Posted in 2022 Lent Devotions

Get out of here!

“Mirror of the Passion” Lent devotion for April 11, 2022. Photo by Harry Gillen on Unsplash

And Jesus entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers.” (Luke 19:45-46)

After Solomon built the first temple in Jerusalem, one of the highlights of the dedication was his prayer. He knew that God couldn’t be kept in a box, even one the size of the temple. But the temple reminded people that God would hear their prayers and respond with grace.

By the time of Jesus, the temple had been destroyed, rebuilt, and enhanced. Currency exchange and livestock sales drowned out the prayers of God’s people. What a zoo – literally!

It drove Jesus nuts. “Not in my house!” He tipped tables, threw chairs, and chased everyone out, both man and beast. “My house shall be a house of prayer.”

Just imagine you’ve finally gotten to Jerusalem. Just like last year, you lined up at the temple to buy a couple of pigeons to bring to the priest for your sacrifice. You’ve done this every year for as long as you can remember. Just before it’s your turn to make a purchase, a man cuts in line, starts pushing people around and throwing furniture. You say, “Hey, what’s your problem? I would have let you go first. Calm down. All you had to do was ask.”

Or, you’ve got your little table set up at the temple. You’ve only got a few goats to sell this year. They’ll go quickly. “How can I help you, sir? Hey, take it easy, you’re gonna hurt someone! Those are my goats!”

It’s crazy. Jesus must be out of his mind. But you know what? If you showed up at your house and saw a guy selling tacos from a truck in your driveway, you’d lose it too. “What’s the matter, mister? Don’t you like tacos?” That’s not the point. This is my house. Get out here! I’d be throwing chips and salsa around too!

For some reason, we allow religion to become transactional. We come to church with an offering in exchange for a rite or ceremony. It breaks my heart when someone asks, “How much would it cost to have my child baptized?”

I think that’s how Jesus felt. His heart was broken. He was in Jerusalem to pick up the tab for sin. And these folks were cutting into his business.

Not in my house.

I’m just here to pray, Lord.

Posted in 2022 Lent Devotions

Jesus’ classroom

“Mirror of the Passion” Lent devotion for March 16, 2022. Photo by Dom Fou on Unsplash

“When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me.” (Luke 22:53)

I like to imagine what it would have been like to be there in the temple day after day listening to Jesus teach. I’ve read his words on the printed page and heard them read aloud many times. But just imagine being there, hearing his voice as he tells a parable, answers questions, and teaches about the end times.

A lot of Jesus’ temple teaching towards the end of his life was prompted by questions. “Who gave you the authority to teach?” “Do we have to pay taxes?” “What do you think of divorce?” “What are the signs of the temple’s destruction?”

Jesus’ answers to those questions stepped on a lot of toes. His stories pointed out the unbelief and hypocrisy of the audience. It got real quiet real quick. They stopped asking questions.

What questions would you like to ask Jesus? A lot of folks tell me they have a whole list ready to go for that day when they get to see him face to face. You know, there might be a line. But we’ll have time. Lots of it. Eternity.

Those who got a glimpse of heaven in the bible didn’t ask a lot of questions. Jacob was awed and afraid (Genesis 28:16,17). Isaiah was overwhelmed (Isaiah 6). At the transfiguration, Peter babbled about putting up tents (Luke 9:33). Stephen wanted forgiveness for his murderers (Acts 7:60). John passed out at the sight of Jesus (Revelation 1:17). When that day comes, I think I’ll have other things on my mind besides, “Why did you create mosquitos?” or “Why weren’t you there when I needed you?”

The apostle Paul wrote, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known” (1 Cor. 13:12). Right now we have a lot of questions. But it sounds like one day, we’ll understand.

Over the years, I’ve had teachers who were interesting. I’ve had professors who were brilliant. Some were inspiring. Rarely was an instructor all three. I went out of my way to enroll in their classes.

Jesus taught in the temple every. People came back day after day. They hung on his words. Those who sent to arrest Jesus came back empty-handed, because, “No one ever spoke like this man!” (John 7:46). They forgot what they were supposed to do!

What do you think? Would you come to the temple day after day to hear Jesus teach? (You can sit next to me.)

I can’t wait to be in your class, Lord. Amen.

Posted in Lent devotions

Every day at the temple

“Scenes from the passion” Lent devotion for Wednesday, March 10, 2021. Photo by SPOTSOFLIGHT on Pixabay.com.

