A House of Prayer Renovation -Part 1

Imagine that we are back in time. 1

We are in Jerusalem. The temple as you go into Jerusalem is near the city entrance, and back then, the temple was definitely a center for religious, social, and economic activity. So here we are near the temple, and there are a lot of people surrounding us, more people than usual, thousands more. It’s a great time for festivity.

In about a week, the Passover will be arriving. This Passover celebration is a time to remember and look back when in Egypt the blood of the lamb was put on the doorpost so that death passed over the children of Israel and they were saved.

This story is found in Exodus, Chapter 12.

The Passover is a symbol of the foreshadowing of a Messiah who’s going to come and save us from our sins. So the people are celebrating the Passover and the lamb. It’s a symbol that our prayers are being heard. People come from miles away to the city of Jerusalem for this Passover, and as travelers are entering the city, people are greeting them with the words from Psalm 118.

Psalm 118 was usually reserved for such occasions with celebratory pilgrims headed towards Jerusalem. 2

“Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.”

Then Jesus shows up.

Now Jesus is not just any traveler. He shows up riding on a donkey like the king used to do a long time ago, and the crowd greets him in a special way. They’ve heard about him by reputation, and some of them know him personally. Some of the disciples are probably among the people who are yelling and shouting, “Hosanna!” Hosanna means God saves, but at this point it also means a word of praise. They’re excited, because as Jesus comes into the city, they’re thinking that with him there’s going to be a political deliverance that’s going to be arriving in their favor. So everybody is happy and celebrating.

Suddenly something happens that takes everybody by surprise. Something happens that will forever change the way we understand God, the way we understand Scripture, and change the way we live.

Take a look at Matthew 21:12-16:

“Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. ‘It is written,’ he said to them, ‘”My house will be called a house of prayer,” but you are making it a den of robbers.’ The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them.

When the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things He did and  heard the children shouting in the temple area, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David,’ they were indignant.

“‘Do you hear what these children are saying?’ they asked him. ‘Yes,’ replied Jesus, ‘have you never read, “From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise”?'”(verse 16).

The Bible says that Jesus drove out those who were buying and selling there. The word translated drove out is a very strong word. It is reserved for the times when Jesus drives out or does an exorcism of demons.3 Jesus wants to drive out those things that stand in the way of what He’s trying to do in our lives.

The Gospel of Mark, Chapter 11, tells the same story. It informs us that there was also merchandise in the temple. Biblical history tells us that this merchandise, the grain, the oil, the wood… All of this was used for dues, dues in the sense of a club, you know, for money, for the upkeep of the temple building.

Now what were the moneychangers doing inside the temple? As we said earlier, people came from far away to Jerusalem for the Passover. If they wanted to buy anything in the city, if they wanted to buy anything in the temple, they had to exchange their money, a lot like today. If you’re traveling, you want to exchange your dollar for the money of the country where you’re traveling. Not only was there merchandise and moneychangers, there were also cattle in the temple, animals. The temple merchants sold animals for sacrificial ceremonies.

It was a very lucrative business, because people didn’t always carry all their animals with them as they were traveling. Some of them traveled from a long way, and they wanted to travel light. They needed a sacrifice to submit their prayers, and they also knew that the temple sold animals, and those animals had the seal of approval. They had the temple seal of approval, because the animal had to be unblemished. It had to be pure to be acceptable. So then the temple workers collected money to keep the temple going while at the same time providing a service for the people in the Name of God.

Yet Jesus came in there and overturned their tables, chased the buyers and the sellers out. Jesus tells them (verse 13),

“It is written, ‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers.”

To us, these words may not seem like much, but to those people hearing those words back in the day it was a big deal. They must have jarred their collective memories, these words of the prophets of old.

(To be continued, Part 2)

How shall we pray? 

Are we engaged in business that seem so good, but brings God no glory and only drive a deeper gulf between us and His saving Presence?Between others and God? Are we introducing people to Jesus or getting in the way with our own prayerless agenda.What needs to be overturned inside of us? In the way we represent Him in His House of Prayer?

Prayer: Dear God, business as usual will not do. Renovate Your House. Forgive us for the ways we have stolen attention away from You or been too distracted to notice You. As we turn to you, drive out from us any prayerless and self-centered agendas. Make us Your House of Prayer where Your Spirit dwells. Make our hearts a place where Your Spirit dwells. Lord, Help us. Amen.

Get out there and M.I.N.G.L.E !

As  followers of Jesus, we’re focusing on His way of reaching people.

We’re tackling each part of this insight by Ellen G. White on page 143 of Ministry of Healing. It’s a book  she wrote in the late 1800’s, but so applicable for our modern time:

Christ’s method alone will give true success in reaching the people. The Savior mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, “Follow Me.”

As an equipper of young adult leaders, minister and through his work in publishing, Les Mccoy knows a lot about  “mingling”!  He also credits his wife Pastor Barb for inspiring him to come up with an acronym as a teaching tool. He shared  M.I.N.G.L.E with us. We started off with a prayer and meditation on Matthew 28:11. Here are my notes from this evening about Jesus’ example, and our guide as  Christians for interacting with the people we’ll meet:

M is for Meek

Jesus was kind. Too often, we associate meekness with weakness. Jesus was far from being weak. Real men are meek, Les said. He also shared that he had a grip strength test he once used as illustration during a speaking engagement. Most people could reach 40 on it. One man in the audience came forward. With one hand, that man’s grip measured 70! He happened to be a carpenter. Jesus as a carpenter and very most likely a strong man. According to the Gospel writings,Jesus treated people with kindness.

I is for Inclusive

Jesus embraced people. He in fact went looking for the outsiders such as the poor and the marginalized. I can’t help remembering how He included the children that His  own disciples pushed away.

I’m reminded that SMALL is big in God’s kingdom. No matter their role in society, people matter. Show them they matter by acknowledging them in some way.

N is for Needy

Jesus took the time to notice people and their needs. Les’ point here is that people need God whether they realize it or not. Never give up on people or believe that your story couldn’t reach them.  I love Les’ emphasis here, on being other-focused and not worry so much about how we appear to people.

I would also add this:  never be afraid to be needy yourself. Don’t be the one with the ready answer and dare ask for help. Jesus asked the woman at the well for water. He invited Himself to dinner to Zaccheus’ home. My takeaway?

Be humble enough to give  people the blessing of blessing you.

G is for “God with us”

We don’t go at it alone when we interact with people. God sends us forth into the world with His power!

And you know what else “God with us” reminds me of? That we ought to approach people within their context, and try to understand their point of view, not impose our own. Jesus came as a human being to be with us and never lost sight of His Mission. Let’s be incarnational.

L is for “Learn of me”

Christ’ invitation is to join Him and be equipped for heaven. When we say yes to Jesus, we have opened our being to redemption and to be prepared for a lifetime in His glorious presence. Christ says that “His yoke is easy”. This means that will gently lead us and help us to live our best life in His power.

God with us helps us.

E is for Eternal Life

Les quoted another Ellen G. White excerpt: “Heaven is a ceaseless approach to God through Christ.”  We have good news to share with people. To quote Les: “Eternal Life is today!”  …because of Jesus.

Through our living, they can access this relationship with Christ. What a great reminder my friend inspired me tonight: Heaven is a relationship. Not a place where we play harps all day.

I mean…think of the person you long for and dream of spending eternity knowing. Heaven like that, and better than the deepest passion we can imagine.  “Eternal Life starts now.”

Amen.

What do you think? What would your acronym for “Mingle” look like? How has God led you to mingle with people in Christ’ Name and where? Who is God leading you to get to know better and pray for especially this week?