Sunday, March 31, 2013

If There Were No Needs to Meet

It's a verse to live by: "And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus " (Phil. 4:19). As Christians, we believe this. So, our prayers are filled with what we need...and we want that need met, now please.

But a God who is Sovereign, Omniscient, who knows every need before we even know it--why does He wait until we identify a need, a lack before He responds? Why doesn't He just provide before we need so that there is no need to begin with?

God waiting for us to realize we need, we lack, we are incomplete--it's a pattern in Scripture. The stories are tucked within--stories of real people in history with real needs, all coming to their heavenly Father, asking for help, and God responding in His time...and when He responds to meet that need, there is always joy.

There is Hannah who petitioned the Lord for a child after years of barrenness...and God responded with her son Samuel so that her heart exulted in the Lord: "I rejoice in Your salvation" (1 Sam. 2:1).

There is Queen Esther and her "uncle" Mordecai who petitioned the Lord for protection for their people when Haman had contrived the coming of a Jewish holocaust...and God brought salvation, so much that the holiday Feast of Purim was established with "feasting and rejoicing" (Esther 9:22).

From Genesis to Revelation, the in-between is filled with examples of people feeling a need and God fulfilling it. But, I find value in looking at the Alpha and Omega--the first and the last.

The very first time man finds He lacks something, has a need only God can fulfill, is found in the second chapter of Genesis:

"Then the LORD God said, 'It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.' Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him" (Gen. 2:18-20).

Here, Adam needed a helper. The Lord said as much. Why, then, did the Lord not immediately create Eve? Why first did He bring forth every animal to parade before Adam? Yes, to name them. But why now? Why not do the naming after He created Eve?

It's likely that God wanted Adam to realize what he lacked, for Adam to realize he had a need only God could fulfill in supplying the helper. And in the knowing came an appreciation of what he gained by God meeting that need.

This need-understanding, this lack-filling in Adam--it's a foreshadowing of a fallen race of Adams, Hannahs, and Esters, men and women with the taint of sin coursing through their veins so black that only the blood of a coming Messiah could cover and redeem. But the key to receiving redemption is that you first must understand your need for it.

This is what happens in the last example of this pattern in Revelation, when it is time for the book with the seven seals to be opened. John says, "And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the book and to break its seals?” And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the book or to look into it. Then I began to weep greatly because no one was found worthy to open the book or to look into it" (Rev. 5:2-4).

Here, "no one" is found worthy enough to open the book and start the countdown to the kingdom calendar's culmination. It is obvious that there was a search based on a lack, a need seeking to be filled.

Yet, with the search over and no one found, John begins to weep--he loudly wails in grief as one who is mourning the dead. He feels the hopelessness of an eternity without one worthy enough.

God waits, allowing John to truly understand His need, mankind's need of a Savior. Then, one of the elders speaks up, directing him to look at the "Lamb standing, as if slain" (Rev. 5:6).

The Lamb, Jesus, the one sacrifice for all time--He is there to open the books, and at that moment, myriads of angels begin to praise Him in joy, shouting "Worthy is the Lamb!" (v. 11). From weeping to uproarious joy in seconds.

It initially sounds pretty good--God meeting our needs before we even know what we need. Imagine the grief we could avoid if we did not feel loss or lack, if there were no void waiting to be filled in us.

But this would not be a gift at all. Before we can appreciate anything of great value in our lives, God is gracious to either let us feel loss or the lack first. Otherwise, we cannot really appreciate the gain to the fullest. More importantly, though, without this recognition, we cannot realize our need for a Savior.

(With Revelations 5 on my mind this evening, I'm reprinting from the archives.  We have waited three days with Christ entombed, reminding me of my hopeless estate without Him.  Today's Easter sunrise brought forth the one worthy enough, showing me how hopeful each day truly is with Him risen from the grave.)

Photo from:

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Truth About Passover

On the rectangular block designated for this upcoming Tuesday, March 26, a ghostly gray font spells the word "Passover."  The word sits there quasi-transparent, hidden at the bottom line, as if the publisher were almost ashamed to put it (and every other holiday) on a wall calendar, choosing to label the holidays in the palest, smallest font so anyone could ignore them if he so chose.

