Welcome to the Kirkendalls

WELCOME TO THE KIRKENDALLS!

Forsythe Church of Christ welcomes Daniel, Brooke, Haddi Beth, and Walker Kirkendall to our Family. Daniel will be serving as an Associate Minister with an emphasis on youth. They are moving here from Lagrange, Georgia, where he has served for several years working with youth and family ministry. 

In Lagrange Daniel was active in coaching local community parks and recreation baseball, basketball, soccer, and softball; he has also coached High School baseball and softball. He has been a Christian camp counselor for over 17 years. Daniel has also led and participated in 21 international mission trips, particularly in Honduras, and many domestic mission projects.

Brooke loves children and in the church at Lagrange, she led children’s church weekly. She has served as a fitness instructor, been on many mission trips and to many camps with Daniel.

We are very excited to welcome the Kirkendalls to Forsythe, recognizing two important realities. First, God will work through them to bless us in ways we cannot foresee. Second, we have the privilege of blessing them as they adjust to a new church, city, school, and home. God bless us all with a new vision and renewed determination to love our parish with the love of God.   JD

Thankful For Jesus

Thankful For Jesus     Isaiah 9:1-7

Audio:

Introduction

Do you ever find it hard to be thankful? The world is full of people in terrible situations / struggles. An article in Psychology Today says that Grateful people enjoy benefits such as improved physical and emotional health, better relationships, higher self-esteem, and longer lifespans. But the article also says that in a survey conducted by the Harris Poll shed light on why people aren’t thankful during the holiday season. Three in five Americans say they’d rather do something else rather than reflect on what they’re thankful for on Thanksgiving. 71% of Americans say the holidays cause them stress.  Shopping for gifts tops the list of stressors! Spending time with family was a close second, followed by cooking big holiday meals. 12% percent of Americans admitted they would rather spend time on their smartphones than have a meaningful conversation with family.

Whether you can relate to those surveys or not, we should recognize that having a Thankful spirit is having a Christlike  spirit.

Colossians 2:7 Be rooted and built up in him, be established in faith, and overflow with thanksgiving just as you were taught.

Colossians 4:2 Keep on praying and guard your prayers with thanksgiving.

Today we’re going to use a Christmas text to teach us about Thanksgiving.

1. A BRIGHT LIGHT FOR A DARK TIME

When Isaiah confronted Ahaz in Isaiah 7-12 … The future was dark. Judah was in national decline. King Ahaz made an alliance with foreign power Assyria. It turned out bad, and the nation suffered. Idolatry was pervasive – Ahaz sacrificed his own children in the fires of Molech. There was no hope, no light, a time of darkness.

This is when God used Isaiah to bring hope and light. A new king will take his seat on the throne of David. His reign is described.  It is a vision of a future of peace, justice and righteousness. The immediate fulfillment of this prophecy is likely the coming of the revival King Josiah, perhaps Hezekiah. Ultimately, though, this is a Messianic prophecy pointing to the ultimate work of Jesus. Matthew quotes this Isaiah passage and believes Jesus fulfills Isaiah’s hopes. (MT 4:12-17)

Isaiah’s days of darkness remind us of our own. We don’t have to look far to see our world lost and hopeless. (scandal, murder, abuse, terror). Not just global, but personal darkness we deal with. Can the promise of a new King give us a spirit of gratitude this Thanksgiving? We need a bright light for our dark time.

2. FOUR REASONS TO BE THANKFUL FOR JESUS

He is the Light in our Darkness.

Isaiah 9:1, 2 Nonetheless, those who were in distress won’t be exhausted. At an earlier time, God cursed the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but later he glorified the way of the sea, the far side of the Jordan, and the Galilee of the nations. The people walking in darkness have seen a great light. On those living in a pitch-dark land, light has dawned.

John 12:46  I have come as a light into the world so that everyone who believes in me won’t live in darkness.

Jesus isn’t a topic for a sermon, He is a real person who taught about the major issues of life and gives us light and strength to face the darkness of our lives.

*He is our Joy

Isaiah 9:3 You have made the nation great; you have increased its joy.
They rejoiced before you as with joy at the harvest,
 as those who divide plunder rejoice.

The Angels told the Shepherds that there was joyous news – a savior… Christ the Lord. Are we forgetting to be grateful because we’re forgetting a Savior? Jesus saves us from our sins … not just in eternity. Sets us free, gives us hope. Joy is not absence of troubles.

