Archive for June, 2009


June 17, 2009

John Piper has a great article on idolatry on his blog at  Worth a read.  It (idolatry) is bigger than you think.

the witness

June 12, 2009
altar image borrowed from

altar image borrowed from

As I’ve said, frequently and fervently, I’m believe that the first 3/4 of your Bible is just as important as the the last 27 books.  I don’t think they were an accident, or that Isreal was Plan A and the church is Plan B.  Or that God somehow needed to go through Abraham, Moses, David and the Prophets to get to Jesus.  I believe, like Paul wrote to believers in Rome and Corinth, that these things were written as examples to us.  I believe that God, the author, architect, and artist of creation used the Hebrew race to give us a picture of who he is, how much he loves us, and his purpose for us.

So I’ve been hung up for two days on Joshua 22 – the story of the witness. Here it is in brief:

  • The children of Israel have just finished conquering the promised land
  • The families of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh had chosen land west of the Jordan river for their inheritance, but they’d gone on with the other tribes to conquer the rest of the land
  • When Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh went back to their land they built a huge altar
  • The rest of the tribes heard about it and got crazy mad.  They came back across the Jordan ready to do battle against the “rebels“.  Why?  Because God had said he would designate one specific place for all Israel to worship.  Anything else would be an abomination.
  • When the ten and a half tribes confronted the two and a half, Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh told them they had it all wrong.  They weren’t going to worship at the altar or sacrifice.  It was just a reminder to them that they were part of Israel and needed to go to the tabernacle (later the temple) and worship.
  • This satisfied the ten and a half tribes and they went on home

The reason the ten and a half were upset is they remembered what happened at Peor and with Achan at Ai.  In both cases, a small group had sinned and brought God’s wrath on the whole nation.

I could go off on the judgment aspect of it, but the thing on my mind is the one place of worship that God designates.  My mind immediately jumps to Jesus’ discussion with the woman at the well about where to worship.  In response to her question Jesus said, “an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.   God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

He told the woman it was no longer a relevant question.   Yes, God had designated a physical place – the temple in Jerusalem – as the one place he would accept our worship.  But Jesus was saying “It’s a new day.  The physical temple was a placeholder to lead you to the spiritual temple where God now allows our worship

Which makes me kinda cringe when someone stands up in front of a church and says “Aren’t you glad to be in the house of God today?”   Because we don’t come to the house of God on Sunday.  If we’re there at all, it’s because we live there!

flip side

June 11, 2009

image borrowed from

It seems to me that two common fallacies about the Kingdom of God are opposites

  • one: there is something i need to do so God will be okay with me
  • two: God will bless me  because he loves me unconditionally

Want a picture?  Go back to the Bible!

Start with Leviticus 16 – Yom Kipur, the day of atonement, one of the biggest days on the Jewish calendar.  Where were the people?  In Jerusalem?  Nope!  At their local synagogue?  Nope (God never told them to go to their local synagogue, btw).  They were at home, fasting and praying.  Why?  Because the high priest did all the work!  Get it?

Feeling a little helpless in your quest to be good enough for God?  Give it up – you’re doomed to failure.  You can’t do what our high priest Jesus has already done.  Most of us know that with our mind, but we still fight with the concept from time to time in our heart.

So what about the blessings thing?  Check Deuteronomy 28.  God promises all sorts of blessings, preceded by the little word, “if”.  There’s a sort of narcissistic myth in the church that goes something like “If i just tell God what I want long enough and hard enough, he’s going give it to me.”

The serpent planted three lies in Eve in the garden:

  1. doubt – you can’t trust God
  2. desire – there is a shortcut to maturity/perfection/completion
  3. rebellion – disobedience doesn’t have consequences

Number three is in play here.  Yes indeed, God trully wants to bless you.  He doesn’t even want you to work for blessings.  Deuteronomy 28:2 says that blessings will run up to you and jump on you!

It’s the “if” word we stumble on.  Salvation is a gift.  “Here, take the keys to this new Lexus.”  “Here’s a million dollars.”  “Here’s the deed for this 14-room mansion.”  All we do is stretch out our hand to receive it.  But blessing comes with obedience.  It requires both relationship – knowing the Father’s will – and the action of doing it.

Think about a family.  If yours is messed up, think about a good family you know or picture an imaginary perfect family.  The dad says, “Clean up your room.”  The child says “I want a new <something>.”  Will the child get the desired thing if they don’t clean the room?  In a good family, no; because the father is working to teach the child obedience and uses even insignificant life situations to reinforce that teaching.  Why should God behave differently toward us?