If you have stumbled here by accident let me first insist that there really are no accidents in life. If however, you came on your own free will then please by all means open your hearts and your minds to the "New Wine" that God has prepared for you!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Temple

Jesus paused as he came to the top of the Mount of Olives. The early morning sun was shining directly off the gold and silver covered east gates of the temple complex. The glare was so intense, so blinding that our Lord had to put the palm of his hand in front of his eyes. 

Jesus looked intently at the first gate into the inner court. It was very massive, completely covered with gold but had no doors as it represented the universal visibility of heaven that the heavens declare the glory of God. The entire temple complex was built with large alabaster limestone blocks that reflected the sun’s radiant warmth and brightness which depicted God’s glory. 

Beyond this inner gate and just inside the first room of the temple was the Holy Place. In it stood the golden candlestick, the golden table, and the golden altar of incense. Behind a very large, heavy and extremely thick veil was the Holy of Holies. This sacred room now stood desolate but before the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem, God’s glory had been known to rest above the solid gold of the mercy seat between the two solid gold cherubs “And there I will meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are on the ark of the testimony, about everything which I will give you in commandment to the children of Israel.” Exodus 25:22

Jesus reflected on how the ark of testimony and God’s presence were missing from the Holy of Holies, how disobedient men had become and the legalistic way in which they carried on their traditions. The Lord began to weep as He spoke out loud “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I have wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate; for I say to you, you shall see me no more till you say, ‘blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’”Matthew 23:37

As the sun continued to rise, the blinding glare eventually faded and Jesus was able to lower his arm. Behind Him His disciples, who had followed him up from the temple to the Mount of Olives, began asking about what might take place in the future. Jesus stood up and began pointing to the temple complex and all the buildings it contained saying “Do you see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down.” Matthew 24:2

As Jesus wept He knew that the destruction of the walled city and sanctuary was looming in their near future. Thirty-eight years later, Titus, a Roman General, along with a large army began a siege against 3 rebellious factions operating inside Jerusalem. Unfortunately, a large majority of innocent people were trapped and being victimized by these robbers, gangs and zealots.

The Romans intended to wait it out, starving the city into submission, but attacks on several Roman positions caused the escalation of the siege. Titus, on command, was ordered not to touch the temple complex but one of his soldiers intentionally threw a torch into an open temple window kindling a blaze that burned the entire temple from the inside out. Gold and silver overlays began melting in the intense heat generated by the fire as the precious metals disappeared into the cracks of limestone that comprised the walls and floors. In the end the only way for the Romans to recover the gold and silver was to literally tear down the huge limestone blocks, so when they had finished there stood not one stone left upon another.

 With the destruction of the temple there was now no longer any place for the high priest to atone for the sin of the nation of Israel, nor could any good Jew make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem for three mandatory, annual feasts. They had only to wait for their Messiah to come and restore true worship to the temple mount.
Jesus once said “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” John 2:19 The religious leaders thought Jesus was talking about their beautiful temple that had taken forty-six years to build when actually he was prophesying that He would come back from death. When Jesus was finally laid in the garden tomb, it only held Him for three days as life returned to His body. In His resurrection we too have life and this is indeed good news for all men. 

Now, our bodies are the third temple of God where the Holy Spirit lives.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Favorite things

The piano sat motionless downstairs in the basement. A layer of dust had settled on the ebony keys suggesting that it had been some time since it had last been played. The finish was streaked and faded from years of sitting in front of a sunny window. It had a matching bench with a seat that hinged upward to reveal a hidden storage area beneath that was completely filled with all manner of sheet music. As I rummaged through the pages of music, I found nestled among the classics several popular tunes from the 1960’s. 

The thing is I remember this piano, from my early years as a child, when it stood so regally in front of the window overlooking my grandmother’s garden which, by the way, was always neatly tilled and filled with a variety of blooming gladiolas, chrysanthemums and roses. When her window was open the sound of her playing could be heard floating on a gentle breeze out across a small front lawn and out into Pine Street. Neighbors could be heard humming or singing along to lyrics like “I need a revival in my soul” and “Take it to the Lord in prayer”

The lighting in the basement was very dim, so I squinted as I continued searching through my newly discovered treasure chest of memories. Lurking near the bottom  I found a familiar movie score from The Sound of Music and began to sing the lyrics out loud “Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens, brown paper packages tied up with strings, these are a few of my favorite things.” It was as if a cornucopia of memories were flooding in around me and now I had only to feast on the colorful offerings set before me.

What a wonderful world the Lord has created for us to enjoy! He’s given us beautiful sunrises and breathtaking sunsets that greet us and wave goodbye as the earth continues to carry us on our journey through time. While traveling through the cosmos, the earth’s tilt creates the right condition for our unique four seasons. How beautiful our world appears when viewed through these seasons of change. For now, the cooler fall season has arrived but soon it will cautiously beckon colder winter weather to come for a visit. 