For much of my life, Christians have ignored Passover as something for Jews only.  But the more I study Scripture, the more I'm learning the only way I can understand Jesus is to understand the Jewishness of Jesus.  The more I want to understand God the Father, the more I need to understand His relationship with His promised children in the Old Testament.

And understanding Passover?  It is integral to understanding Christ's sacrifice on the cross.

The first Passover was celebrated in Egypt, where the Israelites were slaves.   God told them "I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn...The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you" (Ex. 12:12-13).  Here, the word translated as "pass over" is the Hebrew word pasah from the noun pesah, which is translated as "Passover."  While "these words have no connection with any other Hebrew word,...they do resemble the Egyptian word pesh, which means 'to spread wings over.'"1

As Arthur W. Pink says in his book Gleanings in Exodus, "The word has, consequently, the very meaning of the Egyptian term for 'spreading the wings over and protecting;' and pesach, the Lord's Passover, means such sheltering and protection as is found under the outstretched wings of the Almighty.  Does this not give a new fullness to those words, 'O Jerusalem! Jerusalem!...How often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen does gather her brood under her wings?' (Luke 13:34)...It is not merely that the Lord passed by the houses of Israelites, but that He stood on guard protecting each blood-sprinkled door!"2

Can you see the image here of our "mother hen" of a Savior standing with His protective arms spread in front of each blood-painted door while the death angel canvasses Egypt for firstborn sons? This is an image foreshadowing Christ's own sacrifice covering our sins, thereby protecting us from the curse of sin and death.  Yet, this image is not the image of a passive Savior whose past shedding of blood merely hides our sin, but of one who actively stands in the way at each door to protect His children.  He is our defender.

This story of Passover--it is, at its core, a story and a promise of redemption through such a defender.  

As Messianic Jewish rabbi and author Derek Leman says, "At the first Passover, it was more than just a promise.  There was an actual sacrifice, and an actual firstborn was redeemed....The lamb's blood in Egypt was the means of a mighty act of redemption."3

In other words, God's promise to redeem the firstborn son's life in Egypt was not a forward-reaching promise that would merely require faith now and sight generations later.  Even though this promise did allude to faith in such a future fulfillment found in Christ's sacrifice on the cross, at the very first Passover, the Israelite slave witnessed a fulfillment of the promise--an actual sacrifice of a pure, spotless lamb, an actual redemption of a firstborn son.

Here, though, the blood was mere animal blood, not the blood of the only pure Son of God. Much like with Abraham, the Israelites' salvation came not through the blood of animals but by their faith (see Galatians 3:6 and Hebrews 10).  As Lemen says, "though the option was given to the people for escape, they still needed to choose to exercise that option.  The Israelites needed faith and obedience, to believe God's Word and act on it.  The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world calls for action as well as faith"3

Faith in action was necessary for salvation.

Understanding Passover, then, is important to understanding the very nature of salvation, itself.  Had the Israelites merely hidden behind the doorposts and lentils covered with the lamb's blood yet did so without faith in God, they would not have been redeemed.   The same is true of us.  We cannot really have faith in God if we choose to not obey God's holy Word--all of it.  Faith in action.

For the Jews to celebrate Passover each year was for them to remember God's promise of redemption and His fulfillment of that promise.  Its celebration was intended to give future generations a real, historical example of God's faithfulness, of faith and a pure, blood sacrifice mingling together to redeem a son from the power of sin and death.  This reminder was preparing them for faith in Christ as their Passover lamb, hence John the Baptist's calling Him "the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (Jn. 1:29).

Christ's blood shed at Calvary--He is our choice.  We must act in faith, choose His covering of blood by living a life of obedience to Him.

Whether you choose to celebrate a traditional seder meal at Passover or not is a personal conviction, not something I'm trying to force on anyone. Understanding that Christ IS our Passover and living a life of active faith in Him is what is important. 

