The Significance of the Torn Veil

33At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour. 34And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”—which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

35When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.”

36One man ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said.

37With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.

38The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. 39And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”

40Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. 41In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there. (Mark 15:33-41, NIV)


Mark 15 documents the climactic struggle of Jesus on the cross. Jesus shouts out something in Hebrew and those who are watching assume that He’s appealing to Elijah to save Him.

Jesus breathes His last breath before succumbing to the brutal effects of crucifixion, a torturous method of execution that is designed to slowly suffocate its victims.

And then comes verse 38. It’s so easy to gloss over because before this verse you have people standing around wondering if Jesus is appealing to Elijah and then immediately after this verse the focus shifts back to a centurion who had witnessed Jesus’s ordeal and who concludes that, “surely this man was the Son of God!”

So what’s the deal with verse 38? It seems so out of place to mention that the veil in the temple was torn in two right in the midst of describing Jesus’s death on the cross. It’s almost like the subliminal message that briefly interrupts the flow of the video you’re watching. If you’re not paying attention, you hardly notice it.

Yet this verse is extremely significant. If you’re familiar with the importance of the temple to Jewish religious life, the significance of this verse is probably evident. But if you’re not familiar with the role the temple played in the lives of the Israelites, let me give you some information that may shed new light on this passage.

The temple was THE center of religious life for the Israelites because it represented the very dwelling place of God. The temple was where Jews brought their sacrifices as an act of worship to God.

Inside the temple was a section called the Holy Place, which was separated by another room called the Holy of Holies. The Holy of Holies contained only one item, the Ark of the Covenant. The Holy of Holies was a room that could only be entered once per year, on Yom Kippur, by the high priest, who would enter the room and sprinkle the blood of a unblemished sacrifice on the mercy seat of the Ark of the Covenant in order to atone for the sins of the people.

The Holy of Holies was separated by a large thick veil, a curtain that created a barrier between the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. The significance of this veil cannot be underscored. It represented the idea that God is holy and man is not and therefore, God is not accessible to man because of his sin.

Yet immediately upon Jesus’s death on the cross, this tiny, easy to overlook verse says that this veil was torn in two, giving access to the very presence of God. The text specifically says the veil was torn from top to bottom, which is no accident. The symbolism is clear – the veil was torn by God Himself, giving access to His presence that was previously unavailable.

The heart of the gospel message is this: Jesus died on a cross, atoning for the sins of the world and giving sinful humanity access to Holy God. We no longer need to make yearly sacrifices because of the sacrifice Jesus has already made on our behalf.

We have two possible responses. We can respond like the centurion, who recognized Jesus is the Son of God, or we can respond like the religious leaders, who took the torn veil, sewed it up and reattached it, thus ignoring the sacrifice that Jesus had made.

Reflection

What is your response to the death of Jesus and the tearing of the veil? Are you more like the centurion, who recognized Jesus as the Son of God? Or are you more like the Jewish religious leaders who preferred to dismiss Jesus’s sacrifice in favor of their former way of life?

What are the veils (barriers) that you put up in your life that keep you from entering into the presence of God? 

For more details about the layout of the temple click here.

 

Photo by Nikola Bikar on Unsplash

Job’s Case of Cognitive Dissonance

1Then Job spoke again:

2“Yes, I know this is all true in principle. But how can a person be declared innocent in the eyes of God? 3If someone wanted to take God to court, would it be possible to answer him even once in a thousand times? 4For God is so wise and so mighty. Who has ever challenged him successfully?

5“Without warning, he moves the mountains, overturning them in his anger. 6He shakes the earth from its place, and its foundations tremble. 7If he commands it, the sun won’t rise and the stars won’t shine. 8He alone has spread out the heavens and marches on the waves of the sea. 9He made all the stars—the Bear, Orion, the Pleiades, and the constellations of the southern sky. 10His great works are too marvelous to understand. He performs miracles without number.

