I’ve been doing a lot of devotional writing at work lately, and I figured it would be nice to post a sample here. So I did. Below. Right…there. No, that’s not it. Just keep reading and you’ll come to it. No, on the computer. You have to look at the computer! Just scroll down! What? I don’t know. What are you–what does that even mean? Just scroll down and read! Sheesh, it doesn’t have to be this complicated. It’s a blog. Welcome to 2008.

John 2:12-25

After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother and brothers and his disciples. There they stayed for a few days.
When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!”
His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
Then the Jews demanded of him, “What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?”
Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”
The Jews replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” But the temple he had spoken of was his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.
Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in his name. But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men. He did not need man’s testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man.

Passover would have attracted Jews from all across the world who wanted to come to the Temple in Jerusalem to worship. Because of the long journey, they would not have been able to bring the appropriate sacrifices with them—hence the availability of cattle, sheep and doves, and the presence of the money changers in the Temple. These people were providing a way for Jews to make the right sacrifices to Yahweh.

But you can’t buy worship. You can’t purchase God’s favor. Jesus was upset not simply because these money changers may have been extorting their fellow Jews; no, he was upset by the whole process of buying and selling going on at the Temple. It wasn’t merely the injustice of extortion that raised Jesus’ ire, it was the commercialization of God’s House.

In fact, by clearing the Temple, Jesus is pronouncing his judgment against it. Jesus is judging the Temple and condemning its way of worship, and he is replacing it with something else—himself. The authorities asked him, “What right do you have to clear these people out? Who are you to say that all this is wrong?” Jesus responded by saying, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” The disciples only later understood that Jesus was referring here to his own body.

By clearing the Temple, Jesus is judging the Temple and its place in Jewish life, and he is setting up an alternative Temple—himself. Jesus claims to replace the Temple as the place where heaven and earth collide. Jesus is now where we go to meet God. The Temple was destroyed less than 50 years after Jesus condemned it, and it has never been rebuilt. Jesus is the new Temple. It is through Jesus, at his cross, that we go to meet with God.

After jumping in the WayBack Machine, I’ve brought back another old Unbound video. I’ve got to admit, I get hypnotized by Corey’s fleshly gyrations.

Unbound Dance Video from Andy Holt on Vimeo.

As I’m confronted more and more with the evangelical social justice movement I find myself torn between two thoughts: 1) This is necessary, and 2) This is insincere.

What is injustice? I’ve heard it described as the strong taking from the weak. That, I suppose, is a good enough, albeit broad, definition of injustice. Few things break the heart of God more than injustice. God, himself the strongest of the strong, wields his power with grace and humility, both of which are supremely evident at the cross. God exercises his strength in mercy and grace, and I am forever grateful for that.

The evangelical social justice movement is right to call the strong to exercise their strength in mercy and grace. This is how we ourselves should move in any strength and power that we may possess. The world needs to be a more merciful and gracious place, and who better to lead us to this calling than those who are following Jesus Christ?

But somewhere along the line this calling has become corrupt. It has become perverted in its politics.

If injustice is the act of the strong taking from the weak, then what is the lowest act of injustice? Is it poverty? Perhaps. But at least in our American, capitalistic context, the injustice of poverty gets muddy. Is it slavery? It’s hard to imagine a more unjust act than slavery. What about rape? Or murder? These are all acts of horrible injustice.

But I think there is one act that goes beyond all of these. One act in which the gap between the strong and the weak is as wide as an ocean. I submit that there is no greater act of social injustice than abortion. You cannot find a weaker human vessel than an unborn child. These cannot speak, fight back, or even be seen. We don’t even call them human, though what else they could possibly be has not been satisfactorily answered.

And my criticism of the evangelical social justice movement is that it cares more about a “more equitable redistribution of wealth” than the foundations of human life. It cares more about health care than caring for the least of us. The evangelical social justice movement has forgotten about abortion, and it now runs the risk of becoming merely a politically-liberal activist group.

If you truly care about social justice than you must be concerned for the unborn. But instead the evangelical social justice movement has swept them under the rug, and has chosen the praise of the liberal men and women of the world rather than the praise of God, who is concerned for the least of us. Ask yourself: Is abortion just?

To my socially-justice minded brothers and sisters, your work is important, but you are forgetting the truly least of us. The hungry need to be fed. The naked need to be clothed. The slaves must be set free. The sick must be healed. And the unwanted must be rescued. This is what we have done for 2,000 years. Let us not give up on doing good for the sake of a fleeting political trend and the ever-shifting tide of public opinion.

When you hear about the sex trade and child prostitution, what do you do? When you hear about human slavery, what do you do? When you hear about the AIDS pandemic, what do you do? When you hear about global poverty and starvation, what do you do? When you hear about Darfur, what do you do? When you hear about our own prisoners, what do you do?

