Monday, June 1

God's work.....temple building while the people languish

"That you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light." Colossians 1:10-12 (NKJV)

It wasn't much of a surprise today when I recieved the email from my pastor, well one of them, about how the church had limited funds in which to answer the 'overwhelming' amount of the congregation that was in financial difficulties.

And, although I wasn't surprised, I was a little bit disappointed in the 'standard' line being given, though I have been places where I shouldn't be and have overheard the reasoning. The 'vision' is all, trump and king, to the expense of fulfilling the mission of caring for those under one's care. You see, the big 'capital' project, important to the vision of the lead pastor, trumps all....12 million dollars for a mega campus that would unite four campuses under his care. Not surprising really, in this economic climate to be under the magnifying glass. And, in the terms of 'mega' churches, not surprising to give it all to the accumulation of a 50 year dream.

Though another church I know of in West Virginia has been paying on their property for years, delaying the buliding of the new buliding until such time as the congregation is cared for. People over buildings, much like the Acts 2 church that started the Christian movement post Christ.

Biblically, one of the pastors has called out the congregation, speaking of 'sin in the camp' and coming on-board for this major step in ministry where the sign of the church's name and the 'full' parking lot would beckon to those wandering the highways and byways and entice them to come in. No longer to have to knock on doors, the ease of ministry wrapped up in a major outreach...within the arceage of the desired home.

Another church I know of still meets in a warehouse, having purchased the warehouse behind them to expand and meeting in the rented space of another community civic center. They have paid almost all of the property that they originally planned, first to build their church buildings on, then only a worship center......yet there is no building going on yet on that old donkey farm.....the associate pastor and his family live in the old farmstead house still standing. Though they preach a emergent doctrine....again, it seems to be people over buildings, to a degree.

I don't know why, beyond the obvious corporate mentality that seems to inhabit the churches beyond the size of a small household.....the numbers, the finances and the vision that seems to be controlled by a few 'prophets' that degenerates into a popularity contest because the pastor is a hunk or the doctrine is easy listening, that the provisions of the flock, whether of the congregation or the community surrounding it can be justified by the achievement of a 'vision' totally reilent upon the powerful charisma of the leadership and accounted to the hand of God....when moral and provisonal biblical authority points in other directions. But the power of the voice controls the listening of the masses, it would seem.

But the text referenced by the pastor Sunday last, meant obviously to excite and entice the congregation into the visionary reality of the dream, seemed to fall flat and be more of an incorrectly applied reference than a inspirational call-to-arms.
No doubt God answered the pastor's prayer to supply the text, but I think it was to mean something different than what he spoke. It was from the small minor prophet book of Haggai.

"In the seventh month, in the one and twentieth day of the month, came the word of the LORD by the prophet Haggai, saying, Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, and to the residue of the people, saying, Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory? and how do ye see it now? is it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing? Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, saith the LORD; and be strong, O Joshua, son of Josedech, the high priest; and be strong, all ye people of the land, saith the LORD, and work: for I am with you, saith the LORD of hosts: According to the word that I covenanted with you when ye came out of Egypt, so my spirit remaineth among you: fear ye not. For thus saith the LORD of hosts; Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land; And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come: and I will fill this house with glory, saith the LORD of hosts. The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the LORD of hosts. The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the LORD of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, saith the LORD of hosts." (Haggai 2:1-9 KJV)

It was the last verse in the first section of the second chapter that the pastor equated the building of the 'campus' to, a building of the be greater than the one that was destroyed under the Babylonians. The pastor called to the congregation not to be complacent, otherwise God would leave them behind in this grand vision of ministry, on such a large scale that this pastor, who had been in outreach ministry specifically targeting a group that is part of his story, had ever been a part of.

The three prophets; Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi have the commonality of theme in speaking the encouragments, testimony of unfaithfulness, and the lack of relationship with God.

The temple, the glory of Solomon and the centre point of the jewish faith, was where the heart of a true, fearful and reverent people should be, these minor prophets declare. That was the outward form of which the piety of the people should be expressed as and insofar as God allowed the enfeebed and straying people to have. No matter in what condition the temple was, it was still the house of God and therefore the center of all levitical exercises.

