Injunction Junction



S (Scripture):
Ezra 4:1 When the enemies of Judah and Benjamin learned that the former exiles were building a temple for the Lord God of Israel, 4:2 they came to Zerubbabel and the leaders and said to them, “Let us help you build, for like you we seek your God and we have been sacrificing to him from the time of King Esarhaddon of Assyria, who brought us here.” 4:3 But Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the rest of the leaders of Israel said to them, “You have no right to help us build the temple of our God. We will build it by ourselves for the Lord God of Israel, just as King Cyrus, the king of Persia, has commanded us.” 4:4 Then the local people began to discourage the people of Judah and to dishearten them from building.

O (Observation): The locals wanting to help the Jews re-build the Temple (and the Temple walls) feel snubbed when their request to help is turned down.  Whether the Jews were right in refusing this help, another path of obstacles was set before them in God’s plans to have the Temple rebuilt.  

The text doesn’t indicate that these locals had it out for Jews, but now they are set against the building program, for sure.  They sign petitions, letting the rulers of the land know that the Jews are insurrectionists, wishing to tear away from Persia’s domain.  

A (Application):  We can be pretty hurtful at times.  When someone snubs us, we can find all sorts of reasons for us to fight against others, or even God directly.  

The main factor remains, though: God was acting before this upheaval, and God will continue to act.  Problem is, we don’t know how God will act. 

With eyes of faith, we can usually look back and see where/when God acted.  Looking forward, however, is a stumbling block for us.  We may have a vision for what God wants, but we need to be willing to constantly discern God’s call to us and our response.  

If that vision gets stagnant (or we remain complacent), we could soon find ourselves turning into those signing petitions to get our way, regardless of God’s plan. 

Where are you sensing a call from God?  What external obstacles might be hindering a breakthrough for you? (Once identified, pray for grace!)

P (Prayer):  Lord, we want your vision to be revealed to us.  When we get stuck, move us from our throne of complacency. Amen. 

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Happy Lent!

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S (Scripture): 2 Chronicles 29:8 King Hezekiah continues: The Lord was angry at Judah and Jerusalem and made them an appalling object of horror at which people hiss out their scorn, as you can see with your own eyes. 29:9 Look, our fathers died violently and our sons, daughters, and wives were carried off because of this. 29:10 Now I intend to make a covenant with the Lord God of Israel, so that he may relent from his raging anger.

O (Observation): So some kings follow God, and others outright disobey God. And while King Hezekiah starts off faithfully, going so far as to cleanse the Temple, one remains suspect. How long will Hezekiah obey God before he goes off the rails?

Hezekiah establishes a covenant, which is all good and well, but as a sinful being, we can’t put too much faith in that covenant.

A covenant we can put faith in is God’s covenant with Abraham. Kings come, Kings go…but the Lord remains.

A (Application): As a 36 year-old, I can remember several times re-committing myself to God in the Lenten season. I treat it too often like a New Year’s resolution. And as such, fall of the wagon, usually.

But over the last few years, I’ve been learning more about God’s covenant with all believers. This covenant establishes a relationship between God and us, essentially making us one with God, never to be separated. I’ve been putting more faith in that covenant than any covenant I establish.

Lenten disciplines are about being reminded that God is faithful, even when we are not. But putting forth some effort is NOT discouraged. Sure, we will fall short, but as Dallas Willard says, “Grace is not opposed to effort, just earning.”

I encourage you to re-commit your life, your finances, your time to the Lord. See where God is calling out to you. Respond accordingly.

I’d love to work with you through these thoughts and feelings. Leave a comment or contact me through the Contact page on this site.

Happy Lent! (Is that a thing? Maybe it is now.)

P (Prayer): Lord, we are frail, we are fickle. Remind us that you have established an everlasting covenant with us, made perfect in Jesus Christ. Remind us of this daily, and give us the guidance and strength necessary to dig daily into your Word and help us to see your grace come alive in your Word and in our lives. Amen.

Every Day I’m Temple-ing

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S (Scripture): Psalm 27:4 I have asked the Lord for one thing – this is what I desire! I want to live in the Lord’s house all the days of my life, so I can gaze at the splendor of the Lord and contemplate in his temple.

O (Observation): Not a bad way to go out. Dwelling in the house of the Lord, that is. King David, proposed author of the psalms, saw quite a bit of adversity in his days. Chased, starved, under duress…he needed some reprieve.