1 Rosen, Ceil and Moishe Rosen.  Christ in the Passover.  Chicago: Moody, 2006, 27-28.
2 Pink, Arthur.  Gleanings in Exodus.  Chicago: Moody, n.d., 93. 
3 Leman, Derek.  Finding Your Place at the Table of Tradition.  Nashville: Lifeway, 2008, 23-24. 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Why We Read Every Last Page

I'll admit I have my favorite passages, those stories from my childhood that I am drawn to because I can visualize them (usually with Charlton Heston playing the part of Moses).  Then, there are those verses and books that are difficult, the kind that make me run rough hands through unruly curls, rub my throbbing temples, and sigh at the ceiling.

When it comes to the pages of Scripture, we all have our favorite and our not-so-favorite chapter and verse.  My father loves Revelation and anything prophetic.  I, on the other hand, am a people person and cultural analyst at heart, so I prefer the histories found in the Kings and Chronicles.

Yet, even though we have our favorite passages, that doesn't mean we're excused from studying the entire Word of God, yes, even if we think some passages are "too hard" or not really pertinent to us since God was speaking to the Jews and not us Gentiles.

Our perception of The Bible is often times warped.  Looked at one way, the tome does seem pretty big.  In fact, if a person were to drop a Bible on his toe, he you might think God sure said an awful lot.  But if one stops to consider that God fit the history of several thousand years into the Old Testament alone and then skipped 400 years between testaments before presenting the life of Jesus and the early church in the New Testament, well, that reveals a pretty small book, considering, an author God who just gives the highlights.

The Bible does mince words. Thus, when we pick and choose which passages we would like to study and ignore the rest, we don't know what we're missing out on.

My studies just this past week reminded me of how important it is for me to let Scripture interpret Scripture, to continue building a knowledge base of each book so I can better understand the other books, whether individually or in their totality.

Back in September of 2011, I was studying the book of Ezra.  In one post, I wrote on the exiles who rebuilt the temple, then celebrated after the new temple's foundation was built.  In the midst of that celebration, the returned exiles who had seen the former temple wept: "Yet many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers' households, the old men who had seen the first temple, wept with a loud voice when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, while many shouted aloud for joy, so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the shout of joy from the sound of the weeping of the people" (Ez. 3:12-13).

While some of the weeping was due to happiness over this restoration, many tears were because of how ordinary this temple foundation was in comparison to the luxurious original built by Solomon and because even when physically restored, God's presence was not residing within the holy of holies as He once had.

This concept of disappointment is confirmed when later at the temple's completion, God spoke through the prophet Haggai: "'Who is left among you who saw this temple in its former glory? And how do you see it now? Does it seem to you like nothing in comparison?'" (Hag. 2:3).

This is what I understood at the time.  But because I had not yet studied the book of Ezekiel in depth, I missed another important reason why these exiles may have been crying. 

In the latter half of Ezekiel's prophecy, God gives a vision of His glory returning to a future temple.  In chapters 40-42, He even takes Ezekiel on a guided tour of that temple, wherein a man with a measuring rod reveals the height, width, and length of each wall in intricate detail, describing the gates, windows, courts, chambers, rooms, etc.  This future temple would be a huge complex, much larger than even Solomon's temple in all its glory.

Then, after receiving this blueprint, God says, "As for you, son of man, describe the temple to the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities; and let them measure the plan. If they are ashamed of all that they have done, make known to them the design of the house, its structure, its exits, its entrances, all its designs, all its statutes, and all its laws. And write it in their sight, so that they may observe its whole design and all its statutes and do them" (Ez. 43:10).

Here, God invites Ezekiel to share this vision of the "new temple" with those exiles who are with him in Babylon, those who have yet to be released by King Cyrus to go back home. 

Surely, some of these same people who heard of this future temple expected that this prophecy would be fulfilled in their lifetime.  Surely, when Cyrus allowed them to return to Jerusalem and gave orders for the temple rebuilt, they believed the temple built with their hands would be the magnificent one from Ezekiel's vision.

Yet, it wasn't.  Clearly.  In fact, it wasn't even as big as the temple King Solomon had built.  And so, they wept.

As such, their tears were not merely because they were looking back in sorrow over what once was and was no longer but also because they were looking forward in sorrow.  Anyone who had heard the detailed blueprint in Ezekiel's prophecy would immediately realize that this smaller temple could never be the one in the vision that saw God's glory return, never to leave again.