11Yet when he comes near, I cannot see him. When he moves on, I do not see him go. 12If he sends death to snatch someone away, who can stop him? Who dares to ask him, ‘What are you doing?’ 13And God does not restrain his anger. The mightiest forces against him are crushed beneath his feet.

14“And who am I, that I should try to answer God or even reason with him? 15Even if I were innocent, I would have no defense. I could only plead for mercy. 16And even if I summoned him and he responded, he would never listen to me. 17For he attacks me without reason, and he multiplies my wounds without cause. 18He will not let me catch my breath, but fills me instead with bitter sorrows. 19As for strength, he has it. As for justice, who can challenge him? 20Though I am innocent, my own mouth would pronounce me guilty. Though I am blameless, it would prove me wicked.

21“I am innocent, but it makes no difference to me—I despise my life. 22Innocent or wicked, it is all the same to him. That is why I say, ‘He destroys both the blameless and the wicked.’ 23He laughs when a plague suddenly kills the innocent. 24The whole earth is in the hands of the wicked, and God blinds the eyes of the judges and lets them be unfair. If not he, then who? (Job 9:1-24, NLT)


In Job 9, Job responds to the discourse of Bildad in Job 8, in which Bildad promoted what we know as prosperity theology. You can read more about Bildad’s distorted views of God’s justice in a previous post here, but the summary is that Bildad believes that any tragedy or hardship can be assumed to be a punishment from God for some sin or wickedness. Since Job was experiencing hardship, Bildad was encouraging Job to stop the innocence act and come clean with his sin.

It’s interesting that Job doesn’t dispute Bildad’s theological framework. In fact, he starts his response with, “I know this is all true in principle” as a prelude to then declaring his innocence.

Job understands certain truths about God – that he is mighty and He is the creator of everything. Job understands that God is in control and sovereign over creation.

But Job also gets some things wrong about God – questioning His character, saying that God “attacks for no reason, and he multiplies my wounds without cause.” (verse 17)

He paints a picture of a powerful God who doesn’t care. He says in Job 9.23 that “God laughs when a plague suddenly kills the innocent.”

His situation has given him a distorted view of God’s love and justice.

He believes that God finds him guilty even when he’s innocent (vs. 20).

Job assumes that everything he is experiencing is a punishment and because he is a righteous person, he concludes that God must punish for sport.

This is what happens when we go through trials or when things happen that either we don’t understand or that contradict our own reason – we end up distorting and skewing our own view of God.

This is what’s known as cognitive dissonance. When our understanding of a situation doesn’t match the reality, we create a narrative or a way of understanding that explains why the outcome doesn’t match my understanding, which I hold to be true.

Job firmly believes that his understanding of God is true (similar to what Bildad has asserted). Yet Job maintains his innocence, which makes his circumstances hard to understand.

Job has two choices. He can adjust his understanding of God in order to give coherent meaning to the tragic events he’s experiencing or he can create a narrative that would explain his circumstances while allowing him to maintain his initial view.

Job chooses the second option, which is the option of cognitive dissonance. In this option, Job holds fast to his wrong understanding of God’s justice, which means he is able to comprehend his innocence only by creating a distorted view of God, a demented being who “laughs when a plague suddenly kills the innocent.”

Reflection

What is your reaction when things happen that you don’t understand? 

Cognitive dissonance occurs when we hold certain views tightly without allowing for the possibility that our views may be wrong. What are some views or opinions that you might need to re-evaluate in order to avoid the danger of cognitive dissonance?

What are some ways a person can avoid the trap of cognitive dissonance?

The Prosperity Gospel in the Old Testament

1Then Bildad the Shuhite replied to Job:

2“How long will you go on like this? Your words are a blustering wind. 3Does God twist justice? Does the Almighty twist what is right? 4Your children obviously sinned against him, so their punishment was well deserved. 5But if you pray to God and seek the favor of the Almighty, 6if you are pure and live with complete integrity, he will rise up and restore your happy home. 7And though you started with little, you will end with much. (Job 8:1-7, NLT)


The book of Job is considered to be one of the earliest books of the entire Bible.

