Monday, July 22, 2013
Scratching the Surface of Haggai
Scratching the Surface of Haggai
My first field education experience in seminary was with Jim Powl in Woodbury Heights, New Jersey.
I'll never forget one of his sermons that has stayed with me for 40 years.
He put a big rocking chair in the middle of the chancel area right in front of the communion table.
Then he just started rocking and rocking and...for what seemed like...forever.
Then he said, "I've been in your homes. They are very, very, very nice. You have the best of everything. You have spared no expense to make your homes so beautiful as a tribute to yourselves. I find it rather sad that you've spent so little on making this house of God as beautiful as your homes as a tribute to your Lord who gave so much to you in this life with the promise of eternal life."
Haggai comes to mind.
God uses him to tell His people that they spend too much time and energy and money on their homes instead of His; and the big point is trickles don't turn into rivers of living water - blessings from Him - until we reverse that priority.
God said build: "Go up to the mountains, and bring down trees to make lumber and build My house. Do this so I may take pleasure in it and be honored by it."
God is always in the business of expansion and improving!
God isn't a standard number 2 lead pencil!
God is the best of...everything!
God is all about building upon the best of the past for a better future!
Truth is a basic axiom of organizational life is we get better or worse.
We don't stay the same.
Unfortunately, too many people and even churches that should know better long for the way things never were or maybe were but are no more which is sin (viz., a rejection of God's will to get better and improve because there's always room for improvement).
Listen to the people's excuse and God's response: "These people living in Jerusalem say it's not yet the right time for them to rebuild the temple...Do you think the time is right for you to live in secure and lavishly covered homes when My house still lies in a heap of rubble?"
Then God reveals the connection between blessing/honoring Him and being blessed/honored by Him: "Think very carefully about your choices. You have planted a large crop, but your harvest is small...You earn a salary, but the money runs out quickly, as if there are holes in your pocket. Think very carefully about your choices...You expected to be well rewarded for all your hard work. But as you see, you are getting back almost nothing..."
Then God hammers home the big point: "My house has remained in ruins while each of you has been chasing after your own concerns. This is why heaven above you has held back the dew and the earth has refused to produce crops."
Samuel's distinguishing of David from Saul comes to mind: "God honors people who honor Him...God wants people after His own heart."
Again, as Jesus said, "Seek first God's Kingdom...and then God will take care of everything else!"
I've heard about companies that have "continuous improvement" programs.
They want their companies to get better and better and better; building upon the best of the past for an even better future.
That was Haggai's message.
The old Temple was great: "Are any of you still living who saw how glorious My first house was?"
God expects the renewed, reconstructed, redeveloped, reborn Temple to be even greater: "You will stand by and watch as the magnificence of this new house will eclipse the magnificence of My first house."
And here's the punch line: "And in this new house, I will give you peace!"
There's no staying the same as a child of God.
We grow better or decline worse.
We move closer to Him or farther away from Him.
We build upon the best of the past for a better future or we go to...waste.
It's like He said through Moses, "Choose life!"
Specifically, "I've given you two choices today: you can have life with all the good things it brings, or death and all the bad things it brings. If you do what I've commanded you today and love the Eternal your God; if you live as He wants you to,...then you'll live!...Choose life!"
I remember that rocking chair as if...
...to be continued...
Blessings and Love!