And so, their weeping was in the knowledge that God's promise to dwell with them forever was still far off because of their sin.

This revelation may not seem earth shattering, maybe not even important.  But, it spoke to me of how we should mourn.

Presently, Christians seem to want to mourn our present state by looking backwards to the "good ole days."  We mourn a country, a people who aren't as holy, as God-fearing as they were "back then."  Yet, instead of looking backwards all the time, I believe we should be looking forwards and mourning because of the holiness to come promised through the prophets, a time that seems so far from us at times.  

Both types of mourning require us to look at our sin, repent, and look to Christ.  However, looking backwards tends to focus more on people and their accomplishments as we wish we could be more like they were whereas looking forward tends to keep our focus more on God, His perfection, and His promises to come.  Whether we keep our hope in the past or in the future is important.

Had I said the book of Ezekiel was too difficult, too controversial, or too elusive to grasp completely, I would have missed the simple message God had planned for me.  It's a word of encouragement to all of us.  Even though we may prefer to read something else, God says to study His Word, and that means all of it.  

Who knows what simple truth He may have hiding for us in those favorite passages, perhaps little nuggets of life-altering wisdom that we'll never receive unless we veer from the well-worn path into the wilderness of those unknown books.  We may just find a missing piece we never knew we were looking for.

Image: from Derek Griz' blog, calling to Christians to read the Bible through in one year.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Has God Turned His Back on Israel?

During the Holocaust, "some Jews were marched into gas changers under signs that read, 'You are being killed in the name of Jesus Christ.'"1  Before that time, the Middle Ages found Crusaders "massacr[ing] Jewish communities" as they marched across Europe to Jerusalem.  Likewise, during the Spanish Inquisition, Jews were "forced by the edge of the sword to convert to Christianity or be killed."2

History is ripe with examples of so-called Christians persecuting the Jews.  In our present-day American society, this anti- Semitism seems less pervasive than in the past, but still, there is an attitude in the Christian church that we Christians are simply better than the Jews are.

I personally remember shaking my head when reading those New Testament passages that show Jesus fulfilling one of hundreds of Old Testament prophesies, asking myself just how God's people who knew the Scriptures better than I did could do anything but see Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah.  Just how stupid were they!?

The problem with such an attitude is that it leads to a feeling of superiority over the Jews, a "Look at us!  We Gentiles accepted Jesus as Messiah when 'those Jews' didn't!  Who's the chosen people of God now!?"  And with this superiority comes what is called "Replacement Theology," an idea that Christians have "replaced" the Jews as God's chosen people.

This could not be further from what God has in mind.  If anything, we Christians should feel nothing but gratitude, love, and thankfulness for the Jews. And what's more--we should be concerned about the state of the Jewish nation's souls. Why?

To understand, we need to look to the Old Testament, which repeats the pattern wherein the people of Israel turn their backs on God, repent, then turn their backs again.  Each time, God begs them to return and repeatedly warns them through His designated watchmen of His wrath to come.  When they don't listen, He finally does turn His back on them, removes His holy presence from the temple at Jerusalem, and allows His holy city to be burned to the ground while His chosen ones are ripped away from the Promised Land of covenant and scattered around the globe in exile.

This break in communion between God and His people ushered in the age of the church, Christianity, and the age of the Gentiles, the time in history we are living in presently when God is extending His offer of grace, mercy, and salvation to the world--to YOU and ME so that we can make our place in God's Kingdom.

Yet, in Romans, Paul warns us as Christians against pride over our salvation.  To do this, he uses a metaphor of the olive tree wherein the Jews are the "natural branches" and and we Christians are "wild olive shoots" grafted into the tree.

Paul warns against our arrogance and pride towards the Jews: "But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you...Do not be conceited, but fear; for if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you, either. Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off. And they also, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. For if you were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these who are the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree?" (Rom. 11:17-24).

The Jews were cut off so that we Gentiles might have a place in God's Kingdom.  The Jews' hardness of heart concerning Jesus was God-ordained as an expression of God's "kindness" so that we might be saved.  Paul repeats again that the Jews' rejection of Jesus was our only chance at salvation: "their rejection is the reconciliation of the world" (Rom 11:15).  He then implores Christ followers to understand "that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and so all Israel will be saved" (Rom. 11:25-26).

