Cathedrals, Temples, and the Dwelling Place of God

Our news feeds have been filled with horrific pictures of Notre Dame Cathedral being consumed by devastating flames. The videos remind me of a proverbial train wreck—it hurts to look but you can’t look away either.

The 850-year-old Cathedral is an iconic landmark that has been a must-see stop for every tourist in Paris. The French Gothic architecture, stained glass windows, and works of art are the focus of thirteen million visitors annually.

Even before the fire, I’ve been thinking about cathedrals and temples and the dwelling place of God. In my current Bible study we’ve been reading the account in First Kings of Solomon building the Temple—a dwelling place for the God of Israel.

For thousands of years, humanity has been constructing altars and buildings to worship God. Some are plain, others ornate. But as King Solomon said, “Will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built!” (I Kings 8:27 NIV).

And Acts 7:48-50 (NIV) notes Stephen’s words:

However, the Most High does not live in houses made by human hands. As the prophet says: “‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me? says the Lord. Or where will my resting place be? Has not my hand made all these things?’

Yet the Bible also tells us we—believers in Jesus Christ—are now the dwelling place of God’s Spirit. The same Spirit who raised Christ from the dead lives in us. Our body is His temple (I Corinthians 6:19).

The dwelling place of God is not a building made of wood and stone. Instead, His Spirit resides in His people. Buildings will come and go. Time wears them down and wears them out. Notre Dame Cathedral was in dire need of repair long before the fire. Authorities even speculate the fire may have started as a result of the renovation work.

But people are eternal. By faith in Christ, the Holy Spirit brings life that will last long after our mortal bodies are dust.

So what are we doing with this knowledge? Yes, we mourn the loss of temples and cathedrals, but not because they are the dwelling place of God. We mourn the loss of their manifestations of human beauty and artistry.

But we do it knowing the living God lives in us. We are His ambassadors with a message to the world of reconciliation to God in Christ.

Enjoy the beauty of manmade temples and cathedrals. But always remember, Christ-followers are the most beautiful temple of all.


 
Unplanned

I watch movies to be entertained. To smile and laugh and cheer at happy endings. I don’t watch movies to be disturbed…until now.

And I’m about to encourage you to watch a movie that will disturb you greatly.

Unless you’ve recently returned from a lengthy stay on an isolated desert island, by now you’ve heard of the movie, Unplanned. Reactions have generally been along expected lines. Most Christians support it and the secular culture abhors it.

Despite an initial limited run (1000 theaters nationwide), the movie came in at #4 in box office receipts for its opening weekend. That’s despite a virtual media blackout and proactive actions by social media gatekeepers to squelch any word of support. Twitter inactivated the official movie account. Television stations are refusing to sell advertising slots.

But the reaction that concerns me most is the one from pro-life Christians who say, “I’m already pro-life, so I don’t need to see it.” Or, “I won’t see the movie because the R rating proves it’s too upsetting.” Or, “I don’t get to the movies much. I’ll wait until the DVD is released.”

This is my response especially for Christians who don’t plan to see Unplanned.

Yes, this movie is rated R for several emotional scenes. But unlike the gore of fantasy movies, this is real. And I find it especially difficult to understand why a teen girl must be protected from seeing the reality of abortion via the R rating when they are legally able to have an abortion performed on them without their parents’ consent. Thousands upon thousands of young girls are marching blindly into Planned Parenthood to subject themselves to this very act of violence. They walk out more broken than they could ever imagine. Oh. My. Aching. Heart!

Let me get this straight: they can do it, but they shouldn’t see it?

This is, indeed, a disturbing movie. But that’s why every Christian needs to see it. Many will not, yet I believe that’s exactly what Satan wants: for us to stay sheltered in our protected Christian bubbles. He couldn’t stop the movie from being made, so he’ll do all he can to stop Christians from wanting to see it.

Too many Christians say they are pro-life, but the reality is many of us don’t really understand the horror of abortion. If we stay in our sheltered worlds, we won’t be as passionately heartbroken about the horror of abortion as we should be. And the enemy will continue winning the hearts and minds of this nation.

Unplanned depicts the level of lies and evil the enemy is wielding in our culture—the very thing Satan does not want us to know.

Sadly, many Christians will not see this movie because they don’t want to come face to face with just how horrible abortion is. Of course, we don’t want to know. Who in their right mind would ever want those images seared into their memory?

Still, how can we take an effective stand unless we know what we are really standing for?

If every Christian truly understood this, organizations and ministries such as Care Net and other crisis pregnancy centers would never lack for volunteers, financial support, and prayer warriors. Support they require to provide services to women and families who desperately need to know about available alternatives.

And these are not just women outside the church. According to a 2015 study, “more than four in 10 women who have had an abortion were churchgoers when they ended the pregnancy.”

Seeing Unplanned may not be a movie Christians want to see. But it is a movie we need to see. And it’s a movie pro-choice supporters need to see, as well. Do we all have the courage of our convictions to watch the unpleasant even when it makes us uncomfortable?

