Sanctuary

Last week, I chaperoned my tenth-grader’s field trip to New York City. One memorable site we visited, at least to me, was the magnificent St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

As is often the case with field trips, we had little time in the building. Still, for the time I had, I trailed my fingers over the heavy polished wooden pews as I took in the ornate ceiling, columns, and alcoves all bathed in light filtered through stained glass windows.

My thoughts strayed from the sights before my eyes to the beautiful descriptions of the two Temples given in Scripture. For a moment, my heart stirred with sorrow and I whispered, “O Lord, when did we stop building You such glorious houses of worship?”

He whispered back, “This is not My house, child. You are.”

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?

1 Corinthians 3:16

The thought has been with me since.

On this day, Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, I invite you to join with me in an endeavor which will have eternal benefits. Now that God’s people are His house – His temple – let’s do a little spiritual housecleaning. If our bodies are God’s temple, ought we not be certain the bodies we offer Him are worthy of His residence?

So by His grace and with the sound counsel of the Paraclete – the Holy Spirit our Helper – let’s resolve to search our temples by the Light of the Word. When we find something unsavory or rotten, let’s remove it, banishing it from the house. What is filthy, let’s cleanse; what is ugly, let’s beautify; what is dishonorable, let’s cast out.

From here on out, let’s join together in Christ to become a Temple of incredible beauty. Let the worship performed in these, our temples, be genuine, breaking forth from the overflow of gratitude for His sacrifice which has set us free from sin.

Then let us choose to live as free men and women every single day. Let’s keep these houses swept clean of debris and deceit. Daily, we’ll let the Light in so that by the light of the Word we can see clearly. We’ll let the Spirit of God do His work in us, putting our houses in order so that by our lives and in our bodies, we can magnify the beauty of our great and awesome God!

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Tuesday Prayer: A Prayer for Lent

 “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules. 

Daniel 9:4b-5

Faithful and True, You are the unchanging God and the only just Judge. As the Psalmist says, “Your word is firmly fixed in the heavens and Your faithfulness endures to all generations.” Though cultures, fashions, and social mores may change, Your Word never does. Your Truth never does. What You say is right does not later become wrong, and what You say is sin does not later become acceptable. 

Forever, O LORD, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens. Your faithfulness endures to all generations…

Psalms 119:89-90a

Today as we look ahead to Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent, we choose to acknowledge the fact of Your unswerving truth and righteousness. This year, we beg, send Your Spirit in abundance to move in our hearts during Lent.

Open our eyes to the places we have called what is evil, good or anywhere we have called what is good, evil. In all places where we have made excuses for sin or justified it according to what is socially or culturally acceptable, expose our deceit as just that: deceit.  Where we have tried to hide a “pet” sin, drag it out into the light and convict our hearts of evil. 

Oh Lord, we echo Daniel’s prayer: “To You, O Lord, belongs righteousness but to us, open shame!” We have sinned and fallen short of Your grace. We have taken lightly the great and terrible sacrifice of our Lord Yeshua (Jesus) and used the freedom He offers as an excuse to sin. We have turned from Your Word and pursued our own selfish ways. We have placed jobs, entertainment, wealth, family, and other worldly pursuits in priority over You and over Your Word. We have worshiped self and ignored Your still, small voice.

To you, O Lord, belongs righteousness, but to us open shame…

…O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name.

Daniel 9:7a, 19

Forgive us, Lord, for these sins and others! In the weeks to come, we ask that You will continually be at work in our hearts. Convict us of sin and drive us to confession and to genuine repentance.  Change us heart, soul, mind, and strength so that our one passion is to honor You and the sacrifice You’ve made. Let us not only say we believe, let us live as though we believe that Yeshua Messiah died to set us free from sin. May our behavior reflect this belief.

And Lord, as You work in us, changing us and renewing our hearts before Your throne, open our mouths in praise to You every single day. Let us speak to all of the good our God has done in our hearts. Let us celebrate openly our freedom from sin, and let us walk in freedom – slaves to sin no more. May we never again present our bodies as slaves to sin but instead present them as slaves to righteousness, walking in joyful obedience to the living Word of our mighty and compassionate, God.

Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?

Romans 6:16

By our changed lives and the righteousness of Christ evident in us, set other prisoners free from slavery to sin so that we may rejoice with many new brothers and sisters in Christ! We eagerly wait to see Your work in us and in the people around us, in the mighty name of Yeshua Messiah our Lord, amen. 

A Lenten Prayer

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.
(Romans 12:9)

Our mighty God, You are a God of covenant loyalty and of never-ending love. Your faithfulness endures through the ages, your mercies never cease, and your steadfast love is more abundant than we can even imagine. You are not only the God of love, You are the God who is Love.

We praise You today for Your love, offered freely to us despite our rebellion.We give thanks because Your love always brings about what is best for us, preparing us for eternity with You even when it is uncomfortable for us here and now.

Lord, may we become intoxicated with Your love. May it motivate us to greater surrender to Your perfect will and to loving others as You have loved us – not because they deserve it, but because they don’t deserve it. But they need it.

We ask for the love of Christ to compel us to honor His sacrifice by complete obedience to You, to zeal for Your Kingdom, to have mercy on others, and to love without holding back as You held back nothing from us – not even Your Son.

Help our love to be genuine; an outpouring of the work of Your Spirit in our lives. Teach us to truly abhor what is evil, agreeing with You on the definition of evil and rejecting it without delay – even if the evil happens to be an old habit, a grudge, or even a seemingly innocuous pleasure.

Help us to cling to what is good in Your eyes. Incline our hearts to love Your word, to feast on it, and to obey it so that by testing we may know Your will and understand what is truly good and acceptable and perfect – not in the world’s ever-chaining definition, but in Yours. May we become what You desire us to be in Christ, amen.