August 27

Ezra 3:11-13 (NIV) 11With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the LORD: "He is good; his love to Israel endures forever." And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid. 12But many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid, while many others shouted for joy. 13No one could distinguish the sound of the shouts of joy from the sound of weeping, because the people made so much noise. And the sound was heard far away.

The altar was built first, and then the foundations for the temple were laid. The priests dressed in their priestly robes, with the instruments prescribed for the singing of praise, began to sing the chorus that had been sung 500 years earlier when the first temple was dedicated. I think we'll be singing the same song when the last temple, New Jerusalem, is completed. It is the song of endless ages, for the goodness of God never changes.

Surely the elderly were crying with mixed emotions, remembering the sins that brought the temple down, the grace that kept them through the conquest and captivity and now restored them to their land. God kept His word, but who could have imagined in the midst of the horror, that it would even be possible to build the temple again. The cry that went up was mixed with the joyous praise of the younger people who had only heard of a temple. They had been taught about the sacrifices and the service of the temple. They had heard descriptions, and now they were the ones who would one day tell their children of seeing the foundations laid.

We have foundations too. The names of the Apostles are on our foundation. When we sing that song in the completed final temple, some will remember when the foundations were laid. They'll remember hearing the teaching of the life and sayings of Jesus from the Apostles. I imagine there will be a great shout then.

Consider: Stranger and pilgrim in the earth, are you looking for the city that has foundations whose builder and maker is God? You don't have to wait to sing the song. You can start singing now, "He is good and his love endures forever".

August 27

1 Corinthians 5:4-6 (NIV) 4When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, 5hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord. 6Your boasting is not good. Don't you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough?

In the church in Corinth, a man had an illicit relationship with his stepmother. The Corinthian church did nothing about it, in fact, they thought it showed how tolerant they were. The Apostle Paul told them they should be ashamed and immediately expel him from their congregation. The next time they gathered Paul promised to be with them in spirit, and when the power of the Lord was present, they were to hand the offender over to Satan.

When we gather, we have the prayers of those who care for our church. God's power is present in those willing to do His will. But what does this mean, "hand him over to Satan so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved"? When someone is ejected from the covering of the local fellowship, they are out from under the umbrella of blessing, comfort and encouragement it provides. They have chosen to give in to a sinful desire, and it will enslave them, dragging them to ever increasing wickedness. When a believer goes this route, the discipline that comes as the consequences of sin can be very severe. Not only does the physical suffer, but there is agony of soul and spirit as well. If that will not open their eyes and turn them to repentance, what will?

Verse 11 tells us under what conditions the church should do this. When you have an unrepentant sexually immoral person, or one given to greed, idolatry, slandering, drunkenness, or swindling, for their sake, and that of the body, we must remove them. Paul tells them why. A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough. Unconfronted sin infects the whole group. A body of worshippers can digress into a body of slanderers. Sin is contagious! By not dealing with these serious forms of rebellion toward God, we send an unspoken message that it is permissible. Not many churches are willing to take this stand, and that is one reason we have so many unhealthy churches.

Remember: Stand for righteousness in love.