Archive for the ‘11-1 Kings’ Category

1 Kings 8:54-66
The Dedication of the Temple

This morning, as I read through this passage, I found that there is an amazing similarity between this prayer in 1 Kings and the Lord’s Prayer as spoken first by Jesus in Matthew 6:9-13. We would do well to take notice of the pattern in each of these two prayers. Let’s take a look at the Lord’s Prayer

Our Father
Jesus is saying that our prayers should recognize that God is our Heavenly Father. To conceptualize this, let’s think of our earthly fathers.

Earthly fathers love and protect us. They teach us the meaning of life through our mistakes and our achievements. They love us even when we are wrong. They teach us that there are consequences of life that we have to deal with. They provide for us. They sacrifice so that we may have. God is our Heavenly Father who does these same things in a grander more perfect way. Our prayers should recognize Him as that Father figure, that wise one who has our best interest at heart, and the one who knows better than we about life and how we should live.

When we pray each time, we must begin with establishing the proper relationship between us and God. He is the Father and we are the child. So often when we pray, make that most of the time, we do not think of establishing the relationship. We go right into praying about what we want, what we need, our laundry list of demands or requests. We must remember to recognize who God is. He is the Father. He is the authority figure in our lives. He is the Creator. We are the created. We treat God as though He was a vending machine at times. We come to Him in prayer and push the vending machine buttons and expect our prayers to be answered. It is like when you are child and walk in the house and start demanding that your dad do stuff for you. What you or I have done that or do that? Our fathers here on earth deserve our respect and we would not demand that they do stuff for us. We know that our fathers (unless they have real emotional/psychological issues) do not deserve treatment the way that we treat our Father in heaven at times. Even if you have issues with your earthly father, you accord him a certain amount of respect just by nature because he is your father. We must recognize the relationship when we pray, first thing.

Who Art In Heaven
Our Father in Heaven” is that Heaven is perfection. It is the ultimate place for purity and goodness. God can only exist there. He is perfection. Nothing can come into his presence that is not perfect. When we enter Heaven it is only because of grace shown by God through Jesus Christ that we are perfected and can come into God’s presence in his perfect place. Our prayers should recognize God’s perfection. The only way that we can be in His presence is if we are perfect. Nothing imperfect can exist in His presence. Just as the impurities of metal ore are consumed in the flames of the furnace, we would be consumed in the presence of God. Nothing, nothing imperfect can survive in perfection. That is why we are all in need of the saving grace of Jesus Christ. We cannot exist in the presence of God’s perfection. We would be destroyed and consumed without Jesus Christ. It is only through His imputed grace that we can exist in the presence of God. Just as our bodies combat and attempt to expel that which does not belong in our bodies, we are that way in the presence of God without Jesus Christ. We would be, by the sheer nature of the perfection of God, expelled and rejected as an imperfection. God is perfect. Therefore, everything in his presence must be perfect. Through the sacrifice of the Lamb, we are made perfect and can exist in the presence of God. We can live in that perfect place with the perfect God. Heaven is a perfect place and God is perfect. It is the necessary residing place for a perfect God.
Hallowed Be Thy Name
Let us remember who God is when we use His name, His hallowed and holy name. He is the Almighty One. He is not our buddy. He is God. He is so far above and beyond our comprehension that we should be ashamed for using His very name like we use any other word. This is the name of the One and Only. The One who existed before everything existed. He is far beyond us. We cannot comprehend His knowledge, His power, His existence. We owe Him our very existence. Let us give Him the reverence that He deserves.

Thy Kingdom Come
Thy Kingdom Come is about us right now. This phrase is a reference to God’s spiritual reign. It is about the condition of man’s heart. We are sin-filled creatures whose nature creates a world of strife, suffering and trouble for ourselves and one another. This to me is a call to us to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with a dying world. We are the instruments through which our Almighty God has chosen to spread the good news of Jesus Christ. We are the messengers of His Word. We must share the story of change. We must share the story of the value of each and every human being who has been wonderfully created and is known by their Creator. How do we change the world that seems headed for destruction? How do we bring about God’s Kingdom here on earth? One person at a time is how. We must make the gospel real to millions who reject God’s authority and reject His Son. The kingdom of God is in our hearts. The most important decision each of us will make is to decide who will be Lord over our lives. If we submit to God’s authority and follow His instructions, we can find the way to peace and eternal life. Rejecting God brings us to the world that we know now. How can a world that has either not heard the good news at all or has chosen to reject it extricate itself from the mess that is this world? It is only through hearing the gospel. We must teach it. We must preach it. We must get out of our comfort zone and plant the seeds next door and around the world. That is how the kingdom of God comes. It is through people finding Jesus. Isn’t that what, bottom line, really matters? People finding Jesus. That is the kingdom of God. We are compelled by this statement! It is a challenge to us. Thy Kingdom come is an imperative statement. It has a sense of urgency to it. Let us stop bemoaning what the world has come to and change it. Let us work to end social injustice. Let us work to end racism. Let us work to end poverty. Let us work to end the devaluation of human life. Let us work to enlighten people that our sexual freedoms that we seem to seek only enslave us more to Satan. Let us use these opportunities to show people that we are Christian by our love. Let us work to change the world, to make the kingdom come in men’s hearts.

There is also a future scope to this statement, Thy Kingdom come! In Revelation, we are promised victory in the end and judgment for those who reject the Lamb. In this future, there is the New Jerusalem. God will establish His new kingdom on earth. All things will be made right and made new again. When we proclaim, “Thy kingdom come”, it means that we yearn for the day when God will put an end to the world as we know it today. We yearn for the day when there is no persecution and there is no brokenness in the world. We yearn for the day when there is no evil and that evil has been fully subdued in the lake of fire. When we pray, “Thy Kingdom come!”, we are saying that we believe that God is in control even when the world around us seems out of control. We are praying that we believe in God’s sovereignty over our lives. We trust in Him that all of this is going to get better. We believe that there is indeed something better than this.

Thy Will Be Done On Earth As It Is In Heaven
Then we pray for God’s will, we are praying that God’s perfect purpose will be accomplished both here on earth and in heaven. On earth, that will is accomplished when we obey Him. When we pray for His will to be done, we are offering ourselves up as a people willing to do his will. It is our purpose in life to do those things that bring glory to God. Therefore, when we pray unselfishly for a friend’s healing, we are praying for God’s glory to be shown in the world by a miraculous healing. When we pray, we should be considering how to give God glory through the end result that we are praying for. We should be praying for His glory to be shown in what we are praying for so that there is will be no doubt that it is was God’s doing. We should be praying for that which draws people unto God because there is no mistaking that it was Him who answered our prayers. Instead of demanding our own desired result, we should be praying for God’s glory to be shown in the answer to our prayers. That certainly will change our perspective when we pray. May Your will be done. And, it is God’s will that all people from all nations be drawn unto Himself and that He will be glorified. When we pray we should seek His guidance and leadership in accomplishing His purposes here on earth. So, with the right frame of mind as to what God’s will is, yes, let us pray bold prayers.

Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread
Wow, this phrase is so amazing when you break it down. Jesus is saying that we should ask God to “give us.” To be able to give something to someone, you must first own it. So, if we are asking God to “give us” then we are admitting that He owns it. God give us. We are taught in America that we are to live the American Dream. The American Dream is that we can do whatever we want in this country through our own hard work and ingenuity. We are responsible for our end game. We can go as far as our ambition will take us. We are taught to be self-sufficient. Certainly, God does want us to work hard and receive and honest day’s wage for an honest day’s work. Certainly, He wants to be self-sufficient and not habitually depend on others for our existence. But we must recognize where our abilities come from. We must recognize where our talents come from. We must recognize where it all begins. It is God who gives us our talents and our abilities to go out in the world and earn a living. It is then from God that we have the ability to buy homes, cars, and toys. So, when we pray “God give us” we are recognizing the proper relationship that we should have with God. He is the giver of life. He is the sustainer of all things. Without Him neither you nor I would exist. He provides the spark of life at the moment of conception. He makes our heart start beating in the womb. He is the start of who we are as humans. “God give us” is respect where respect is due. “God give us” is recognizing that God is in charge of everything. We are asking Him to allow us to have something that belongs to Him which is, of course, everything. How often do we in prayer demand things of God? How often do we think that we are own gods and God is just there to fulfill our wishes? How often do we think of Him as a magic genie who will grant our three wishes? In this American Dream world in which we live, we sometimes have a hard time with this concept that God is greater than we are. Just look at how we handle our money. We should be living off 90% or less of what we make, according to God’s instructions in His Word, but, no, we rationalize away tithing and spend, on average in America, 104% of what we make. There is no room to honor God in that economy. Let us begin to think of God in the proper perspective. He is the giver of everything we have and He is our sustainer. He is the source of all things including our money, our talents, and our abilities. Let us begin to understand that and honor God as the giver and us as the recipients of His pleasure and His grace.

