The Holy and the Common

Ezekiel 42-43

Why is it that older churches and cathedrals seem to have an aura about them that is missing from newer Christian constructions? There is a special reverence that is shown to these historical places of worship, but why? They appear to be more “holy” than modern church structures–are they really or is it just perception?

In our reading today, we get more details about the temple complex being shown to Ezekiel. As I mentioned yesterday, one intention for the prophet in giving specifications to all of Israel was so they could imagine what it would be like. Another reason, which flows from first is to draw attention to God’s holiness and, in turn, Israel’s sinfulness. But why would imagining the temple lead to recognizing sin? This question and the ones in the above paragraph are tied together.

The idea of holiness in the Bible is connected with being different, set apart, or sacred. The God of the Bible is called holy; He is without sin, He is all powerful, He is worthy of worship and adoration. Yahweh is distinct from His creation. Though humans are made in His image, they have sins which separate them from God, showing Him to be holy and people common. When humans encounter God’s holiness, it leaves them in awe of His majesty and with awareness of their own sinfulness (see Isaiah 6). When you see a dirty object–even one you think is clean–held up to something that is flawless, every little blemish is revealed. That is what happens when humans meet God.

When we see older churches or cathedrals, we are looking at something different, uncommon, a building designed to be set apart from other constructions. Older places of worship are usually taller, more distinctive, and, dare I say, were built by people more reverent than us. They have brilliant stained glass, magnificent architecture, and invoke a deep sense of beauty. Modern churches, by contrast, aren’t much taller than most middle-class housing and, in most cities, are located every few blocks. They look dull in comparison, with nothing extraordinary to offer. Older churches appear more holy because they stand out more, while modern ones seem all too common.

Older churches and cathedrals were built as the place where humans go to encounter God, much like Jews viewed the temple. Many modern Christians understand they don’t have go to a building to worship God, but for most of Christian history the church building has been the place where followers of Christ have gathered to worship their creator, which is why those older churches were so grand. They wanted the building to reflect the holiness of the God they worshiped. God’s holiness causes people to recognize their own sinfulness. It’s no wonder that the dulling down of Christian architecture has mirrored a more laissez-faire attitude towards sin.

What should we do then? Should we go back to designing and building grand places of worship?

No. When Jesus left the curtain torn, the separation between the holy God and sinful humanity was broken. This means striving after good works and the sacrificing of rams and bulls is not the way to achieve holiness. Instead, we put our faith (believe) in the one responsible for ripping the veil in half and offer ourselves as living sacrifices to God. Because of the righteousness of the Messiah, we can be holy and the spirit of God can dwell in us, as we live as the temple of God (1 Cor. 3:16).

God’s holiness still causes us to recognize our own sin, but we don’t have to go to a grand building to see it. We encounter it through scripture, reading about God Himself or His son who reveals so much about Him. We see it in nature, looking through binoculars, telescopes, or with the naked eye. We see it when the Church (the people, not the building) acts as it was intended to. Thankfully God’s holiness doesn’t just reveal our sinfulness, but His love for us and willingness to forgive those who ask for it. What a holy, loving, and awesome God we serve!

– Joel Fletcher

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Ezekiel 42-43

Tomorrow we will read Ezekiel 44-45 as we continue on our

Majestic

Revelation 4

Revelation 4 10b 11

Where are some places you have been that could be described with the word “majestic”? Maybe somewhere like Niagara Falls, the Grand Canyon, Appalachian Mountains, the beach, redwood forests, etc. There are many things about these areas and more that make them majestic; however, there is one thing that links them all together. That is, their creator. God is what makes these scenes and places majestic.

This is what comes to mind when I read the imagery in Revelation chapter 4. All of the thrones and elders with crowns and different animals and faces and a rainbow, four faces and eyes everywhere. Flashes of lightning and thunder going on in the background. It is all just majestic, and for what reason? On the surface of this chapter I would say it is safe to say it is to illustrate the importance and demonstration of worship. To worship our God in a holy way because He is holy. It says in verse 11 that, “He is to receive glory…. for You created all things”. So, we ought to worship God in a holy majestic way as all of creation does as well.

