Big Buildings and Small Coins

Solomon's TempleOne day, Jesus and His disciples were leaving the temple area. We’re not told which one, but one of the guys commented, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” (Mark 13:1) At least one of the disciples was clearly captivated by the grandeur of the temple.

Granted, it was a magnificent structure. You can read about the design and construction in 1 Kings 6 and 2 Chronicles 3 and 4. The temple in Jesus’ day was about 50 feet tall, the equivalent of a five-story building. That’s pretty impressive for not having the use of modern machinery.

Yet, it’s important to look at this story in context. Immediately prior to this scene, Jesus had just commented to His disciples about the woman they watched put two small copper coins into the offering box. It was a pittance from a monetary standpoint, but Jesus said, “This poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box.” (Mark 12:43) Jesus was telling them plainly that the actual dollar amount wasn’t all that significant.

The juxtaposition of these two scenes makes me wonder. Could Jesus have been thinking, I just told you that money – material possessions – are not really that important, and you think I’m going to be enamored with an impressive building?

I’d like to ridicule that disciple – and, honestly, each of them from time to time. Yet, I can too often empathize with them. It would likely have been me asking Jesus about the temple. How many times do I hear His Word, and then, with my next breath, ignore it?

Lord, forgive me.

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The Everlasting Arms

Everlasting ArmsGod gives us lots of promises in His Word. Some are intended to offer comfort during tumultuous times. Ever had any of those times?

Such promises cause us to recognize that, no matter what it looks like on the surface, God is still in control. Like this one from Psalm 75, for example: “When the earth totters, and all its inhabitants, it is I who keep steady its pillars.” (Psalm 75:3)

That’s quite a promise from the Lord. He is our stability. Regardless of what is happening – even in the midst of an earthquake, or what seems like an earthquake in life – He holds us fast and secure. This verse reminds me of another Scripture, “The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” (Deuteronomy 33:27)

He’s our support. He’s the solid foundation that we can build our lives upon. Always underneath us are His everlasting arms.

Aren’t you glad You know Him and that His everlasting arms are holding you today?

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“Stay Awake”

Sleeping on the JobIn the Gospel of Mark, Jesus talks about end times. “Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come…—lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.” (Mark 13:35-37)

Obviously, Jesus didn’t mean that we should never fall asleep. Our bodies need rest. It is essential for us to sleep. So, what did He mean by “Stay awake”?

Peter makes a statement that may help us in this regard. “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8, author’s emphasis) The word translated here as “be watchful” is rendered differently by various versions of the Bible. The NIV uses the word “alert.” The KJV says, “be vigilant.” Others say, “keep watch” or “keep on the alert.” Paul uses the same word Peter used when he tells us to “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it…” (Colossians 4:2).

In fact, the same Greek word is also in Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth. He tells them, “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith…” (1 Corinthians 16:13). The NIV translates it “Be on your guard…”

That’s really the point of what Jesus was saying. Keep an eye out. Be watchful. Be vigilant (literally, “keenly watchful to detect danger; wary”). Don’t let your guard down.

Years ago I heard a great true statement. “As Christians, spiritual warfare is not a choice we make; it is part of our identity.” That’s true.

We do not have the luxury of letting down our guard or thinking we don’t have an enemy. He is prowling around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Don’t give him an easy meal. Stay awake.

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Citizenship

citizenshipAs a citizen of the state of Missouri, I have certain rights and privileges. I can, for example, get a major discount on tuition at state-run colleges and universities. This is not something that is afforded to just anyone, but only to those who are actually citizens of our state.

Yet, I’m not only a citizen of Missouri, I’m also a citizen of the United States of America. That status affords me other certain privileges. Social Security benefits, Medicare, and more are included in my citizenship. Those aren’t accessible because I have attained some sort of elite status. They are simply a part of my citizenship.

So, when the Bible declares that Christ’s followers are citizens of heaven – “our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20) – what does that mean for us? As citizens of not only our particular state or province, as well as our country, but also of heaven, what rights and privileges can you think of that we have?

Of course, we should realize that there is more to the story than just the benefits to us. As citizens, we also have certain responsibilities. What are our responsibilities as citizens of heaven?

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Meaning

meaningDoes anyone else find it ironic that so many people today are searching for meaning? I keep seeing it in news stories, movies, novels, television … even in everyday conversations with regular people. They want to know what life is all about. Somewhere inside there seems to be a void – something is missing – and they can’t figure it out.

Am I the only one who wants to say, “Duh”?

Having removed the real reason for our existence – relationship with God – from the equation, it only makes sense that people will search in every nook and cranny, and through every means possible, to find meaning.

Of course, God seems like the logical answer. Yet, if there is no God, then the answer must be somewhere else. And off they go, trying to find meaning through any number of ways. Drugs, sex, money, and power are obvious ones. Others try rescuing striped salamanders in South American jungles, or going “green,” or stopping global warming, or bringing an end to corporate greed – or some other such noble cause. At the end of the day, though, none of those will bring lasting meaning.

Ironically, God is standing there, waiting, the whole time.

“And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.” (Romans 1:28-31)

I’m amazed by how accurately the Apostle Paul described our current society nearly two-thousand years ago.

Church of Jesus Christ: Don’t be silent. We have answers. There’s a God Who longs to give meaning and purpose to the lives of His people. Let others know about the Lord Who came to earth to rescue them and be in relationship with them.

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Eager Anticipation

bride anticipationLess than a week ago, my daughter was married. It was a wonderful ceremony from beginning to end. But, several days later, I am still struck by two images I witnessed as I walked her down the aisle.

The first was her groom. I glanced toward him as I brought Amy toward the front of the sanctuary. His face was priceless. The expectancy. The anticipation. The excitement. At one point, he rocked forward, like a runner ready to race down the aisle. There was no denying the love and longing for his beloved.

I am pretty sure the other image will be forever embedded in my mind. It happened when I glanced sideways toward my daughter. There I noticed the same intensity of heart I saw on the bridegroom. The look on her face as she walked slowly toward her man showed a depth of anticipation – a yearning – that I have rarely been privileged to witness.

Thinking back on those two images, I am so grateful for the intensity of their love for one another. Yet, it causes me to wonder about us …  you and me.

Are we that eager for our Bridegroom? Are we longing for His coming with such excitement and anticipation? Titus 2:13 tells us we should be “waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.”

In Revelation 22:20, we are reminded, “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” I pray that you and I can shout aloud, “Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!”

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Where Did the Time Go?

wedding ringI never thought it would happen so soon. Oh sure, when she was little, we talked about it sometimes. But it was always in distant terms, many years from now. Certainly nowhere near as quickly as it’s happening. For goodness sake, she wasn’t even supposed to date until she was at least 30!

Yet, whether I’m ready or not, it’s happening. The rehearsal is tomorrow and the wedding the next day. My baby girl is getting married.

On the one hand, it’s heart-wrenching. Things are changing. There will not only be an empty room in the house, but an empty place in my heart. The hand-in-hand walks to church will be a fond memory as, two days from now, I walk with her, one final time, down the aisle.

At the same time, it is a joyous occasion. She has found the person with whom she will spend the rest of her life. Her betrothed is a fine young man who we are proud to have join our family.

Just as my amazing wife and I did nearly 36 years ago, they will make promises to one another before friends and family … and, most importantly, before God. And the two shall become one. That is indeed something to celebrate!

Now, if I can just make it though the ceremony with as few tears as possible…

There’s a chance you could be facing your own situation, one far more traumatic than mine. If so, remember that we have a God who is faithful and is always with us. Trust Him.

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