GOD HAS LEFT THE BUILDING

Have the people of Israel build me a holy sanctuary so I can live among them. [Exodus 25:8 (NLT)]

lowdermilk park - naples FLGod directed Moses to build Him a miqdâsh, a sanctuary or sacred place. That there are 50 chapters of Scripture devoted to its construction tells us that it was of great importance to the Israelites. At first, this sanctuary was the holy tent known as the Tabernacle and, once completed, Scripture tells us the glory of the Lord filled  it. In Solomon’s day, God’s sanctuary became the Temple in Jerusalem where it became the center of worship. Jewish law even demanded that every man had to make a pilgrimage to the Temple three times a year.

When the Temple was destroyed in 70 AD, God was not left homeless. The glory of the Lord didn’t disappear because God never lived in a tent or building. While God’s presence was centered on the Tabernacle, it was not limited to it because no building, place, or nation can contain Him! He is with us wherever we are. God wanted the sanctuary built not so he could live in it but so that He could shâkan (settle down, reside, abide, or dwell) with the people! Where we worship God isn’t important; what is important is that we do worship Him!

As it turns out, the church at which I regularly worship has no walls; it is located in a park by the beach. Even though our church has left the building, it is as much a Tabernacle as the tent of the Israelites, St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, Washington’s National Cathedral, a home church in China, a pub outreach in Pennsylvania, or a SK8 ministry’s skateboard park. A building isn’t necessary for worship because our bodies serve as God’s dwelling place.

Just because God isn’t confined to a building, however, doesn’t mean we should skip attending church! The Law required Jews to worship at the Temple three times a year but many who claim to be Christians only make it twice: Christmas and Easter (if even then). There are many golfers, fishermen, bikers, beach-goers, and sports fans who say they worship God while doing their favorite weekend activity. Asking God to sink a putt, saying “Oh, my God!” when you land a big fish, taking His name in vain when the running back fumbles, or a quick grace said over Sunday dinner are no substitute for corporate worship! Although we can worship God anywhere and everywhere (even on TV or the Internet), it’s important to meet with fellow believers. Church isn’t just sixty to ninety minutes of song, prayers, and message.

The Apostle Paul points out that we are all part of the body of Christ and a body can’t function without all of its parts. It’s at church where we meet our brothers and sisters in Christ and have the opportunity to be compassionate or accept a kindness, to offer prayers or be lifted in prayer, to love and be loved, to be inspired or offer encouragement, to assist or receive help, to instruct or to learn, and to make friendships and be held accountable. When we come together as the Church, we sing our praises, meet at the Lord’s table, partake of His body and blood, and welcome others into the beautiful body of Christ. While God may have left the building, He hasn’t left the church and neither should we.

Church attendance is as vital to a disciple as a transfusion of rich, healthy blood to a sick man. [D.L. Moody]

Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. [Hebrews 10:24-25 (NLT)]

All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper, and to prayer…. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity—all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved. [Acts 2:42, 46 (NLT)]

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SELLING YOUR SOUL

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. [Romans 3:23-24 (NLT)]

Many stories, novels, operas, musicals, and movies have been based on the theme of selling one’s soul to the devil. In Christopher Marlowe’s 1592 play, The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus, a brilliant scholar who’s sure he’s learned all there is to know by conventional means turns to magic and ends up summoning the devil Mephistopheles. The two agree that, after Faustus has enjoyed twenty-four years of absolute power (with Mephistopheles as his servant), his soul will belong to Lucifer. When the handsome Dorian sells his soul so that he will never age in The Picture of Dorian Gray, he enters into a lifestyle of debauchery. While Dorian remains handsome, his picture changes to reflect the immoral and sinful life he’s led. In the 1968 horror movie Rosemary’s Baby, the naïve Rosemary discovers that her husband sold both his soul and her womb to Satan for riches and career success. As expected, none of those tales end well. The Devil and Daniel Webster, however, does but only because of the eloquence of the famed lawyer and statesman Daniel Webster.

While it was Daniel Webster’s persuasive arguments that saved the soul of Jabez Stone from the clutches of the devil, it is Jesus who saves ours! Before we came to Christ, we all were in bondage to sin and condemned to death. Satan may have authority over those who aren’t Christ followers, but he doesn’t over us. Just as Jesus set the demoniac free, he sets us free, as well.

While stories of selling one’s soul are morality tales that vividly illustrate the wages of sin, they are fiction and the concept of making a deal with Satan is not Biblical. Nevertheless, let us not forget that Satan is a deceiver and tempter who is committed to opposing God and all who follow Him. While Jesus has freed us from condemnation, He has not freed us from temptation.

Satan tempts us with things like power, riches, or status every day, just not as blatantly as he did in those fictional accounts. Rather than offering us a contract to be signed in blood, he subtly offers a seemingly trivial compromise one day followed by a minor concession or false rationale the next. Dangling some reward in front of us, he whispers that everyone else is doing it, we deserve whatever it is, no one will ever know, or that we’ve got to look out for ourselves since no one else will! With each concession, we surrender a little bit of ourselves in the false belief that what we’ll gain is more valuable than what we lose.

Temptation is an inevitable part of living in this fallen world but we have not been left defenseless. We won’t need Daniel Webster’s skillful courtroom arguments because we have prayer, self-discipline, and God’s armor. We wear the belt of truth and the breast-plate of righteousness and have the Gospel of peace for shoes. We carry the shield of faith, place the helmet of salvation on our heads, and fight with the sword of the Spirit and God’s Word. Our souls are not for sale!

As the most dangerous winds may enter at little openings, so the devil never enters more dangerously than by little unobserved incidents, which seem to be nothing, yet insensibly open the heart to great temptations. [John Wesley]

A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. [Ephesians 6:10-12 (NLT)]

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