If you’re not familiar with the book, it’s essentially 40+ chapters of dialogue and discourse about the nature of God, particularly as it relates to His attribute of justice.

In the first two chapters we find Job, a righteous man, experience extreme, unspeakable hardships and tragedy as the Lord allows Satan to test Job’s faith and his character. Satan’s assertion is that the only reason Job is righteous is because he has everything he needs and wants. Satan contends that if pressured, Job would certainly curse God.

The whole premise of the book is interesting as it deals with the question of character and true devotion. Is a person considered righteous because of what he has (and does), or is he righteous because of who he is?

So God allows Job to experience hardship and tragedy. The rest of the book is a series of discourses  as Job repeatedly expresses his pain and anguish while his friends take turns lecturing him on why he should repent of the hidden sin that must’ve been the cause of his calamity.

In chapter 8, Bildad the Shuhite weighs in with his take on Job’s situation. What’s interesting about Job’s friends is that their understanding of God and His character, particularly His attribute of justice, is wrong in different ways. Interestingly, their theological errors are still being promoted today in many modern day false gospels. Here Bildad espouses a view that clearly is the forerunner to what today is known as “prosperity theology”.

Prosperity theology basically teaches that if you follow the rules (do good), you will be blessed. If you don’t follow the rules, then calamity will ensue.

Bildad’s prosperity theology can be seen most clearly in verse 4, where he says that bad things are the result of sin, as well as verse 7, where he contends that seeking God’s favor results in “much”.

Bildad’s argument can be summed up as follows

1. God is just

2. God doesn’t punish just people

3. Job is obviously being punished. Therefore, Job must be unjust

Bildad understood that God is just but misunderstood how God’s justice is applied. Specifically, he thought God’s justice was always applied in the way outlined above.

In addition, Bildad assumes that anything bad that happens to a person is a result of God’s punishment, and the punishment is a result of sin. This is false.

The truth is that bad things often happen to good people but it doesn’t mean that they are being punished because of some secret sin.

Prosperity theology is popular with people because it gives a quick and easy formula to explain all the bad things that happen to us. But prosperity theology fails because God is not a formula. He’s an infinitely complex being whose ways are ultimately mysterious and beyond our comprehension. If you keep reading the rest of the book of Job, you’ll see how this becomes more clear throughout the book.

Reflection

In what ways have you tended to embrace Bildad’s prosperity theology as an accurate description of how God metes out justice?

If you were Bildad, how would you change what you say to Job to more closely match the true nature of God’s justice?

 

Photo by Sora Shimazaki from Pexels

Why Did God Forbid This One Fruit?

1Now the serpent was the shrewdest of all the creatures the LORD God had made. “Really?” he asked the woman. “Did God really say you must not eat any of the fruit in the garden?”

2“Of course we may eat it,” the woman told him. 3“It’s only the fruit from the tree at the center of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God says we must not eat it or even touch it, or we will die.”

4“You won’t die!” the serpent hissed. 5“God knows that your eyes will be opened when you eat it. You will become just like God, knowing everything, both good and evil.”

6The woman was convinced. The fruit looked so fresh and delicious, and it would make her so wise! So she ate some of the fruit. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her. Then he ate it, too. 7At that moment, their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they strung fig leaves together around their hips to cover themselves. (Genesis 3:1-6)


Genesis 3 is a pivotal chapter in the overall narrative of the Bible. It’s the chapter that most people refer to as “The Fall”.

In this chapter, we see the devil, in the form of a serpent, questioning Eve about the forbidden fruit.

The first thing to note here is that the nature of this forbidden fruit is not described. This fruit is sometimes thought to be, or assumed to be an apple. For example, the Apple logo, according to culturecreature.com, is a symbol for knowledge. But nowhere in this text does it say or give any indication that the fruit is an apple. Therefore, to say that an apple is a biblical symbol of knowledge is a misrepresentation of the text.