Hebrews 12:1-3: Jesus… endured the cross, ignoring the shame, for the sake of the joy that was laid out in front of him, and sat down at the right side of God’s throne.

Keep your eyes on Jesus and be thankful!

*He is our Victory in the Battle

Isaiah 9:4-5 As on the day of Midian, you’ve shattered the yoke that burdened them, the staff on their shoulders, and the rod of their oppressor.  Because every boot of the thundering warriors, and every garment rolled in blood will be burned, fuel for the fire.

While it appears that the powers of this world have a firm hold, God’s power will have the final victory. – Karoline Lewis. We fight our own personal battles, how often are we depending on the Lord as we fight?

Romans 8:37 But in all these things we win a sweeping victory through the one who loved us.

*He is our Righteous King

Isaiah 9:6-7 A child is born to us, a son is given to us, and authority will be on his shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be vast authority and endless peace for David’s throne and for his kingdom, establishing and sustaining it with justice and righteousness now and forever. The zeal of the Lord of heavenly forces will do this.

3. How do we grow in our thankfulness for Jesus Christ?

*Get back to the Gospels – the more we know Him the greater we will love Him!

 *Express gratitude daily … in prayer, in a journal, on a calendar, out loud to Him.

*Love the people He loves. Can be in simple ways …sending a card, making a call, serving in some small way.

*Make Time to be Grateful – on purpose. Do we take just a few moments each day to reflect on how grateful we are to have Jesus in our lives?

Conclusion

A.A. Milne wrote, “Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.” 

Thanksgiving in America has to do with counting blessings, but often we are just counting our material blessings. That is good, but let us never take Jesus for granted!

Revelation 1:4-6 Grace and peace to you from the one who is and was and is coming, and from the seven spirits that are before God’s throne, and from Jesus Christ—the faithful witness, the firstborn from among the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To the one who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, who made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father—to him be glory and power forever and always. Amen.

LifeGroup Questions

1. If you could just pick one, what is your favorite Thanksgiving Memory?

2. A Harris Poll indicated 71% of Americans say the holidays cause them stress. The top three stressors are: Shopping for gifts; Spending time with family; cooking big holiday meals. If those are stress points you feel, share with the group why they are so stressful. What other stressors associated with  the holidays do you feel? What advice could we give for overcoming this stress robbing us of joy in the holidays?

3. There are five descriptions of the coming King (Jesus) …Can you think of a story from Jesus’ life that illustrates each one of those?

-Wonderful Counselor!  A Counselor who understands us, He cares and is capable and compassionate, No problem too big for Him to handle!

-Mighty God!  A powerful hero invested with God’s strength and representing God in the nation All things are possible with Him, Even the wind and waves were subject to Him, Death could not hold Him.

– Father Forever!  A king who rules like a benevolent father —a father who will never abandon or forsake his people.

-Prince of Peace! A king who will reign with peace; he will ensure peace and bring peace to his reign

-He is our Righteous Judge Forever (9:7)

4.  As a group brainstorm some possible effects of cultivating gratitude for Jesus in our hearts on a consistent basis.

*Effects on our own lives

*Effects on the church

*Effects on the lives of people we see often

5. John ended his lesson with a doxology from Revelation. All of these descriptions of Jesus are important / essential.  But  have each group member share which one in particular stands out to them as most meaningful.

Revelation 1:4-6 Grace and peace to you from the one who is and was and is coming, and from the seven spirits that are before God’s throne, and from Jesus Christ—the faithful witness, the firstborn from among the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To the one who loves us and freed us  from our sins by his blood, who made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father—to him be glory and power forever and always. Amen.

_______________

References

A Child is Born – John Mark Hicks 

Commentary by Karoline Lewis  

Unto Us A Child is Born – John Mark Hicks  

Campbell, R. F. (1988–). Preach for a year (pp. 189–190). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel Publications.