See Unplanned. Better yet, take as many people as possible with you. Do it for yourself. Do it for the girls and women who will have abortions without understanding the long-term consequences. Do it for the myriad unborn children awaiting an advocate who will speak up on their behalf.

Do it because it’s the right thing to do.


 
Do You Have a Fat Heart?

Fat. A word that causes more grief than the three letters deserve.

For most of us, gaining weight is much easier than losing it.

Those five pounds I lost from September to November? Yup, they reappeared in the three weeks leading up to Christmas. And it took until now to lose them again.

We’ve all heard how excess fat can create health problems, including high cholesterol levels and increased risk of heart disease and stroke.

But did you know spiritual fat can create spiritual heart disease?

In Acts 28:27, the apostle Paul quoted from the Old Testament book of Isaiah (Isaiah 6:10) when he wrote:

“For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed; lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them” (ESV).

Dull hearts. Other translations use words such as calloused, hardened, and insensitive. But the meaning of the original Hebrew word in Isaiah includes reference to being greasy, gross, and fat. That’s why the King James translation translates Isaiah 6:10 as “Make the heart of this people fat…” and Acts 28:27 as “For the heart of this people is waxed gross.”

Yes, our spiritual hearts can become gross and covered in fat.

It happens when we no longer mourn over our sin…both individually and as a nation.

When we refuse God’s solution to our problems, and seek our own futile answers.

And it can even happen when we become so numb to a world where wrong is right and right is wrong that we give up being salt and light.

Is this how you feel?

Discouraged at the state of our world?

Wondering how we could have gotten to the point where laws permit a baby to be born and then allowed to die without medical care?

Dejected at how intelligent people are convinced gender is something we can choose and change based on feeling instead of physical reality?

Please don’t let your heart grow dull. Calloused. Fat.

Don’t give up hungering and thirsting for truth…the truth of God’s Word and the Person who is Truth: Jesus Christ.

And please don’t throw up your hands in surrender at the hopelessness of it all.

Be salt and light. Don’t be fat.


 
Hard Truths Relevant to Today’s Headlines
Hard Truths

I’ve heard it over and over again. “The Bible is an ancient, mythological book irrelevant to modern culture.”

Is it? The Christian community would disagree. Those who do not follow Christ are not convinced.

We could lock horns and argue about this until Jesus returns.

But our local headlines recently exploded with the results of a months-long investigation into sex trafficking. An investigation that began in our own county and stretched across state and international boundaries.

And as I watched developments unfold—and they’re still unfolding even now—I couldn’t help but think of a hard truth from that “ancient, mythological book.”

“Be sure your sin will find you out.” ~ Numbers 32:23 (ESV)

This was a true statement when it was written several thousand years ago and it is true today. We have only to listen to the news to confirm its accuracy.

Celebrities. Corporate giants. Philanthropic role models. And of course, “regular guys.” Upstanding members of the community. Husbands, fathers, and sons. They all learned the hard way that while we may hide our sin for a season, the darkness of all sin will someday be revealed.

So what can we learn from their failures…and our own, too?

We can start with some hard truths from the Bible:

1. Start with a new nature.

“For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out….Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” ~ Romans 7:18. 24-25 (ESV)

Relying on our own strength will doom us before we begin. But when we surrender our life to Jesus Christ, His Spirit dwells within us to guide, convict, and empower us to do what’s right.

2. Don’t believe your own press.

“The heart is deceitful above all things.” ~ Jeremiah 17:9 (ESV)

No one is immune to temptation. The more we try to convince ourselves that we’re stronger and better than the next person is the moment we’ll stumble and fall. And if people say enough nice things about us, after a while we start to believe what they say.

But an accurate assessment of who we are does not come from what people say about us. Rather, it is found in measuring ourselves against the plumb line of God’s Word.

3. Be accountable to at least one other person—find your “Nathan.”

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” ~ Proverbs 27:6 (ESV)

King David needed the prophet Nathan to speak truth into his life (“You are the man!” ~ II Samuel 12:7) after he sinned with Bathsheba. We also need people who will courageously speak the truth in love, regardless of how we might initially receive it.

4. Choose your friends wisely.        

 “Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.”
~ I Corinthians 15:33 (ESV)

Sad words that describe a downward spiral of sin and defeat. A spiral that might have been halted with the right friends to encourage us in righteousness.

5. Start small and go long.

“My son, keep your father’s commandment, and forsake not your mother’s teaching.” ~ Proverbs 6:20 (ESV)

People rarely wake up one morning and decide, “Today I will schedule a moral failure.” It happens as we distance ourselves from God instead of surrendering to Him and immersing ourselves in His Word.

Think about a dirt road. If the road is not graded regularly, two ruts will appear from the repeated path of the car tires. By nurturing a habit of obedience in seemingly inconsequential areas, we create ruts or paths of obedience. This builds our self-control little by little until we’re able to withstand bigger temptations.

The Bible was relevant when it was written, and it’s relevant now.
What will you do with the hard truths of God’s Word today?


 
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