What is The Church

It has been a while since I’ve been able to sit down and write a devotion. The past two weeks have been a little crazy. The biggest thing is a looming deadline for a training I’m in. Things should be getting back to normal, now. 

One of the things that have been on my mind a lot recently has been the usage of the word Church. When we think about it, it could mean many different things depending on its usage, and who is using it. So, let’s take a look at what it means according to the Word of God

Matthew 18:20 New King James Version (NKJV)

20 For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”

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February 13, 2018

2 Chronicles 29:1-19 New King James Version (NKJV)

1 Hezekiah became king when he was twenty-five years old, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Abijah the daughter of Zechariah. And he did what was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father David had done.

In the first year of his reign, in the first month, he opened the doors of the house of the Lord and repaired them. Then he brought in the priests and the Levites, and gathered them in the East Square, and said to them: “Hear me, Levites! Now sanctify yourselves, sanctify the house of the Lord God of your fathers, and carry out the rubbish from the holy place. For our fathers have trespassed and done evil in the eyes of the Lord our God; they have forsaken Him, have turned their faces away from the dwelling place of the Lord, and turned their backs on Him. They have also shut up the doors of the vestibule, put out the lamps, and have not burned incense or offered burnt offerings in the holy place to the God of Israel. Therefore the wrath of the Lord fell upon Judah and Jerusalem, and He has given them up to trouble, to desolation, and to jeering, as you see with your eyes. For indeed, because of this our fathers have fallen by the sword; and our sons, our daughters, and our wives are in captivity.

10 “Now it is in my heart to make a covenant with the Lord God of Israel, that His fierce wrath may turn away from us. 11 My sons, do not be negligent now, for the Lord has chosen you to stand before Him, to serve Him, and that you should minister to Him and burn incense.”

12 Then these Levites arose: Mahath the son of Amasai and Joel the son of Azariah, of the sons of the Kohathites; of the sons of Merari, Kish the son of Abdi and Azariah the son of Jehallelel; of the Gershonites, Joah the son of Zimmah and Eden the son of Joah; 13 of the sons of Elizaphan, Shimri and Jeiel; of the sons of Asaph, Zechariah and Mattaniah; 14 of the sons of Heman, Jehiel and Shimei; and of the sons of Jeduthun, Shemaiah and Uzziel.

15 And they gathered their brethren, sanctified themselves, and went according to the commandment of the king, at the words of the Lord, to cleanse the house of the Lord16 Then the priests went into the inner part of the house of the Lord to cleanse it, and brought out all the debris that they found in the temple of the Lord to the court of the house of the Lord. And the Levites took it out and carried it to the Brook Kidron.

17 Now they began to sanctify on the first day of the first month, and on the eighth day of the month they came to the vestibule of the Lord. So they sanctified the house of the Lord in eight days, and on the sixteenth day of the first month they finished.

18 Then they went in to King Hezekiah and said, “We have cleansed all the house of the Lord, the altar of burnt offerings with all its articles, and the table of the showbread with all its articles. 19 Moreover all the articles which King Ahaz in his reign had cast aside in his transgression we have prepared and sanctified; and there they are, before the altar of the Lord.”

Background

Hezekiah’s father was Ahaz. Ahaz wasn’t like many of the previous kings of Judah. Most of them at least started off following the ways of the LORD. But the Bible tells us Ahaz immediately went against the Lord, and the Kingdom of Judah suffered greatly for it.

Ahaz was twenty years old when he became king, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem; and he did not do what was right in the sight of the Lord, as his father David had done. ( 2 Chronicles 28:1 ) 

So for sixteen years, Ahaz brought God’s wrath upon Judah. Think about how long that is. That’s 4 presidential terms. 16 years ago I was a sophomore in high school, September 11 was still fresh on our minds, most of us didn’t own cell phones, and George W. Bush was starting his second year in office. That’s a long time to mess things up for a whole nation. It seems quick when you read it in the Bible because it only lasts for one chapter. After Sixteen years of terror, finally, Ahaz’s son turns to the LORD.

The Rotten Apple and The Good Apple

Ahaz’ father was Jotham, who did what was right in the sight of the LORD and also reigned for 16 years. However, it says that the people acted corruptly.

Jotham was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jerushah the daughter of Zadok. And he did what was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father Uzziah had done (although he did not enter the temple of the Lord). But still the people acted corruptly. ( 2 Chronicles 27:1-2 )

Those last words can explain what happened to Ahaz. Though his father did right, he saw the people, and their corruption went to him. So by the time Ahaz took power, his mind and spirit had already turned from the LORD.

Hezekiah, however, saw what happened because of this corruption, and listened as the Prophets told his father to stop. I imaging Jotham was proud to see his grandson walk in the ways of the LORD.

