When you think of addictions, what do you think of?

Alcohol, drugs, sex, pornography, video games, sugar, food, social power come to my mind.

But what about addiction to self?

We all have it.  All of us want to be #1.  We are infatuated with ourselves.

Watch an NFL player score the winning touchdown.  Or listen in on a phone conversation. Or babysit a toddler.

Most of the time, what we do is totally for us.  The other part of the time, we’re able to convince people it isn’t about us when it really is.

For years, I thought the answer to my problems was through a study of myself.

That’s a good way to go crazy.

I filled out personality tests, visited with counselors, talked for hours and hours about myself to anyone who would tolerate it, and even took the Rorschach inkblot test.  What I learned the hard way was there wasn’t anything hidden about myself that I wanted revealed.  There wasn’t anything secretive that I wanted published.  It was all a deep, dark hole of sin.

Miss Piggy is definitely my least favorite Muppet, but she does make a great illustration of who we ourselves are.

Miss Piggy is this overly makeuped pig who’s spent all this money on fancy clothes for herself.  Everything is about her, and if it’s not, there’s wrath to come.  What she wants to say, she says.  What she wants to do, she does.  She’s this clunky, obnoxious, self-engrossed pestilence that the other Muppets have to put up with.

She can get away with it because she’s a puppet, and we can turn the program off of our TV anytime we want.  We don’t have to watch Miss Piggy 24/7.  So we can kinda laugh about it (some of us anyway, she mostly annoys me).

But we cannot get away from ourselves.  And in all of us lives all manner of ungodly affection towards ourselves.  It’s as if all the glory we were supposed to give God, when we broke alliance with Him, has been turned inward.  We worship ourselves.  All of us do it.  We just don’t usually recognize the self-piggy that lives inside us, because we’re used to him or her.  We’ve lived with that self-piggy as long as we’ve been a self, and we don’t know any different.

And the self-piggy can be very, very crafty.  I used to watch reality TV a lot.  There would always be at least somebody who could have competed with Miss Piggy for the most obnoxious, self-absorbed megalomaniac alive.

But . . why did I watch that?

Wasn’t it so that I could feel better about myself, by picking apart the personality flaws of someone else?  Wasn’t I, actually, being a worse self-piggy, because I was watching someone else’s pig out of infatuation with myself (in other words, to make myself look and feel better)?

Pigs are incredibly tactless in what they will eat.  Give them something, and they will eat it.  Slop, garbage, even other pigs.  They will eat anything and absolutely everything without reverence.  In the same way, our self-piggy will gobble anything and everything that stands in its path to self-fame, self-abundance, self-promotion, and self-worth.  And in our society, there are plenty of highly educated doctors who say that we’re not at fault for this; and they treat it by giving us more of ourselves.

Jesus astonishes (and often) offends us in what He said one day,

As they were traveling on the road someone said to Him, “I will follow You wherever You go! ”

Jesus told him, “Foxes have dens, and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head.” Then He said to another, “Follow Me.”

“Lord,” he said, “first let me go bury my father.”

But He told him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and spread the news of the kingdom of God.”

Another also said, “I will follow You, Lord, but first let me go and say good-bye to those at my house.”

But Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:57-62, HCSB)

Jesus gets a lot of flack for what He said here, because we revolt against anyone who would slay the idolatrous pig of self inside us for the cause of the real worship of God.

Jesus was walking to Jerusalem (see verse 51).  He knew these were the last days His sandaled feet would walk the dusty villages of Israel and Samaria before He walked the road to Golgotha with a cross on His back.  In the greatest moment of self-sacrifice ever in the history of mankind, Jesus was walking towards His cross.

Along the way, followers, maybe flirting with holiness, or thinking it might improve their image, or wanting to make themselves look good before God, or wishing for fire insurance for the life to come, or for whatever other self-duplicitous reason, approach Him.  They probably think they are about to look really good.  They might even think they have all the self-sacrifice they need.  After all, aren’t they offering to follow Jesus?

The first one comes out with a wow statement, perhaps to make himself look like the most devoted follower Jesus has ever had?  Maybe he can’t wait for the prize.  What will Jesus say when this man spiels his mighty ditty?  Maybe he thinks that Jesus will nearly worship him out of admiration for his devotion.

