Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Lessons from Haggai (part one)

Hag 1:4 Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your ceiled houses, and this house lie waste? (KJV)

I really enjoy reading the Old Testament prophets. There was a time when this wasn't the case. It was probably due to my whole concept of Old Testament prophecy. I used to think that the message of the prophets was primarily a foretelling of future events. Certainly this is a component of the message of the OT prophets. Sometimes they foretold events in the distant future, and other times they would bring forth a message that would be fulfilled within the lifetime of the hearers. But it would be a mistake to think of the prophets as merely predicting apocalyptic events. Often their messages were very practical. Such is the case with today's message.

The book of Haggai records a series of messages (4) that the Lord gave Haggai to convey to Zerubbabel (the governor) and Joshua (the high priest). The time frame for these messages takes place just after the Jewish people had experienced Babylonian captivity. Nebudchadnezzer and his army destroyed Solomon's magnificent temple and carried away the Israelites as captives. Now some have begun to return to their homeland, and started the rebuilding effort. An important part of rebuilding was reconstruction of the temple. The temple project began, and great enthusiasm filled the air. Soon, the foundation was laid, and work on the altar had commenced.

But something happened. Through opposition of neighboring peoples, and frustrations and discouragement, work on the temple project came to an abrupt halt. It stopped for nearly 14 years. Then, enters Haggai the prophet with a message from the Lord. His first message to the people (in particular Zerubbabel the governor, and Joshua the high priest) was "consider your ways". They had left off building God's house (i.e. the temple) and were busy building their own houses. God was grieved that the people had lost a sense of eternal perspective and were feverishly minding the temporal things of this world. During this period of spiritual sloth, the Israelites reaped a harvest, but it was not the type of harvest they wanted to gather. We will look at that in the coming days.

I'll begin this series of blogs by asking a rhetorical question: "Have we left off building God's house in favor of working on our own?" The church, and the nation of America faces difficult challenges in the days ahead. We too, will have to decide whether we are going to trust God and continue working His work, or whether we will be consumed with the cares of this life (see Luke 21:34). I look forward to sharing insights from this prophetic book with you.

Until next time....

Friday, January 02, 2009

The Power of Resolution

Rom 7:18
18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. (NKJ)

I titled today's entry "The Power of Resolution", but I'm actually going to talk about the inability of human resolution. In 2008, I started a regular exercise program. I spoke with one of the trainers at the gym a few weeks back and they told me that soon the place would be crawling with "the Resolutionists". This was the name all of the gym employees have given to this wonderful group of individuals. They join the gym after the holidays and resolve that this is the year they're going to get in shape! The statistics (and the fitness center trainers) say that the "resolutionists" usually vanish within a few months; if they make it that far!

Obviously God created human beings with incredible possibilities. Think of an athlete like Michael Phelps, Tiger Woods, or Michael Jordan. Or look at the advancements in modern medicine, technology, and other forms of research. When the Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans, he wasn't talking about merely achieving earthly goals. He was talking about the inability of human effort to produce lasting practical holiness.

Hopefully along with the physical goals you've set for the new year, you've set some spiritual goals as well. I believe the only way we're going to meet those goals, is by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans chapter 7 is a rather depressing chapter in many ways. Sadly, many Christians view Romans 7 as being normative of the Christian life. While true Christians can identify with Paul's words in Romans 7, I don't believe it's intended to be a prescription for the daily life of the Christian. I believe God's ideal for the believer is found in Romans chapter 8 (often referred to as "the Holy Spirit" chapter of the bible because of all the references to the Spirit). Romans 8 declares that what was not possible "in the flesh" is now possible through the Spirit.

May you have a greater dependency on the Holy Spirit in 2009 than you've ever had! And may it be true for me as well.

God bless and Happy New Year!

Until next time....