Fall also brings us the opportunity to relax and enjoy a well deserved rest as it continues to unfurl before our eyes. Multiple shades of red, orange and yellow burst from leaves that will eventually end up falling to the ground below. Our tables will entertain pumpkins of various shapes and sizes; some will hold candles which when lit cast eerie shapes on walls through hastily cut holes. Spiced apple cider, hot buttered rum and sugar cookies send warm aromas down the hallway of our home just as the door bell rings and our family and friends arrive. What a bountiful harvest we have been given by our God.

Even the mountains and valleys display His omnipotence as a master designer. He has cut and carved the awesome granite walls of the beautiful Yosemite Valley in California, painted the sandstone red on the rocks of the majestic Colorado River gorge and seeded the mountains of western Colorado Rockies with quaking aspens and yellow pine. Antelope can still be found roaming the great salt flats of southern Utah as elk, deer and big horns freely roam the high mountain passes all the way to the Canadian border.

These places are surely on my list of places to visit but it’s my grandmother’s house on Pine Street complete with all those flowers that is still at the top of my list of favorite things. The garden was always so well cared for and the flowers seemed to smile as they opened up to the heavens above them as if to thank God for His goodness. I can still hear Grandmother playing her piano as melodies softly sail out into the afternoon breeze calling sinners to repentance and the lonely to fellowship but to all an invitation to come and partake of the Master’s table. “I need a revival in my soul...” the chorus would continue, beckoning all creatures both great and small to come and wash in the fountain that graced a corner of her garden.  

“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy –meditate on these things.”  The words of the apostle Paul resonate in my mind as I close the bench seat and suddenly find myself back in the dim light of the basement.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

All roads

“Well, if you haven’t been baptized then you won’t go to heaven” barked the man from the church on the corner.
“But I’m not a bad person, why wouldn’t God allow me into heaven just because I haven’t been baptized?” asked the young shoe salesman as he stopped to listen to the men who were talking near the bus stop.
“Listen, I pray every morning and evening, surely Allah has heard my prayers” replied the service station attendant who had just finished topping off a 1953 Bel Air convertible.
“You’re all so narrow minded, if you would just meditate, empty your mind then you would realize heaven is the universe that exists all around you” said the professor as she stepped into the bus and searching for an empty seat.

As the bus was pulling away from the curb, an unshaven man with a sandwich board slung over his shoulders and held on with a rope, slowly made his way through the crowd that had gathered at the corner. As the town herald made his way across the street all heads turned to read the sign hanging on his back “Repent for the end is here!”

From the very beginning it has been man’s desire to cover his sin and shame from the eyes of a holy God. Adam and Eve desperately sowed fig leaves together to hide themselves from their Creator, ushering in the very first religious service on earth. Years later, Cain lied to God about Abel’s whereabouts as his brother’s blood cried out to God from the earth beneath his feet.

Originally, in the beginning, God only wanted our love, fellowship and devotion but as our hearts grew colder we invented more and more profane ways to come to God until His presence, and His glory disappeared altogether. Our wickedness continued to grow as men began to carve representations of gods out of wood and stone. The last straw came as men began offering their own children in sacrificial fires of false worship.   

As mankind was once again was on the verge of self destruction, God Himself was required to come to earth in order to cover our sin. So He chose the nation of Israel to reveal Himself to an unbelieving world. Through the tribe of Judah and the throne of King David, God brought the Messiah into the world. God Inspired the prophets to write down what would take place in the future.

When the time was right, God sent His own Son into the world to pay our debt and lead us back into a relationship with Him. Jesus Christ was born at the perfect time, in the right place successfully fulfilling hundreds of prophecies. He arrived on earth heralding God’s love for all creation and before his death spent three and a half years preaching and teaching us to love one another.

However, evil men conspired against Him and power hungry, lust filled religious leaders plotted ways to silence Jesus forever. The crowd who had only days earlier shouted “Hosanna to their King” now screamed that they would have no king but Cesar. Jesus died as a large crowd mocked Him at the foot of a Roman cross. All hope temporarily vanished from the hearts of a few faithful followers as Jesus gave up His spirit. It seemed that their Messiah was dead.

Religion had once again reared its ugly head as men tried in vain to cover their shame by silencing Jesus. Even though He made the iron for the nails, the wood for the cross and the hill where it stood, He willingly died for the crowd who screamed “Crucify Him!”  There is no greater love than that.

With all certainty, I can tell you this: all roads don’t lead to God, the universe will never whisper any eternal cosmic truth to an emptied mind no matter how much sand slips through the hourglass and finally, senseless religious arguments over the significance of baptism, the necessity of speaking in tongues or the true meaning of hell will never draw a lost soul to Christ.

The apostle John was the oldest surviving disciple of Jesus Christ. John always stayed close to Jesus and was the only disciple watching at the foot of the cross when Jesus passes over his brother James to put John in charge of His own mother. So in John’s wisdom and at a ripe old age, he wrote this: “And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight. And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.” 1 John 3:23.