The next words Jesus chooses are “this day.” Give us this day. Give us this day. That’s limited isn’t it? We are asking just for this day. Not tomorrow. Not two week’s worth! Just today! Wow, that is radical thinking for us Americans. Just what we need, no more, no less! We are trained to believe more is better. If not one, why not two? If not 2,000 square feet, why not 3,500 square feet? Excess is better, right? In this prayer sequence, Jesus is saying that we should ask God to give us provision as we need it and be content with that. Isn’t always in excess that we face sin’s greatest temptations. When is enough, enough? It seems that, when we have more than what we need, things become our gods. Maintenance of a certain lifestyle becomes our gods. Keeping up with the Joneses is our god. Possessions become our god. The worship of money whether it be too much of it or too little of it becomes our god. Surely, God does not mind us being wealthy, does He? No, He encourages us to be wealthy as long as it does not become our god and gets in the way of our relationship with Him. If we live a God-centered lifestyle, we can use our wealth to be generous to others, to help solve social problems, to further the cause of His church in spreading the gospel but that is generally not what we do with our wealth. We let it consume us and we purse it instead of God. It is a freeing thing when you discover that God is the sustainer of all things and when we believe in and trust in Him as that, it changes everything. We no worry about provision because we know it comes from God. We no longer see possessions as the most important thing. We no longer see having the newest car and the biggest house as the most important thing. We know that we can be content in any situation because the Lord will provide. He will give us what we need when we need it. This day’s provision is enough. We will let God worry about the rest. We trust in Him to take us where we need to go and provide for us along the way. I can only see this day and trust Him with the rest of the days.

We finish up today’s phrase with the words, “our daily bread.” This set of words seems almost too austere in our land of excess. Bread is just a basic thing. We can have foods of unimaginable imagination. Bread is just blah. It’s the stuff of basic sandwiches and other basic things. But in other parts of the world, bread is life. It is a wonderful thing. It is food. It is sustenance. God give us this day our daily bread. God give us what we need each day. Our daily bread implies to me that we are dependent continuously on God for what we need. It is not something that we come to Him for once a lifetime, even once a decade, even once a year, even once a month, even once a year, but daily my friends. Everything comes from God and we are dependent on him to give us what we need for today and EACH day. Thus, when we pray our prayers to God we should recognize our complete and utter dependence on God and that he knows what is best for us, better than us, each and every day of our lives. God give us what we need daily. We must return to you daily for what we need for this day. We must come back every day. We must seek you every day all day to give us what we need for this day. We must see you as our Providing Father and we are Your children. You are Father and we are child. We depend on you to provide for us. You give us what we need and we are dependent on you. It is not the other way around. You are not our puppet or our vending machine. You are the provider and we are the recipients of our loving generosity.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses as We Forgive Those Who Trespass Against Us
Father, forgive us our trespasses. Most of us have blind spots here. We have no problem pointing out the sins of others. However, it is our sin that is the most difficult to admit. It is funny that we do not see our sins but yet we live with them 24/7/365. We live with our sins all the time but yet we refuse to see them. We can point out the sins of others while not living in their skin but we are unable to deal with our own. In order to ask for forgiveness of our sins, we first must recognize that there is a sin or sins in our lives. Just as an alcoholic or a drug addict must admit that they have a problem before they can begin recovery, it is the absolute same for us when it comes to sin. The alcoholic or drug addict has a tendency to refuse to admit they have a problem so that they can continue drinking or using. Addiction is a sly disease. It makes you justify behavior as someone else’s fault. It makes you rationalize bad behavior. It makes you justify how that behavior was not beyond the line. All of this is done so that the addict can continue to dance with their true love, alcohol or drugs, even though this harlot strings them along in search of that perfect high that never comes. Our sins are the same. We justify our sins as not being like other people’s sins. Our sins are OK. We have a reason for our sin. We have valid justifications to sin. Admitting that we have sinned is as big a struggle as it is for the alcoholic or drug addict to admit that they have a problem. In order to admit that we have sinned, we must first have to be honest with ourselves. We must quit lying to ourselves. Just as the alcoholic and drug addict knows that they have gone beyond the line many times, we as sinners must admit and be honest with ourselves that there is no rationalization that will take away that we have sinned.

Equally, we are called to forgive others for their transgressions, their trespasses, their sins against us. How difficult is that? Pride sure does get in the way of that. Wow, Lord, you want me to forgive my ex-spouse and her lover? Wow, Lord, you want you me to forgive the man who was driving drunk that killed my family in a car wreck? Wow, Lord, you want me to forgive my business partner who screwed me over in a business deal? You want me to forgive my son or daughter whose drug addiction has cost me thousands upon thousands of dollars and uncountable heartache? You want me to forgive the thief who stole from me without reason? You want me to forgive others who have just reamed me a new one for no reason other than the joy of doing it. You want me to do this over and over again. I once heard that saying that forgiving is forgetting. And to a certain extent I think this is wrong. Forgiving is remembering but choosing to forgive anyway. At some point you may forget, but forgiveness happens while we are remembering. True forgiveness requires humility on our part. Pride often prolongs forgiveness and restoration. Pride wants revenge. Pride want my ego to be massaged by the offender. Pride wants to wallow in the pain and suffering caused. Pride wants martyrdom for the suffering we have been caused. Just look at what my ex-husband did to me. How many wives and husbands have been consumed by pride when their spouse commits adultery. They become so consumed by the offense that it destroys their lives because the offense becomes their god. Sometimes, we become so obsessed with the offense that it consumes us. When we get so obsessed with the offense, we let others live rent free in our heads. We inadvertently let our pride become our god. Forgiveness does not mean that we let people walk all over us. It means though that we leave the hurt at the cross and ask God to deal with it and help us overcome it. It does not mean we continue to let people walk all over us. We may need to learn to reduce their access to our lives but it does not mean that we hold on to the hate. It does mean that we pray for that person. It does mean that we pray that they will come to understand the sin that they have committed against us. It does mean that we leave it at the cross on not let it consume us and let it get in the way of our relationship with God. Forgiveness means remembering but forgiving any way. Forgiveness requires humility. What if God never forgave our sins? He has a right to do that? He knows our sins. He remembers. He loves us anyway though. He remembers and forgives when we seek forgiveness from Him. Help us to demonstrate His love to others through our remembering but yet forgiving.

Lead Us Not Into Temptation But Deliver Us From Evil, for Thine Is the Kingdom
In this blueprint for how we should pray, Jesus concludes the model prayer with the phrase, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” This reminds us of a saying that I have heard stated in various ways but the sentiment is the same, “Jesus never said not if but when we would face temptation…” When we ask God not to lead us into temptation and deliver us from the evil one, just what is it that we are asking God to do? There is something subtle to notice here. First, we are recognizing that God will never lead us into temptation. Second, temptations will come and it is apparent that they cannot be avoided. Finally, God has the power to deliver us from them.

The first thing that we will notice here is that Jesus says that we should be praying not to be lead into temptation. God will never lead us into temptation. James 1:13 tells us that God cannot be tempted by evil so He himself does not tempt anyone. Therefore, temptations come not from God. He is pure and holy and completely righteous. It is not in His nature to lead someone toward evil thoughts or evil actions or situations where we will be tempted to participate in evil thoughts or acts. He won’t. He can’t even take us to that neighborhood. Evil and God do not co-exist together. As a result, He cannot lead us astray. He can only lead us to goodness, truth, and life. God may allow us to be tested by temptation to see if we really are His children or just pretenders, but He himself will not tempt us. God allowed Job to be tested by temptation (but with restrictions). So, too, are there times when temptations are allowed just so as to see what we are really made of. Are we really Christ followers? Luke 16:10 tells us that God will see if we can be trusted in the little things then we can be trusted with much more. If we are faithful in the small things, then, we will be faithful in the bigger ones. Our parents often give us small bits of freedom like staying at home by ourselves as teenagers to see if they can trust us with bigger things. They may start out by leaving us at home for a couple of hours to see if we can be trusted to stay alone without killing ourselves or someone else over a whole weekend. They may see if we can be trusted over a weekend so that they can give us bigger and bigger responsibilities later on in the process of growing up. Have you ever noticed that your parents will start treating you more and more like an adult when you start acting like one? God allows temptations in our lives to see how we measure up. God allows temptations to mature us as well. We may find ourselves in subtle temptations and resist them. As we mature, we become more battle-tested and more easily see the difference between God’s way and the ways of Satan. As we trust in God’s way, we are able to see through the temptations for what they really are – Satan’s attempts to draw us away from God, and it is way to make us ineffective followers of Christ. Satan’s siren call can sound so sweet, but as we mature in Christ, we can see the rocks in the water that will rip us to shreds and we choose to steer away from the siren’s call. As we mature, we see that which is opposite of God’s Word as being a temptation. We see that which is opposite of God’s consistent truth as expressed in His Word as not being of God but rather as being of Satan. God would never lead us toward that which is in opposition to His Word. We must be mature enough to see the difference. However, even the most mature Christian is not above temptation and not above succumbing to it.