So he calls out that his desire is to stay in the Lord’s house forever.

And one might take this as staying literally in that place, or living everyday as if one is the Lord’s house – in that protection and awesome splendor.

Either way…a nice way to live.

A (Application): As a child of God, I hope for the same thing as King David. Yet I don’t feel called to be huddled up inside of a building. These last few days of winter weather in Nashville have us cooped up inside and we’re starting to go a bit stir crazy.

I hope to find a way to live every day as if in the protection of The Lord. The Lord’s temple is the space in which God’s presence is most fully known.

In these days, God has come to us through His Son. In Jesus’ resurrection, God’s Spirit bursts forth, thereby giving us all full access to God’s presence.

With that presence, you and I are called to live and play and pray fiercely and fearlessly. God is with us.

In this season of Lent, my family and I are seeking ways to be reminded of God’s presence in our everyday lives. I will keep a food log, being reminded that my body is a temple of the Lord. My wife is wearing a cross pendant for Lent. Our son will read Scripture 5 minutes per day. Our middle daughter will make a bracelet with the word “God” out of beads.

These are some of the ways we will be reminded that God is with us, and that we can be bold, brave believers for the Lord.

P (Prayer): Lord, guide us through these 40 days of Lent. Remind us that you are with us every day. Amen.

Even THEM, Lord?

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S (Scripture): 1 Kings 8:41 “Foreigners, who do not belong to your people Israel, will come from a distant land because of your reputation. 8:42 When they hear about your great reputation and your ability to accomplish mighty deeds, they will come and direct their prayers toward this temple. 8:43 Then listen from your heavenly dwelling place and answer all the prayers of the foreigners. Then all the nations of the earth will acknowledge your reputation, obey you like your people Israel do, and recognize that this temple I built belongs to you.

O (Observation): Even as the Temple is being built for God’s people, Solomon has the wisdom to see that the Temple is for God, and not just God’s people…that the Temple is a dwelling place through which God calls people to Himself.

A (Application): How do we view our church buildings today? As Temples, or projects? Has our consumeristic society coopted our building usage? Are we more about meeting peoples’ needs, or making sure that even foreigners (non-believers) might come and believe.

P (Prayer): Lord, remind us that our Temples are not to be worshipped. Remind us that you are present in our Temples, and that you welcome all people into your grade. Amen.

The Temple Curtain, Torn

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S (Scripture): Luke 23:44 It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, 23:45 because the sun’s light failed. The temple curtain was torn in two. 23:46 Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And after he said this he breathed his last.

O (Observation): Upon Jesus’ death, something very peculiar happens: the Temple curtain is torn in two. Some debate which particular curtain, but I’m assuming this is THE curtain that separated the priests from the Holy of Holies, which symbolizes AND IS God’s very presence.

And with the Temple Curtain torn…access to God’s presence is granted to all! This was unprecedented! God has always worked through some type of mediator or priest, so as not to sully God’s presence with anything “unclean.” This shifted the paradigm. Sure, God showed up to individual people before, but God mainly was present around a certain object (the Ark – the box, not the boat : ) or a certain place (The Temple).

Now, God is loose in the world, and access is open to all.

A (Application): Lots of times, churches can be overly protective about who can assist with leading worship, or who should be allowed to interpret scripture. These roles are to be treated with scrutiny and respect, for sure, but at what cost?

Thankfully, as a Lutheran Christian, I grew up around pastors and people who respectfully and fully engaged people of all ages in worship leadership and missional efforts.

As I see it, though, the Church has built up new “temple curtains.” I think the most well-defined temple curtain we’ve built up goes around our church buildings. (That is, we give then impression that God is MOST present here…in this building.).

Now, I’m extremely grateful for the beautiful building in which we gather for worship, prayer, fellowship, etc., and I don’t regret the renovations we just went through to keep it in good condition. But I also feel that most congregations have become insular. We have forgotten about the neighborhoods that surround our churches and the people who are hurting out there.

Since we have full access to God, let’s use it. Let’s dig into scripture daily, pray, worship, serve, give of our time and our money. Let’s embrace the temple curtain being torn so that each and every one of us can have full access to God. And as we discern where God is calling us, let’s bring God to them, outside of our church buildings. Let’s engage folks with a God who grants full access to all.

P (Prayer): Lord of the Temple and Lord of the Way, guide us in our places of comfort and challenge us as we take the Good News of who you are to our surrounding communities, schools, and workplaces. Amen.