As far as the in-depth meaning of all the imagery in this chapter you must research what each animal represents in that time and worldview of Judaism as well as understanding the importance of the use of certain gems in reference to objects and people.

Jesse Allen

Following the Alien Way

1 Peter 1

1 Peter 1 15 nasb

As we open the first letter from Peter, we find that he identifies himself as an apostle. This is a word that is rarely used outside of the church today. It translates to one who is sent. Peter says of himself, “I am one who is sent of Jesus Christ, I am his ambassador, his representative to you.” The you he refers to are all of those “living as aliens” across the region. I remember when I was a child, I would think of Marvin the Martian or some other made-up extra-terrestrial when I though of the word alien. Now I understand that an alien is simply one who is living in a place that is not their own. I now know that we, as servants of Christ, are living as aliens in a world that has turned itself over to follow evil. So, Peter is actually writing to us as well.

He continues by saying that we are chosen according to God’s foreknowledge. So, God knew the future enough to chose us as His servants for this time and to guide us to believe in His Son so we can enjoy life everlasting in His amazing Kingdom at the appointed time! WOW!!! It is incredible to think of the ways that God sets so many things in motion for our good, even when we have no idea of what He is setting up. We are set aside to obey Jesus and be cleansed by his blood. As if that was not enough Peter then asks that grace and peace be ours in the fullest! This is quite the blessing … and that is just the first 2 verses!

In the next three verses he reminds us that our inheritance is stored up where moth and rust cannot destroy. He says our hope is in resurrection and salvation is to be revealed in the last time. This is a beautiful reminder that the dead sleep and we will receive the promise together. In verse six Peter reminds us that the troubles of this time will pale in comparison to the blessings of the Kingdom of God, and this is where we draw our rejoicing from.

Verse thirteen says because of the gospel that has been preached to us we must be ready for action, with our hope fixed, because the world will continue to resist us for a time. Therefore, we must be obedient. We are called to be like Him.

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, 15 but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; 16 because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”     1 Peter 1:14-16 (NASB)

In the last parts of this chapter Peter again writes of what is imperishable. This time he is telling us that we were not saved by what is perishable, such as gold and silver (these even vary in worth today), but by what is eternal, the blood of Christ. “You have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and abiding word of God.” (1 Peter 1:23)

-Bill Dunn

A Lesson from Nicaragua: Community

 

Missions Spotlight: Nicaragua

alex davila

Alex Davila leads a small group Bible study in Nicaragua.  He also maintains a public YouTube channel and radio broadcast, sharing the Good News.  If you would like to check his website out (La Biblia y las religions: The Bible and religion), you can visit http://labibliaylasreligiones.com. He is also a perfect Spanish-English bilingual and would love to hear an encouraging message from you! 

 

Pictured above is Alex preaching at the Lima Church in Peru.  We love it when Alex accompanies us when we travel to Peru. 

 

Community is a compound word: common and unity.  This means that we are a group of people unified by what we have in common.  This is a perfect example of the Body of Christ: unity through common beliefs. Just like our human bodies are unified by the drive to survive, the body of believers are unified by Christ.

 

Sometimes, as Christians, we can get caught up in our differences.  Quarrels over wine vs. grape juice for communion, tattoos vs. no tattoos as a Christian, and Sunday school before or after the church service take place all over the nation.  Now, some of these quarrels seem silly, but you know as well as I do that feelings are hurt over simple differences in ideas.  In Galatians 5:6, Paul reminds us “for in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love”.  It is our faith, exemplified by our love, that counts, not the small differences (or similarities) we may have.

