The Temple Unleashed

The Temple Unleashed

A few months ago I was invited to lead our district camp planning team in a devotional time. I had recently finished teaching a class at church on the Gospel of John and felt compelled to talk about Jesus clearing the temple in John 2 (which I wrote a little about here). I talked to the team about Jesus’s theological work, unveiling himself as the new temple. The temple had long been the home for God on earth, but now that Jesus was here in the flesh, God was walking and talking and laughing and crying with his beloved creation. Jesus was God on earth.

But we had to take the conversation one step further.

Jesus wasn’t going to be walking the earth in human form forever, as we know. Actually, we’re coming up on Ascension Day in the Christian calendar in which we celebrate Jesus being taken into heaven in Acts 1. So we know Jesus-in-the-flesh isn’t long for this world.

So what happens with that new temple? Well, do you have a mirror?

So what happens with that new temple? Well, do you have a mirror?

In our current Unleashed series, we’re highlighting some ways the events of Easter weekend have unleashed us to live. Unleashed to live an abundant life. Unleashed to live in unmatched power. Unleashed to live in bold love. When Jesus took our sins upon himself on the cross, the curtain in the temple that separated people from God’s presence ripped in two (Matthew 27:50-51). Suddenly, God’s presence was available to all.

It was in that moment of unleashing that the new temple process began.

The temple had several distinct areas. In the outermost area was the Court of Gentiles. It’s the closest non-Jews could get to the Holy Place. Inside of that outer area was the Court of Women. Jewish women could get closer to God’s presence than Gentile men and women, but not as close as Jewish men. Next was the Hall of Israelites (men), and further inside still, the Hall of Priests.

In other words, there were lots of barriers besides just the temple curtain. Really, getting close to God was reserved for: Jewish > Male > A Priest from the House of Levi > The High Priest. God’s presence seemed to be for a very select group of people.

The ripping of the curtain was the breaking down of barriers and the unleashing of a new and powerful life for EVERYONE who belongs to Christ.

But when the curtain ripped, things changed. Suddenly, as far as God’s power and presence were concerned, there was no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female (Galatians 3:28). The ripping of the curtain was the breaking down of barriers and the unleashing of a new and powerful life for EVERYONE who belongs to Christ. It wasn’t even priests who had to be the mediators. Now it was for the priesthood of believers!

So what does this have to do with the new temple? Well, the temple was the home for God on earth, then Jesus was God on earth, and then Jesus broke down the barriers of the temple in order that WE would become the home for God on earth.

You are the new temple. So am I. That’s why this Unleashed series is so important. We have a holy duty to fulfill.

I mentioned the process beginning on Easter, because it really comes home in a few weeks at Pentecost. On this Sunday, we celebrate the unleashed Spirit of God settling into his new home: the believers.

So, you’ve got big shoes to fill. After all the last temple was Jesus himself. But his spirit is here to help you live into your holy calling. You are the temple. And you have been unleashed.

Email Pastor Kyle

A Tov Church

A Tov Church

During a recent week of Sabbath rest, I finished reading the book A Church Called Tov (McKnight and Barringer). Tov (rhymes with stove) is the Hebrew word for good. In Genesis, God created and called it tov. We were created, the earth was created, the church was created to reflect the goodness of God. This reading inspired and guides this blog.

In the last 50 years, much of the church and her leaders and have slowly taken on the image of high functioning organizations. Successful business practices have begun to shape our own. At times this has been intentional. At other times, unintended, but steady. Pastors have become CEOs. Leadership has become meritocratic. And the church has gained a number of celebrities.

But is this tov? Is what we’re striving for reflective of the goodness of God?

I, personally, have found myself leaning into this description of the church at times. Part of this blog is confessional in nature. I have placed so much of my own professional worth on achievement. Not achievement of status, but of productivity. In the business world, being highly productive, a self-starter, full of grit, disciplined, and competitive will help you move forward. It’s exactly what most companies are looking for.

In the church world, these aren’t inherently bad things. But they’re not inherently Christian things either. They’re not what Jesus looks for in a follower, or what Paul looked for in a pastor.