“I will follow You wherever You go! ”

Had he practiced this, rehearsed it along the way?  Or did he shout it in a sudden adrenaline-boosting feeling of posturing?  Did he think he meant it?  Probably.  That’s the way it is with self-piggy.  We think we mean things because we ourselves are fooled into believing what the puppet inside us says to us.  We hear our own words and we think they are true.

Jesus told him, “Foxes have dens, and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head.”

Jesus showed the man exactly where his allegiance lie.  Maybe the self-pig inside this man was hungry for comfort or security or assurance; whatever it was, I think Jesus took it away.

The second man wasn’t actually wanting to join Jesus, or at least he didn’t say he was.  He was busy doing something we’d nearly all of us respect.  He was preparing funeral arrangement for his father.  We maybe want to say (in the blasphemous god of our self-pig), “Don’t interrupt him, Jesus!”  We want to offer this man the best psychology can offer, and maybe an anti-depressant to help.  We certainly want to hear Jesus say things like, “I’m here for you” or “Don’t worry about following me now–come when you’re ready.”

Jesus interrupts this man’s plans and speaks directly to him.  Jesus didn’t call just everyone.  Some He called and some He drew and some He let find Him.  But this man, Jesus specifically talked to, and at such a ‘bad time’.

Then He said to another, “Follow Me.”

“Lord,” he said, “first let me go bury my father.”

But He told him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and spread the news of the kingdom of God.”

What?  Jesus says what? 

Where is the sympathy our self-pity is so fond of hearing?  Where is the sympathy that draws the eye of everyone to feed our self-hunger?  Where is the sympathy that plays the violin of self-entitlement before us?  It isn’t here.

Jesus was choosing to die for the news of the kingdom of God.  The least this man could do was leave a dead man behind.  Jesus revealed this man’s self-pig.  Maybe it was worship for his family, or maybe in being the important, in-charge one who made the funeral arrangements, or maybe in being the one who always did what was right in society’s eyes, or maybe he had cold feet about helping Jesus and he was more comfortable staying at home.  We don’t know.  But whatever his self-pig was, I think Jesus exposed it.  And the man had only two options: face his ugly pig and give up what he thought he should do, or do what he wanted and squeal in anger & disappointment at Jesus.

The third man sounds like a great guy.  Maybe he thought he was, too.  Maybe he was a real family man, true-blue to those he loved.  Maybe he thought he couldn’t, of course, leave his family without a proper goodbye.  Maybe he thought he couldn’t just vanish on them one day (as if they wouldn’t hear about where he’d gone).  Maybe he thought he had to do things the proper way, the appropriate way.  Maybe he was willing to follow Jesus, but first he needed or he craved for his goodbye.  Maybe he was hoping all his friends and family would admire him for his ‘brave obedience to God’.  Or maybe he was just using the goodbye excuse as a cop-out to not really follow at all.

Another also said, “I will follow You, Lord, but first let me go and say good-bye to those at my house.”

But Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

It didn’t work the way the man had planned.  Whatever his self-piggy was, whether it was family, or looking important in relationships, or popularity, or looking brave, or affirmation, Jesus confronted his self-piggy and he was left without an excuse.

All of these men were left to face their self-piggies or throw their anger for the exposure back at Jesus.  We don’t know what they chose.

But we do know what Jesus chose.  He chose to keep walking.  With every footprint His sandals left in the dust, He was one step closer to the footprints that would leave behind a trail of blood.  Earlier, verse 51 of the same chapter tells us,

When the days were coming to a close for Him to be taken up, He determined to journey to Jerusalem.

Verse 53b restates,

He determined to journey to Jerusalem.

And this after a self-pig squabble among His disciples about who mattered most among them, who was the coolest, who was the supreme follower, who was getting the biggest reward, who would have the best future.  Verse 46 of the same chapter tells us,

Then an argument started among them about who would be the greatest of them.

Please read Luke 9 for yourself.  There is a very real theme of the self-pig of the disciples, followers of Jesus, and others . . contrasted with the total unselfishness of Jesus, time and time again.

We, like the disciples and followers and everyone who has ever lived on this earth except Jesus have a self-pig inside us.  A pig that will consume every good thing in our lives if we let it go unmuzzled.  A pig that will destroy us.  A pig that we cannot control.

But we can surrender our pig to God to slay.  Only Jesus can destroy the selfishness within us.  He can do this because He lived without selfishness and yet He took on every consequence for our selfishness on that walk to Golgotha.  Golgotha means Skull Place (see Mark 15:22), and there, as He was being put to death by our sin, He was putting to death our sin.