We will sin. We will give in to temptation on occasion. The key for the maturing Christian is recognition and repentance. Satan will place a big ol’ target on our back when we become a Christian and particularly when we become a gospel-bearing, fruit-bearing Christ follower. He will try to bring us low and small ways and sometimes in big ways. Being an effective Christ follower is not easy. Satan wants to destroy and devour us. He will tempt us. He will win many, many times. We are by the nature inherited from Adam sinful creatures. A Christian is still a sinner but He is covered by grace. A Christian is being changed by the Holy Spirit over time to become more and more like Christ but it is a lifetime job. There are still sins that are committed. The difference is that a maturing Christian will recognize his sins through the conviction of the Holy Spirit. We may battle for a while with the Holy Spirit trying to justify why our sin is OK this one time but the Holy Spirit will smack us around until we see the light. When we recognize our sin, it begins to revolt us. Just as an ex-smoker is often revolted by how a cigarette makes them feel after having been off them for a while. Our sins when we have the Holy Spirit living in us will revolt us at ourselves. Temptations are going to come my friend. Especially if you have accepted Christ as your Savior. Many think that accepting Jesus as their Savior is going to make their lives easier. They think that it is an arrival place. Once there, everything’s cool and no more trouble will come. Trouble will come. Temptations will come. We are not immune as Christ followers. Maybe in many cases we are more of a target for Satan’s temptations AFTER we become Christ followers. We must be aware of this. We must listen to the Holy Spirit’s guidance. We must not rationalize our failures to resist sin. We must admit our sins and repent of them. We must recognize sin as not a pleasure to had but as a road to trouble.

How do we realistically resist temptation in a world full of them? Temptations abound. They are everywhere. What do we do when we give in to them and we realize that we have screwed up? We must allow the Holy Spirit to speak to us and we need to listen. We must run to our Father when we realize that we have sinned and beg Him to help us make it right again and for Him to forgive us. We will run to our Abba Father and ask Him to deliver us from our sins. How do we resist temptation? Jesus knew Scripture. He used it as His weapon when Satan was tempting. We can use Scripture too! We must first know it though. We must study Scripture and bury it in our hearts so that when temptations come, we can do the file/retrieve function in our minds. Some of us will be able to quote exactly what Scripture says but if you study the Bible enough, you will at least remember the general tenor of an applicable passage. Satan fleed from Jesus when He used Scripture to resist Satan. He will flee from you and I too when we invoke Scripture in our mind when we are tempted. We then can make the mental choice to walk away from the temptation. In this way, God delivers us from evil. He will help us extract ourselves from evil when we get ensnared in it.

Gotquestions.com says it best on this question of temptation when it says, “If our minds are filled with the latest TV shows, music and all the rest the culture has to offer, we will be bombarded with messages and images that inevitably lead to sinful lusts. But if our minds are filled with the majesty and holiness of God, the love and compassion of Christ, and the brilliance of both reflected in His perfect Word, we will find that our interest in the lusts of the world diminish and disappear. But without the Word’s influence on our minds, we are open to anything Satan wants to throw at us.”

For Thine Is the Kingdom & The Power & The Glory Forever. Amen.
Here, Jesus, reminds to wrap up our prayers in a way that recognizes that everything we have prayed before this closure is to the God that we open our prayers with. He is the all-powerful Creator God who controls all things and our prayers are offered up to Him in trust that He is what He says He is in His Word. We should conclude all of our prayers recognizing and giving loving honor to the one who created us.

With that in mind, let us look at what Solomon prayed in 1 Kings 8:54-66:

54 When Solomon finished making these prayers and petitions to the Lord, he stood up in front of the altar of the Lord, where he had been kneeling with his hands raised toward heaven. 55 He stood and in a loud voice blessed the entire congregation of Israel:

56 “Praise the Lord who has given rest to his people Israel, just as he promised. Not one word has failed of all the wonderful promises he gave through his servant Moses. 57 May the Lord our God be with us as he was with our ancestors; may he never leave us or abandon us. 58 May he give us the desire to do his will in everything and to obey all the commands, decrees, and regulations that he gave our ancestors. 59 And may these words that I have prayed in the presence of the Lord be before him constantly, day and night, so that the Lord our God may give justice to me and to his people Israel, according to each day’s needs. 60 Then people all over the earth will know that the Lord alone is God and there is no other. 61 And may you be completely faithful to the Lord our God. May you always obey his decrees and commands, just as you are doing today.”

62 Then the king and all Israel with him offered sacrifices to the Lord. 63 Solomon offered to the Lord a peace offering of 22,000 cattle and 120,000 sheep and goats. And so the king and all the people of Israel dedicated the Temple of the Lord.

64 That same day the king consecrated the central area of the courtyard in front of the Lord’s Temple. He offered burnt offerings, grain offerings, and the fat of peace offerings there, because the bronze altar in the Lord’s presence was too small to hold all the burnt offerings, grain offerings, and the fat of the peace offerings.

65 Then Solomon and all Israel celebrated the Festival of Shelters[a] in the presence of the Lord our God. A large congregation had gathered from as far away as Lebo-hamath in the north and the Brook of Egypt in the south. The celebration went on for fourteen days in all—seven days for the dedication of the altar and seven days for the Festival of Shelters.[b] 66 After the festival was over,[c] Solomon sent the people home. They blessed the king and went to their homes joyful and glad because the Lord had been good to his servant David and to his people Israel.

In this passage, we see that Solomon praised the Lord and prayed for the people. His prayer had a specific pattern to it that we would do well to consider for our own prayers. He had five (5) basic requests. First, he prayed for God’s presence in his and in the lives of the people of Israel (1 Kings 8:57). Second, he prayed for the desire to do God’s will in everything (8:58). Third, he prayed for the desire and ability to obey God’s decrees and commands (8:58). Fourth, he prayed for help with each day’s needs (8:59). Fifth and finally, he prayed for the spread of God’s kingdom to the entire world (8:60).

Just soak it in how similar these prayers are. These prayers are how we should pray each of our prayers to the Lord – giving thanks first to God for who He is and for His presence among us, asking for the Lord’s will to be carried out in the petitions that we bring before Him, asking God for the power to recognize and do His will, asking for the power to resist temptation and to understand and obey His Word, asking God not for a million things but simply for provision for what is ahead and to trust Him with the rest, and finally for God to have His way in the world until such time that He brings an end to all things and establishes His kingdom on earth.

Amen and Amen.

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1 Kings 8:22-53 (Part 3 of 3)
Solomon’s Prayer of Dedication

Today, I begin the challenge of writing my final research paper of my third semester in my pursuit of my D.Min. degree. It will mark the half way point in the process. There are 4 semesters of classroom work. Because I had to take last spring off from school because of the move to Illinois and assimilating into full-time ministry, I got out of sequence on the usual back-to-back progression of these courses in the program. I will most likely have to wait until the 2019-2020 academic year (Fall Semester 2019 or Spring Semester 2020) to take my 4th course, church revitalization, because of the timing of when this course is offered at the doctorate level.

But back to the current situation. I will be writing a paper this weekend on what’s called the Acts 1:8 Challenge. Church culture many times focuses on what goes on inside its four walls rather than what goes on outside, nearby, and beyond. Just as individuals can benefit from having a purpose-driven life, so can the church focus on having a purpose-driven ministry that reaches outside the church into its community, its region, continent, and world. As Jesus illustrated in Acts 1:8, the mission of the church is unique, purposeful, and urgent. Perhaps never before in history has the church been in such a position to boldly embrace Jesus’ challenge to take the gospel to everyone, everywhere. The Acts 1:8 Challenge is designed to transform any church into a worldwide missions center.

By accepting the Challenge, churches commit to eight “kingdom-growing” responses as they work to intentionally engage in Acts 1:8. They commit to prepare for their involvement, to learn how to become strategically involved, to pray for God’s leadership in their plans, to give of their financial resources to support the mission, to go by offering mobilization opportunities, to tell the gospel message, to send by encouraging members to invest their lives in missions, and to multiply by assisting in church starting efforts. This should be interesting for me to set this process into the context of my own church and develop a proposed strategy for implementation.

It struck me that we have to have such things in our American churches. The Acts 1:8 Challenge is a Baptist thing but it can be implemented by any church of any denomination. But why do we have to have an Acts 1:8 Challenge? Should not this be our natural DNA? Jesus told us that DNA in Acts 1:8. We should be doing this naturally. It should not be a project that we have to implement. It should have already been there! It is apparent that this Acts 1:8 Challenge, though a Baptist initiative, is clarion call to all churches that we have forgotten what we are here for.

That’s the thing that struck me this morning as I read this passage once again this morning. Let’s read the passage, 1 Kings 8:22-53, and concentrate on vv. 41-43. Let’s see what God has to say through Solomon about what the purpose of God’s people should be and how we have missed the mark.

22 Then Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in front of the entire community of Israel. He lifted his hands toward heaven, 23 and he prayed,

“O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you in all of heaven above or on the earth below. You keep your covenant and show unfailing love to all who walk before you in wholehearted devotion. 24 You have kept your promise to your servant David, my father. You made that promise with your own mouth, and with your own hands you have fulfilled it today.

25 “And now, O Lord, God of Israel, carry out the additional promise you made to your servant David, my father. For you said to him, ‘If your descendants guard their behavior and faithfully follow me as you have done, one of them will always sit on the throne of Israel.’ 26 Now, O God of Israel, fulfill this promise to your servant David, my father.

27 “But will God really live on earth? Why, even the highest heavens cannot contain you. How much less this Temple I have built! 28 Nevertheless, listen to my prayer and my plea, O Lord my God. Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is making to you today. 29 May you watch over this Temple night and day, this place where you have said, ‘My name will be there.’ May you always hear the prayers I make toward this place. 30 May you hear the humble and earnest requests from me and your people Israel when we pray toward this place. Yes, hear us from heaven where you live, and when you hear, forgive.