With this in mind, and looking my own self in the mirror as I write (not literally – I’m writing this next to a roaring fire, there’s no mirror in here, and I’m not getting up), I’d like to call attention to five ways the culture of the church is called to stand in stark opposition to cultures of achievement and success. Five ways the church can be tov.

1) Organism > Organization
An organization is a man-made institution. An organism is a living thing. The church is the living, breathing, serving, worshiping, loving body of Christ. Is it ok to be organized? Sure. Mission statements and websites and policy manuals help keep us focused, accessible, and accountable. But when the organization becomes the core, the spark of life goes out. Organizations aren’t alive. Organisms are. We, the people, the organism, are Christ’s church. This is tov.

So what happens with that new temple? Well, do you have a mirror?

2) Growth > Merit
I’m not talking about numbers, here, or any easily-wrangled metric. I’m talking about growing in our Christlikeness. The church isn’t measured in accomplishments. The business world, organizations, thrive on merit. What do you bring to the table? How will you help us achieve success? The church, though, thrives on Christlikeness. It’s a group of individuals, empowered by the Spirit, caring for one another and for their neighbors as they grow in the image of Christ. Forget what you bring. What does Jesus bring to you? What does Jesus bring through you? This is tov.

3) Humility > Celebrity
Merit yields celebrity status, and we are a celebrity-driven culture. Cut an album, write a book, increase your blog traffic, become a guru, go viral. Chasing the gaze of the public eye is always in play. But when Jesus’s own disciples sought celebrity status in Mark 10, asking to be great in his kingdom, Jesus replied with, “whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.” For even Jesus himself came not to be served, but to serve. In the church, the pursuit of celebrity status has no place. Jesus is King, and even our King came to wash feet. This is tov.

We the church are at our best in life’s most ordinary moments, where God flows through us into the lives of our neighbors

4) Ordinary > Extravagant
One of the most impactful of our church’s values for me is Ordinary: loving by living out our faith in everyday life. Dallas Willard, a prolific author on spiritual formation, says ordinary life is “made to be a receptacle of the divine, a place where the life of God flows” (Life Without Lack). The church is not at our best when we are planning parties. Don’t get me wrong. I love a good church gathering. There can be a lot of good in them. And I look forward to beating our teenagers in our next Pigskin Rumble this fall. But we the church are at our best in life’s most ordinary moments, where God flows through us into the lives of our neighbors, friends, co-workers, family members, and even enemies. This is tov.

5) Equality > Hierarchy
We are not part of the family of God based on merit, as previously discussed. No skill set or achievement makes you more of a brother or sister in Christ than any other brother or sister in Christ. Actually, using the terms “brothers and sisters” helps reinforce the idea that we are indeed equal partners in this work. There is no corporate ladder to climb. There is no stock to increase. We’re in this thing together. God is Father. We are brothers and sisters. This is tov.

May we reflect the goodness of God’s creation as the living, breathing church. May our life, our focus, our leadership, and our followership be tov.

Email Pastor Kyle

A Little Perspective

A Little Perspective

A Little Perspective

For the past few weeks several of us have gathered on Wednesday nights to study the Gospel of John together. The class has been called A Little Perspective. The perspective that John offers in relation to the other gospels is fascinating.

Matthew, Mark, and Luke are called the “synoptic gospels.” Each has their own perspective and purpose for writing, and each offers a more complete picture of Jesus’s life when compared to John. Mark was the first to be written, and Matthew and Luke had Mark to use as a reference as they wrote their gospels. John was the last, and while he was aware of the other men’s writings, he wasn’t focused on retelling the same events. Instead, John’s gospel almost works like a companion to the first three.

John writes assuming his readers have already read Mark’s letter, or Luke’s, or maybe all three. He doesn’t tell the story in chronological order, but rather in theological order. That is, John is offering a unique theological perspective on the story of Jesus in order to help us understand what we read in the first three gospels.