If we want to live with the skeleton of self-pig left inside us, we can.  But we can leave it right there in Golgotha, at the foot of the cross, if we choose.  Christ has slain our sin nature; the decision in ours as to whether we’ll pick it up again.

He gives us this decision because He is totally unselfish.

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, certain that God is appealing through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf, “Be reconciled to God.” He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:20-21, HCSB)

Was God unjust to destroy the temple?

Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. But he answered them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” (Jesus, quoted in Matthew 24:1-2, ESV)

Why would God permit His own temple to be destroyed?  Do the actions of God make sense?

In 19 B.C. Herod began rebuilding the temple.

This was the same Herod who would try to kill baby Jesus.

Herod was not willing to share the temple with the God of the temple.

Herod was not willing to share the temple with the God of the temple.

He built a temple for the God he tried to kill.

The temple’s construction was ongoing throughout Jesus’ life.  And after His death.

Rulers continued building a temple to the God they or their predecessors had crucified.

The temple was finished in AD 63.

Seven years before its total destruction.

Two historians whose writings have survived wrote about signs that the temple would be destroyed.  Neither of them gave credit for these signs to Jesus, who prophesied, warned, and wept for its destruction more than 35 years earlier.

Why did God reject the temple?

To understand better, I imagine someone I really love.  I’ll pick my mom.  Suppose our city wishes to build a palace for her.  The mayor, who has never even met my mother, immediately jumps on this campaign for the building and blesses the cornerstone.

The catch is that the mayor never actually realized my mother existed.  He thought she was just a concept, an ideology.  His idea was to make a tourist attraction, to boost his popularity ratings among the people who all say they love my mother, to build a legacy for myself.  One day, a few strangers from out of town come to visit my mother.  They ask the mayor where she is.  He is startled to hear she actually exists–are they sure?  Yes, they’re sure.  They talked to her on facebook.

The mayor rushes a secret law through the legislature that orders every woman between 50 and 60 years of age to be killed.

My mother flees from the city, but hundreds of other women are murdered by the law.

Later, my mother returns.  She explains that the palace isn’t exalted above her.  It is made for her.

Oh, but the city council hates her for this.  The palace is a big tourist attraction!  Who is she?  She’s nothing to them.  They drag her to the courthouse in the middle of the night away from most of the public’s eye.  In the morning, they beat her and hang her body in the town square to serve as an example to anyone who might dare get in the way of their holy palace.

Now here is what I ask myself.  Here is what I ask you, if you will use this story for yourself and imagine someone you really love in that place:

Would you want that palace?

Would you live in that palace?

Would you bless that palace?

If my city did that to my mother, and I had the power to do so, I would rip that palace apart brick by brick.  I would bust the windows, tear apart the decorations, smash the furniture.  I would raze that building to the ground.  How dare anyone build a palace ‘for my mother’ and then kill her!

They never built that palace for my mother!  They built that palace for their selfish selves.  If they’d just stopped there, that would be one thing.  But to mistreat and murder my mother?  My blood could not boil hot enough.

Was God unjust to destroy the temple?  In no way.

God actually warned the people that the temple would be destroyed.  Most didn’t believe Him.  I wouldn’t have warned them.  He even waited decades to fulfill His prophesy.  I wouldn’t have waited.

In that time, He sent followers of Jesus out to bring the nation back to Him.  I wouldn’t have done that.

Most of the ‘city council’ (e.g., Pharisees) did not repent.  They persecuted and killed His followers.  And He still waited to destroy the temple.  I wouldn’t have done that.

God had every right to destroy the temple.  The temple was built ‘for Him’.  He wanted His Name wiped away from it.  No place that had been valued more by its builders than the God it had been built for could stand.  The place for God to dwell had become more important to many of the people than the God who dwelt there.

Most of the rulers did not want to hear that Jesus was the new temple.  They did not want to hear that He was the cornerstone for their faith–not their expensive building.  They did not want to hear that He fulfilled the Law–not their profitable market of sacrificial animals.  Even when the temple curtain was rent in two, they did not want to believe that the dust beneath His cross was the new Holy of Holies.

They never wanted Jesus.  They wanted His stuff.  And God wasn’t going to let them pretend they wanted Him anymore.

–By the way, I’m not talking about only one nation here.  This is about anyone who tries to take the belongings of Jesus–like His Kingdom, or His love, faith, loyalty, beauty, power, or grace–and reject Him.