In other words, the age of the Christian, of the church, isn't going to last forever.  We Christians are not the end of it all.  Instead, God still has His eye of what He refers to throughout the Old Testament as His "remnant," Jews who will be saved and grafted back into the kingdom of Christ. 

History isn't going to just end with Christianity apart from the Jews.  Instead, Scripture records that there is still a remnant of Jews that God is gathering back to the land of promise, gathering back to Himself.  The Kingdom of God, the church of God, is to be composed of both Gentile and Jew, together serving God the Father.

In Jonathan Bernis' new book, A Rabbi Looks at the Last Days: Surprising Insights on Israel, the End Times and Popular Misconceptions, he speaks to Christians, begging them to take a second look at what Scripture says about the Jews, about Israel as a nation, and about the church's role in evangelizing the Jewish community.

Bernis argues that the Christian Age is quickly coming to a close, as is evidenced by Jews beginning to be saved in large numbers.  He says, "Fifty years ago not a single Messianic Jewish congregation existed anywhere (there were only a handful of Hebrew Christian groups), and very few Jews professed faith in Yeshua--several thousand at best.  By 2012, more than 500 Messianic Jewish congregations existed around the world, including at least fifty in Israel...Conservative estimates indicate the number of Jews who believe in Yeshua...range somewhere between 50,000 and 100,000 in the United States and 250,000 to 500,000 worldwide.  An estimated 20,000 Messianic Jews live in Israel today"3.

Christians have not "replaced" the Jews as God's chosen people.  Yes, we have been grafted in to the body, but God remembers that the children of Israel are His people. He still both remembers and honors His covenant with Abraham.

All one need do is look at the end of each Old Testament prophecy to Israel to see God concluding with a word of prophetic hope that He will keep His covenant and save a remnant, which will rise up in the last days.   Ezekiel, Daniel, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi--their endings all look to Israel's restoration.  (See my article "Happily Ever After" for a look at these prophets' final outlook for Israel in Scripture). 

As Christians, this knowledge should shape our attitude towards any Jewish persons we know and towards Israel as a nation in general.  Let us not be prideful of our position in Christ.  Let us not write off the Jews around us as "blowing their chance."

Instead, let us learn how best to evangelize the Jewish community.  Let us pray for Jews to come to know Jesus as their Messiah and Savior.  And let us not be prideful over our salvation but rather be humbled by the thought that, as Paul says, some Jews were allowed to fall off so we could be grafted in to God's kingdom.

(**If you only read one book other than The Bible this year, I recommend it be Jonathan Bernis' new release, A Rabbi Looks at the Last Days.   Not only does Bernis give an intriguing look at the history of Christianity and the Jews, but he also explains signs of the Last Days from the standpoint of a Messianic Jewish Rabbi while giving Scripture to back up everything.  What's more, he also gives a wonderful few chapters on "how to" share Jesus with a Jew, explaining how the usual Christian lingo means something different to a Jew and how to avoid inadvertently building up those walls when sharing Jesus with them.)

1.  Bernis, Jonathan.  A Rabbi Looks at the Last Days.  Minneapolis: Chosen, 2013. (p. 159-160).
2.  Rose Price, A Rose from the Ashes: The Rose Price Story.  San Francisco: Purple Pomegranate Productions, a Division of Jews for Jesus, 2006 (p. 81).
3.  Bernis (p. 73-74).

Monday, March 4, 2013

When The Church House Is Just Another Building

I have spent thirty-six years worshiping in churches snuggled comfortably within both city and country communities.  With their stadium-sized crosses and towering steeples, it's obvious what the buildings are.  Still, they are situated right in the midst of life, itself, flanked on both sides of the pagan, sometimes invisible save for their sign, larger-than-a-house size, or Christian symbols slapped on the exterior.

My present church rests across from a large ball field and track.  Most Sundays when I walk into the building, there are dozens of parents, children, and coaches across the asphalt ribbon that divides holy ground from worship of athletics.  It still amazes me how close yet how far thousands come each weekend to the cross, but they never cross that solid white line. 

We live and die by those dividing lines, by the choice to turn left or right, whether literal like this one or metaphorical.