31 “If someone wrongs another person and is required to take an oath of innocence in front of your altar in this Temple, 32 then hear from heaven and judge between your servants—the accuser and the accused. Punish the guilty as they deserve. Acquit the innocent because of their innocence.

33 “If your people Israel are defeated by their enemies because they have sinned against you, and if they turn to you and acknowledge your name and pray to you here in this Temple, 34 then hear from heaven and forgive the sin of your people Israel and return them to this land you gave their ancestors.

35 “If the skies are shut up and there is no rain because your people have sinned against you, and if they pray toward this Temple and acknowledge your name and turn from their sins because you have punished them, 36 then hear from heaven and forgive the sins of your servants, your people Israel. Teach them to follow the right path, and send rain on your land that you have given to your people as their special possession.

37 “If there is a famine in the land or a plague or crop disease or attacks of locusts or caterpillars, or if your people’s enemies are in the land besieging their towns—whatever disaster or disease there is— 38 and if your people Israel pray about their troubles, raising their hands toward this Temple, 39 then hear from heaven where you live, and forgive. Give your people what their actions deserve, for you alone know each human heart. 40 Then they will fear you as long as they live in the land you gave to our ancestors.

41 “In the future, foreigners who do not belong to your people Israel will hear of you. They will come from distant lands because of your name, 42 for they will hear of your great name and your strong hand and your powerful arm. And when they pray toward this Temple, 43 then hear from heaven where you live, and grant what they ask of you. In this way, all the people of the earth will come to know and fear you, just as your own people Israel do. They, too, will know that this Temple I have built honors your name.

44 “If your people go out where you send them to fight their enemies, and if they pray to the Lord by turning toward this city you have chosen and toward this Temple I have built to honor your name, 45 then hear their prayers from heaven and uphold their cause.

46 “If they sin against you—and who has never sinned?—you might become angry with them and let their enemies conquer them and take them captive to their land far away or near. 47 But in that land of exile, they might turn to you in repentance and pray, ‘We have sinned, done evil, and acted wickedly.’ 48 If they turn to you with their whole heart and soul in the land of their enemies and pray toward the land you gave to their ancestors—toward this city you have chosen, and toward this Temple I have built to honor your name— 49 then hear their prayers and their petition from heaven where you live, and uphold their cause. 50 Forgive your people who have sinned against you. Forgive all the offenses they have committed against you. Make their captors merciful to them, 51 for they are your people—your special possession—whom you brought out of the iron-smelting furnace of Egypt.

52 “May your eyes be open to my requests and to the requests of your people Israel. May you hear and answer them whenever they cry out to you. 53 For when you brought our ancestors out of Egypt, O Sovereign Lord, you told your servant Moses that you had set Israel apart from all the nations of the earth to be your own special possession.”

In this passage, we see, in vv. 41-43, that God chose Israel to be a blessing to the whole world (see Genesis 12:1-3). This blessing found its fulfillment in Jesus – a descendant, in human terms, of Abraham and David (Galatians 3:8-9) – who became the Messiah for all people, both Jews and Gentiles. When the Israelites first entered the Promised Land, they were ordered to clear out several wicked nations. Thus, the Old Testament records many wars. However, we should not conclude that war was Israel’s first duty. After subduing the evil nations, Israel was to become a light to the surrounding nations. Sadly, Israel’s own sin and spiritual blindness prevented them from being that light that would make them a holy nation that drew other nations under to God. Reaching out to the world is still the commission of God’s people today. Christians are the new Israel and our temples should not be the end game but the starting point from which we share the good news of the Messiah with the rest of the world.

The Christian church itself is and the fact that it exists separately from the Jewish faith is simple illustration that the Israelites missed the point 2,000 years ago. The Israelite nation was to be a beacon to the world that would draw people unto them as a different and holy people. It was through Israelites that the Messiah was to come and that was exactly what happened. However, the Israelites were supposed to be to recognize the Messiah and to point the rest of the world to Him. The Christian church exists separately from the Jewish faith because we recognized the Messiah and began preaching him to the rest of the world as the Israelites were supposed to do, but did not recognize. We are the new Israel. We are the proclaimers that they were supposed to be. Now, we are grafted into the family of God’s chosen people through the Jewish roots of Jesus Christ and have taken on the mantle of being His chosen people who proclaim the Messiah to the world.

However, are we in danger of becoming like the ancient Israelites in that we are not doing what we are supposed to be doing. The Israelites became enamored with themselves. They became an encamped us vs. them people. They became exclusionist instead of trying to be the light to the world to draw people unto God and to Jesus Christ, the Messiah. They became enamored with their Temple, their traditions, their club of “we are the people of God and you are not!”

Have we become that? Have we become the ancient Israelites where we love our church buildings? Have we become enamored with what our churches can do for our family? Have we become enamored with what services and programs that our church can provide us? Have we become enamored with worship services being the end game of our relationship with God rather than the starting point?

That’s the thing that I struggle with this morning as begin to write my research paper on the Acts 1:8 Challenge – the fact that it is needed at all? The fact that we have to have an Acts 1:8 Challenge is an indication that we are not, by and large as churches of all denominations, focusing on the basic DNA of the church that Jesus called us to be. That we must be called to refocus on the charge that Jesus gave us – to be the church and to spread the gospel to our Jerusalem, our Judea, our Samaria, and our ends of the earth – means that at some point we have lost focus on that basic.

Acts 1:8 is the basis of the church. It is not a special project. It should not be something we have to reboot, or reinvent. It is supposed to be the DNA of every church regardless of denomination. We ARE that we “will be my [Jesus’] witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” It should not have to be a refocus. It should not have to be a revamping of how we do church. It should not have to be a radical change in how we do business as the church. It should be who we are. Just as the ancient Israelites should have by nature of being God’s people been the light that drew other nations unto God and to the saving grace of the Messiah. That we have to have the Acts 1:8 Challenge is a call to all churches to wake up and return to their first love.

Jesus lovingly chastised the church at Ephesus in Revelation 2:3-5 to return to their first love. Remember, the Ephesian church was massively into missions early on in the New Testament. They were a powerful church. They sent and financed the missions of Paul and others. They were passionate about spreading the gospel. They were the model church of the New Testament era. But by the end of the first century after Jesus’ birth, death and resurrection, Jesus was chastising them to return to their first love. That there must be an Acts 1:8 Challenge program is Jesus’ 21st century challenge to His church to return to their first love – spreading the gospel. That there must be an Acts 1:8 Challenge program reminds the entirety of Jesus’ church that we must get back to our basic DNA – to be missionaries at every step of what we do. We must measure everything we do as to whether it is assisting us in being a light to our city, our state, our region of the country, our nation, and our world that draws people unto Christ. That is the basic of God’s people. We are Acts 1:8. That’s the job! That’s the DNA! That’s the first love! That’s the thing! That’s who we are (not just something we do but rather WHO WE ARE)!

Amen and Amen.

1 Kings 8:22-53 (Part 2 of 3)
Solomon’s Prayer of Dedication

Isn’t funny that how when you go through marital troubles that ultimately end up in divorce, there will be those people who will tell you that “I could have told you from the day that you guys got married that this was not going to work out.” When I married my high school sweetheart back in the day, there were friends of mine who gathered on the steps of the church after the festivities of the day were complete and discussed how long they thought our marriage would last. They said I was thinking with something other than my brain and that one day I would wake up and see the dominating, spoiled personality that my first wife had and then there would be trouble. And there was trouble. So much so that I could write a book about the final years of that marriage. Then twelve years later, it all came true after about six years of mighty trouble in the marriage.

It was then that they told me about their prophecy on the doorsteps of the church. I said why didn’t you say something BEFORE I got married. And then there were the profound words, “You would not have listened to us! We could have told you what we thought but you would have just gotten mad and wouldn’t have listened to us.” Getting married for the wrong reasons. Not having God at the center of your marriage. You insert your own troubles here. How often is this true in our lives? We are blind to the things that are not good for us but yet we continue down the path any way because we try to be our own gods and decide what is right for ourselves. We will not listen to godly counsel from others. For some people, it’s an issue with alcohol, for others it is drugs, for many like me it was the seeking of approval at any cost. Growing up as a Methodist preacher’s kid and moving every few years, I became a person who sought acceptance and approval no matter what. I wanted to be part of the in-crowd. Ultimately, as a teenager and an adult, that seeking of approval led me to be in relationships with women just so I could feel accepted and approved. Instead of finding my value in God, I tried to find it in relationships with women. When you are seeking idols instead of seeking God, you often end up making stupid decisions just to get your fix. And, those words, “you wouldn’t have listened…” is so true. When we are self-seeking our own pleasures and making decisions based on something other than God, we will not listen to wise counsel.

When we are caught up in our self-seeking, we will not listen to others because we think we know best. Even if they lay out the cold, hard truth in front of us, we will still not believe it. It is only when our world based on the wrong things comes crashing down that we open our eyes to the idol worship that we have been participating in.

That’s the thing that struck me this morning as I read this passage once again this morning. Let’s read the passage, 1 Kings 8:22-53, and see what God has to say about the idea of prophetic words that people will not listen to.