I want to share one last thought about the temple.  Herod tried to reconstruct the temple as it had been in the times of King David.  But there was one thing he could not recreate.

The Ark of the Covenant.

Herod built the temple, each inner courtyard more sacred than the last, to the most inner courtyard of all, the Holy of Holies.  Only the high priest, once a year, could enter the Holy of Holies to offer the blood of animals for the people’s sins.

But the Ark of the Covenant wasn’t there.

It had gone missing, and could not be found.

Had they only accepted who Jesus was, they would have welcomed Him to their temple, escorted Him through all the courtyards, and led Him to the entrance of the Holy of Holies.  There, He could have lived, because He is the Ark of Salvation and He is new Covenant.

But He was not accepted by the world.

He came anyway.

We loved the temple.

But He loved us.

We built the temple for ourselves.

He gave Himself to be our Temple.

The Parable of the Vineyard

The context:

Jesus and his disciples returned to Jerusalem. As he was walking in the temple courtyard, the chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders came to him. (Mark 11:27, GW)

The parable:

He [Jesus] said, “A man planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, made a vat for the winepress, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to vineyard workers and went on a trip. “At the right time he sent a servant to the workers to collect from them a share of the grapes from the vineyard. The workers took the servant, beat him, and sent him back with nothing. So the man sent another servant to them. They hit the servant on the head and treated him shamefully. The man sent another, and they killed that servant. Then he sent many other servants. Some of these they beat, and others they killed. “He had one more person to send. That person was his son, whom he loved. Finally, he sent his son to them. He thought, ‘They will respect my son.’ “But those workers said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ So they took him, killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard. “What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the workers and give the vineyard to others.

Have you never read the Scripture passage: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.

The Lord has done this, and it is amazing for us to see’?”

They wanted to arrest him but were afraid of the crowd. They knew that he had directed this illustration at them. So they left him alone and went away. (Mark 12:1b-12, GW)



Herod’s Temple: The Temple Jesus Knew DVD, directed by Tom Dallis

Herod’s Temple: The Construction of the Temple,, Accessed 6-1-12.

See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.


“My selfishness is less ugly than your selfishness.”

–Pastor John, on the (hypocritical) difference between the standard we hold for others and that which we hold for ourselves

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Published in: on May 30, 2012 at 3:10 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The curse

What do you think of when you think of a curse?  Pins stuck in an ugly doll?  Getting turned into a pig or a frog?  Losing baseball game after baseball game?

What about God’s curses?  What comes to mind?  Fire and brimstone?  The Flood?  The death of every firstborn son in Pharaoh’s kingdom?  Earthquakes?  Wars?  A country’s seizure?  Economic ruin?

The first humans on earth had not even had time for children before they asked for the first curse.  They asked for it by their disobedience to God.  And their murdering son, Cain, was cursed to wander through the earth away from his family, the only people who were even in the world at that time.

The cities of the earth died in the floodwaters summoned by God. Sodom and Gomorrah experienced God’s wrath in fire and brimstone pouring down from Heaven onto their cities.  The Egyptians lost their firstborn sons because of Pharaoh’s stubborn heart.  And people like the Amalakites were wiped off the face of the earth for their lasting disobedience.

We look at events like these and think of curses as great acts of destruction.

We miss the point.

We look at God’s curses and we tend to raise our fist, cry injustice, resent His power.  But what is God’s curse?  Nothing more or less than God distancing Himself from mankind.

Whether or not God chooses to show His curse through a natural disaster or supernatural disaster is not the point.  The point is, a curse is God separating Himself from us.  There is nothing in the whole universe so bad as that.

Ultimate, or everlasting, separation from God is Hell.  The fire and darkness of Hell is incomparably trivial compared to the absence of God.

Once it becomes too late to respond, the curse of today will be far worse than the curse of an enemy army besieging a city or fire and brimstone raining from Heaven or the great Flood.  It will be worse because we have all the other curses in Scripture as warnings to us.  And it will be far worse because we have the proof that God loves us through the death of His Son, a gift that had been promised but not yet given in the time of the Flood, of Sodom and Gomorrah, of the Egyptians, and of the Amalekites.

But just like them, we do not even know we have been cursed.  And just like them, we should know.

We have a curse.