For example, Matthew, Mark, and Luke all tell the story of Jesus clearing the temple. For each of them, this story comes near the end and leads into the Passion Narrative (the journey to the cross). John also tells this temple clearing story, but John puts it at the beginning of his letter, rather than the end. Why? Is this to make us argue about when it happened in Jesus’s ministry? Not at all. John is giving us some theological perspective.

John understands Jesus clearing the temple as an important moment in revealing who he is. The temple was the home for God on earth. Jesus, God in flesh, was the new home for God on earth. The new temple. John sought to establish this early in his narrative, even though it seems to have happened much later in Jesus’s ministry.

John is an especially compelling read when done so along with or following the reading of the other gospels. John doesn’t write explicitly to evangelize the world, but to disciple Christians who already know and believe in Jesus. John writes, “these things are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah” (John 20:31).

In our class we’ve had lots of opportunities for discussion. Our personal experiences have paved the way to hearing John with unique perspectives of our own. But when we study together, in an environment ripe for loving conversation, gentle correction, and even differing opinions, we are made stronger and more responsible readers of the word.

I hope that you’re getting these opportunities. If not, we’ll have plenty more in our discipleship gatherings on Wednesday nights and through our Life Groups. Let’s dig into the word together as a church, full of grace and seeking wisdom, in order that we, too, can gain a little perspective.

Kyle Tyler
Family Pastor

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The 20%

The 20%

Let’s look at the research. The Barna Group, a respected Christian research association, surveyed Christian adults about their own discipleship.

  • Four out of five believers said that having a deep, personal commitment to the Christian faith is a top priority.
  • Three out of five went on to say they want to have this deep commitment but they are not currently involved in any intentional effort to grow spiritually.

Barna then notes, per the research, that the prevailing mindset among Christian adults points to a place of spiritual maintenance rather than spiritual growth. These adults have accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior and have learned some of the core lessons from scripture, so now they just need to stay the course.

So what happens with that new temple? Well, do you have a mirror?

Perhaps a difficult truth for all of us to hear applies right now: not moving forward in faith is really moving backward.

There is no spiritual cruise control or auto-pilot. We are always called to be investing in our own walk, seeking after Christ in order to be made like him. It is a lifelong process, and even the most saintly and spiritually mature among us have not yet arrived.

I do not say this to lay guilt on anyone. Rather, perhaps we need a reminder that we’re not yet finished. Perhaps we need a fire lit under us. Perhaps we need to reevaluate our goals, in order to reevaluate our priorities, in order to reorder our daily life so we can move back out of maintenance mode. In what ways can we continue moving forward in our discipleship?

  • Of the large survey done, just one in five Christian adults are actively engaged in a regular, personal spiritual development activity (besides attending a worship service).

The number of available regular activities to choose from is large. Regular scripture reading for study, regular scripture reading for prayer, regular prayers of praise, regular praise of intercession, regular bible studies at church, regular meetings with other Christians to talk about faith, and the list goes on.

In our house in the last few years, we’ve tried to make changes to some of our language. This is not about our spirituality specifically, but just about being more honest and self-aware. One example: we’ve tried to move from saying “I didn’t get time…” to “I didn’t make time…” This is an exercise in taking personal responsibility for the ways we prioritize our time. We try to use it often. From talking about household chores to bigger things like spiritual health.

It’s easy to become the victim of time. I’m not immune to feeling this way, and I’m certainly not immune to blaming the busyness of life for my lack of spiritual fervor. “I had plans to read my Bible, but I just didn’t get time.” What if we changed our language, shifting the responsibility on ourselves and the way we prioritize? “I had plans to read my Bible, but I just didn’t make time.”

That hits different. It stings a little.

The research points to the best laid plans of adult Christians. They want to be involved in healthy spiritual development. They want to go deeper in their relationship with Jesus. But at the end of the day, only about 20% have found a way to make this happen.

I’m writing today not with all the answers, but with some questions to get us thinking.

  • Where do you find yourself in this conversation?
  • Where would you like to find yourself?
  • How can we step back and take a look at our priorities in order that we don’t find ourselves just living in maintenance mode?