The devil’s tactic is to get Eve to doubt God’s goodness; to see this restriction as an indication that God is somehow holding out on Adam and Eve. He does this by telling Eve that eating the fruit would not result in death, as God had said, but instead would result in their eyes being opened and knowing good and evil for themselves.

What Satan says is partially true. He often will wrap a lie up inside a partial truth so that we won’t recognize the lie.

The truth in the statement is that their eyes would be opened. They would recognize their condition…that they were naked.

The lie is that they would become like God, knowing everything. Of course they wouldn’t know everything and they wouldn’t know good and evil.

Have you ever wondered why God made this particular fruit forbidden? Was it just random chance or was there a reason that this particular fruit was off limits? Why was it a sin? Was it only sinful because God made it off limits or was it sinful for another reason?

I believe there is a deeper truth at play that accounts for why God forbade this particular fruit.

Eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was sinful because before this, Adam and Eve were completely dependent on God to know what was good and what was evil. Eating the fruit was desirous because, according to Satan, they would no longer need God to determine good and evil. They could determine good and evil for themselves. That was the lie.

God has designed us in such a way that He wants us to depend on Him for moral guidance. It is God who decides what is right and what is wrong. By following Him and trusting Him, we align ourselves with HIs moral code and values.

But the temptation of Adam and Eve, and the temptation we face every day, is to decide for ourselves what is right and what is wrong, thereby, forsaking God, and making ourselves god, at least as it relates to moral authority.

This scenario of people rejecting God and His moral values in favor of their own moral values has continued through history and is still alive today.

Every time we reject a biblical command or a moral standard as outlined in the Bible because we don’t like it, or because we think it’s no longer relevant to us or because we think God is being too restrictive, we are following Eve’s and Adam’s example of grabbing the fruit and taking a bite. It was sinful because it was an act of rejecting God’s role as the moral authority of the universe in favor of making oneself the moral authority.  We still do this today and it is still sinful.

Reflection

What modern examples come to mind of people rejecting God as the authority of good and evil in favor of their own ideas of what’s good and what’s evil?

In what ways are you tempted to reject God’s moral authority (as outlined in the Bible) in favor of your own preferred moral values?

What would need to change in terms of your views or lifestyle in order to completely align with God’s standards of good and evil?

If you are a person who has always thought of the forbidden fruit as an apple, why do you think you thought that when the text never says that it is an apple?

 

Photo by Gabriele Lässer on Unsplash

Is it Possible to Cheat God?

6“I am the LORD, and I do not change. That is why you descendants of Jacob are not already completely destroyed. 7Ever since the days of your ancestors, you have scorned my laws and failed to obey them. Now return to me, and I will return to you,” says the LORD Almighty.

“But you ask, ‘How can we return when we have never gone away?’

8“Should people cheat God? Yet you have cheated me!

“But you ask, ‘What do you mean? When did we ever cheat you?’

“You have cheated me of the tithes and offerings due to me.  9You are under a curse, for your whole nation has been cheating me.  10Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the LORD Almighty, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Let me prove it to you!  11Your crops will be abundant, for I will guard them from insects and disease. Your grapes will not shrivel before they are ripe,” says the LORD Almighty.  12“Then all nations will call you blessed, for your land will be such a delight,” says the LORD Almighty. (Malachi 3:6-12, NLT)


If you’ve ever been to a church and heard a sermon on tithing, you have probably heard this passage preached.

Malachi was a prophet who lived about 400 years before the time of Christ. He wrote to Jews who had very recently returned from being in exile (taken captive by the Babylonian empire).

Malachi was rebuking the people for their neglect of the temple. In this passage, he specifically addresses the people for their neglect of the tithe.

What is the tithe?

The word tithe literally means a tenth. When the Israelites entered the promised land of Canaan, every tribe was alotted an area of land as an inheritance , except for the Levites. The Levites were the tribe of Moses and his brother Aaron. The Levites were commissioned by God to be the priests who would lead worship and administer the temple sacrifices and act as mediators between the Lord and the people.