How deeply sin’s fingers that brought our curse reach, how tightly sin holds the church of America in its fist.  I have no grounds to argue with what nonChristians do with their time, money, and abilities.  But we have every right to challenge each other, as believers, to account for what we do with ours.

We buy $4 coffee and don’t think about the child in Ethiopia who longs for a crust of bread.

We attend award ceremonies for each other and don’t think about the martyrs in Iran who have all but been swept under the rug.

We post everything we possibly can about our daily lives on facebook, and keep our prayers as short as possible.

We download music by the droves with nary a worship song in the mix.

We readily spend $8 on a movie with an in-your-face anti-Christ message, and then flee from anyone who asks us to donate to a crisis pregnancy center.

We hire a personal trainer to help us stay fit, and then let our souls lay sluggishly at the bottom of our feet, too bored to take action into much of anything, lifting its head now and then to give a few cents to some worthy cause or to slouch in the pew of a church.

We text our friends day and night, but won’t move our fingers across the keyboard to write a letter to a child in poverty.

We go to every school event our child ever has, and won’t buy so much as a toothbrush for the 400,000 children in foster care.

We buy a nice restaurant meal to please a date, but won’t give ten dollars to a homeless mission.

We work like dogs to amaze our coworkers with our skills, but won’t lift a finger of effort to show the skills God has gifted to us, like the power to forgive a hurt, reach the unloved, show compassion where it hasn’t been invited in a long time.

We cry when our car breaks down, but don’t even notice when a Sudanese church is bombed.

We hold onto a grudge for years, but forget the sermon by the time we’ve arrived at our Sunday restaurant.

We give our dogs more attention than our elderly who are trapped in nursing homes with no one to see them.

We complain from morning to night about the economy, but won’t give a thought to the poverty of the souls around us.

We honk at somebody who cuts in front of us, but won’t sign a petition for a pastor sentenced to death.

We pour through romance novels and science fiction novels and biographies, and if we read one verse of Scripture a day we feel great about ourselves.

We buy ourselves that new shirt or shoes or DVD or video game or juice blender we just have to have, and won’t give a thought to what our souls need from God that day.

We tell off the waitress who got our order all wrong and the cook who burned it, we throw flaming words at the telemarketer who interrupts our dinner, we growl at the technician who can’t speak English . . . and we won’t spend a moment thinking that these very people could be headed on their way to an eternal Hell.

We gripe about our allergies or head cold or foot pain and won’t offer up two prayers for a friend who has cancer.

We remodel our home and don’t give a thought to the cardboard boxes others live in.

We sing about grace and spew fury at anyone who crosses us.

We expect to drink from the eternal spring of God and don’t bother to tell one thirsty person how to get a drink.

This is the living quarters of most who identify themselves as believers in America.  This is the home we’ve built for ourselves.  Not the other believers, myself detached, but us who call ourselves believers, all together.  We might really know Christ; we might really not.  We’re all blended together because few on the inside or outside can tell any difference between the three groups: authentic Christianity, false Christianity, and those who don’t even claim to know Christ.

This is a curse both better and worse than the fire and brimstone of Sodom and Gomorrah.  Better, because we have the chance still to repent.  Worse, because we don’t know what Hell false Christians are storing up for themselves, and what shame real Christians are bringing upon the name of Christ.

God is walking away from our nation.  Further and further every day.  The only way to stay by His side is through knowing Him.  Because if we know Him, we know where He is.  He is within us.

Lord God,

Draw the Christians in this nation out of lethargy & entertainment-addiction . . and into action and self-sacrifice.  Shake me awake from drowsiness and destroy all other gods in my life. 

Give me focus for the real and eternal.  Take away from me all desires to make myself god, to center my heart on me, to crave worldly importance, and to obey the ugliness You saved me from.

Save me, Father, from this curse.  Save us, Father, from this curse.

In Jesus,


You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart

(Jeremiah 29:13, NIV)

When I kept silent,

my bones wasted away

through my groaning all day long.

For day and night

your hand was heavy upon me;

my strength was sapped

as in the heat of summer.       Selah

Then I acknowledged my sin to you

and did not cover up my iniquity.

I said, “I will confess

my transgressions to the Lord”—

and you forgave

the guilt of my sin.       Selah

Therefore let everyone who is godly pray to you

while you may be found;

surely when the mighty waters rise,

they will not reach him.

You are my hiding place;

you will protect me from trouble

and surround me with songs of deliverance.       Selah

(Psalm 32:3-7, NIV)