The troubles of the world are overwhelming, and I am overwhelmed by my own crushing sense of guilt and over-identification with the “failure” of the Church to respond to these crises. (A “fact” which I think ought to be open for debate rather than used as the primary construct in the strawman-ification of the Church. But as you can see, I myself am conflicted.) I can’t possibly solve any of these problems, and I don’t have much faith that anyone else can, either. On the other hand, I can’t just twittle my thumbs, claim inability, and wait for the Lord to return and I don’t have to hear about these things anymore. (Again, I’m conflicted.)

But does knowledge necessarily demand action? Does information equal responsibility? How much can I be reasonably expected to do in these arenas? Just because I know about the sex trade, does that mean I am responsible for seeing it destroyed? Sometimes it seems that everything is the most important thing in the world, and the more I know about everything, the less I’m able to do about anything.

Honestly, how can I in good conscience say no to any of these things? And if I can’t say no to any of them, then I wind up saying no to all of them. The evil in this world is so overwhelming that it becomes very tempting to close my eyes, shut my ears, and sit in my own safe corner of the planet waiting out death or Christ’s return, whichever comes first. (There’s irony in there, to be sure.)

But what am I really saying, here? Isn’t what I’m really getting at my own insecurities, and the need I feel to cover my backside? Doesn’t my guilt come from my desire to stand before the harshest skeptic and say, “Well you can’t say those things about me. I did it all. I did more than you. I cared more. I helped more. I served more. I loved more. I’ve been to more places and done more things….” Somewhere inside of me, all of this is really about me. I may not be trying to earn the favor of God–I know I can’t do that–but I am tempted to earn the favor of the most hard-hearted Christ-hater.

That’s a sin in me that needs to die and be resurrected. I desire credibility for myself, not glory for God. The glory of God is the most important thing in the world. Ending the sex trade, freeing the slaves, feeding the hungry, healing the sick, stopping AIDS, ministering to the prisoners, and everything else like them are important because they give glory to God. They are not ends in themselves (although they are some of the best ends I can think of), and they are not the most important things in the world. The end of all of our work, small or great, is to give glory to God. And I have to trust that, if I pursue God’s glory, then he will give me, in my smallness, some small thing to do that will someday bring him great glory.

Back to Craig Groeschel’s message from the Leadership Summit.

One of the questions that a leader ought to ask him or herself, Craig claims, is, “What is God trying to show me through my limitations?” This, of course, assumes that the leader is familiar with his or her limitations. Do you know what your limitations are? Do I? I have several limitations that immediately come to mind.
I am helpless in a group of people with whom I am unfamiliar. Put me in a crowd of people that I don’t know, and, like water, I will immediately flow to the lowest point, or nearest corner/wall. Despite the biblical mandate that every good Christian leader feels most at home in a group of people he or she doesn’t know, I just can’t seem to deal with this excruciatingly uncomfortable situation. (Yes, you did detect a hint of sarcasm in that last sentence.) Now, if you put me in front of that same group of people, particularly to preach the Word of God, I am completely at home. I can say anything from the pulpit, but I can’t seem to find words before or after the service. For an aspiring pastor, this is a serious limitation.
I am naturally passive. I am not a self-starter. I am not a go-getter. I am not high-energy. In fact, I can’t think of a single hyphenated adjectival phrase that applies to me. (Maybe, stick-in-the-mud, or, finely-bearded.) I am not a man of action, a fact which shames me to my core. Again, for someone who wants to be a pastor, particularly a church-planter, this may well signal the death-knell of such dreams. Perhaps this is why I abandoned the church I felt God called me to plant.
I do not have a big heart. I do not love others well. People don’t feel great about themselves after talking to me. In fact, I have to try very hard not to ask questions about someone else’s life. I tend to be far more interested in what I’m doing than in what you’re doing–and when you talk to me, you can probably tell. Of all my limitations, this is the greatest character deficiency, and the one that most disqualifies me for the ministry.
So, what is God trying to show me through my limitations? (Believe me, there are more, but this post would have gotten insanely long had I continued–not to mention what would have happened to my emotional state.) I can’t even begin to answer that question until I have prayed and meditated. What I can say is that my gifts and sense of calling seem to qualify me for ministry, while my limitations and character deficiencies seem to disqualify me. Perhaps this is a common experience.
I believe that God has given me a mind (and heart) for Scripture and theology. I believe he has also given me the ability to preach and, primarily through preaching, to lead. But why has he given me such overwhelming limitations? Why does my character not match my gifting? And what is he trying to show me through this?
This, in a strong way, has been my core question for the past two years. Why am I so limited? Why is my character so lacking? The answer, I believe, is not simple. Which is why I continue to ask the question. Or rather, why God continues to press the question on me.
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