Sunday, June 12, 2016

Day 87: Mark 11:15-33 & Psalm 88 - How Has the House of Prayer for All Nations Become a Den of Robbers?

Today's Reading: Mark 11:15-33 & Psalm 88

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How Has the House of Prayer for All Nations Become a Den of Robbers? 

And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” - Mark 11:17, ESV

You've probably received one of those phishing scam e-mails from some African country promising to give you millions of dollars. What I hate most about some of these e-mails is that they begin with, "Greetings in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ!" This version of the phishing scam plays on feelings of Christian brotherhood to project an air of trustworthiness. They are using the name of Jesus Christ to scam people out of money. 

But of course, they're not the only ones. In 1517, Martin Luther was outraged by the scamming of God's people to raise money for St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. This particular scam was the selling of indulgences by Johann Tetzel. For a sizable donation and some acts of penance, the Roman Catholic Church promised people relief from any temporal consequences for their sin. 

Sadly, people in all parts of the world have used the name of God and the worship of God as a tool for personal gain. The religious leaders who ran the Temple had money-changers and animal-sellers in the Court of the Gentiles exchanging people's currency for Temple coins and then selling them sacrificial animals for use in worship. The Temple was one of the wonders of the ancient world, and the Chief Priests enjoyed a wonderful income from this business.

Jesus made His own opinion on the issue of scamming religious worshipers very clear. He overturned the tables of the money-changers and drive the sellers of animals out of the Temple. Not only did these people make s nice profit, but their business crowded the Court of the Gentiles, which was the worship space set aside for non-Jews who wanted to come and pray to God and learn more about Him. No instruction and precious little prayer could happen in a place crowded with money-changers and animal-sellers. 

Jesus also cursed the fig tree as a symbol of His judgment against the Jewish leadership. See more here.    

So, it's easy to get outraged at African phishing scams and Roman Catholic indulgences and Jewish money-changers, but are we guilty of the same kinds of sins in our lives and our churches? Do we seek to grow large churches to advance our names and line our pockets? Do we provide hindrance for those who would come and learn more about Jesus by crowding Him out in exchange for lesser things? Any time we are self-serving in our church life or do anything to prevent people from seeing Jesus, we are in the wrong and we must repent. May the Lord give us the grace to examine our hearts and truly seek His honor and glory above all else.   

Prayer Based on Psalm 88:

O Lord, God of my salvation;
    I cry out day and night before you.
Let my prayer come before you;
    incline your ear to my cry!
For my soul is full of troubles,
    and my life seems to draw near to the grave.

Lord, I feel completely abandoned and cut off,
    without friends or help or hope.
I feel like You have rejected me and all of my friends have forsaken me.

Every day I call upon you, O Lord;
    I spread out my hands to you.
What will happen to me if You forsake me,
   If you allow my enemies to overtake me? 

But I, O Lord, cry to you;
    in the morning my prayer comes before you.
O Lord, why do you cast my soul away?
    Why do you hide your face from me?

Please come to my rescue and deliver me.
   Have mercy on me!

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