August 2

2 Chronicles 4:1 (NIV) 1He made a bronze altar twenty cubits long, twenty cubits wide and ten cubits high.

Solomon made the bronze altar a square of about 30 feet and 15 feet high. The priests had to go up stairs to offer upon this altar. There is no record of the thickness of the brass but it is guessed to be about 3 inches. That would make the weight of this structure over 200 tons! Brass is the metal that symbolizes judgment. Imagine walking into the temple court and seeing this gigantic altar with the smoke ascending as the priests laid out the sacrifices.

The altar Moses had constructed was only a fraction of this size. The nation had grown. With that growth came the need for greater area of sacrifice. With experience of life and testimonies of those who had gone before, one would hope that the people were more faithful to sacrifice in recognition of their need for forgiveness.

This dominant feature of the temple is also the dominant feature in the living temple. The living stones that make up the temple today look out upon our area of worship, and the thing that should fill our view is the cross. Bigger than any other physical thing is the place where judgment was met. It fills our vision. We imagine what is on the other side, but we can't really see it. All we need to really see is that our sin debt is paid. There is our peace of mind and our release from guilt. Thank God that it looms so large before us.

Some people think there is too much talk of the cross. They think it is too dominant. Imagine the enormous altar Solomon built at the directions the LORD gave to his father David, and think again.

Consider: How important is the cross to you?

August 2

Acts 20:24, 27, 31 (NIV) 24However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me–the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace

27For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God.

31So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.

When Paul arrived at Miletus, he sent for the elders (overseers or bishops) of the church at Ephesus. The church had grown so much that he could not address them all, so instead, he spoke to the church leaders. He told them that the Spirit was leading him to Jerusalem but also warning him that it meant hardship. Yet Paul was not worried about his life; he was concerned about finishing the tasks the Lord had given him. That task was telling people about God's grace. That should be the focus of our message.

Paul didn't pull punches when it came to speaking the truth about the word. It often caused him persecution, but he refused to compromise. He would not water down the Gospel for personal acceptance or safety or self- advancement. Repentance and dying daily are not a popular gospel, but it is the true Gospel. Anything short of that is not the whole will of God.

Then Paul warned them about the heresies that were about to enter the church. He told them the source of those teachings would be men who wanted others to follow them personally. Pride has a way of making us think we see something no one else does. It causes us to elevate ourselves above others. Paul had taught faithfully for so long so that they would be grounded in the truth and able to recognize it from a lie. His letters can help us do the same. You can't sit there at Ephesus under Paul's teaching, but you can read the letter to the Ephesians and other churches.

Notice that he unceasingly warned them with tears. Paul wasn't afraid to show emotion. He could foresee wolves coming into the flock. That broke his heart. A teacher who demonstrates genuine love is a powerful influence on the flock.

Consider: What does Paul's example speak to your heart?