What Do We Learn About the Bible from Visiting Egypt? Part 2: Seeing the Temple

What’s the best way to see the ancient temple of Israel? Go to Egypt.

If you go to Israel, you will not see the ancient temple. The only thing that remains is the Western Wall where Jews and others from around the world go to pray.

If you want to see the temple, you will need to go to Egypt. It is not exactly the same, but the structure of the temple is much closer than you might imagine. In addition, there are dozens of temples to visit. You can see great variation on the same themes.

To understand the temple, it might be helpful to read 1 Kings 6:14–28, which describes the temple of Old Testament Israel. There plan of the temple is simple. Room 1: The outer courts, where the people would gather. There, everything was made of bronze. There was a bronze altar and bronze wash basin. Room 2: the holy place. This is where the priests would go. There was the table with the bread on it, the menorah or candle, and the altar of incense. All there was made of gold. Rome 3: inside the holy place, there was the most holy place. Only the high priest could enter and that only once a year. In this most holy place or the holy of holies, there was a box, the ark of the covenant. This was the place where Jehovah’s presence would manifest itself.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the temples of Egypt.

Room 1: The Outer Courts
When you come to the temples of Egypt, you will find an outer court area. This is where the people would gather. This is similar to what you would have found in Israel, though only Jews who were ceremonially clean could enter there. Below are the outer courts at the temple at Edfu in Egypt.

In Egypt, every temple has this sort of structure. You can see this clearly in the Kom Ombo temple. You can see the outer courts in the foreground, and then you can see the holy place in the background.

Psalm 84:1 proclaims, “How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord Almighty!” One thing that you may miss in looking at these ancient structures is how beautiful they were. They were fully painted and decorated. It was not just brown, yellow, or gray stone. There would be a dazzling array of colors. Continue reading “What Do We Learn About the Bible from Visiting Egypt? Part 2: Seeing the Temple”

Why Do We Lack Joy, Peace, and Hope? (Study of Romans, Part 2: Romans 1:18–3:19)

Key Thought: a lot of things can take our joy, peace, and hope, but the main problem is our alienation from God.

What is it that keeps us from joy, peace, and hope? Many things. We make many errors in our thinking that cause us to lose these things. We exaggerate threats, make outcomes too important, tie our happiness to the wrong things, don’t see the good that we have, etc.

But Paul saw all these things as rooted in one key problem: our failure to make God central to our thoughts and lives.

We do not do this because we do not know who God is. We do know. He has made Himself clearly known (Rom. 1:19–20). It is because we refuse to take this knowledge into account and give God the glory, praise, and place He deserves. We suppress the truth.

The result is that God gives us over to our own desires. One part of our error and sin is that we want things too much. Because we have given up on that which truly satisfies us (God), we have to try to find satisfaction elsewhere. We become obsessed with other things. We take whatever gives us pleasure and make life all about that.

When we make the pleasures or experiences of life the center of our lives, we will find other people blocking our way. That’s where wars, hatred, envy, jealousy, and rage come from. And that’s where we, as a human race, are stuck.

Into this failure to keep God in our hearts and thoughts as the supreme object of devotion, people offer religion as a way to get God back into our thoughts. God Himself gave a religious system to His people in the Old and New Testaments. However, oftentimes, those who possessed this religion used it to exalt and gratify themselves and clothed their injustice in the righteous claims of their religion. They knew the Words of God. They had them. But they didn’t obey them (see Romans 2).

People will use anything to exalt themselves and place themselves at the center. Ironically, religion can be a means of escaping God and exalting ourselves. We make ourselves bigger by identifying ourselves with the transcendent. This is not a problem simply of the Jewish people, though Paul addresses them. It is a human problem. There is no tool that we use to subdue pride that cannot become a tool of pride.

Why is this? Why do we take the best things and abuse them? Because humans are bent in the wrong direction. They have a sort of acquired allergy to God that keeps them from doing the right thing. Even the people who had the clearest instruction on God went the wrong way, including Paul himself! We cannot not establish righteousness and goodness on our own. We can’t get back to joy, peace, and hope without intervention.

At this point, it is important to remember that our problem is not simply that we cannot be what God has made us to be. God is opposed to what we have become. Sin is offensive to Him. The wrath of God is being revealed against all the bad things people do (Rom. 1:18).

Some people may be offended at this idea, but here is the problem. Would we really want a God who didn’t care that people did bad things? No. We would not want to worship a God like that. We would think He was unjust. The trouble is that we think all the bad things are outside us. Instead, we need to see that they are also inside us. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23 and see Paul’s summary of this in Romans 3:1-20).

When we get that, we will understand our need for reconciliation with God and transformation into a new people.

So, what is needed? A righteousness from God. That is what is revealed in the Gospel, the good news. That is what we will explore in the next section.


Outline for Making Your Own Study of Romans 1–3

  • Paul sees the basic problem as a failure to acknowledge God, think of God, and thank God.
  • This failure leads us to try and illegitimately find our satisfaction in things that can’t satisfy us.
  • This makes us mad at other people and causes all sorts of envy and evil thinking.
  • Religion seemed to be a help to this, but human pride even used this as a tool to escape God and His claims and look down on others.
  • The reason religion (even God-given religion) failed was because of human sinfulness, or our basic bent away from God.