This Spring, I've been studying the second half of Ezekiel.  If you're a regular follower, you've probably noticed your Monday Morning Manna is 24 hours late.  I can promise it's not due to laziness but rather a fogginess I've encountered with great regularity these past month.  Trying to unravel the mysteries found at the end of Ezekiel's prophecy is like waking up in the morning and almost grasping the fuzzy outline of a thought found seconds ago in your dreams only to have it slip away in the mist of alertness.

The confusion isn't all mine, though.  In the last few chapters, Ezekiel speaks of what many believe to be a physical temple and a larger temple complex to come during Christ's 1,000 year Millennial reign.  Some believe Ezekiel is speaking of a spiritual temple.  Other scholars believe there are two temples yet to be rebuilt before Christ's return.

Ugh.  I want to just put it down, walk away with the defeatist attitude, "If people smarter than I am are confused, what chance do I have?"  But, again and again, I keep going back to the Scriptures.  Why?  Because God gave them to me--all of them, from Genesis to Revelation.

All--to me and you.  Skipping chapters/verses/books of Scripture we fail to understand would demonstrate a lack of faith on our part.  Who is to say the Spirit can't speak to us great knowledge and revelation through His Word?

And so, I read on, believing God will speak through the mist.  Of course, He does, though sometimes now with answers to the dozens of questions I have.  One of those glimpses through the mist came from Ezekiel 43 when God described His holy temple, a place where He would dwell with His holy people forever:

"this is the place of My throne and the place of the soles of My feet, where I will dwell among the sons of Israel forever. And the house of Israel will not again defile My holy name, neither they nor their kings, by their harlotry and by the corpses of their kings when they die, by setting their threshold by My threshold and their door post beside My door post, with only the wall between Me and them. And they have defiled My holy name by their abominations which they have committed. So I have consumed them in My anger. Now let them put away their harlotry and the corpses of their kings far from Me; and I will dwell among them forever."

In this passage, God speaks criticism of temples past and how Israel has treated God's dwelling place as unholy.

Two specific critiques are that their kings' corpses and doorposts were located too close to the temple's threshhold.  Some scholars like Matthew Henry view these "kings" and "doorposts" as references to idol worship wherein idols were set up either in or near the temple complex, mere "corpses" in comparison to the One Living God.  Others believe these offenses were literal.  They cite kings' burials and King Solomon's personal houses (the kind that hid lifestyles of harlotry and idolatry behind their walls), both of which were constructed too near the temple.

Whether literal or metaphorical, the point is clear--the temple is to be holy, so holy that sinful practices should be nowhere near because they defile the temple, itself.

The logical application of this is that we are the temple of God, and, as such, should be just as holy.  We are to be a "city set on a hill"--bright, shining, removed from the darkness below in an in-the-world-yet-not-of-the-world way (Matt. 5:15). 

Paul tells us, "Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect" (Rom. 12:1-2).  
This comparison isn't new, though.  Scripture is clear that our bodies as the temple of God should not house dead corpses of idolatry, harlotry, or anything considered an abomination to holiness. Yet, this passage makes me wonder not so much about our bodies as a holy temple but about our church buildings as needing to be considered just as holy for our worship.

No, I am not Jewish, and no, Ezekiel's message was not directed at me as a Gentile. I worship at a Christian church, not at a Jewish temple.  Likewise, God's presence doesn't dwell radiantly behind the veil in my church the same way it did in Israel's Jerusalem temple.   

Still, what if we applied the same idea of holiness to our Christian places of worship when we gather there before the Lord?  I don't think it's too far a stretch to say that any place set aside for the purpose of worshiping God should be treated as holy ground, whether that be brick and mortar, a stadium, or a tent raised above bare earth.

Yet, too often, the church is just another building for communal gathering, not a place of holiness.

How we treat the place where we worship says a lot about how we perceive God, how we perceive worship, and how we're personally doing on our path towards holiness.

I don't know for certain if God will one day criticize us for what we allowed to take place within His church house, but Ezekiel's warning is enough to make me cautious.

My worship of God must be pure. Holy. Set apart.......wherever that may be.  

Image posted by Ron here.