Why It’s Hard to be Thankful on Thanksgiving 

Stand on the Mountain

 

Go Stand on the Mountain      1 Kings 19:1-18

Audio:

 

Introduction

When United Flight 93 crashed in Shanksville, PA, on Sept. 11, 2001, John Gerula was one of the first on the scene as a volunteer firefighter. The experience inspired John, still in high school, to enlist in the Marines. He shipped out to Iraq two years later. Over the course of 18 months in Fallujah Gerula survived 21 IED blasts, resulting in a severe traumatic brain injury that gave him migraines and memory loss, and post- traumatic stress that left him anxious, isolated and abusing alcohol. “I would spend a lot of time by myself at home on my property, just away from people,” Gerula says. “I didn’t like large crowds, just the things that brought me back to what caused my issues, the flashbacks and everything.” The staggering truth is that 20 veterans every day commit suicide due to PTSD. John was not one of those. When he was close to giving up, he found hope through the American Humane Society’s “Shelter to Service” program. They take dogs who have been abandoned, give them rigorous training, and then they are given to veterans for healing, hope, compassion, and love. John says, “He can sense when I start to breathe heavy, when my heart rate’s high, things of that nature, he comes up to me allows me to pet him,” Gerula says. “Since I’ve had Oliver, I’ve not had a drop of alcohol. I gave up drinking altogether. So he has made huge changes in my life.” And Gerula has a message to veterans seeking the help with their own struggles. “Don’t give up,” he says. “The best thing to do is to keep going and just go do every option you can.”

Today’s text is about a man who had his own battles and in spite of victory, was down, dejected, and ready to give up. Elijah was a fiery prophet who seemed to be fearless in his pronouncements and actions for God. He confronted King Ahab and Queen Jezebel, and the prophets of Baal. He called down fire from heaven . In spite of his great victory, we get a glimpse of the man when Jezebel promised to kill him. Elijah ran for his life … and when he sat down he began to wish his life was over.

1 Kings 19:4-5 …He longed for his own death: “It’s more than enough, Lord! Take my life because I’m no better than my ancestors.” He lay down and slept under the solitary broom bush.

After some time he made his way to Horeb, God’s mountain where he went into the cave and spent the night. The Lord’s word came to him and said, “Why are you here, Elijah?”

Attitudes That Led Elijah to His Cave

1. Unmet Expectations. He felt like he deserved better treatment. “I’ve been very passionate for the Lord God”. Keathley: When we focus on our expectations and make the results we want the source of our happiness, security, or significance, we end up in the Elijah syndrome–fearful, ready to run away, and engulfed in feelings of failure and depression or fear and frustration.

2. Accusatory and Judgmental of his fellow Israelites. He felt like he was more faithful than others. “… the Israelites have abandoned your covenant. They have torn down your altars, and they have murdered your prophets with the sword.” The implication is that since Elijah has served God better, he should have better results.

3. Self-Focused. He felt like he was the only one who really cared about God. “I’m the only one left…” Because he thought everyone else had abandoned God, he thought he alone was God’s special servant.

4. Fearful – He felt like his life was in danger (“and now they want to take my life too!”).

5. How did the powerful and passionate prophet of God end up like this? Notice that what is missing in all of those responses is the presence and power of God. When we start looking at our lives without recognizing the presence and power of God the strongest of us is reduced to weakness and a loss of faith. Been there myself, and actually find it easy to go back to that way of thinking. 

God asked: Why are you here?. A great question for our own struggles of our lives. Sometimes it is because of things that have happened to us – out of our control. Often it is because of our own mistakes or even our own perspectives.

Go Stand On the Mountain: God’s Word for Fear, Anxiety, Pain and Loss

1. God is Near 

1 Kings 19:11-12a The Lord said, “Go out and stand at the mountain before the Lord. The Lord is passing by.” A very strong wind tore through the mountains and broke apart the stones before the Lord. But the Lord wasn’t in the wind. After the wind, there was an earthquake. But the Lord wasn’t in the earthquake. After the earthquake, there was a fire. But the Lord wasn’t in the fire. 

God is near, but He isn’t always near in the way we would like Him to be.

Roger Nam: Perhaps Elijah wanted a miracle, but instead God was not present in the wind, earthquake nor fire. God certainly controls these elements. But the passage instructs us that during difficult, painful times, God is still there, and he reveals himself in silence. We cannot only look for God to come to us in fantastic revelation, but in quietness.

God is near, but we are the ones who are often far away from Him. Elijah certainly doesn’t seem to be walking in powerful faithfulness at this point. But notice that God has not gone away… he continues to minister to Elijah’s fearful heart.

