s saying right now to your relationship with Christ. Allow the Spirit to conform yourself to the image of Christ by being submissive in areas you just don’t quite want to ‘give up.’ I don’t have to be married to know how difficult this concept of conformity is; all you have to do is visit a newly wed couple after the ‘honeymoon phase’ and you’ll learn real quick about the long and bumpy road ahead of them!

Friday, November 5, 2010

He Is Jealous For Me.

He is Jealous For Me.

Do you think it’s possible to be jealous of what you do have? Seems a bit bizarre does it not? Generally, we think of jealousy as being an act of desiring something we do not have. How often do you find yourself envious of someone else—both outwardly in your actions and subliminally inside of you? A lot! I know I catch my mind drifting towards an attitude of jealousy. But what about being jealous of what you DO have? It’s possible!

I was reading in James this morning and was reading over a passage of scripture that is always convicting; take a look:

“Submit Yourselves to God
1 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
4 You adulterous people,[a] don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.
Very convicting passage is it not? You may be thinking to yourself, “Well the jealousy described here is not towards something I have, it is very obvious that the jealousy is towards something I do not have (vs.2). Well what does this next verse say?

“5 Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us[b]?”

This verse literally opened up my mind to the character of God. Read it again. Again. Ok, let’s think about the definition of jealousy that we are use to: desiring something we do not have; now try and put that definition into this passage you discover, God’s jealousy is a different kind of jealousy. It says that “he jealously longs for the spirit HE CAUSED TO DWELL IN US.” What? Well, if HE caused it to dwell in us, why is he jealous of it? It’s interesting isn’t it? Let’s read on.

“6 But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:
“God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble.”[c]
7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
11 Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister[d] or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. 12 There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?”

God is jealous for us. (Not just a lyric from David Crowder Band) But do you realize that He doesn’t need us—really. Do not get all puffed-up thinking that the God of this universe; the Alpha and Omega NEEDS us but rather he WANTS us. We make friendship with the world in the way we live our lives; in the way we allow our minds to think and how quickly we give our heart away to unfulfilling pleasures. That’s when God grows jealous: when He sees our actions, our thoughts and our hearts devoted to something or even someone else. Think of a husband who is madly in love with his wife and yet she finds another man interesting; she finds more joy in recognition for her work or she is consumed with the vanity in adorning herself. James could not have used a more perfect term in describing us, the Bride of Christ: “You adulterous people.” Don’t you realize that you cannot even claim the spirit that God has placed inside of you to be your doing? Who we are, our innermost being---our soul, is not even meant for us---do you get that?
He gives grace. Ha, I feel like the sun should come over the horizon when I say that phrase. He gives grace knowing that we are quick to fall into a state of being haughty and proud—even after we have come into a relationship with him. That’s why the passage goes on to remind us that “God opposes the proud, but shows favor to the humble.” It’s hard to be humble! How do we do it? Is it putting ourselves down? NO! Oh man, if I have learned anything about humility is that the biggest lie of it is thinking less of ourselves in the effort of appearing to be humble. I believe I heard it first from Reverand Jack Graham my sophomore year of college. It was super early in the morning and I was getting ready; doing my usual ‘Man, you got a lot of areas to work on in your life speech” when Mr. Graham’s voice popped the conversation-cloud above my head with the words “ Do you not realize that humility is not in the act of thinking less of yourself but rather, true humility is when you think of yourself less.” Humility comes when we think of God and others before we think of ourselves. The passage says that we are to submit ourselves to God. Resist the devil. Don’t give me that “ But it’s so hard!” Do you think that I do not know how difficult it can be when a stupid voice or thought is planted in your mind and quickly takes root; choking the pleasant fruits of the Spirit and joyful freedom in Christ we are suppose to experience? He has no power! Resist him and go on with your day! (I am somewhat frustrated. Ok, down-right angry at the amount of life I have wasted worrying and being anxious—about nothing so please understand I am preaching to myself more than anyone!).
Draw near to God. My good friend and beautiful sister in Christ, Ashley is so quick to remind me of just how good God is and why He is worthy of praise. How does one draw near to God? Draw near to God by recognizing Him for who He is. Read Psalms—David wrote countless Psalms about the Glory of God and why He is worthy of ALL praise and HONOR and GLORY. That in itself will humble you because you’ll be seeing yourself in the light of who God is. The next two verses are depressing are they not? Ha. “Go over there and roll around in ashes, mourn, wail. Man when was the last time you wailed? When you were like three after falling off of your tricycle right? James is asking us to take the lowest position possible and for us to recognize the hostility of sin; the loneliness of sin; the devastation of sin; the disgusting nature of sin; the scratching your finger nails on the chalkboard of sin—you get what I’m saying? It’s nasty. It’s putrid. It should make us vomit and the minute we sin, it should tear us up inside so much that the wailing we did as a three year old is nothing in comparison to a heart’s cry discovering it’s disobedience to Our Loving Father. You guys. It’s not about us. Do you get it? Get over the jealousy junk: the pride junk in your life ok? Quit swimming around in it and flee from it; you have legs; you have the Word of God and you have the Holy Spirit ( the same one who raised Christ from the dead.) You really CAN do all things through Christ who gives you strength…..really!
Why make God jealous of what He already has? Yes, HE gives grace. But why not just submit yourself to Him and allow Him to show favor to you and to lift you up? Who cares about being lifted up here on earth. One of my all-time most favorite songs is by the band Mercy Me called “Crazy.” I think it fits in well with the concept of choosing the world over God. I encourage you to read the passage and allow the Spirit to just move in you and then listen to the song.
Youtube Video:
Why I would I spend my life longing for the day that it would end..
Why would I spend my time pointing to another man..
Isn't that crazy

How can I find hope in dying, with promises unseen..
How can I learn your way is better
In everything I'm taught to be..
Isn't that crazy

I have not been called to the wisdom of this world..
But to a God who's calling out to me..
And even though the world may think
I'm losing touch with reality
It would be crazy
To choose this world over eternity

And if I boast let me boast
Of filthy rags made clean
And if I glory let me glory
In my Savior's suffering
Isn't that crazy

And as I live this daily life
I trust you for everything
And I will only take a step
When I feel You leading me
Isn't that crazy

I have not been called to the wisdom of this world..
But to a God who is calling out to me..
And even though the world my think
I'm losing touch with reality
It would be crazy
To choose this world over eternity

Call me crazy
You can call me crazy
Call me crazy

I have not been called to the wisdom of this world..
But to a God who is calling out to me..
And even though the world may think that
I'm losing touch with reality
It would be crazy, It would be crazy, It would be crazy
To choose this world over eternity

Isn't That crazy..
Call me crazy
You can call me crazy
Call me crazy
Lyrics from: