Friday, April 15, 2016

desire of all nations


Haggai 1:3 - 11

Then the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai: “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?”

Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.”

This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build my house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,” says the Lord. “You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the Lord Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with your own house. 10 Therefore, because of you the heavens have withheld their dew and the earth its crops. 11 I called for a drought on the fields and the mountains, on the grain, the new wine, the olive oil and everything else the ground produces, on people and livestock, and on all the labor of your hands.”

Chapter 2:1 - 9

 on the twenty-first day of the seventh month, the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai: “Speak to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, to Joshua son of Jozadak,[a] the high priest, and to the remnant of the people. Ask them, ‘Who of you is left who saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Does it not seem to you like nothing? But now be strong, Zerubbabel,’ declares the Lord. ‘Be strong, Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land,’ declares the Lord, ‘and work. For I am with you,’ declares the Lord Almighty. ‘This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt. And my Spirit remains among you. Do not fear.’

“This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all nations, and what is desired by all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘The silver is mine and the gold is mine,’ declares the Lord Almighty. ‘The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘And in this place I will grant peace,’ declares the Lord Almighty.”
 
In our passage, the prophet Haggai is calling the Jews to come return to their spiritual heritage. They would have to leave their comfortable lives and face opposition as they worked to restore their place of worship. It was a physical enactment of a very common spiritual happening. And right in the middle of this call to return to God, we find this title, “Desire of All Nations.” It speaks of all good things – good that comes to people of all nations who turn their hearts to receive Jesus.
At the beginning of his prophecy, Haggai tells the Israelites, “You work for your own wealth and comfort, but have nothing to show for it.” How this could be said of the nations today! – whose majority work and struggle, but it is the top 1% who reap the wealth.
Haggai reminds them to “come work for what is truly important. This is not a time for you to dwell in paneled houses, while God’s house lies in ruins.” This is where it gets personal for me…How much time and effort go into my physical pursuits, while my spiritual health suffers?
“Work!” Haggai tells them, and reminds them of their covenant after God brought them out of Egypt. It was a promise that God would be with them – the promise of His presence. And now they had neglected the place of His presence. Where is the symbolic place for the presence of God in your life? For me it is an early morning quiet. A cup of tea with the God of the universe. You’d think this wouldn’t be an easy thing to neglect. But physical comforts are compelling in the early morning. I can relate all too well to these Jewish Exiles.
Then, through Haggai, God tells them, “I will shake all nations, so the desire of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory.” And, yes, the desire of all people, of all time and place, would come – born of a virgin, wrapped in swaddling cloth; born to redeem all people of every nation, every tongue.
But also, the desire or treasures of every nation would come into this new temple – the temple that is Jesus’ body – the body of Christ. Jesus said, in John 2, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” And so he did, bringing into the temple treasures of all the nations. We are those treasures that God has brought into His temple through the shaking of heaven and earth.
Revelation 7:9 reads: “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
Have you ever imagined what it will be like? To worship as one with all of the beautiful cultural gifts of the nations? I have an Irish heritage and, even though we didn’t listen to Celtic music when I was a child, or explore Irish culture at all, there is a part of me that thrills at the sound of traditional Irish music. It is part of who I am. I can’t wait to join in worship with the rhythms of the redeemed from Botswana, or the throat singing of the Mongolian mountain people. The musical gifts represented by every nation, every tongue, every tribe, are ancient gifts given by the Creator. They speak to our soul on a level we can’t yet articulate. But in Heaven, we will join the everlasting song in praise to the Lamb who was slain. It is a song that has been in our hearts, thrumming through the universe itself before the foundation of the world.
 
 

Thursday, February 25, 2016

broken vessels; cracked, chipped, and worn pots

What our souls believe:
To be happy, we must polish up the vessel that is us - certainly fix any crack, repair every chip - become new. To be fulfilled, we need to find some amazing thing to do with that polished, painted, beautiful pot - on display for all to see.

What is true:
To be happy and fulfilled, we must be gentle and loving with ourselves - cracks, chips, and all. And we must be brave and kind right in the middle of our brokenness...not waiting until the cracks are filled; not waiting until we can be on display. Truly, we must love ourselves - really respect and care for our own selves when it is not apparent that we are worthy of care. For our worthiness is sure - it is not based on beauty or usefulness. The love we must have for our own selves is not a feeling (arrogance), it is a verb. When we refuse to lovingly show kindness and acceptance to our own souls, it is the ultimate betrayal.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

you are the salt

You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet.  Matthew 5:13

Until I did a bit of research about salt, particularly salt in ancient times, I was unimpressed by  being called "the salt of the earth." Then I learned about the value of salt. In ancient times, entire kingdoms rose and fell because of salt. Our word "salary" is derived from the word for salt because Roman soldiers were often paid in salt. At times, its value has been more than twice that of the relative value of gold today. And, unlike precious metals, the value of salt is not because it is scarce. Salt is a naturally occurring resource that is a very important and common part of the earth. Its value is derived almost entirely from its usefulness. Salt can be used to enhance food and to preserve it. It is important in agriculture - animals who lack salt in their diets will not thrive and grow and produce like those that do. It is used in medicine and purification, as well as in many religious ceremonies. Salt is comparatively easy to find, but it must be harvested. This is how it becomes valuable. Because it is so necessary for daily life, salt accessibility was a great commodity that entire nations fought over. Many countries had a Salt Road that was the hub for trade and commerce. In short, salt is valuable because of its usefulness, but only once it has been harvested. The great Harvester of souls has given us incredible value. Our value is not intrinsic - we are common; a few among many millions who roam this earth - but our value is tied to our usefulness and the fact we have been freed from where we were in the earth for the purpose of being useful to the Harvester. It is the work of the One who came to free us from where we were that has given us great value. Praise to the Harvester of our souls!

One problem with this passage that I didn't understand was that Jesus talks about salt losing its saltiness. I have never experienced salt becoming unsalty. In fact, the chemical compound of salt, NaCl, is one of the most stable compounds in the world - it does not change readily. I am always intrigued by passages that don't seem to make sense at first, so I did a bit of research on the methods of harvesting salt in the Middle East. Interestingly, often salt is harvested from salt marshes and lakes that dry up in the summer. The white crystalized substance that is left has the appearance of salt, but it is partly salt mixed with many impurities. If this salt-like substance is exposed to the elements, particularly water, it loses its saltiness. This is because the NaCl dissolves in the water and what is left is mostly the impurities. The people who lived near Jerusalem in Jesus' time knew that this "salt" was not good for anything except to be thrown in the roadways - particularly because it was very bad for farmland - nothing would grow anywhere this white, salt-like substance was thrown. We could make many comparisons here to Christians who have become too diluted with impurities. Let's just say, though, that Jesus doesn't say this salt isn't good for anything - just that it is only good for the pathways - to keep weeds from growing in the road.

Monday, November 23, 2015

salt and light

veins of salt. ancient as the earth itself.
filling the ocean. deposits generously scattered.
so needful for these creatures of dust.
a reminder of origins. for from dust you came.
earthy. common.
all of creation holds its breath.
watches these salty, dust-creatures.
created of earth. destined for heaven.
earthen vessels carrying the glory of the Creator.
celestial lights concealed in clay pots.
trees and stars gasp in delight.
the One who named them submits.
the brightest light in the universe binds Himself forever to this earth.
True Light as an earthen vessel.

He is poor in spirit - He made Himself nothing.
He  is One who mourns - in every way, just as we are, yet without sin.
He is meek - becoming obedient to death.
He knows hunger and thirst for righteousness - He imparts righteousness to all through faith.
He is merciful - because of the great love whereby He loved us.
He is pure in heart - the Spirit Himself testifies to our spirit.
He is a peacemaker - the Great Peacemaker, our peace, being brought near through His blood.
He is persecuted because of righteousness - bearing our griefs, yet esteemed stricken.

one living, breathing Mediator between earth and heaven.
join with all nature in clapping our hands at the majesty of His great faithfulness.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

a conversation with God

me: I don't know what to do! I really need you to look after this. Please. Please show me how to deal with this.

God: You already asked me to handle this. Now you just need to be patient and let me do my work. Give me time - you'll see what I can do!

me (whining): I know, but can't you just give me some peace??

God: You don't have peace because you don't believe me. You don't believe that I can and will fix this situation.

me (thoroughly humbled): Forgive my unbelief!

Oh, it was so true! I didn't believe. And the moment I confessed that, the peace did come and all of the physical symptoms of anxiety that had been tearing up my insides dissipated. What Satan wants most is not for me to commit some terrible act of sin, but just to lose my faith - my hope in the Lover of my soul!

Friday, November 6, 2015

good things from long ago

For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:10 (emphasis mine)

I've been fascinated by this verse this week.  Imagine it: His Masterpiece! Can't you just see the brushstrokes in your life? I can. A little light peeks through the dark spots in the belly-laughs and happy sighs. A few shadows dance on the shimmering waves - they are the burdens of care I bear each day. Both are necessary in a masterpiece.