Go Stand on the Mountain…

2. God is Speaking

1 Kings 19:12b-13 But the Lord wasn’t in the fire. After the fire, there was a sound. Thin. Quiet. 13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his coat. He went out and stood at the cave’s entrance. A voice came to him and said, “Why are you here, Elijah?”

 “a sound of a gentle blowing” (NASB); “a gentle whisper” (NIV); “a still small voice” (KJV). Elijah gives the same speech twice to God. We are grateful to know that Elijah kept talking, and God allowed him to express himself openly and honestly.

Michael Chan says this “ demonstrate how deeply paralyzed he has become by the queen’s words.” He goes on to say that Elijah’s pronouncements are simply untrue. He is not the only one left who is loyal to God. Elijah was largely responsible for leading many Israelites to repentance (1 Kings 18:38).  And what about Obadiah, about whom the text says, he “revered the Lord greatly” (1 Kings 18:3)? Blinded by fear, Elijah is unable to see God’s work on Mt. Carmel and elsewhere. But it’s not what Elijah says that is so important, it is that God continues to be faithful to Elijah.

The Grace of God in dealing with us in our own failures is truly amazing. How is God speaking to us today in our struggles and hardships? Primarily through His word. Through the influence of others. Through the Spirit’s influence in our heart. But if we aren’t in the Word then we will not be able to discern the voice of God. When God speaks he again asks Elijah why he remains in this cave. If God were speaking clearly to you today, what would He ask you? What cave are you dwelling in? Cave of discouragement, disillusionment, destructive habits? We are often so focused on others and what they do or say that we forget to look in the mirror.

Go Stand on the Mountain…

3. God is Working

1 Kings 19:l4-17 He said, “I’ve been very passionate for the Lord God of heavenly forces because the Israelites have abandoned your covenant. They have torn down your altars, and they have murdered your prophets with the sword. I’m the only one left, and now they want to take my life too.” The Lord said to him, “Go back through the desert to Damascus and anoint Hazael as king of Aram. Also anoint Jehu, Nimshi’s son, as king of Israel; and anoint Elisha from Abel-meholah, Shaphat’s son, to succeed you as prophet. Whoever escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu will kill. Whoever escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha will kill. 

Here God recommissions Elijah – gives him some new jobs to do. A renewal of purpose. 

Garrett Galvin:  Elijah teaches us to bring all our emotions to God. God will be present to us in different ways on different parts of the journey. We cannot experience the theophany of a storm cloud and deluge in the middle of the desert, but God finds a different way to be present to us. Our reading assures us that God makes the entire journey with us.

Go Stand on the Mountain…

4. God is  Knowing

1 Kings 19:18 But I have preserved those who remain in Israel, totaling seven thousand—all those whose knees haven’t bowed down to Baal and whose mouths haven’t kissed him.”

“Elijah is tired, discouraged, suicidal, and God is with the prophet.” – Roger Nam. There is much more going on with God’s workings than Elijah knows. Today we can fall into the trap of thinking that Christianity is shrinking, the church is losing, and God seems to be farther and farther away from our world …. We need the Revelation Reminder: God Wins! The world resists, the enemy is at work, there is tragedy and loss and hardship – but God is at work in a million ways we never knew.

Conclusion

On the days when life seems the lowest, we should ask why we remain where we are! We need to Go stand on the mountain:

God Comes Near!

God Speaks!

God Works!

God Knows!

In John 12:27-28 Jesus was faced with a difficult time as he approaches his mountain, Calvary. “Now I am deeply troubled. What should I say? ‘Father, save me from this time’? No, for this is the reason I have come to this time. Father, glorify your name!” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”

In our fears, anxieties, pains, and losses, we ask God to help us in our times of being deeply troubled … and he will walk with us through those times and bring glory to Himself.

LifeGroup Questions

1.  Share with the group a hobby/activity you used to enjoy in which you no longer participate. Why did you give it up? Are you ok with that being an activity of the past or would you like to take it up again?

2. Elijah found his way to a cave by running away from Jezebel’s threat. What are some ways people run away from their problems today that can land them in trouble? Can you name some ways that people run away from God?

