Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Holy House

(This is a narrative I wrote on Acts 3 for class.)

My name is the Holy House – some call me the footstool of God’s presence. I don’t say this to brag, but just as a matter of fact. Within my walls lies the heart of Jerusalem, the focal point of all Jewish life. For over 500 years I’ve stood as a pillar of faith and learning in the One True God in the midst of a world that’s turned their back on truth and chosen destruction. I’ll be destroyed in a few more years, but don’t cry for me – I’ve seen some truly awesome events in my lifetime, never more than what recently happened.

You see, the faithful Jews – what there are these days, I suppose -- visit my courts for teaching, discussion, the three daily prayer sessions to Jehovah, and the two offerings of sacrifice for the forgiveness of the people. All sorts of people come through: rabbis and scribes, Pharisees and common folk, and, of course, the sick and the poor. I’m not just the heart of Israel because of what I represent, but because the life of the people literally flow in and out of my gates every day.

I hear and see a lot more than you’d give me credit for. For instance, I bet you would have never noticed Jerrod over there before today – he was just another one of a crowd of beggers who had to be carried in by relatives to make what living they could by begging alms from temple-goers. Jerrod wasn’t as bad as some, say the lepers, but he was cursed with lame, twisted feet. He saw life from ground-level, every day, and I looked down on him. So did many others, some who might’ve plunked a coin or two in his cup to gain religious merit for themselves, but they never truly cared for him.

Today, Jerrod began with his well-worn litany of pleas: “Spare some money for a lame man? Mister, won’t you take pity on me and dig into your pockets for relief?” He could hear the clinking of coins as the crowd shuffled on by. When he asked a pair of men for what they could spare, Jarrod didn’t even look in their faces when he said it. To look meant he had hope.

However, the men stopped and demanded his attention. I saw Jerrod’s face grow sharply interested – not many people stopped these days. I witnessed his shoulders slumping when they admitted they had no money to spare. And then Peter invoked the name of someone I’ve seen from time to time – Jesus of Nazareth – and Jerrod’s eyes bulged as his ankles shifted and regained normal form, and he sprang to his feet in delighted surprise.

I have no doubt that the Jesus who I saw circumcised as a baby, who cleaned out my courts from men looking to make a quick and dishonest buck from travelers, the man who Peter went on to say was the Messiah, was the true power of what I represent. Today, my courts rang out as a man rightly praised God, jumping and running everywhere for the first time in as long as he could remember. What others took for granted, he received as a miracle.

You see, in my courts, people lift up their prayers and attention to God, but so often forget that we worship a God who answers back. That man became part of the new temple of God, the living temple in whom God placed his Holy Spirit. Some would say I should be sad to see the torch passed, but I gladly accept it as a promise fulfilled.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Think On These Things

Philippians 4

(Having the flu just knocks your everything out of whack. But I'm back!)

Philippians has just great verse after great verse. Has a lot of "t-shirt verses" too, if you know what I mean. Verses that are catchy enough to be kidnapped and slapped onto Christian t-shirts. Do we get the "dog returning to his vomit" verse t-shirt? No sir. No sirree Bob.

Verse 8 - "Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."

The buzz word here is "edifying", and I've heard it a lot. The goal of a Christian's attention should be focused on things that are ultimately edifying to both ourselves and to God. We're not supposed to crave the depraved, the lies, the corrupt, the sinful -- just the opposite. Yet in a sinful world, isn't everything corrupt save God and the Bible? Yes, but God also grants the Christian a holy filter to be able to sift through what is untrue and focus on what is "true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, praiseworthy".

I've gotten some flak over the years with my movie viewing habits. I watch some pretty bizarre and sometimes fairly unwholesome movies -- sometimes to critique them for others' benefits, and sometimes because I'm searching for that pure diamond in the rough. I think there's a serious case to be made that many movies (I won't go so far to say "all") have qualities that are listed in verse 8. Whether Christian or not, movies are crafted by people who were made in God's image, with God's creativity. The most ungodly person still has the gifts God's given them and can produce things of beauty and skill. These products can be testimonies for God just as much as anything I might produce, although I would hope that my creative efforts would be clearer in purpose and purity.

Verse 8 reminds us that not everything is worth sifting through, however, and we are left to the conviction of the Spirit, our common sense and conscience, and biblical instruction as to which things are worth discerning our way through.

In verses 11-13, Paul offers up a powerful testimony to how a Christian life is lived without worry or concern, but rather to be fully content in all things. He doesn't say that the Christian life is always peachy (verse 12 makes that clear), but that God will always give us strength for any situation, and he never abandons us.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008


Philippians 3

I'd like to think that Paul is expounding here upon Jesus' teaching in Matthew 6:18-20 about "storing treasures in heaven". Echoing Jesus, Paul states in Philippians 3:1-8 that the things of this world ("the flesh") are ultimately rubbish, and he goes on in 3:9-21 to detail what is the true treasure we should be keeping our eye upon.
It's amazing how many things that I surround myself with every day are really the "rubbish" that Paul talks about. Computers, movies, internet, TV, really anything physical in this world will ultimately see destruction and eradication. Nothing is forever, except that which God sustains.

I'm reading a really great book called The World Without Us, wherein the author outlines what would happen if today -- for some reason -- all of the humans in this world were taken away to leave the planet to fend for itself. It's shocking how quickly all of what we consider permanent fixtures in our lives -- our houses, the cities, marks of civilization -- would fall into dust and be reclaimed by nature without our constant upkeep. Paul is expressing the same foresight, that we spend so much of our lives pouring our efforts into things that have an expiration date on them.

Yet while our earthly efforts and frail flesh will ultimately decay, this passage encourages us to "press on toward the goal to win the prize" -- citizenship in God's heaven. Our lives don't begin, not really, until we've reached that goal and are able to start experiencing true life in a way that we can only imagine right now.

In other words, if my life was a book, I think what years I spend on this planet would be a one-page prologue in front of a multi-multi-volume set that comes after.