May the Spirit of God be moving among us, giving us a desire to actively seek out opportunities for growth.

Pastor Kyle
Family Pastor

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Generosity

Generosity

Generosity. What’s is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear that word? If you are like me, I naturally thought about money. It is good to be generous in giving money. In fact, the Bible tells us to be generous with our money. However, I want to talk about a different kind of generosity. A generosity that involves sacrifice. The ultimate act of generosity is God sacrificing His Son so you and I could be in right relationship with our Creator. I believe God wants us to be generous with more than just money. I believe He wants us to be generous with our time and our talents.

So what happens with that new temple? Well, do you have a mirror?

For us to be generous with our time and talents, we must, first, be willing to sacrifice those things and set aside our personal wants or needs. The only appropriate response to God’s sacrifice is to give our time and talents generously to further God’s kingdom.

I truly believe that I would not be where I am today if it weren’t for my youth pastor sacrificing his time to invest in me. He saw something in me that no one else, including myself, could see. When we give up our “free time” to invest in someone else’s life, the possibilities for God to move are endless.

I worked at Camp Table Rock, a Christian summer camp, for four summers. Every summer, college students gave up their summers to invest in teens from all around the Midwest. Not only that, but they also gave their talents to help lead teens to a deeper relationship with Jesus.

2 Corinthians 9:6-8 says, “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, and you will abound in every good work.”

I challenge all of us to be intentional about finding ways in which God can use us to further His kingdom. Where can I give my time? To whom can I give more time? How can God use my talents to bring about redemption to those around me?

Austin Redlich
Youth Pastor

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Fear

Fear

As a parent, I fear for the future of my kids. As a pastor a fear not only for my own kids but all young people connected with the church. I take seriously our desire to be a “generational” church in the sense that we want to pass faith on to future generations, but sometimes the future of the world around us looks so bleak that I find myself overcome by feelings of helplessness regarding my dual responsibilities as father and pastor. I know I’m not alone in this. There is a pervading fear about the future of our young people and the future of the church. So what can we do? To begin with, we need a better understanding of what fear can do to us.

Fear is a powerful thing. Fear can be motivating in the sense that it often keeps us on our toes and propels us to take action. But it can also have the opposite effect in that it can paralyze us to the point where we convince ourselves that the best action might be to do nothing. There is much power in fear, and in order to address our fears we need to have a better understanding of what fear really is.

The very essence of fear is grounded in the unknown. That’s really what we fear, isn’t it?  We fear what “might happen” or what “could happen.”  Think about what you fear.  Fear always deals with the future.  The word “fear” at its most basic level always deals with the future.  We fear storms because of their potential.  We fear a snake because it is unpredictable.  We fear a shot at the doctor’s office because it “might hurt.”  We fear that our kids “might not” turn out the way we hope they will. 

The object of our fear can’t touch us in the present moment.  However, fear itself can paralyze us.  At his inauguration Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”  I think he was on to something.  As America was facing perhaps its most formidable obstacle–The Great Depression–FDR knew the greatest hurdle wasn’t simply overcoming the economic crisis. It was deeper than that. The greatest obstacle was helping the country overcome its fear.

Fear itself can grip us and entangle us to the point that it’s much more debilitating than the object of our fear.

There is much to fear regarding the future of our young people, but we must keep in perspective that God is in control. I know this is cliché but “cliché” doesn’t mean we just toss it aside. We must continually live in the truth that God IS in control.

We must also be reminded that we have a heavy responsibility to do our part to help future generations learn to pattern their lives after God’s will. As adults we must take seriously the impact we can have in this process. We don’t “do” Children’s Ministry just so our kids have something to do or so our adults can do their thing. We don’t have youth group and retreats for our teenagers just to keep them busy. We don’t encourage parents to lead their families in prayer, scripture reading, and God conversations just so we can check a box that makes parents feel better. No, these are intentional endeavors that shape the future of our young people and provide them with as many chances as possible to grasp onto their own faith in God.

So, do not let fear paralyze us. Our future depends on it.

Email Pastor Robby