3. Michael Chan paints a sad picture of Elijah that we are unaccustomed to reading. He writes, “First Kings 19, then, leaves us with a troubling and tragic picture of the once-great Elijah: fearful, curved in on himself, faithless, and ultimately disobedient to his call. In an act of compassion, Yhwh gives Elijah a way out in the person of Elisha. The tasks to which Elijah was called are eventually accomplished, despite the resistance of Elijah, because Yhwh is able to find another, more willing prophet — namely, Elisha, who wears the mantle Elijah no longer wanted.” What does this portrait of Elijah make you think about (1) our own personal struggles in living the Christian life  and (2) how we can view others who are struggling and (3) how to reach out to those who are ready to give up.

4. If you were to hear from God today, would you rather it be in a big loud way or in a still small voice? Why?

5. When we pray we have expectations that God will answer our prayer and we expect Him to answer them in a certain way. What do you do when your expectations and the reality of God’s answer do not match up?

6. Elijah’s isolation likely prompted his feelings of being the only one who cares. Why does isolation from other believers harm our spiritual walk? What can you do this week to draw in someone who seems isolated and distant from our faith family?

7. At the end of our text God tells Elijah to commission Elisha. What are some ways we can reach out to the next generation and get them involved and invested in the Kingdom work now?

8. In 1 Kings 18 and 19 we see both the fiery prophet Elijah on Mt. Carmel defeating the prophets of Baal … and the fearful prophet Elijah in the cave defending himself? In reality they are the same person. Would you share with the group what do you do to weather your storms of discouragement … perhaps someone tonight might need to hear some ideas and receive some help.

____________

Resources

Brent Strawn commentary https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=1082

Michael Chan commentary http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=2061

Roger Nam commentary https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=1714

Garrett Galvin Commentary http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=2557

J. Hampton Keathley III, The Crisis of Elijah https://bible.org/seriespage/15-crisis-elijah-1-kings-194-14

Morgan, R. J. (2000). Nelson’s complete book of stories, illustrations, and quotes (electronic ed., p. 715). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Service Dog Helps Veteran Change His Life. http://www.abcactionnews.com/news/national/service-dog-helps-veteran-change-his-life.

The Power of His Presence

Audio:

The world’s most expensive building is the Abraj Al Bait, located in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. It is a government owned complex of seven skyscraper motels designed to cater to the Muslim pilgrims traveling to Mecca. The royal clock tower has the world’s largest clock tower. It cost, in American dollars, $15billion to construct. 

The second most expensive building is the Marina Bay Sands Skypark in Singapore. At a construction cost of US$5.50bn, Marina Bay Sans is the most expensive resort ever built. The construction consists of three connected 55 story towers and is situated in an area of 38 acres …  the world’s most expensive standalone casino.

The most expensive building in the US is the Apple Park campus in Cupertino, California. It is running upwards of 5 billion dollars to complete this year.

If the Great Pyramid were to be built today, it is estimated that it would cost about 1.3 billion US dollars. 

The temple of King Solomon probably didn’t measure up to these architectural wonders in many ways, but it was supreme over them in the most important way. Aside from legendary wealth, King Solomon had one thing he sought to emphasize in the building of the temple: the presence of God. 

1 Kings 8:1-13 Then King Solomon summoned into his presence at Jerusalem the elders of Israel, all the heads of the tribes and the chiefs of the Israelite families, to bring up the ark of the Lord’s covenant from Zion, the City of David.  … When all the elders of Israel had arrived, the priests took up the ark, and they brought up the ark of the Lord and the tent of meeting and all the sacred furnishings in it. The priests and Levites carried them up, and King Solomon and the entire assembly of Israel that had gathered about him were before the ark, sacrificing so many sheep and cattle that they could not be recorded or counted. The priests then brought the ark of the Lord’s covenant to its place in the inner sanctuary of the temple, the Most Holy Place, and put it beneath the wings of the cherubim. The cherubim spread their wings over the place of the ark and overshadowed the ark … There was nothing in the ark except the two stone tablets that Moses had placed in it at Horeb, where the Lord made a covenant with the Israelites after they came out of Egypt. When the priests withdrew from the Holy Place, the cloud filled the temple of the Lord …  for the glory of the Lord filled his temple. Then Solomon said, “The Lord has said that he would dwell in a dark cloud; I have indeed built a magnificent temple for you, a place for you to dwell forever.”