Clean Out The Rubbish

During Ahaz’ reign, the Temple was raided by invading armies and was left in squalor. This was such a disgrace, and the first Thing Hezekiah did when he is crowned King was fixed this problem. He didn’t wait until he paraded around the Kingdom, or defeated a great army in the LORD’s name. The first thing he did was to prepare for worship. This is how we should always look at our lives, for we are called to worship Him every day.

Sing to the Lord, all the earth;
Proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day. 

1 Chronicles 16:23

The temple was a disgrace, but he didn’t let that stop him. He called the Levites to “carry out the rubbish” so they could worship again. Our hearts are the modern temple. It’s where the Holy Spirit resides now. And, like the temple, we need to maintain our Hearts. If we don’t examine our hearts, they will become cold and full of rubbish, unwelcoming to the Holy Spirit.

But how do we clean our hearts out? We call on our Priest. Not the Father from the nearest Catholic church, but the Great High Priest Himself. He does the cleaning, but we must be willing to accept His cleaning. It will take time, and it will be hard. But He does it because He is faithful to forgive us.

Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. (Hebrews 4:14)

Daily Challenge

Ask God to clear the rubbish from your heart. Pray for the guidance to examine your heart, and ask Him to give you the strength and wisdom to let Him clean it, understanding that to be molded into His image, He is going to have to stretch you.

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Psalm 51:10

 

February 8, 2018

2 Chronicles 26:16-21 New King James Version (NKJV)

16 But when he was strong his heart was lifted up, to his destruction, for he transgressed against the LORD his God by entering the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense.

17 So Azariah the priest went in after him, and with him were eighty priests of the LORD—valiant men. 18 And they withstood King Uzziah, and said to him, “It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the LORD, but for the priests, the sons of Aaron, who are consecrated to burn incense. Get out of the sanctuary, for you have trespassed! You shall have no honor from the LORD God.”

19 Then Uzziah became furious; and he had a censer in his hand to burn incense. And while he was angry with the priests, leprosy broke out on his forehead, before the priests in the house of the LORD, beside the incense altar. 20 And Azariah the chief priest and all the priests looked at him, and there, on his forehead, he was leprous; so they thrust him out of that place. Indeed he also hurried to get out, because the LORD had struck him.

21 King Uzziah was a leper until the day of his death. He dwelt in an isolated house, because he was a leper; for he was cut off from the house of the LORD. Then Jotham his son was over the king’s house, judging the people of the land.

Background

King Uzziah became King of the Southern Kingdom of Judah at the age of 16. Like so many of the Kings of Judah, he started well, doing what was right in the sight of the LORD. (v4) This guy had it all, wealth, fame, power, might. He strengthened the walls of Jerusalem, adding towers and catapults and ballista while fighting and destroying the Philistines, the Arabs, and many more. His name was famous even in Egypt. All this fame and power came from the LORD, but he eventually forgot that and thought that HE was the one who is mighty.

His Mistake

By forgetting that all he had was from the LORD he made a grave sin: the sin of pride. The only ones allowed to enter the Holy of Holies in the Temple were the Priests. Anointed descendants of the brother of Moses, Aaron, the first High Priest. God had been very clear on the rules of the Temple.

Uzziah thought, “I’m the King and look at how powerful I am, so I’M going to burn the incense,  not some random priest.” So he strolls right in and tries to light the incense. The priests protested and tried to stop him, but God took care of it. He struck Uzziah with leprosy. 

The interesting part is that Uzziah was trying to worship Him, but he was punished. He forgot his place. Remember, God didn’t want the Jews to have a king for this exact reason. Because the King of the nation would forget his place, and think himself mighty. This was a heart issue, Uzziah didn’t enter the place of worship with a broken and contrite heart, but a strong and prideful one. He focused on “I am great” and not the “Great I AM.” 


Matthew 27:50-51 New King James Version (NKJV)

50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.

51 Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split,

The Veil Has Been Torn

Uzziah wasn’t allowed to approach certain places of worship because it was there that God’s presence physically dwelt.  (His presence, not His being) This area was cordoned off by a veil. When Jesus died on the Cross, that veil split from the top down.  (remember, both these events take place in Jerusalem, though many hundreds of years apart) Being split from the top to the bottom is key here. During an earthquake, things split from the bottom up. The veil was torn by a supernatural force, indicating God’s presence leaving the temple and going into the world.

When Jesus ascended into Heaven forty days later, He said He would send us a Helper. (John 14:15-16)  Ten days later, the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples. (Acts 2) This same Holy Spirit descends upon every Christian when they are saved. God doesn’t dwell in a secluded room in a temple, now. He dwells in us. Worship isn’t prescribed in a specific manner, where only the ordained of a certain lineage can enter His presence. 

In Matthew 18:20, Jesus says,

For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”

We don’t have to go through rituals and responses and have priests, or even pastors with us to worship Him because He is always with us. He dwells in us. 

Daily Challenge

Live today like He is in you. Remember that we can worship Him ourselves. Not because we are worthy, but because we acknowledge His power, not our own.