22 Then Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in front of the entire community of Israel. He lifted his hands toward heaven, 23 and he prayed,

“O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you in all of heaven above or on the earth below. You keep your covenant and show unfailing love to all who walk before you in wholehearted devotion. 24 You have kept your promise to your servant David, my father. You made that promise with your own mouth, and with your own hands you have fulfilled it today.

25 “And now, O Lord, God of Israel, carry out the additional promise you made to your servant David, my father. For you said to him, ‘If your descendants guard their behavior and faithfully follow me as you have done, one of them will always sit on the throne of Israel.’ 26 Now, O God of Israel, fulfill this promise to your servant David, my father.

27 “But will God really live on earth? Why, even the highest heavens cannot contain you. How much less this Temple I have built! 28 Nevertheless, listen to my prayer and my plea, O Lord my God. Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is making to you today. 29 May you watch over this Temple night and day, this place where you have said, ‘My name will be there.’ May you always hear the prayers I make toward this place. 30 May you hear the humble and earnest requests from me and your people Israel when we pray toward this place. Yes, hear us from heaven where you live, and when you hear, forgive.

31 “If someone wrongs another person and is required to take an oath of innocence in front of your altar in this Temple, 32 then hear from heaven and judge between your servants—the accuser and the accused. Punish the guilty as they deserve. Acquit the innocent because of their innocence.

33 “If your people Israel are defeated by their enemies because they have sinned against you, and if they turn to you and acknowledge your name and pray to you here in this Temple, 34 then hear from heaven and forgive the sin of your people Israel and return them to this land you gave their ancestors.

35 “If the skies are shut up and there is no rain because your people have sinned against you, and if they pray toward this Temple and acknowledge your name and turn from their sins because you have punished them, 36 then hear from heaven and forgive the sins of your servants, your people Israel. Teach them to follow the right path, and send rain on your land that you have given to your people as their special possession.

37 “If there is a famine in the land or a plague or crop disease or attacks of locusts or caterpillars, or if your people’s enemies are in the land besieging their towns—whatever disaster or disease there is— 38 and if your people Israel pray about their troubles, raising their hands toward this Temple, 39 then hear from heaven where you live, and forgive. Give your people what their actions deserve, for you alone know each human heart. 40 Then they will fear you as long as they live in the land you gave to our ancestors.

41 “In the future, foreigners who do not belong to your people Israel will hear of you. They will come from distant lands because of your name, 42 for they will hear of your great name and your strong hand and your powerful arm. And when they pray toward this Temple, 43 then hear from heaven where you live, and grant what they ask of you. In this way, all the people of the earth will come to know and fear you, just as your own people Israel do. They, too, will know that this Temple I have built honors your name.

44 “If your people go out where you send them to fight their enemies, and if they pray to the Lord by turning toward this city you have chosen and toward this Temple I have built to honor your name, 45 then hear their prayers from heaven and uphold their cause.

46 “If they sin against you—and who has never sinned?—you might become angry with them and let their enemies conquer them and take them captive to their land far away or near. 47 But in that land of exile, they might turn to you in repentance and pray, ‘We have sinned, done evil, and acted wickedly.’ 48 If they turn to you with their whole heart and soul in the land of their enemies and pray toward the land you gave to their ancestors—toward this city you have chosen, and toward this Temple I have built to honor your name— 49 then hear their prayers and their petition from heaven where you live, and uphold their cause. 50 Forgive your people who have sinned against you. Forgive all the offenses they have committed against you. Make their captors merciful to them, 51 for they are your people—your special possession—whom you brought out of the iron-smelting furnace of Egypt.

52 “May your eyes be open to my requests and to the requests of your people Israel. May you hear and answer them whenever they cry out to you. 53 For when you brought our ancestors out of Egypt, O Sovereign Lord, you told your servant Moses that you had set Israel apart from all the nations of the earth to be your own special possession.”

In this passage, we see that there is a prophetic nature to Solomon’s prayer. After Solomon’s reign, the people continually turned away from God. The rest of the kingdom era is a vivid fulfillment of Solomon’s description in these verses. As a result of the people’s sin, God let them be overrun by enemies several times. Then, in desperation, they cried out to God for forgiveness, and God restored them. In his prophetic insight of future captivity, Solomon asked God to be merciful when they cried out to Him, to forgive them, and to return them to their homeland.

Here, Solomon is warning people that if they do not follow God and do not put Him first in their lives, as a nation, they will suffer the consequences. But as we will see in the upcoming chapters of 1 and 2 Kings and the rest of the Old Testament that Solomon could say, “you wouldn’t listen!” That is the prayer for us today, Lord. Help us to have the wax removed from our ears so that we can hear counsel from godly friends. Help us to learn to listen. Help us to see when we are putting things and people and addictions and whatever on the altar of our hearts instead of you. Help us to always put you first in our lives. Help us to seek your will for our lives even when it does not jive with the desires of our flesh. Help us to not be so sold out on the idols of our lives that we cannot see the destruction that it will bring us.

Amen and Amen.

1 Kings 8:22-53 (Part 1 of 3)
Solomon’s Prayer of Dedication

Normally, my pattern here in my blogs is to use an illustration from modern day life (usually from my own life) as a set up for a scripture passage and its analysis/application. But for today, I am pondering the difference between what the Bible describes as God who is infinite, eternal, bigger than life, bigger than the universe, omnipresent, omniscient, and an infinite, uncontainable nature. And then there’s these physical manifestations of God that we read about in the exodus from Egypt and here in the kingdom period in the Tabernacle and then the Temple.

One of the questions that always puzzled me about the Tabernacle and the Temple and even during the exodus out of Egypt was these physical manifestations of the presence of God. The pillar of smoke and fire in the exodus. The Most Holy Place in the tabernacle and then the Temple. What gives? Everything you read about God is the He is infinite, not bound by the same constraints of time and space that we are. So, is this fully God that we see in the manifestations or is just a portion of God or is it just a sign from God? It blows the mind when you wrangle with these questions and there is no personal illustration that I could come up with that adequately relates these questions to your and my life. We are talking about God here, after all!

I think the answer to the question about the physical, see-able manifestations of God contrasted against the infinite and unsee-able nature of God is that it is yes. Yes, it is a portion of God. Yes, it a sign from God and yes he his still infinite and unsee-able all at the same time. It then brings up the question of how this relates to us in the New Testament era. Let’s read the passage, 1 Kings 8:22-53, and concentrate for today on v. 27 (and then in the next two blogs we will concentrate on other aspects of this passage):

22 Then Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in front of the entire community of Israel. He lifted his hands toward heaven, 23 and he prayed,

“O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you in all of heaven above or on the earth below. You keep your covenant and show unfailing love to all who walk before you in wholehearted devotion. 24 You have kept your promise to your servant David, my father. You made that promise with your own mouth, and with your own hands you have fulfilled it today.

25 “And now, O Lord, God of Israel, carry out the additional promise you made to your servant David, my father. For you said to him, ‘If your descendants guard their behavior and faithfully follow me as you have done, one of them will always sit on the throne of Israel.’ 26 Now, O God of Israel, fulfill this promise to your servant David, my father.

27 “But will God really live on earth? Why, even the highest heavens cannot contain you. How much less this Temple I have built! 28 Nevertheless, listen to my prayer and my plea, O Lord my God. Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is making to you today. 29 May you watch over this Temple night and day, this place where you have said, ‘My name will be there.’ May you always hear the prayers I make toward this place. 30 May you hear the humble and earnest requests from me and your people Israel when we pray toward this place. Yes, hear us from heaven where you live, and when you hear, forgive.

31 “If someone wrongs another person and is required to take an oath of innocence in front of your altar in this Temple, 32 then hear from heaven and judge between your servants—the accuser and the accused. Punish the guilty as they deserve. Acquit the innocent because of their innocence.

33 “If your people Israel are defeated by their enemies because they have sinned against you, and if they turn to you and acknowledge your name and pray to you here in this Temple, 34 then hear from heaven and forgive the sin of your people Israel and return them to this land you gave their ancestors.

35 “If the skies are shut up and there is no rain because your people have sinned against you, and if they pray toward this Temple and acknowledge your name and turn from their sins because you have punished them, 36 then hear from heaven and forgive the sins of your servants, your people Israel. Teach them to follow the right path, and send rain on your land that you have given to your people as their special possession.

37 “If there is a famine in the land or a plague or crop disease or attacks of locusts or caterpillars, or if your people’s enemies are in the land besieging their towns—whatever disaster or disease there is— 38 and if your people Israel pray about their troubles, raising their hands toward this Temple, 39 then hear from heaven where you live, and forgive. Give your people what their actions deserve, for you alone know each human heart. 40 Then they will fear you as long as they live in the land you gave to our ancestors.

41 “In the future, foreigners who do not belong to your people Israel will hear of you. They will come from distant lands because of your name, 42 for they will hear of your great name and your strong hand and your powerful arm. And when they pray toward this Temple, 43 then hear from heaven where you live, and grant what they ask of you. In this way, all the people of the earth will come to know and fear you, just as your own people Israel do. They, too, will know that this Temple I have built honors your name.

44 “If your people go out where you send them to fight their enemies, and if they pray to the Lord by turning toward this city you have chosen and toward this Temple I have built to honor your name, 45 then hear their prayers from heaven and uphold their cause.