Questions for Reflection

  • Where are you in your relationship with God?
  • What do you often seek to satisfy you? What happens when you don’t get there?
  • What can you use to make you feel good about your relationship with God that might hide your real need?
  • How do you feel about Paul’s evaluation of human beings as sinners?


Photo by Sasha Freemind on Unsplash

The Advantage of Listening More

Listening more can be a scary thing. If you listen more, you may fear that you will not be heard. You may feel that people will walk all over you.

A few weeks ago, I was having similar thoughts. I was seeing some ways that I should listen more, and I had a hard time embracing them. I had similar fears.

But the Bible is clear: “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry . . .” (James 1:19).

One thing I noticed about myself was that I often can think about other things when people talk. Sometimes I am planning how the conversation should go. At other times, people say something that evokes an idea that I then want to think about or share.

The thought occurred to me in light of this, what if I stopped doing this? What if I just listened and didn’t worry about where the conversation would go? What if I just focused on what people said and received them passively?

My first thought was that I would lose something of myself. I did fear that I would not be heard or that I would not be able to speak or that I would lose my own thoughts.

In spite of this, I tried it. I just said that I would do my best to only listen and not formulate a response until the person was done speaking. It was an interesting experience.

Here’s what I found. I listened more, and I heard more. I learned more. I laughed more. And, I realized that I would still get to share my ideas. After I listened to people, people were more ready to listen to me. When people felt heard, they were more ready to listen. So, I had no problem sharing my own ideas.

In short, by listening more, I hadn’t lost anything and had gained much.

Besides talking with people, I realized that I often don’t listen to God. When I read the Bible, my mind wanders. The words evoke a thought. I can look at all the words or hear them without listening to them. I can even think of other things while I am reading out loud.

But you know what? Now that I am listening more, I am hearing more.

This is important because there is much more outside me that I need to learn than what I have inside me. Listening is the beginning of wisdom. It is an openness to receiving reality, God, and other people that will enable us to really grow.

Key Biblical/Theological Distinctions for Thinking Clearly About Theology

Over the years, I have come to realize that people can be talking past each other in theology. One reason is that they do not distinguish the ways that words are used. This is not always easy to figure out. The Church spent several hundred years learning how to talk about who Jesus is and how that fits in with our understanding of God. Over the years the church has sought to clarify these matters. If we listen carefully, we might be able to avoid some of these pitfalls ourselves. Our church has a lengthy document that explains what we are understanding in the Bible called the Westminster Confession of Faith. You can ready it here. For me, I have come to realize that the key to this lengthy document is understanding about 20 theological distinctions. Here is my list.

  1. Being & Persons: God is one being, but He exists in three persons: Father, Son, & Holy Spirit.
  2. Primary & Secondary Causes: God is the primary cause of all things, but man is a real, though secondary, cause.
  3. Decree & Providence: Both refer to God’s government of everything that happens, but the decree is God’s planning of everything while providence is when He actually brings it about.
  4. Guilt & Corruption of Sin: When we sin, we become guilty, i.e., liable to punishment, but sin also corrupts us, i.e., makes us worse people.
  5. Covenant of Works/Covenant of Grace: The covenants are the terms of our relationship with God. The covenant of works required perfect obedience to have a life with God. The covenant of grace requires faith in Jesus Christ and His perfect work in order to have life with God. It is “do this and live” over against “believe, and you will be saved.”
  6. Continue reading “Key Biblical/Theological Distinctions for Thinking Clearly About Theology”

5 Reasons Churches Should Talk a Lot More About Leadership

Leadership is extremely important. Few things happen in this world without it. We all recognize this. For example, when our favorite sports team is not doing well, who do we blame? The coach. Then, the team ends up hiring a new coach. People are excited . . . or worried. Why? Because leadership matters.

So, if the church is concerned about making people better and making this world a better place to the glory of God, then it should teach on leadership. However, I’ve seen mixed reactions to instruction on leadership. Here are a few of the objections/comments I have received to teaching on leadership. I put my answer next to it and then the positive reason for teaching on leadership in the church.

Reason # 1: Leadership is an inescapable part of the human way of life created by God.

1. Objection: Leadership is a secular topic. Answer: I do not call secular that which belongs to normal human life. It is part of God’s created order. Just as work, marriage, and education are part of life, so leadership is part of life. All of these are part of God’s creation. Faith in God and His Word reorients our way of thinking about all of life, including leadership. If God exists and created this world in which leadership matters so much, then we would expect that He would have something to say about it.

Reason # 2: We all do have and should have people we want to lead to a better place.

2. Objection: I’m not a leader. Answer: people often think of leadership in terms of a leadership position such as a boss, teacher, or pastor. However, leadership is a broader concept than that. We are leading someone whenever we want to influence people to move to a place where they could and should be. Anytime we are concerned about people’s behavior or character and want to see it changed, this involves leadership. Anytime we are concerned about a community, group, or individual, this is an opportunity for leadership. In addition, we not only are already seeking to lead, but we ought to have concern about the people around us and want to see them in a better place. This is our just duty. Continue reading “5 Reasons Churches Should Talk a Lot More About Leadership”