The three prophets, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, set before us the encouragements which God gave the people, that they might be faithful in their new position; and the testimony against their unfaithfulness, called for by the decay of their piety, and the total want of reverence for Jehovah into which the people had fallen.

The temple was necessarily the centre of this imperfect and intermediate state of the people. It was there, if God allowed the re-establishment of their worship, that the hearts of the people should centre. That was the outward form in which their piety as a people should be expressed. It was thus that the return of their heart to God should be manifested. Whatever deficiencies there might be in the restored Levitical service, still, it was the house of God, to which was attached all that could be re-established, and was the centre of its exercise.

But the faith of the Jews was quickly handicapped, even though God provided evidence of HIs goodness and mercy towards the people by bringing a king of Persia to view them favorably. The lack of confidence in the mercies and kindness of God was hindered by their unbelief and so the furits that would have been achieved were lost in the dust of the feeble effort of rebuliding.

Yet God did not give up, providing in His own timing the necessary ingredients to encourage His people in their effortts; a prophet raised up to speak of God's kindness. But two characteristics of that timing, when looked at deeply, were based upon moral cosiderations and God's arrangements of events.

When God had provided morally and provisionally for their work, He sent the prophets to entice the people from their ease into that which they should have realized was always their duty. They leaned upon the ethic of work learned through the captivity, work only under the harshness of force instead of leaning upon God.

In the silence of the world, with no opposition or trials to endure, the people languished instead in their temporal interests of the flesh and the world. Even as the people moved in langid fahsion in the rebuilding efforts, the unbelief of their hearts burdened them to the point of difficulty and the peple leave god out of the excuses in their lackluster efforts. By neglecting God's house, they by omission neglect their worship to God. and excuses too that are apparently well founded: they have only this capital defect, that they leave God out. The vision of what once was drowns out the vision of what the remaining jewish people can achieve and thus the painful inferiority of their best marrs the vision to which God has called them. Human inferiority weakens spiritual faith.

John Darby points out that it is the grace of God that meets this difficulty of unbelief and inferiority with the rememberance from HIs prophet of God's provision, blessings, and worthiness of worship. Even as few as they were, God had made provisions for the efforts of HIs people and would be with them as He had always been.

In the effort of this church to build its own temple to God, a center of their focus and worship, it seems they have forgotten the pleasure of the Lord in what had already been achieved in His service because our all too human heart is too prideful to be pleased with what seems a minor step in the work of the kingdom. Whereas one might see a mobile, homeless church, God has seen the harvesting of the fields and the fulfillment of His declarations.

In that house, temporary and mobile, the glory of the Lord doesn't rest as it did in the wealth and craftsmanship of Solomon's vision but in the indwelling of God's spirit with His people. It is not the 'grand vision' of the leadership that brings praise and glory to the Father, but the honor in which the people give all they have to the provisions and convenant between the Heavenly Father and themselves. That is the richeness of which Haggai speaks, far above the gold and silver (or in this case, vision) of the people's handiwork.

But that seems to be the state of the church today, mega means richness and excitement while the relational atomsphere of the olden and oft maligned 'neighborhood' churches of a few hundred, where the pastors are aware of not only their sheep's names but the conditions in which the people struggle and need encouragment in.

Better to build epic cathedrals of exceptional craftsmanship than to go door to door in a relational effort to meet people in the darkness and call them by the essense of the testimony of God's provisional grace within the lives of those who follow Him. Better to centralize and broadcast an enticing message of corporate equality to the world than to trudge through the muck and mire in the efforts to be real in an unrealistic world.

The church today builds its tower of Babylon, grand scales of mankind's outward and easy worship to a God that desires relationship more than quantity or scale. If all the moral commandments of the Lord are not met, how can the provisional strength of God to bring into agreement the necessities of major movement be justifiably called upon.

It is that verse, first upon this page, that spoke to me in this time of crisis, where the impossibility of the mountain becomes paled within the shadow of my God; provisionally or not, where I go is in His promise to turn all trials into provisons for His work, all tribulation and rejection into the undeniable grace of His faithfulness and honor. And as the day sets upon the imcompleteness of His answer, the answer shines loud and clear. Be at rest, trust upon Me and where you go and into what building you endeavor, I shall provide more than gold even could measure and silver ever be desired. I will be within you as you are within me.

And there is the greater glory of the temple God calls all of His people to build.

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