46 “If they sin against you—and who has never sinned?—you might become angry with them and let their enemies conquer them and take them captive to their land far away or near. 47 But in that land of exile, they might turn to you in repentance and pray, ‘We have sinned, done evil, and acted wickedly.’ 48 If they turn to you with their whole heart and soul in the land of their enemies and pray toward the land you gave to their ancestors—toward this city you have chosen, and toward this Temple I have built to honor your name— 49 then hear their prayers and their petition from heaven where you live, and uphold their cause. 50 Forgive your people who have sinned against you. Forgive all the offenses they have committed against you. Make their captors merciful to them, 51 for they are your people—your special possession—whom you brought out of the iron-smelting furnace of Egypt.

52 “May your eyes be open to my requests and to the requests of your people Israel. May you hear and answer them whenever they cry out to you. 53 For when you brought our ancestors out of Egypt, O Sovereign Lord, you told your servant Moses that you had set Israel apart from all the nations of the earth to be your own special possession.”

In this passage, we see that, in his prayer of dedication, Solomon declared that even the highest heavens cannot contain God. But, yet, we see that when the Temple was built God’s presence was within the Temple until such time He decided to withdraw it. Here is such a mind-blowing idea about the God of the Bible that we have to pause for a moment. The eternal God who is not constrained by the existence of time, the infinite God who is not bound by the constraints of space, the transcendent God who dwells above and beyond all time and space, and the immense God who fills all time and space condescended to the weakness of His people and became manifest for their benefit in one locale. This God is not bound by time, but He bound Himself to the time-bound experience of His people. This God is not bound by space, but He bound Himself to this box. He is above all creational constraints, but He bound Himself to them. He is everywhere, but He was there. It was a way for the infinite, unsee-able God to give His people visual assurance of His presence among them. He remained the everywhere, all seeing, all knowing God that controls the entire expanse of existence in the universe while at the same time making Himself seen and known in a tangible way in a specific place and time.

The fact that the ark was the place of the Lord’s presence among His people brought great assurance to the people of God. This high, lofty, majestic, and resplendent King dwelt among His grumbling, complaining, bickering, and sinful people (Ex. 15:24; 16:2, 8, 9, 12; 17:2). Does that sound familiar? We, too, are grumbling, complaining, bickering, and sinful people. Thankfully, God is not far off in another land, but He is near to us who are sinners. In these pre-New Testament era times, we approached the Lord’s presence through atonement and through cleansing. We had to symbolically cleanse ourselves and repent through atonement to even be able to come into His presence in the Temple. And even then, the only ones who could come into the presence of God Himself were the priests who had to go through their own purification before going into the Most Holy Place.

Through Jesus Christ, we find a difference between the physical temple and what we have now as Christ followers. The Tabernacle and Temple were symbolic and pointing toward what we have now. When we accept Christ as our Savior and Lord, Jesus sends the Holy Spirit to dwell in us. It is through the submitting of ourselves to Jesus as Savior and Lord that we are made holy. We are cleansed by Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins and our recognition of that it was He did it for and our recognition that we are destined for hell without it. It is through that submission at the feet of Jesus that we are made holy, cleansed, pure. The Holy Spirit then can dwell inside us and make us the temple of the presence of the Lord in our lives. We have the presence of God in us. We have the Holy of Holies within us.

The promise to the new-covenant believer is that the Lord is near to us by the power of the Holy Spirit, who dwells in us (1 Cor. 6:19), even as Jesus promised His helpful presence (John 14:16). The assurance His nearness brings was described by the prophet Isaiah in this history of salvation. Just as God accompanied Israel when they wandered in a wilderness, so, too, He was with them in the days of their restoration from exile. Thus, the prophet said, “In all their affliction he was afflicted” (Isa. 63:9).

All of this means that means Jesus becomes the crucial temple, that is, the real, the ultimate meeting place between God and sinful people so that the typological lines, the trajectories of the old covenant come together in Him. He is the ultimate priest. He is the ultimate sacrifice. His flesh is the veil, and his shattered, broken body is the shattered, broken temple that rises on the third day to become the real meeting place between God and sinful people.

Amen and Amen.

1 Kings 8:12-21
Solomon Praises the Lord

As many of you know already, I am a huge Clemson University football fan. Yesterday, a day after winning its fourth consecutive Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) championship, the Tigers (ranked #2 in the polls and the College Football Playoff selection committee rankings all season long) were selected to appear in the 4-team college football playoff tournament for the fourth straight year. To say that Clemson football has been successful is an understatement. Only Alabama has won more games over the past 8 seasons than Clemson. What is it that makes Clemson so successful in football?

One thing that Coach Swinney has done over the past decade since he became head coach has pressed and pressed the university and its donors to improve its football facilities for the day to day operations of the football program. Over the past decade, with the success on the field, the university and the athletic program donors have vastly improved the football facilities to the point that they are considered by many to be the best in the country. The recently opened football operations center with its indoor practice facility, meeting rooms, weight room, dining hall, player recreation areas, labs, and so on is an awesome facility to see. You can take a quick tour at the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lupS-rvh6Zw. As you can see, the kids that play football at Clemson have the best of the best. I am sure that this facility, the other first class football facilities and the 86,000 seat football stadium all contribute toward the elite recruiting classes that the school garners each year.

However, other schools have great facilities, but do not and have not delivered the same level of success that the Tigers have over the past decade. What makes Clemson different? It is the culture of Clemson football that is different. The coaching staff there recruits players that fit with the culture of Clemson. Sure, they go after the best of the best athletes but they don’t just go after a guy just because he is rated a five-star athlete. He must fit within the nature and culture that Coach Swinney has established at Clemson. He has developed a close-knit family atmosphere within the program at Clemson and he chooses players who will fit within that system and culture. He selects players that he can develop into men. He selects players that have the desire to be the best. He selects players that he knows will represent the university well after they leave the program. He has selected a coaching staff that reflects those same values and they all have been together on that staff for anywhere from 7-10 years – something unheard of in this world of coaches leaving constantly for the next big gig.

That’s the difference. It’s about people and developing people and instilling a culture of excellence and a culture of accountability. The kids that play at Clemson know that there are lines in the sand that they cannot cross. They know that standards are high. But yet they would go through a brick wall for Coach Swinney and his staff.

That’s what I thought about this morning is that buildings don’t make football programs, people do. In the same way, the Temple building was important, yes, but it was what God had been doing for 480 years before that – establishing the culture of the Israelites – which was the most important. With that thought in mind, let’s read the passage, 1 Kings 8:12-21, now:

12 Then Solomon prayed, “O Lord, you have said that you would live in a thick cloud of darkness. 13 Now I have built a glorious Temple for you, a place where you can live forever!”

14 Then the king turned around to the entire community of Israel standing before him and gave this blessing: 15 “Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, who has kept the promise he made to my father, David. For he told my father, 16 ‘From the day I brought my people Israel out of Egypt, I have never chosen a city among any of the tribes of Israel as the place where a Temple should be built to honor my name. But I have chosen David to be king over my people Israel.’”

17 Then Solomon said, “My father, David, wanted to build this Temple to honor the name of the Lord, the God of Israel. 18 But the Lord told him, ‘You wanted to build the Temple to honor my name. Your intention is good, 19 but you are not the one to do it. One of your own sons will build the Temple to honor me.’

20 “And now the Lord has fulfilled the promise he made, for I have become king in my father’s place, and now I sit on the throne of Israel, just as the Lord promised. I have built this Temple to honor the name of the Lord, the God of Israel. 21 And I have prepared a place there for the Ark, which contains the covenant that the Lord made with our ancestors when he brought them out of Egypt.”

In this passage, we see that, for 480 years after Israel’s deliverance from Egypt, God did not ask his people to build a Temple for Him. Instead, He emphasized the importance of his presence among them and their need for spiritual leaders. It is easy to think of a building as the focus of God’s presence and power, but God chooses and uses people to do His work. Building or enlarging our place of worship may be necessary at times, but it should never take priority over developing spiritual leaders.

Buildings don’t make a church disciple people. Buildings do not make people want to share the gospel. Buildings do not make our people grow in Christ. Buildings do not preach. Buildings do not teach. Buildings do not shepherd. Buildings are nice for sure. Buildings are helpful in doing all the things that I just said, but it is the culture of the church that matters. If the culture of the church is not aligned with the purpose that God has given the church – to spread the gospel to the world and to disciple the faithful into deeper relationships with Jesus Christ, then, buildings are not worth the brick and mortar they are made of. The old saying from the movie, “Build it and he will come!”, is not true when it comes to churches. We must have a culture of people who are on fire for spreading the gospel and discipling those that are among the faithful. The building is just a tool. It may attract people at first but it is up to the culture of the church to keep them there.

Lord, help us to be a people that want to be excellent for you. Help us to have a fire in our bones to spread the gospel to the world around us. Help us to see our church buildings as bases of operations rather than the end product. Help us to see our church buildings as filling stations where we get fueled up to go back into the world and battle for the gospel. Help us to love you more than the buildings that we build. Help us to work FROM our buildings and not FOR our buildings.

Amen and Amen.