 

Today, I want to remind you that we have more in common with one another than we have differences.  The Church should be the tightest-knit group of people in the universe.  We should have the highest sense of morale and comradery.  Watching the Olympics gets me hyped as I see hockey teams, and ice skating duos, curling teams (yes, even curling can be exciting) accomplish big things together.  Their sense of togetherness and years of hard work to achieve a common goal awakens my drive to seize the day.  Guess what, we have GOD and His son, JESUS CHRIST living in US!!! Imagine the radical acts of love we can achieve with divine power, strength and grace living in us.   Jesus says that the world should be able to know who we are by how we love one another.  What are you doing to show your neighbor your radial love?

 

You have probably heard this verse before, but I want to take it back to its original Greek.  1 Corinthians 6:19 – “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?  You are not your own..”. All of the times that you and your are mentioned in this verse they are actually plural which translates from the Greek into English as ‘you all’. Grammatically, this is known as the second person plural, and something our English Bibles hide from us sometimes because we do not have a direct translation for the second person plural that sounds nice in English. The closet thing we have in English is ‘you all’ or if you are in the south then ‘y’all’. Can you imagine your Bible saying “do you not know that y’all’s bodies are a temple of the Holy spirit”? Due to the mistranslation of this verse into English people usually take this verse on an individual level. The meaning of this text then becomes a verse used to support exercise to keep your “temple” nice however what the author originally intended was to mean the body of Christ is the temple. This means that how we treat each other as the body directly correlates to what the temple is like. That is a very important statement! When we are angry with or hate our fellow believers, we are desecrating the new temple that God has set up.

 

If you look at how the temple was treated in the Old Testament we see how holy and sacred it was. We need to translate the holy aspect of the Old Testament temple to the body of Christ today. So what exactly does it look like to be holy to each other? It is patience, kindness, forgiveness, and love. Next time you want to be angry at someone remember that how you treat them affects the holiness of the temple, the place that God dwells. Reading the passage for its original meaning is much more difficult than a simple command to exercise and eat well.  It is a command on how we should be as a community. Try reading the passage in this way, “Do you not know that your community is a temple of the Holy spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God”. This is Paul lifting the community of believers to a higher level. I encourage you to take up that call and to bring even more glory to God’s community of believers.

 

The latter half of Acts 2 describes a true community of Christ.  The Church devoted themselves to teaching, to fellowship, to breaking bread together, to giving to the needy, and all the while with glad and sincere hearts (Acts 2:42-47).  Let’s reach out to each other.  Let’s strive to love each other in a radical way that makes the world hunger for what we have.

 

Reaching out is exactly what Alex is doing in Nicaragua with his radio ministry.  Our love doesn’t stop within our culture, or backyard or our nation; we are an international community.  Although we can’t break bread with our brothers and sisters in Nicaragua, we can encourage them even from afar.  Alex would love to hear from you!  Just a simple message saying hi, the church you attend, and that you are thinking of him can go a long way.  You can find him on Facebook under the name ‘Alexander Davila’.  Remember, he is a perfect bilingual, so no need to use a translator.  Radical love awaits us ❤

 

Love,

Josiah & Amber Cain

 

 

The Death of a King

Wednesday

Romans 5-8

There are a handful of ways to think about the meaning of the death of Jesus. From a Jewish point of view Jesus was killed because he was a false prophet. From a Roman point of view, he gathered a large following that was counter-cultural to Roman authority, so they executed him. Or if you’re a muslim, Jesus wasn’t killed at all on the cross. Almost all people recognize that Jesus actually did die, but the question is why? The New Testament has several different ways of understanding why Jesus died. These include, Jesus died to destroy the works of the devil, to satisfy God’s need for justice, to justify us apart from Torah or the law, and to give us eternal life. However, the most ubiquitous reason the New Testament gives as to why Jesus died, is that he died for our sins.