And Jesus said to them, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But let the Scriptures be fulfilled.” (Mark 14:48-49)

Since the temple wasn’t a formal place of teaching like the synagogue, I think we would call what Jesus was doing at the temple “street preaching.” People gathered around Jesus to hear him teach about the widow giving more than all the others, his sheep who know his voice, the greatest commandment and the resurrection. He also instructed them to watch out for the teachings of the scribes, who were in it for themselves.

Why didn’t the chief priests and scribes and elders just grab Jesus at the temple? Sometimes it was the crowds. Jesus was just too popular. Sometimes it was Jesus’ teaching. Some who were supposed to arrest him were instead fascinated by his words. It might have been fear. Jesus had quite a temper when he cleared all the animals and moneychangers from the temple.

Continue reading “Every day at the temple”
Posted in advent, Advent devotions, Devotions

2020 Advent devotion: Glory fills the temple

“Live and in person” Advent devotion for December 12, 2020. Read 1 Kings 8:10-11 and Psalm 11.

Finally, after seven years of construction, the temple in Jerusalem is finished and furnished. Priests bring the ark of the covenant into the inner sanctuary. “When the priests came out of the Holy Place, a cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord” (1 Kings 8:10,11). The cloud of God’s presence which had covered Mt. Sinai, had led the people through the desert and had filled the tabernacle now took up residence in the magnificent temple built by Solomon.

Solomon’s dedication prayer recognizes that the God of all creation certainly cannot be contained in a structure built by human hands. Yet for this occasion, God was indeed with them in a holy place only he could occupy. In the years to come, Solomon hoped that whenever there was trouble, the people would pray towards that place to remember God’s presence and receive his grace.

Many of you reading this probably remember “glorious” churches where you have worshiped. I remember the dedication of a new sanctuary for the church where I grew up. It seemed so big and the music was like nothing I had ever heard. I remember the dedication of the new sanctuary where I currently serve. It too was so big compared with where we previously gathered.

Many of you might also remember some of the glorious moments in churches where you worshiped. I vividly recall churches where I played trumpet with enormous, powerful organs whose sound filled every inch of the worship space. I have wonderful memories of baptizing, confirming, and marrying my children. I treasure the awesome moment of laying my hands on my son’s head, ordaining him into the ministry. I also can’t forget glorious moments on mission trips to Haiti or Kenya, where I worshiped in structures with tin roofs and dirt floors.

I’ll bet every believer has been in a space that seemed to be occupied by God. Or a moment when God seemed especially close. If God is indeed bigger than the universe He created and can do more than we ask or imagine, why would He choose to squeeze Himself into a temple, sanctuary or even a modest chapel? For that matter, why would He squeeze Himself into the human form of a baby born in Bethlehem, raised in Nazareth and crucified on Calvary? He must really want to be with us, live and in person!

Thank You, Lord, for the moments and spaces You have filled with Your presence. Amen.

Posted in Devotions, Lent

2020 Lent devotion #23 – Too much blood

 [David said,] “But this word of the Lord came to me: ‘You have shed much blood and have fought many wars. You are not to build a house for my Name, because you have shed much blood on the earth in my sight.’” (1 Chronicles 22:8)

I wonder how David felt as he spoke these words to his son, Solomon? He had worked so hard to unify the kingdom of Israel, defeat their enemies and be a man after God’s own heart. His psalms still inspire our hymns and praise songs to this day. Yet, he never worshiped in a temple. He never even got to see the temple. And God wouldn’t let him build the temple. Too much blood. He was a shepherd, a warrior and a king. But he would not be a builder. At least not the builder of God’s temple. 

Before he was king, throngs of people would sing, ““Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands.” That’s what David was known for. He was a hero. But that is a lot of blood. Tens of thousands of enemies killed. And that was before he ascended to the throne. For better or worse, that is his legacy. 

It’s not like David had a choice. There were many battles he had to fight. Victories and defeats. It was a violent, bloody period of history. The enemy was ruthless. You either kill them or they kill you. Peaceful moments were few and far between. 

A thousand years later, the son of David, Jesus, would be hailed as king. He would not take a single life. In fact, he would heal and restore many lives. The only blood shed would be his own, on the cross. And he would build a temple. The temple he would build would be made of believers, built on the foundation of the prophets and apostles, and he would be the cornerstone. 

Building projects often involve blood. I should know. Most of my projects mean cuts and blisters on my hands. Nothing as bloody as the wounds in Jesus’ hands and feet, though. Because he bled and died for me, I’ve been bought with a price and I not only belong to him, but my body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. God dwells in me and in his people, the church!

Thank you, Lord, for coming to dwell in me and my brothers and sisters in Christ. Amen.