Christmas Readings for the Month of December

Starting tomorrow morning, I’ll be posting daily readings from the book Glory to God in the Highest on this blog. I’ll share a passage of scripture each day—either prophecy from the Old Testament or from the Nativity narrative in the New Testament—followed by a reflection or meditation.

This book is in its third edition. I first created it in the 1990s as a handmade booklet. Now it is available as an ebook and in paperback. But wait. You don’t have to buy the book. It will be offered here in serial form for free throughout the month of December. It is my Christmas gift to you. Thank you for reading and have a Merry Christmas.

Note: Readings from this book which spanned December 1 through 31 were taken down on January 1, 2014. However, if you will contact me, I’ll send you a PDF of the booklet. You can also buy it on Amazon if you want to read it on Kindle or in paperback.

Moneychangers in Your Temple

Expulsion of the Moneychangers from
the Temple by Giotto di Bondone
(1266/7–1337), Cappella Scrovegni
a Padova (Wikepedia)

You are probably familiar with the story in the New Testament of how Jesus, at his final Passover and on at least one other occasion, cast moneychangers from the temple in Jerusalem (see Matthew 21:12–16; Mark 11:15–19; Luke 19:45–48; see also John 2:13–17).

What were they doing there in the first place? They were profiting from (1) the exchange of currency with perhaps hundreds of thousands of pilgrims, (2) selling animals for sacrifice under the Mosaic law, probably for a good profit, and (3) they represented the interests of the priestly class who despised Jesus’ upstart influence.

It is obvious to us, from the distance of a few millennia, that these profiteers were in the wrong place at the wrong time, “for do ye suppose that ye can get rid of the justice of an offended God . . . ?” (3 Nephi 28:35).

Yesterday, while I was saying my prayers in the morning, I had an insight about this story. It is actually more of an application of the story to my own life.

You have moneychangers in your own temple.

Immediately I thought of these verses from 1 Corinthians:

Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?

If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are. (1 Corinthians 3:16–17; emphasis added.)

This is what, in essence, came to me: Your body is a temple of God, a temple of the Holy Spirit, but you’ve let in some “moneychangers.” And they’re open for business.

Then I asked myself: Who are these moneychangers?

Your beliefs, your habits, and your attitudes from which the adversary and his ilk profit handsomely. Your cherished deceptions. Your lazy opinions—the ones you do not dare challenge. Your thoughts, words, and actions that serve impulse over faith. Those sneaky little cheaters that keep your heart troubled and your anxiety levels up. Your defensiveness, your self-exonerating pride, your hiding in the garden in the cool of the day (see Genesis 3:8-10).

I was enlightened. I have work to do.

Today I am treading the courts of my mind with a cat of nine tails, casting out some quivering beliefs that have just been seen for who they really are.

It’s going to get messy.

A Conversation with Doubt, My Erstwhile Friend

I used to have this friend. His name was Doubt. We were close for awhile, but not anymore.

We used to spend a lot of time together. He would drop by unexpectedly, and, not knowing how to handle the situation, I would let him stay for a visit. It didn’t matter where I was or what time it was, he would show up out of nowhere, always ready to share his litany of accusations and confusing, discouraging stories.

Doubt never had much self-confidence. I am sorry to be blunt about this, but he never had any self-assurance. He never will. He was also not much of a listener, either. He was mainly interested in himself and his slump-shouldered troubles. 

He could be pretty annoying. He would poke me in the ribs at church. Call my cell phone when I was deep in thought. Keep me from reading and studying. Sometimes he would keep me up at night retelling his misadventures and tales of woe. Over and over. He was arrogant, too. He thought he knew so much more than me and everyone else.

Doubt was not what you would call a snappy dresser. In fact, he didn’t care much how he looked. I could never figure out if he was grumpy because he was frumpy, or if he was frumpy because he was grumpy. It doesn’t matter now.

He never smelled good, either. In fact, he sort of stunk. He has this issue with personal hygiene. He never cleaned himself up. I got used to the smell for a while; in fact, there was a time that I hardly noticed it. But after you get away from him, you can really notice the smell when he tries to get near you again.

Doubt and I grew apart. I started to figure out a few things about him. His sister, Faith, let me in on a few of his secrets. First of all, he was always negative. In fact, he was downright depressing. He always pointed out what was wrong with everyone and everything. A total contrarian. No matter what I’d say, he’d have his own say and try to prove me and everyone else wrong.

Then we had our falling out. I realized how clearly negative he was, that he was lying to me. All the time. About everything. That he never built up or complimented anyone. I started to understand his true motives. Once I realized what was going on, we had a crucial conversation on the doorstep to my house. To the best of my recollection, here is how the conversation went.

“You can’t come in tonight, Doubt,” I said. He came knocking on my door late one evening.

“Why not? You always let me in before,” Doubt pleaded.

“I have friends over.”

“Friends? Since when do you have friends? Well, all the better. Come on. Let me in.”

“Look, Doubt, I am on to you. I know what you are up to.”

“How would you know what I am up to? Can you read my mind?”

“Right there, Doubt. There you go again. You can’t see what you’re doing?”

“See what? I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Yes you do. That edge of sarcasm. The put down in your voice. I know we have been friends since I was a kid, and it has taken me a long time to figure you out . . .”

“Figure what out? Do you think you are smart enough to figure me out? You’re just judging me. How can you be sure? Is my sister in there?”

“Let me ask you one question?”

“Go ahead. Ask anything you like.”

“When was the last time you ever built me or anyone else up?”

“What are you driving at?”

“You pretend to build people up, but really, you only tear them down.”

“Oh, you are one of those blind faith people, afraid of intellectual inquiry. My sister must be over. You invited her over for dinner but you forgot to invite me. You stupid idiot . . .”

“My faith is not blind, Doubt. I can see as clear as day you standing there in naked arrogance. What you do for a living—your full-time job—is to shut people down, to get them to stop asking the right questions. Isn’t that true?”

That’s when Doubt swallowed hard. “Stop it,” he squeaked.

“You want people to draw conclusions before they possess all the facts, but really you are terrified of the truth. The truth puts you out of business. Isn’t that so?”

Doubt looked down and took a step backwards. “You’ll never get me to admit to that,” he said.

“And that’s the key. You are not honest. You mock and belittle. You are sarcastic. You are always in a grumpy, hang dog mood, and you stink. You are a magnet for dirt and scum and you never wash it off. You stink to high heaven.”

“Leave heaven out of this. Remember: I play an important role in your life.”

“No you don’t. You are a poser. Always have been and always will be.”

“So you will just leave me out in the cold on a night like this? What kind of a Christian are you? You’re the poser. I have my rights you know.”

“You can stop now. Our friendship and contact is over.”

Doubt paused. “You’ve been spending too much time with my sister.”

“You’re right about that. Faith is a wonderful girl. She is honest, always hopeful, always has something good to say about everyone. I can trust her. And she’s not afraid of anything. Not even you.”

“Pollyanna. That’s her real name.”

“That’s enough, Doubt. That was your last insult. I don’t have room for you in my life anymore. You are not welcome here ever again.”

Then I shut the door. He screamed like a child on my doorstep for what seemed like hours, but then he was gone. Since then, he has never gotten into my house again. He has come to the door and knocked, but I’ve never let him in. I am sure he’ll keep trying. I keep my door bolted.

I like his sister much better.  She’s always welcome at my home, along with her other sisters, Hope and Charity. They’re triplets.

It’s the company you keep.