Because the Levites had no land, and their job was essentially religious clergy, they had no means of sustaining themselves. The tithe was implemented to take care of the Levites, who in turn were responsible for caring for the spiritual needs of the people.

When the Jewish people neglected the tithes, the Levites were forced to care for themselves in other ways and with other jobs. Therefore, the duties of the temple were neglected. It is in this way that the Lord is saying that the people had cheated Him. Because the tithes weren’t given, the priestly duties were neglected and therefore God was robbed of the worship that is rightly His.

It’s important to realize that the tithe wasn’t just money. It could be grain or some other portion of a harvest. This is why the author mentions the storehouse. The storehouse was a physical room in the temple that was used for storing the grain and other produce that the people brought into the temple as part of their tithe.

The principle of the tithe is still valid in the church today. Essentially, the Lord is asking His people, as an act of faith and worship, to give back to Him a portion of what He has given to us.

When we give a tithe, we are expressing to the Lord that we acknowledge that everything we have comes from Him. We also are trusting that He is able to sustain us on the portion that is left over.

In this passage, The Lord invites us to test Him. He says that if we give to Him the first fruits of our labor, He will richly bless us and the balance of our resources will be more than enough to provide for us.

This sounds counter-intuitive to our finite minds. It seems logical to us that if we keep all of our resources, we will have more wealth to spend and invest. But in God’s economy, He promises that if we give to Him first, we will actually end up with more because He will bless the balance of our resources and we will see a greater return on that smaller portion than if we had kept the whole for ourselves.

Reflection

What role has tithing played in your own spiritual life? How have you been able to integrate tithing (giving) into your spiritual practice?

If you have struggled to implement tithing as a spiritual practice, what are the factors that keep you from taking that step of faith? What experiences with the Lord can you draw upon in order to help you take a small step of faith?

 

Photo by Istiqamatunnisak on Unsplash

A Divine Appointment in a Grocery Store Parking Lot

I pulled into the parking lot at Stater Bros., a Southern California grocery store near our house. I needed to pick up just a few items and though I had intended to swing by much earlier in the day to avoid the after-work crowds, I had been delayed for reasons I can’t even remember.

As I got out of the car, I heard someone address me with the question, “Dave Lowe?”

Michael Acuna is a former Cal Poly, Pomona student and current assistant basketball coach at Bethesda University.

I looked to see a guy standing in front of my car wearing a mask, glasses and a hat. I didn’t recognize him immediately with all of his facial features covered. He had recognized me though before I parked because I wasn’t wearing a mask or hat until I got out of the car.

He realized I didn’t recognize him so he re-introduced himself.

“Michael Acuna….from Cal Poly, Pomona Destino.”

Michael is a guy I had connected with a number of years ago when Jen and I were in our Regional positions with the Cru campus ministry.

Michael was a student involved in Destino, our Latino focused campus ministry.

I hadn’t seen Michael in several years but we were friends on Facebook and Instagram and I would occasionally see posts from him online. As Michael updated me on his life, I learned that we live very close to each other.

I gave Michael an update on us, including our transition a few years from ministering to college students to focusing on Young Professionals. As I shared about some of the resources we provide, such as Leadership Development Groups and coaching, Michael’s eyes lit up.

“I could really use some coaching”, he responded.

Michael and I were able to exchange contact information and we’ve connected virtually a few times now to talk about how we can move forward in a coaching relationship.

My encounter with Michael is just another example of how God is always working behind the scenes to orchestrate events and work out His divine plans and purposes.

Michael and I taking a selfie in the Stater Bros. parking lot.

A few days ago I was reading in Mark 1, which starts off with these words: “The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ.”

What’s interesting though is that Mark doesn’t really talk about Jesus for another 8 verses. If the gospel is about Jesus and Mark is going to talk about the beginning of the gospel, why does he delay mentioning Jesus and instead spend 8 verses talking about an obscure verse in Isaiah, followed by a description of John the Baptist preaching and baptizing out in the wilderness?