I've been created twice! Knit together in my mother's womb, filled up with surprise after gift-wrapped surprise - all waiting to be unwrapped and used for good. However, before I got to the good things that were wrapped up inside me, I was robbed. Every seed holds within it the promise of more. And the seed of sin in me was no different. It grew and blossomed and multiplied. Pre-disposed to believe the lie that God was holding out on me, I fell headlong into the despair that only distrust of my Creator could bring. A nagging belief that I could never be good enough prevented the ancient gifts from being opened. I needed a rescue. A Creator this creative wouldn't let something this good go to waste. He never wastes anything. He re-purposes, re-uses, and re-creates.  Anew! I've been made anew.

Now, about those Good Things...

Those are being discovered and unwrapped every day. Some are sparkly, Facebook-worthy, exciting good things. Others are the simple beauty found only in ordinary moments. And through them all I am finding myself - the real, originally-created me. It calls me back to an ancient truth: I am created in His image. I am created for good things.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

listening

God started to show me, this morning, that I am a poor listener. At first I was hurt. How could God accuse me of such a thing? I felt a bit blind-sided. But I did one good thing. I decided to pray for wisdom. James 1:5 tells us point-blank: If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God... I also asked for wisdom from above, not from below. James 3:17 tells me that wisdom from above is first pure, peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial, and sincere. This is a great contrast to the wisdom from below, which produces bitter jealousy, selfish ambition, and disorder.

As God worked the soil in my heart, I felt raw and vulnerable. I thought of all the times I had engaged in, what I felt were, discussions. Robust and exciting and interesting times of back-and-forth; words flying; not stopping to catch my breath; whipping in the wind; full-out, entertaining, healthy discussions.

What is the difference between these times and what He was surely now convicting me of - the fact that I am sometimes a poor listener?

The difference is fear. When I am a poor listener, my motivation for moving the conversation along is fear. So simple, and yet so complex. Fear of being told what to believe, fear that my silence in listening will be perceived as agreement, fear that I won't know what to do with what I am hearing, fear of being inadequate. The list is long. Fear loves to get a grip on us. But perfect love casts out fear (1John 4:18).

As I finished my errands, I realized I had about 25 extra minutes before I had to be at work. I stopped at my favourite coffee shop to get in a little reading. I am reading a great book about the purpose of the church. God so loves to hear and answer our prayers - and he would answer my prayer for wisdom on this issue with great speed.

This is what I read:

Dialogue is like setting a wonderful table covered with a delightful assortment of food to which we welcome others to join. Often when people are invited to a meal, they wonder what the host wants from them.  They become suspicious that the host has an agenda or that there is something he or she wants to sell us; so the guests go cautiously, with reservation. It's nice to be invited, but they wonder what it's really about.
....To genuinely build relationships of trust in which others will become ready to risk and talk with us about who they are, what they think, and their tentative dreams that have long been locked away inside, we need to sit around a meal table on more than one occasion until the others begin to sense that they are not the subject of our agenda. This is what dialogue is about: it is the context in which the freedom and imagination of the Holy Spirit have the potential of coming to speak among ordinary people who have long believed that they cannot possibly be the clay jars that bear God's future.
(The Missional Church - Alex Roxburgh and Scott Boren)

There was also a chart with some Rules of Dialogue.
1....lay out expectations from the beginning...
2. The first three responses to one another should come in the form of questions for clarification rather than giving reasons why someone's comments or ideas are wrong or won't work.
3. ...create an environment in which everyone knows they are being heard and understood.
4. Listen to the others by letting them finish what they are saying rather than jumping into the middle of their comments....
5. Resist announcing conclusions or solutions that try to fix things.

Each of these pierced my heart like an arrow. I have truly broken every one of these rules. Probably today (and it's barely afternoon.) But God's brutal truth to us always comes with something to soften the blow. Here, he has given me a solution, not merely an accusation. He genuinely believes in me. He believes I can change and become a better listener. He believes I am a clay jar that bears His future, His image. And, Voila!, less than 2 hours after my fervent prayer for wisdom from above, I have laid out for me in clear words, a simple plan to become a better listener.

Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear. Isaiah 65:24

Only God can hear and answer without this process. He knows us so intimately already. I make a mockery of that when I assume I know another person's heart without listening. I am not God.

I will be practising these Rules of Dialogue. More importantly, I will remember to ask for wisdom that comes from above. Pray for me, friends.