If we are being built by God, what’s God’s building plan?

Paul writes how God is the one who truly gives the growth and we just take a part in being used by God, whether to “plant” or “water.” But what are we growing into? What is the building plan? It’s a humbling beginning to this chapter as we recognize our place before God. We can claim no credit for God’s work. We take a part, but God is the true actor. But as humbling as that is, we are then shown an extraordinarily privileged and high calling that God has for each of us. God is growing us and building upon us because, as it says in verse 16, we are God’s temple, the dwelling place of the Spirit of God. Paul writes, “For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.”

plant and water

This is an amazing truth for God’s people. The temple had been the dwelling place for God. It had been a place among the people, but distinct from them. Only a select few could enter and even fewer still could enter the Holy of Holies. In all of creation this was the place of his presence. Now Paul writes that we are his temple. We are that holy place of his presence. The Spirit of the Most Holy God resides in us, in we who are in the foundation of Christ.

This past Sunday I preached on this text as well as a text from Daniel 7. Along with the strange visions of that chapter, we get a parallel picture of God’s craftsmanship, compared to what will ultimately be burned up, fade away, and be destroyed. We learn in both texts that what God builds, and builds upon Jesus Christ, is the only thing that will last. I wrote for the sermon:

“In Daniel, these great beasts look so powerful, but they will come to an end.
Only the kingdom of God will last.
The Son of Man will have all dominion, glory, and a kingdom that will last forever.

Likewise, the powers in our time will fall. They will not last. A life built upon them will not last.
But a life built by God, upon Jesus Christ will last.
Therefore your life will last, your life will be eternal.

Only that which is of God is forever, and your life can be in God’s hands. Your life can be forever, if it is built upon the one foundation: Jesus Christ. We are God’s building, his temple, and his craftsmanship is flawless. We live forever when we live a life in Christ.”

Paul, Apollos, and a long line of servants of Christ have served his Church. There have surely been many who have blessed you by similar service. But we know that through it all, by the Spirit, God has been working upon you and in to give you the growth. We are being built into his temple, a place of God’s very presence, and if that were not already amazing enough, we have a sure hope that God’s building, his people, are built to last forever.

A Delight of Reading the Whole Bible in a Year

I have not had as much chance to post this past week as I have been way at a conference. Several of the speakers delivered fantastic sermons, which is always a benefit of these events. But I had a special delight this year as I heard from books like Daniel, Ezra, Ephesians, and Timothy. As the preachers delivered the messages I was so much more familiar with the scriptures that they were using.

But that isn’t to say that I now know enough. In reading though the Bible this past year I am instead primed to learn more and learn better. I loved knowing the context of the stories, remembering conversations had or posts written about those passages, and being challenged in new ways on what I thought I knew.

When they stepped back to give context, I was right there with them. The texts were still fresh in my mind, much closer to the surface, and much more accessible for the Spirit to use in my hearing and responding to the Word. It wasn’t like I was having to watch the same movie over again. It wasn’t at all tired or boring. The Bible is a living Word and I could see that as I had the chance to sit and receive it.

I pray you find that same delight as you grow more familiar with it and continue to read and re-read and read again God’s Word.

Fireside Chat with Nebuchadnezzar

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to worship the golden idol that King Nebuchadnezzar set up. (Try coming up with a sentence with four crazier names.) The consequence of this was that they were to be thrown into a furnace, one that was burning so hot it killed the men who were to carry out this deed. But on the way to their almost-certain death, these three men talk to Nebuchadnezzar as he presses them to worship false gods.

King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up. (Daniel 3, NIV)

It is amazing to me that these three have such confidence before a furious king. And their confidence is not in their comfort or safety. Whether they live, because God delivers them, or they die they still have confidence that God is the one God, and nothing else is deserving of worship. They do not worship God because he blesses them, they worship him because he is God. He deserves it. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego won’t dishonor God in such a way, and they want the king to be aware of their devotion. They serve God and they do so even if he won’t deliver them.

That is a difficult prayer for us to make as we always want God to see things our way and help us out in a bind. But we need to seek to honor him no matter how situations turn out for us. We need to finish our prayer with our own version of “even if he does not”, and a good one is taken from Jesus who prayed just before his great suffering, “not my will but yours be done.”


Daniel’s Diet

How could I give this up?
How could I give this up?

First off-apologies for my absence from posting. I usually post during the week, but I have been ill since Monday afternoon. I may still be a carrier, but such things do not transmit via the internet. You should be safe.

In reading the first chapter I was reminded of something I had heard of a while back that some churches were doing (and there is even a book associated with it), that is the “Daniel Diet.” I’ve seen it also called the Daniel Plan, the Daniel Fast, etc. Upon reading this passage folks thought, “why not?” So churches and other groups have tried it.

While I cannot attest to its health benefits I like the idea of seeing something in Scripture–something simple–and trying to do it. We sometimes can see something simple, turn it into something complicated, change it in all sorts of ways as we try to translate it from centuries ago to today’s culture, and in the end it is something altogether different.

We do at times need to do such translations. For example, not many of us are tempted to set up wooden totems devoted to foreign gods within our homes, but we are just as susceptible to idolatry today as God’s people were in the past. On the other hand we sometimes make things over complicated like when Jesus tells us to love our neighbor. Surely we learn from that story that we can’t exclude people. Neighbor can be applied to anyone. Yet neighbor still does mean those people who live right next to you. In all of our attempts to understand “love your neighbor” we sometimes neglect our next door neighbor.

So I like the simple approach to the Daniel diet. I may not agree with all of its tenets*, although there probably is variety among the different types, but they’re trying it. They see something do-able and do it.

This may not be the thing for you, but what else does Daniel do that we could imitate? Prayer three times a day? I think that is simple, do-able, beneficial. How about a Daniel Diet of Prayer? Three square meals of time talking with God? I bet that’ll do our body good.

*In just a brief reading I saw one sight equating the mind to emotion, which I don’t think is right.

Daniel and Friends in a Foreign Land

rembrandt lion
These friendly felines are in his future.

When you open Daniel you may think you’ve gone back to our history blitz since 2 Chronicles finishes in a similar way to how Daniel begins. Not only has Judah been attacked, but they have been brought into exile. Daniel is among some of the elite that are chosen to train in the king’s palace. But don’t let the sound of that invitation fool you since only eight verses in we see a problem. Daniel does not want to defile himself with the food he is offered and has his guard give him and his three fellow exiles vegetables and water.

The end of this is that God softened the guard to be permissable and blessed Daniel and company. But it is just the tip of the iceberg in relation to how exiles are to maintain their worship and their faith in a hostile, foreign environment.

So much of worship in the Old Testament is very localized and geographically bound. Without the temple or the priests doing their jobs, how are they to offer up praise or sacrifice to their God? How can they keep themselves from being overwhelmed by this opposing culture of the Babylonians?

Think of the difficulties you might have trying to celebrate Thanksgiving in a country that doesn’t do the same? Or how about Christmas? You could do something, but it wouldn’t be the same. The Fourth of July that we kick off with grand fireworks and big bands would be hard to muster if you are an alien living abroad all alone. But these examples would be nothing compared to what is on the line for the people of God taken in to exile. They must look at their history and their relationship to God and figure out ways in which they can carry on. God’s promise was for a promised land, so what does it mean if they are taken away? God had them make for himself a temple, but that was left behind. Now what?

One thing they turn to and we see in Daniel is prayer, but even that will eventually get him into trouble with his new land.