It’s true that Jesus is the central figure of the gospel, but the story of the good news incorporates so much more.

This passage is a reminder that even before Jesus arrives on the scene, God the Father is working behind the scenes preparing people for the arrival of the king.

Henry Blackaby said it well in his popular book and workbook “Experiencing God” when he said, “God is always at work around us…”

It’s true. God is ALWAYS working, often in ways I’m not aware of. He’s orchestrating events and arranging circumstances to accomplish his purposes and ultimate plans.

This is why I don’t believe my chance encounter with Michael was accidental or coincidental. It was providential.

How about you? Who are the people and what are the circumstances God arranged to prepare you for the arrival of Jesus in your life?

If God can arrange circumstances to help you encounter Jesus, how might he be using your current situation and circumstances to  prepare you for something greater that you might not even be able to imagine at the moment?

In Philippians 1:6, Paul said that, “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Before Jesus ever arrived on the scene of your life, God was working to prepare you. And now that you know Jesus, God is still working in you to bring growth and development and perhaps opportunities that you never dreamed of!

You can read more of my thoughts on Mark 1 on my January 13th entry of my DailyDevo blog. 

The Most Important Question to Ask Yourself

27Jesus and his disciples left Galilee and went up to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. As they were walking along, he asked them, “Who do people say I am?”

28“Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say you are one of the other prophets.”

29Then Jesus asked, “Who do you say I am?”

Peter replied, “You are the Messiah.” 30But Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him. (Mark 8:27-30, NLT)


For the first half of the book of Mark, Jesus is revealing to His disciples WHO he is. He’s exposed his disciples to his teachings and many miracles, in which he demonstrates his power over nature, the physical realm and the spiritual realm. In Mark 8:27, Jesus asks the important question, “Who do people say I am?”

He follows up with an even more crucially important question: “Who do YOU say I am?”

When we’re engaging with others who don’t consider themselves followers of Jesus, it’s critically important that we help them come to a Biblical understanding of WHO Jesus is.

In Mark 8:28, Peter says that the main responses people often have about Jesus are “John the Baptist or Elijah, or one of the other prophets.”

People today have a lot of similar ideas about who Jesus is. Some say he’s a good teacher. Some say he’s a prophet. Still others say he’s a great moral example to follow.

These do not hit the mark. Peter gives the proper response regarding who Jesus is….He is the Messiah (or “the Christ”).

The most important question you can ask yourself (or others)?

Who is Jesus?

As we engage with others regarding the Christian faith, we have to help people come to this understanding of Jesus’s identity. He is not merely a prophet. He is not just a good person or some moral example to follow.

He is God. He is the promised Messiah (the promised deliverer)!

 

For more information on the Biblical evidence for Jesus’ deity, see my short article “Is Jesus God?”

Photo by Gift Habeshaw on Unsplash

Don’t Put Confidence in Powerful People!

Psalm 146

1Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD, I tell myself.

2I will praise the LORD as long as I live. I will sing praises to my God even with my dying breath.

3Don’t put your confidence in powerful people; there is no help for you there.

4When their breathing stops, they return to the earth, and in a moment all their plans come to an end.

5But happy are those who have the God of Israel as their helper, whose hope is in the LORD their God.

6He is the one who made heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them. He is the one who keeps every promise forever,

7who gives justice to the oppressed and food to the hungry. The LORD frees the prisoners.

8The LORD opens the eyes of the blind. The LORD lifts the burdens of those bent beneath their loads.The LORD loves the righteous.

9The LORD protects the foreigners among us. He cares for the orphans and widows, but he frustrates the plans of the wicked.

10The LORD will reign forever. O Jerusalem, your God is King in every generation! Praise the LORD! (Psalm 146:1-10, NLT)


We live in perhaps one of the most polarized times in the history of our country. Wherever you may align yourself on the political spectrum, it’s easy to think that all of the problems in our country could be solved if everyone agreed with our views and our solutions.