1 Kings 8:1-11 (Part 2 of 2)
The Ark Brought to the Temple

Why do we build churches? You’ve heard the comments before like “You know, the church is more than the building.” This is often said in a rather condescending tone, with the sense that the speaker is delivering some novel piece of wisdom. It’s often followed with a line like, “I mean, Jesus never had a building.” Or, “Think of all the ministry we could do if we just sold our buildings and gave the money away!” True, we are often a little too fond of our buildings. We are willing to wage million-dollar capital campaigns to fix aging structures while at the same time overlooking the needs in the neighborhoods around our church buildings.

A church building is only as useful to the people of God as what we are using it for. If it becomes a place where we fulfill only our own needs, or on which we mistakenly focus our worship, then we are focused in the wrong direction (looking inward rather than outward). But if we live in right relationship with our buildings, we can use them as incredible tools for ministry. We can use our buildings as signs that we are rooted and planted in our communities, and that we are not going anywhere. We are committed to our neighborhood and town because we are built into the town’s own streets. And we exist not just in our towns but FOR our towns. We would rather be seen as a church that our town can count on rather that that big old building on the corner of Maple and Main.

Let us remember a couple of things when we think of our church buildings. What is it that you think of first when you think of your church building? Do you think of its beauty first or do you think of the ministries and the worship that takes place within the buildings? When I think of my church, Calvary Church, yes, we have a nice building (but it is simple on purpose, not some fancy ornate building) but that’s not what I think of when I think of Calvary Church. I think of powerful musical worship and I think of the presence of the Holy Spirit in our services. I think of well-crafted and powerfully delivered sermons that make you think, that challenge you, and that always bring home the need for repentance at the feet of our Savior. I think of all the new people I have seen come into the church in the last 9 ½ months that I have been able to observe. I think of those things first before I even consider the building itself. What do you think of when you think of your church? What is the first thing that comes to mind? Is it the ministry that is done FROM that building or is it how beautiful the building itself is?

That was the thing that struck me this morning was why did God direct the Israelites to build the Temple when the Tabernacle tent was working just fine? What was the point? Then that led me to the question of why we build churches in today’s world? We build sometimes build buildings that cost millions of dollars so why do we do this? It is a question that we often do not ask because it is just a given that if you have a church, you build a building. It often signifies that a congregation has grown large enough and has been at a level of attendance that is consistent that it is time to stop renting facilities and invest in an actual building of our own. And, that is an awesome reason to build a building. However, if we ever get to the point that we are afraid to use our building to invest in our own people or to invest in our community, then, we must question whether our building has become an idol or not.

In ancient Israel, that is ultimately what we will see happening is that the Israelites treasured the building more than what was happening inside it. The prophets warned against the empty religious practices that went on inside the Temple. Things got so bad that it ultimately led God to withdraw the manifestation of his presence in the Temple. They were more concerned about the pomp and circumstance of the Temple than they were with worshiping God. Thus, the opening of the Temple represented a new era for Israel. They were no longer nomads and the permanent Temple was God signifying many things to Israel, two of which were that they were now and peace and they were at rest in their Promised Land. However, the Israelites were supposed to be a beacon to the rest of the world but rather became self-serving and the Temple was a showpiece and not a center for worshiping God.

So, with the idea of answering the question of what do we think of first when we think of our church buildings, let’s read the passage, 1 Kings 8:1-11, now:

Chapter 8

1 Solomon then summoned to Jerusalem the elders of Israel and all the heads of the tribes—the leaders of the ancestral families of the Israelites. They were to bring the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant to the Temple from its location in the City of David, also known as Zion. 2 So all the men of Israel assembled before King Solomon at the annual Festival of Shelters, which is held in early autumn in the month of Ethanim.[a]

3 When all the elders of Israel arrived, the priests picked up the Ark. 4 The priests and Levites brought up the Ark of the Lord along with the special tent[b] and all the sacred items that had been in it. 5 There, before the Ark, King Solomon and the entire community of Israel sacrificed so many sheep, goats, and cattle that no one could keep count!

6 Then the priests carried the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant into the inner sanctuary of the Temple—the Most Holy Place—and placed it beneath the wings of the cherubim. 7 The cherubim spread their wings over the Ark, forming a canopy over the Ark and its carrying poles. 8 These poles were so long that their ends could be seen from the Holy Place, which is in front of the Most Holy Place, but not from the outside. They are still there to this day. 9 Nothing was in the Ark except the two stone tablets that Moses had placed in it at Mount Sinai,[c] where the Lord made a covenant with the people of Israel when they left the land of Egypt.

10 When the priests came out of the Holy Place, a thick cloud filled the Temple of the Lord. 11 The priests could not continue their service because of the cloud, for the glorious presence of the Lord filled the Temple of the Lord.

In this passage, we must ask the question, “what was the difference between the Tabernacle and the Temple?” As a tent the Tabernacle was a portable place of worship designed for the people as they were traveling toward the Promised Land. The Temple was a permanent place to worship God after the Israelites were at peace in their land. To bring the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant to the Temple signified God’s presence there.

Another question might be, “Why is there so much emphasis on the Temple in the Old Testament?” First, it was symbolic of God’s authority over Israel. The Temple was God’s way of centralizing worship at Jerusalem in order to ensure correct beliefs would be kept through many generations. Second, it was a symbol of God’s holiness. The Temple’s beautiful atmosphere inspired respect and awe for God. Third, it was a symbol of God’s covenant with Israel. The Temple kept people focused on upon God’s law rather than a king’s exploits. It was the central focus for the people of Israel. Fourth, it was a symbol of forgiveness. The Temple’s design, furniture, and customs were great object lessons for all the people reminding them of the seriousness of sin, the penalties for sin, and their need for forgiveness. Fifth, it prepared the people for the Messiah. In the New Testament, Christ said He came to fulfill the law not destroy it (Hebrews 8:1-2, Hebrews 9:11-12). Finally, it was a place of prayer. In the Temple, people could spend time intimately and reverently with God in prayer.

So, ultimately, we see what the Temple represents and what it was supposed to mean for the Israelites. And, yes, I am sure it did mean all these things at first. But as we shall see in the coming chapters of 1 and 2 Kings and the other historical and prophetic books of the Old Testament, the Israelites lost their way. They became more focused on appearances rather than really honoring and obeying God from the heart. The Temple became a showpiece rather than a house of worship. The Temple no longer was pointing us toward Jesus but rather a place to be seen, a place to transact business, a place to go through the motions. It was then that the building of the Temple became more important than what was supposed to be happening inside it.

That ultimately challenges us in the 21st century. The challenge is that we need for our church to be known as a church that ministers to the world around it in the name of Jesus and they happen to do it from that building over there. If the only thing that our community knows about our church is that it is that big building over there, then, we have a problem. We want to be known for spreading the gospel FROM that building over there. We want to be known for using our building as a base of operations to send out people equipped to minister to the world around them. We want to be known as a building from which ministry begins. We want to be known that our building is simply a filling station to fuel up our saints to be sent back out in the world to glorify Jesus and lead others to our building where they can know Jesus and be sent back out too!

Amen and Amen.

1 Kings 7:13-51 (Part 7 of 7 – Conclusion of A Series)
Furnishings for the Temple

Today, we continue looking at the furnishings of the Temple in a 7-part series with Part 7. Because God is a God of order, everything in the Temple has a meaning. It symbolizes something in the relationship between God and His people.

Similarly, each of us has items that we have retained in our lives that are symbolic of some experience, particularly if you are a husband and wife. For Elena and me, we have things that we own that we have retained and not thrown away because they have significance to our relationship over the last 11 years (3 years of dating and 8 years of marriage). In my last blog, we talked about a dining room table that represents more than just a place to have a meal. They symbolize what God has done for us, to us, and through us.

For today, I think about our house itself. This house reminds Elena and me of just how blessed we are. First, we are blessed because this house is just so unique. Second, we see this house as confirmation of what can happen when we live more simply. Third, we blessed because it contains all treasures of a life built together. God’s blessings come from us seeing Him work in our lives. This house is an example of that fact. It reminds us God’s favor for those who seek Him.

First, we are blessed to have a home. One of the ways that we are blessed to have a home is that this house is just so unique. When I arrive home from work at the church each day I come in purposely from 39th Street so that I can drive past all four sides of our house and property. I come down 39th Street and see the north and the east side (front) of our house and then turn on to 20th Avenue to see the southside and the west side (back) of our house as I approach the detached garage on the very back edge of the west side of our property. It allows me to give myself a quick visual inspection of the house and property but I just love looking at our cute little house. I fell in love with it from the first time that we saw it. This house was built in 1914 so it is not some cookie-cutter house. It is distinctive. Further, it was completely remodeled on the inside by the previous owner who bought to “flip it” so it is modern on the inside, but yet, still has that 1914 character as well. It is just a neat old house that we consider ourselves lucky to have found. Every other house we looked at when shopping for a house when we moved here just had something wrong with it that was a deal breaker. There as so many old homes in this town that finding a perfect house is often difficult. But this house just spoke to us as it had no structural issues, was in our price range, and it had just been remodeled, and it was only 20 minutes from the church. We love older homes with character but that have been updated to keep up with modern amenities. This house just fit the bill.