1. TEMPLE TALK: The Amazing Symbolic Power of Solomon’s Temple

*Symbolizes God’s Dwelling Place – often called ‘house of God’ or ‘house of the Lord’.  Psalm 132:13 (NRSV) says, “For the Lord has chosen Zion;  he has desired it for his habitation…” This doesn’t mean God is contained there, but it does give a symbolic place representing his presence. Psalm 11:4 (CEB) “But the Lord is in his holy temple.  The Lord! His throne is in heaven. His eyes see— his vision examines all of humanity.

*Symbol of Divine Victory over his enemies. It is after God’s enemies have been defeated that King David conceives the idea for the temple. God let him know that his son Solomon would build it.

*Place of communication with and about God. The priests instructed the people as to the law of God. There were prayers and pledges made to serve the Lord. Even in acts the disciples do not abandon the temple but preach in its precincts. 

*Symbol of holiness. Unlike a synagogue or church, the inside of the temple itself was not a place of public worship. The spread wings of the cherubim on the ark of the covenant in the holy of holies suggest a picture of divine sanctity and protection. 

*A place of community. God’s people gathered there, but more, the temple would symbolize God’s people. Apostle Paul would later say that we are God’s temple and Apostle Peter would say we are living stones being built into a spiritual house (1 Peter 2:4-5).

*Much of the imagery of the Temple is attributed to Jesus Christ in the New Testament. He even referred to his own death and resurrection when he said, “Destroy this temple and in three days I’ll raise it up.” The Jewish leaders replied, “It took forty-six years to build this temple, and you will raise it up in three days?” But the temple Jesus was talking about was his body.  (John 2:19-21)

*The image of the temple remains a part of our eternal hope. “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long” (Psalm 23:6, NRSV).

None of these things matter if the Lord is not present. Each of them express in some way the power of God and His impact in the lives of those who are devoted to following Him. We have some lessons to learn from this temple talk…

-THREE POWERFUL TRUTHS-

1. He Empowers Us With His Presence

From the time he walked in the cool of the garden with Adam to the pillars of fire and cloud in the Exodus, God is always revealing His presence. The Temple provided an absolutely awesome expression of His presence. It’s size and lavish appointments made it source of pride for the Israelites. The contents of the Ark of the Covenant – stones carried down the mountain by Moses – remind us that it wasn’t the monument Solomon built, but the God who inhabited the monument that gave it power. The same is true for us – it is not our structures, ideas, our goodness  that empowers us. It is the indwelling God who is with us 24/7 and from whom we are too often distracted. 

We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade the presence of God. The world is crowded with Him. He walks everywhere incognito. -C. S. Lewis

What distracts us from seeing the God who is present? Flooded with information, technology, a thousand voices all calling for our attention … can we hear the God who is there? We are empowered by His presence.

He Empowers Us As His Priests

Priests of God helped people bridge the gap between humanity and divinity.  His presence empowers us to be bridges between those who live far from Him and the God who cares. 

1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation,God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

Priestly duties included praying on behalf of the people and sharing the will of God with the people. 

To stand in the presence of God, that is what the Gospel is. The Gospel is not primarily about forgiveness. It’s not primarily about good feelings. It’s not primarily about power. All those things are byproducts, sparks. It’s primarily about the presence of God. -Timothy Keller

Our mission is to be the hands and feet of Christ in the world that surrounds us. We won’t do it perfectly, but we are to keep in mind our commitment to the Great High Priest. In serving FOR Him, we are actually Serving HIM. 

‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ – Matthew 25:40

If we are constantly distracted from SEEING Him how can we ever SERVE him? This should drive our deep concern for:

*the hurting world around us

*the world that is far away from the God who loves them

*the church that calls together those who serve in priestly ways 

He  Empowers  Us In His Praises

When we praise God we are focused on His majesty and greatness. Solomon instructed the people to make the Temple a Temple of praise and prayer as they recognized his presence and power:

*Praise God who keeps his covenant of love! Lord, the God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth below—you who keep your covenant of love with your servants who continue wholeheartedly in your way. ” (1 Kings 8:23)

*Worship the God who Hears our Prayers! “May your eyes be open toward this temple night and day, this place of which you said, ‘My Name shall be there,’ so that you will hear the prayer your servant prays toward this place. 30 Hear the supplication of your servant and of your people Israel when they pray toward this place. Hear from heaven, your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive.“(1 Kings 8:29-30)