By extension, we can be fooled into thinking that if people who align with our political persuasions can come to power, things would be much better off.

The truth is, as the psalmist says in verse 3, the people who are in positions of authority really have no power to effect lasting change. Why? They are mortal. Being mortal doesn’t just mean that they are subject to death but it also means they are susceptible to all of the vices that mortals are susceptible to – greed, power, corruption, and pursuing their own self-interests.

This is not to say that people cannot effect change or that we shouldn’t give careful thought to who we vote for public office. There is no doubt that the right people can make a huge difference in our communities.

But we shouldn’t put our confidence in them because ultimately, they cannot help. Only the Lord can. Only the Lord ALWAYS keeps his promises. He is righteous and just and he is concerned for the orphan, the widow, the poor and oppressed.

In addition, only the Lord can meet our deepest spiritual needs. And because He is the eternal King, we can ALWAYS depend on him. Political parties are always changing, which means that the perspectives, approaches and solutions to the issues of the day are constantly shifting as well. But God is eternal. He never changes and He doesn’t change His opinion or His approach.

Thus, the psalmist can say, “He is King in every generation!”

Amen!

Reflection

In what ways can you tend to trust in politicians and people of power to effect change?

While still being politically active and responsible, how can you ensure that your ultimate trust is in the Lord and not people?

 

Photo by Cameron Smith on Unsplash

 

Jesus Casts out a Legion of Demons

1So they arrived at the other side of the lake, in the land of the Gerasenes.  2Just as Jesus was climbing from the boat, a man possessed by an evil spirit ran out from a cemetery to meet him.  3This man lived among the tombs and could not be restrained, even with a chain.  4Whenever he was put into chains and shackles—as he often was—he snapped the chains from his wrists and smashed the shackles. No one was strong enough to control him. 5All day long and throughout the night, he would wander among the tombs and in the hills, screaming and hitting himself with stones.  6When Jesus was still some distance away, the man saw him. He ran to meet Jesus and fell down before him.  7He gave a terrible scream, shrieking, “Why are you bothering me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? For God’s sake, don’t torture me!”  8For Jesus had already said to the spirit, “Come out of the man, you evil spirit.”

9Then Jesus asked, “What is your name?”

And the spirit replied, “Legion, because there are many of us here inside this man.”  10Then the spirits begged him again and again not to send them to some distant place.  11There happened to be a large herd of pigs feeding on the hillside nearby.  12“Send us into those pigs,” the evil spirits begged. 13Jesus gave them permission. So the evil spirits came out of the man and entered the pigs, and the entire herd of two thousand pigs plunged down the steep hillside into the lake, where they drowned.  14The herdsmen fled to the nearby city and the surrounding countryside, spreading the news as they ran. Everyone rushed out to see for themselves.  15A crowd soon gathered around Jesus, but they were frightened when they saw the man who had been demon possessed, for he was sitting there fully clothed and perfectly sane.  16Those who had seen what happened to the man and to the pigs told everyone about it,  17and the crowd began pleading with Jesus to go away and leave them alone. (Mark 5:1-17, NLT)


Once again, we see Jesus demonstrating His omnipotence to the masses and to his disciples. Jesus’ many miracles were meant to demonstrate His power and authority over the natural world (calming a storm), the physical world (healing sickness), the spiritual world (casting out demons) and even death itself (bringing back someone who had died).

When reading this passage, one might conclude that the point of the passage is simply to once again show Jesus’ authority over the spiritual realm. While this is true, I think there’s another, often overlooked aspect to this passage. It’s found in verse 11, which says,

“there happened to be a large herd of pigs feeding on the hillside nearby.”

Now if you know anything about Jewish laws and regulations, you know that pigs were considered unclean animals. Jews were not allowed to eat pigs; they weren’t even allowed to touch them.

So what are pigs doing in the story?

Though not explicitly stated, it’s obvious that Jesus is ministering in an area that is not Jewish, hence the presence of pigs.