Another way we look at this home and the two homes that we have purchased in our marriage before this one is that we are blessed to have a home. Since we began taking a biblical view of our finances where God calls us to be generous first, we have been able to rid ourselves of debt, live on less, and be generous to our church, family, friends and even strangers. The practical benefit of living biblically when it comes to your finances is that it changes your perspective on having to have stuff. It changes your perspective on the need for debt to finance what we want. As a result, practically, living life this way improves your credit rating. Over time, our credit rating has become quite excellent and we have had no troubles getting mortgage loans. That is such a blessing. Being able to own a home is just a blessing and we have achieved that is through learning to live more simply and doing our finances “God’s way”. What peace has come to us during the last 10 years! Being able not to worry about buying a house. Being able not to worry about making ends meet no matter our salary is simply a mindset reboot that we have received from God himself. And, then, when you think of people that are homeless on top of this mindset changing of managing money God’s way, then it brings you to tears. To know that we have been doubly blessed – learning to live more simply and to be blessed to have a place to live at all it can really bring you to tears when you sit and think on it. Especially on a day like today when it got down to 12 degrees Fahrenheit overnight last night and it is only 13 degrees outside in the Quad Cities at 8am this morning.

Another way to look at this house for us is that it contains our life. It may look simple on the outside. You may even say, like we do, that is such a cute house and it is. It’s not grand home. It’s not a mansion. But it is a cute, unique house. It is not the most expensive house in the Quad Cities, but it is nice looking. But the thing that makes it a cute home for us is that before we moved in it was a cute house. It is now a cute home. What makes it a home instead of just a house is the fact that it contains the treasures of a life built together. Everything in the house has a meaning. Everything in the house is a treasure to us. Otherwise, we would not keep the things that we have kept. Everything in this simple but cute house is a treasure to us. It represents what we have built together in our relationship over the last 11 years since we met. This house contains all of our meaningful things, some of which we have talked about in this blog series which we are concluding today. The life that we have built together is contained in this house. It is our place to be together after a hard day out in the world. It is our place to be ourselves and relax. It is our place to recharge. It our place to call home.

Thus, our house is a visual reminder of how God has blessed us over many years now. The house represents simply us submitting our lives and our finances and our everything over to Him. That’s the blessing and this house is a reminder of God’s blessing upon us. Similarly, It is this type of deeper meaning that we will look at in this passage today. Let’s continue today by discussing the storehouse of treasures in the Temple and what they mean and symbolize:

13 King Solomon then asked for a man named Huram[a] to come from Tyre. 14 He was half Israelite, since his mother was a widow from the tribe of Naphtali, and his father had been a craftsman in bronze from Tyre. Huram was extremely skillful and talented in any work in bronze, and he came to do all the metal work for King Solomon.

15 Huram cast two bronze pillars, each 27 feet tall and 18 feet in circumference.[b] 16 For the tops of the pillars he cast bronze capitals, each 7 1⁄2 feet[c] tall. 17 Each capital was decorated with seven sets of latticework and interwoven chains. 18 He also encircled the latticework with two rows of pomegranates to decorate the capitals over the pillars. 19 The capitals on the columns inside the entry room were shaped like water lilies, and they were six feet[d] tall. 20 The capitals on the two pillars had 200 pomegranates in two rows around them, beside the rounded surface next to the latticework. 21 Huram set the pillars at the entrance of the Temple, one toward the south and one toward the north. He named the one on the south Jakin, and the one on the north Boaz.[e] 22 The capitals on the pillars were shaped like water lilies. And so the work on the pillars was finished.

23 Then Huram cast a great round basin, 15 feet across from rim to rim, called the Sea. It was 7 1⁄2 feet deep and about 45 feet in circumference.[f] 24 It was encircled just below its rim by two rows of decorative gourds. There were about six gourds per foot[g] all the way around, and they were cast as part of the basin.

25 The Sea was placed on a base of twelve bronze oxen,[h] all facing outward. Three faced north, three faced west, three faced south, and three faced east, and the Sea rested on them. 26 The walls of the Sea were about three inches[i] thick, and its rim flared out like a cup and resembled a water lily blossom. It could hold about 11,000 gallons[j] of water.

27 Huram also made ten bronze water carts, each 6 feet long, 6 feet wide, and 4 1⁄2 feet tall.[k] 28 They were constructed with side panels braced with crossbars. 29 Both the panels and the crossbars were decorated with carved lions, oxen, and cherubim. Above and below the lions and oxen were wreath decorations. 30 Each of these carts had four bronze wheels and bronze axles. There were supporting posts for the bronze basins at the corners of the carts; these supports were decorated on each side with carvings of wreaths. 31 The top of each cart had a rounded frame for the basin. It projected 1 1⁄2 feet[l] above the cart’s top like a round pedestal, and its opening was 2 1⁄4 feet[m] across; it was decorated on the outside with carvings of wreaths. The panels of the carts were square, not round. 32 Under the panels were four wheels that were connected to axles that had been cast as one unit with the cart. The wheels were 2 1⁄4 feet in diameter 33 and were similar to chariot wheels. The axles, spokes, rims, and hubs were all cast from molten bronze.

34 There were handles at each of the four corners of the carts, and these, too, were cast as one unit with the cart. 35 Around the top of each cart was a rim nine inches wide.[n] The corner supports and side panels were cast as one unit with the cart. 36 Carvings of cherubim, lions, and palm trees decorated the panels and corner supports wherever there was room, and there were wreaths all around. 37 All ten water carts were the same size and were made alike, for each was cast from the same mold.

38 Huram also made ten smaller bronze basins, one for each cart. Each basin was six feet across and could hold 220 gallons[o] of water. 39 He set five water carts on the south side of the Temple and five on the north side. The great bronze basin called the Sea was placed near the southeast corner of the Temple. 40 He also made the necessary washbasins, shovels, and bowls.

So at last Huram completed everything King Solomon had assigned him to make for the Temple of the Lord:

41
the two pillars;
the two bowl-shaped capitals on top of the pillars;
the two networks of interwoven chains that decorated the capitals;
42
the 400 pomegranates that hung from the chains on the capitals (two rows of pomegranates for each of the chain networks that decorated the capitals on top of the pillars);
43
the ten water carts holding the ten basins;
44
the Sea and the twelve oxen under it;
45
the ash buckets, the shovels, and the bowls.

Huram made all these things of burnished bronze for the Temple of the Lord, just as King Solomon had directed. 46 The king had them cast in clay molds in the Jordan Valley between Succoth and Zarethan. 47 Solomon did not weigh all these things because there were so many; the weight of the bronze could not be measured.

48 Solomon also made all the furnishings of the Temple of the Lord:

the gold altar;
the gold table for the Bread of the Presence;
49
the lampstands of solid gold, five on the south and five on the north, in front of the Most Holy Place;
the flower decorations, lamps, and tongs—all of gold;
50
the small bowls, lamp snuffers, bowls, ladles, and incense burners—all of solid gold;
the doors for the entrances to the Most Holy Place and the main room of the Temple, with their fronts overlaid with gold.

51 So King Solomon finished all his work on the Temple of the Lord. Then he brought all the gifts his father, David, had dedicated—the silver, the gold, and the various articles—and he stored them in the treasuries of the Lord’s Temple.

In this passage, we see that Solomon placed all the treasures of the kingdom that David had accumulated over his reign and through all his military victories over the years. It was a wealth of gold and other precious metals. There was now a resting place for the valuable things that the Kingdom of Israel had acquired. It became the treasury storehouse of the kingdom. By modern standards, what we know of what became known as “The First Temple” or “Solomon’s Temple” it was simple by comparison to the rebuilt Temple grounds that continued from the time of return from the time of Nehemiah all the way through until the New Testament era. By the time of Jesus and for three decades after his death, it was an ornate facility that mushroomed what the original First Temple looked like. The First Temple was simple but yet ornate. It was small but yet was an architectural beauty. Its small size and simplicity from the outside belied the fact that it contained the most valuable items in the kingdom and held the treasury of gold, silver, gems and all the most valuable items belonging to the nation of Israel. It reminds me though our house looks cute by simple from the outside, the thing that makes it most valuable to us is that it contains our life together. This house contains the life of Mark and Elena that we have built over our lives together. In the same way, the Temple was beautiful in its outward simplicity but what made it wonderful was that it contained such beauty and treasure and it contained the presence of God.

In the same way, you and are simple vessels on the outside. Though we all have slight variations that make us all look different slightly, we are have the same physiology. We may have different heights, weights, facial features, hair color, and so on but we are all simple variations on the same human body. We all operate the same way. Process oxygen the same way. Process food the same way. Breath the same way. Process energy and expel energy the same way. We are all just basically the same. The human form is common to us all. That makes us, when you think about, rather unspectacular. We are all just human bodies that are basically the same physical structure operating on the same common operating systems. We are just common clay pots, as Paul called us in 2 Corinthians 4:7-9.

But, as Paul put it, our outward commonness belies the fact that within our clay jars we contain the greatest treasure of all – the message of the gospel! We who have made Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord contain Jesus Christ himself and the message of redemption that we have to offer the world. Clay jars containing great treasure. Simple houses containing great treasure. Simple temples containing the treasure of the kingdom. We are simple vessels containing the beauty of the gospel that makes us valuable and unique and worthy to God.

Amen and Amen.