The Temple and the Big Story

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(c) Tebe Interesno

God being with his people is one of the greatest themes and grandest promises in the Bible. The Bible starts with this picture and the Bible ends with this picture. It is one of the key components of the covenant and is repeated over and over again throughout the Scriptures.

But for much of the Bible’s story God is removed from his people.

In the garden Adam and Eve are thrown from the garden and an angel is put in place to stop them re-entering. They are cut off from God. And God’s presence that was once found on earth, in the garden, from then on is localised and associated with heaven.

Then in the wilderness Moses met with God in the Tent of Meeting which was set up away from the camp, on the edge. Once the tabernacle is constructed God then commands that it be placed dead-centre of the Israelite camp. God would camp and live with his people.

Yet even this presence in and with His people was still a very separated presence, reflected in the the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. And all the sacrifices that were required to maintain this arrangement of God close to his rebellious, impure and unclean people only served to reinforce the fact of this removed closeness.

The most devastating blow comes just before the exile to Babylon where the glory of the Lord leaves the Temple. God’s presence no longer with his people. (Ezekiel 10) This blow is somewhat lightened with Ezekiel chapter 1’s picture of God on a throne that can come and go and travel anywhere it needs to, any direction it needs to. God would be with his people even in the pagan nation of Babylon. But it still wasn’t the same.

And even when they returned from exile and re-built the Temple under Zerubbabel – and when Herod rebuilt and expanded it – neither time did the glory of the Lord return to Israel to be with His people.

Until Jesus.

In Jesus God became flesh and “tabernacled” among us. And we saw His glory, the glory of the one and only. (John 1) God had come to once again live amongst his people, and His glory had finally returned to be present with Israel.

No longer do we meet God in a building, or a special place. No longer do we need to go to a specific geographical place to meet God. Now we meet God in a person, Jesus himself.

And when Jesus had risen and was about to return to the Father he promised that he would not leave us as orphans but that he would be with us always through the sending of His Spirit.

For Paul, the Spirit is how God dwells in his Holy Temple today. For Paul that Temple is God’s people themselves as they gather as the church. But also Paul goes a bit further and identifies each individual believer as a temple where the personal presence resides. Week after next we’ll look closer at this Temple/Spirit motif in Paul.

The long-awaited return of God’s personal presence has arrived, not in a removed and separated manner within a temple building inaccessible to people. God’s presence, through the sacrificial work of the Messiah, has now returned to be amongst his people as they gather corporately as the Church. And, even more shockingly, God’s personal presence has returned to take up residence within the heart of each and every individual member of God’s people by the presence of the Holy Spirit.

This development fits perfectly and makes complete sense on the trajectory set-up within the Old Testament and then amplified by Jesus, but is so extravagant and extraordinary that no one would ever have expected it.

Retro Blog: Treasuring Jesus in Economic Tough Times

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(c) Sugarock99

(c) Sugarock99

The financial year has ended and we’re into July.

 EOFYS is over.

 And the question is raised: How do I treasure Jesus in tough economic times? For some of us finances are tougher and tighter and jobs are being lost. For others finances are easier as general living costs are slightly lower.

 But what’s the relationship of money to treasuring Jesus?

 Well the Bible has lots to say about this topic. Lots. But two passages stand out to me at this point.

 The first is from Jesus, and he makes the point really clearly:

 Matthew 6:20-21 – But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is there your heart will be also.

 The link is what you do with your money and how you feel about your money is a key indicator of where your heart is at. That’s a big call. You can tell how you’re travelling as a Christian by checking your heart regarding money.

 Notice, this isn’t about how much you put into the collection bag on Sunday. This is bigger than that. But it does certainly include that.

 The other passage is from 2 Corinthians 8:

  1And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. 2Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. 3For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, 4they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. 5And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will. 6So we urged Titus, since he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. 7But just as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us[a]—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.

 Like before, the point here isn’t about how much you give to church each Sunday, though it applies to that. Here Paul is taking a collection among the Gentile churches for the church in Jerusalem who were starving in the midst of a famine.

 Verses 3 and 4 are pretty crazy. They gave as much as they were able, and then gave more. And they pleaded for the privilege of giving away their money.

 What produces that kind of generosity?

 Lots of people think that generosity comes with wealth. The more I have the more I can give away. Some people say, well, I don’t earn much now, so I won’t give. I’ll give when I get a full time job, or when I finish school, or when I’ve paid off the car, or whatever.

 That’s not exactly how the Bible talks about it.

 Check out verse 2. This church was in a severe trial. Notice also they weren’t rich, in fact they were in extreme poverty. Let that sink in. They’re being persecuted for their faith and they are in extreme poverty. My guess is no one reading this email is in extreme poverty, or if you are can I suggest cancelling your high-speed internet and using that money for food and shelter.

 But persecution and poverty don’t produce generosity. There needs to be something else. Verse 2 says “their overflowing joy” was the catalyst for this generosity. “Overflowing joy” in what? I take it to mean joy in Jesus as their treasure in heaven. They overflowed with joy because of the grace God had given them in knowing Jesus. And because he was so valuable to them their love for others increased and their love for money decreased

 Does the way you spend, save, use and lose your money reflect the fact that Jesus is your treasure in heaven? Could you attach the label “generous” to the way you use your money for others?

 Generosity isn’t about rules and percentages. It’s between you and Jesus. But generosity has nothing to do with how much you earn or don’t earn.

 It has to do with what you treasure.

Plundering the Egyptians: Servanthood is Greatness

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life is color

(c) kikizing3.deviantart.com

Most of these “Leadership Proverbs” I’ve just picked up, absorbed and imbibed by some process of osmosis along the way and don’t know exactly whom they originated from. But when I know I’ll make reference, and when I don’t it’s not that I’m ungrateful or that I want to appear like a genius. It’s genuinely that I can’t remember. So if I’ve flogged something from you let me know and I’ll happily acknowledge it.

Servanthood is Greatness

When Jesus discusses rulers and how they rule with his disciples, as recorded in Mark 10:35-45, Jesus highlights a number of points of similarities and a number of differences. Some of the similarities would be that he does not speak against the idea of rulers and ruling. He does not speak against the desire to be great. And he does not rebuke them for wanting to be first. But what he does do is he radically reframes what it means to rule and the desires to be great and be first he fills with new content.

Christian leaders are not to rule as the Gentile rulers do, by lording it over others and flaunting their authority. Rather, they are to use their authority to serve and they are to rule by serving those they oversee.

And the model is Jesus himself. Who is Lord, and does rule, and does possess and exercise authority. But he does so always as a servant. He does so by laying down his life and by giving up his rights and privileges.

As a leader your job is to help those you lead succeed. Those people under you don’t exist to serve you or to make your life easier. You exist to serve them. You are to be their first assistant and their head coach and chief cheerleader. Leadership means servanthood. And servanthood means greatness.

Jesus said in Mark 10:43-44: “whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.” Greatness is achieved by being a servant. Being number one means being a slave to all. It’s a radical and complete paradigm shift. Your goal as a leader is to serve your team as best you can.

Australia and the UK have it right – at least in name only – when they call their senior leaders “Prime Ministers”. In other words Chief Servants. That’s the Christian idea of ruling. It reverses the leadership organisational pyramid.

This is the core of Christian leadership in practice.