“Grace to you and peace from God our father and the Lord Jesus Christ who gave himself for our sins so that he might rescue us from this present evil age…” Gal.1.3-4

“…he bore our sins in his body on the cross…” I Pet. 2.24

“God demonstrates his own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” – Rom. 5.8

“…when he had taken the cup and given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, ‘drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sin’” – Matt. 26.27-28

The reason Jesus’ death is so significant is because it solves the problem of sin. Sin is a barrier between us and God, it is impossible for us to be in the presence of God because he is holy and perfect and we are not. Jesus’ death satisfies God’s need for justice. The cost of sin has been paid for by Jesus. So through Jesus we can have a renewed relationship with God through Jesus. Apart from Jesus, God sees us as worthy of wrath and death, he sees all our mistakes and rebellion. But in Jesus, he sees us being right before him and clean and pure. Because of Jesus we are able to be in the presence of God. Jesus’ death is the means by which we can enter the kingdom. Hope, forgiveness, contentedness, and so much more can be found when someone accepts the gift of Jesus’ death for them.

For someone to be restored to God and to be a part of the kingdom when it comes, they must accept Jesus’ death. Through Jesus’ death all can live.

-Jacob Rohrer-

 

 

Do what the Lord requires! (Leviticus 8-11)

Tuesday, August 23

Nadab_w_Abihu_C-230
We begin our day’s reading with 2 chapters which provide a detailed depiction of the ordination ceremony for Aaron and his sons.  They were chosen by God to act as the priests for the people.  It was a huge honor and responsibility.  Their ordination and the start of their ministry was an 8 day affair with Moses giving directions from God, and Aaron and his sons carefully following each of the instructions.

In 8:35 Moses tells Aaron and sons, “You must stay at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting day and night for seven days and do what the Lord requires, so you will not die”  (perhaps a bit of foreshadowing there?).   And in 9:6, “Then Moses said, ‘This is what the Lord has commanded you to do, so that the glory of the Lord may appear to you.”  Both of these verses give different reasons for obeying God’s instructions – so you will not die, and so God’s glory may appear to you.

In Chapter 10 two of Aaron’s sons, the newly appointed priests (Nadab and Abihu) receive the penalty of death by fire from the Lord for offering,  “unauthorized fire before the Lord, contrary to his command.” (10:1)   Perhaps their pride had already led them astray (“Hey, look at us, God made us priests, we are HOT stuff”).  Perhaps they were mixing clean and unclean,  holy and common (trying to call holy something that wasn’t).  Or perhaps they just thought they had a better way of doing things . . . but . . . they didn’t.  God is God and we are not.  And perhaps it was this very idea that God was teaching his children when Aaron and remaining sons were told to not mourn but to carry on with their priestly duties while the rest of Israel did the mourning.

I know it all seems harsh to us, but it also reminds me of a teacher at the start of a new school year.  The teacher sets the rules (and knows why they are good rules, even when the students sometimes don’t).  The wise teacher will enforce the rules with the set consequences early on in the school year.  If the students see the teacher means business, order and learning are much more likely to occur throughout the rest of the year.  God had given the rules and set the consequences and clearly stated the reasons to obey.  Nadab and Abihu were either intentionally pushing the limits (deliberate sin), or blisslessly ignorant (unintentional sin), or just thought they had a better way.  Whatever the case, they (and the Israelites) saw that God means business.

Following the death, the Lord speaks to Aaron and says, “You MUST distinguish between the holy and the common, between the unclean and the clean, and you MUST teach the Israelites all the decrees the Lord has given them.” (10:10).  Thankfully, our merciful God does not always strike with fire . . . but we know he is right when he does, he can, he has and he most definitely will again.

 
What has God been commanding you to do lately?  How are you doing in following his directions?  What reasons do you have for obeying God?   Any excuses for disobeying – or doing it your own way?   Are you perhaps missing out on seeing his glory because you are not being fully obedient? Any unholy things in your life that you are keeping around when they ought to be tossed?   Are there any areas of your life where you have tried to tell God you have a “better way”?   Any danger areas that need to be resolved – NOW?

– Marcia Railton