*Entreat the God of Justice who sets things right! “Judge between your servants, condemning the guilty by bringing down on their heads what they have done, and vindicating the innocent by treating them in accordance with their innocence.” (1 Kings 8:32)

*Return to the God who Forgives “When your people Israel have been defeated by an enemy because they have sinned against you, and when they turn back to you and give praise to your name, praying and making supplication to you in this temple, then hear from heaven and forgive the sin of your people Israel “(1 Kings 8:33-34)

1 Kings 8:51-64 When Solomon had finished all these prayers and supplications to the Lord, he rose from before the altar of the Lord, where he had been kneeling with his hands spread out toward heaven.  He stood and blessed the whole assembly of Israel in a loud voice, saying: “Praise be to the Lord, who has given rest to his people Israel just as he promised. Not one word has failed of all the good promises he gave through his servant Moses. … May he turn our hearts to him, to walk in obedience to him and keep the commands, decrees and laws he gave our ancestors.so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God and that there is no other. 61 And may your hearts be fully committed to the Lord our God, to live by his decrees and obey his commands, as at this time.”

Only when we are captured by an overwhelming sense of awe and reverence in the presence of God, will we begin to worship God in spirit and in truth.
-Alistair Begg

Worship – both personal worship and worship together as a church has fallen on hard times. People all over in every denomination are ditching worship for other pursuits. Nothing good can come from leaving the worship of God untended. We need a revival of commitment – not of church attendance but of WORSHIP attendance! We can be so in awe of the world that we forget to be in AWE OF A LIVING GOD!

Conclusion

It wasn’t the Temple that provided all of this, although it served as a visual reminder of all that God was doing. It was God, not the temple that provided strength, reprimands, and provision for grace and mission.

Solomon’s temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonian army. Another temple was rebuilt by decree of Cyrus, King of Persians, but it did not measure up in glory to the first temple. It was refurbished a couple of times but as Jesus predicted, in the year A. D. 70 the city of Jerusalem was ransacked by the Roman army and the temple was demolished. However, the building of Solomon’s temple was a major development in the story line of Israel. It teaches us a lot about ourselves, our view of holy places, and how we need to devote our attention to God and less to the distractions around us. What has distracted you from serving God and putting him in the first place of honor in your heart?

Today we do not sing songs of praise to our cathedrals, but to God who inspires us to beauty and to service. 

In the house of God there is never ending festival; the angel choir makes eternal holiday; the presence of God’s face gives joy that never fails.
– Augustine

LIFEGROUP DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

1. Describe the most beautiful church building you have ever been in. What made it so exceptionally beautiful? Was there a feeling that went along with being in a building like that? Why do beautiful places seem holy sometimes?

2. Christian author Ann Voskamp writes: “The practice of giving thanks … eucharisteo … this is the way we practice the presence of God, stay present to His presence, and it is always a practice of the eyes. We don’t have to change what we see. Only the way we see.” How can we grow in the art of giving thanks to God? In what ways can we change ‘the way we see’ the world around us, causing us to give greater thanks?

3. What are some of the blessings and privileges that distinguish Christians from the world according to 1 Peter 2:9–10? 

4. When we gather as a church to worship, think about the actions we take together. As you mention each one, can the group think of ways that each one demonstrates the presence and power of God among us? Why do we often fail to see these as representing God’s living presence?

5. Who are some people in the Bible who were distracted or drawn away into the world? Why does this ever remain a danger for us? What can help us to be strongly connected to God? What would you say to a friend you could see wandering from God? (We likely won’t have 300 foreign wives like Solomon, but what other things draw our heart away from God?)

6. The physical temple was an amazing structure, but it was destroyed twice by enemies of God. Even so, God reigns and nothing can destroy His work on the earth. How can that truth help you face up to some of the great challenges the church faces in our culture and world? What about the challenges you’re facing in your own world right now?

7. How could our church serve as priests in our community … serving and loving others and drawing them closer to the God who loves them? How could our LifeGroup function as priests both in our community and in our church? Instead of listing things we already do, what is something that might be a new way to serve and love? Let’s pray about these ideas…that they become more than ideas!

________________

Resources

Most Expensive Buildings in the World

The Ten Most Expensive Buildings in the World

The Abraj Al Bait 

Apple’s Spaceship Campus

Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, IVPress 1998.