Jesus crossed over into another culture. Jesus went to a place that would have been uncomfortable to Jews and he healed a man who likely was not Jewish. Now this is not explicitly stated but it is inferred from the text. Because of the clear presence of pigs, we know that Jesus and his disciples were in a Gentile area. We can infer that the man Jesus healed also was likely Gentile.

What I find interesting about this is that even though Jesus clearly indicated through ministry encounters like this one (and others) that he was concerned about all peoples, not just Jews, the disciples did not immediately comprehend this aspect of the gospel message, as indicated by Peter’s need for a direct vision from God in Acts 10 to help him understand that Gentiles are not to be thought of as unclean and unworthy of salvation.

If these 12 men, who were actually with Jesus, could be slow to understand basic truths about the Lord and His plans and purposes, I wonder how much of my thinking may actually be wrong or incomplete.

This is not an invitation to question all our beliefs, particularly those that are solidly grounded in Scripture. However, we all have some beliefs that may not be as grounded in Scripture as we think. Perhaps they are rooted more in our own church, cultural or even family traditions. The invitation, I think, is to keep learning, knowing that I have biases and blind spots and that in my finiteness, I struggle to know God completely as He is. Therefore, there is always room to grow in my understanding and comprehension of God and His nature.

I’m also challenged by the notion that Jesus went to places that were uncomfortable and considered off limits by the culture of his time.

I’m not apt to move too far out of my comfort zone and I’m not always motivated to move toward those who are different. But Jesus’ actions in this passage clearly demonstrate his love and commitment for those who don’t fit my cultural norms and preferences.


Reflection

When is a time you were challenged in your understanding about God – his nature and His purposes? What was it that challenged these beliefs?

How can you ensure that the things you believe about God and salvation are rooted in truth and not just some traditional or cultural view that you’re holding on to?

What steps can you take to move out of your comfort zone as Jesus did in this passage?

 

Photo by David Cashbaugh on Unsplash

Building a New Temple

The Dome of the Rock sits on the site where the Jewish Temple once stood and where some religious leaders expect a new temple to some day be built.
Photo by Dave Lowe

4Come to Christ, who is the living cornerstone of God’s temple. He was rejected by the people, but he is precious to God who chose him.

5And now God is building you, as living stones, into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are God’s holy priests, who offer the spiritual sacrifices that please him because of Jesus Christ.  6As the Scriptures express it,

“I am placing a stone in Jerusalem, a chosen cornerstone, and anyone who believes in him will never be disappointed.”

(1 Peter 2:4-6, NLT)


In this passage, Peter uses imagery of the temple, which would have been very familiar to his audience.

In the Old Testament, the temple was a place – a building made with stones, where God was worshiped.

Here Peter says that you, as Christians, are being built into a new temple, with Jesus as the cornerstone.

In masonry, the cornerstone is the most important stone in the building of a structure. The cornerstone is foundational. All other stones are set in reference to the cornerstone.

Peter is saying that God is building a new temple that’s not a physical temple, but a spiritual temple. It’s not made with physical stones but instead, it consists of spiritual stones made up of people. Jesus is the foundational stone and those who follow Jesus are the stones God is using to build this new spiritual temple.

The implications of what Peter is sharing are huge.  Instead of going to a place to worship God, you can worship God all the time, with your life, since you are the temple and God is with you all the time.

Additionally, in the Old Testament, the priest was integral to the act of worship. The priest administered the sacrifices on behalf of the worshiper.

Now that Christ has come, you are the priest. A mediator is no longer necessary.

Verse 5 says that we offer spiritual sacrifices that please him.

What are those sacrifices?

Our lives are the sacrifices. Go, therefore, and worship the Lord with your life!

Reflection

In your view, what does it mean to worship God and what is the way in which a person worships God?

Does your religious tradition utilize a priest? If so, what is your response to Peter’s assertion that you, as a follower of Christ, are a holy priest who offers spiritual sacrifices to God?

In what ways can you offer up your life to God as a spiritual sacrifice?