Devotional Thought of the Day:
10 When the builders completed the foundation of the LORD’s Temple, the priests put on their robes and took their places to blow their trumpets. And the Levites, descendants of Asaph, clashed their cymbals to praise the LORD, just as King David had prescribed. 11 With praise and thanks, they sang this song to the LORD: “He is so good! His faithful love for Israel endures forever!” Then all the people gave a great shout, praising the LORD because the foundation of the LORD’s Temple had been laid. 12 But many of the older priests, Levites, and other leaders who had seen the first Temple wept aloud when they saw the new Temple’s foundation. The others, however, were shouting for joy. 13 The joyful shouting and weeping mingled together in a loud noise that could be heard far in the distance. Ezra 3:10-13 (NLT)
“The place may have powerful significance, but it is God’s purposes that must be made visible and tangible. When we say, “I’m in charge of the ruins,, it must mean that we are guardians of a vision, not curators for the department of ancient monuments” (1)
455 When they were fishing for you, you would ask yourself where they got that strength and fire which burned everything in sight. Now as you pray you realise that this is the source that wells up within the true children of God. (2)
I’ve spent a good deal of my time as a pastor, working with churches that, like the Temple of David, had seen better days, and even lie in what others might see as “ruins”. Significant research has been done, and many now see a life cycle of a church as being 25-40 years, unless something is done to re-create the vision of the church. I would add, often that is simply recreating the original vision.
Such was the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, one rebuilding the temple, one rebuilding the community of God, restoring the people of God and the place He put His name, that they could come and pray, that they could come and receive His promises, that they could be assured of their place in His family.
So as I as doing my devotions this morning ( I am presently using the Celtic Prayer Book -which I highly recommend) I came across both the reading from Ezra and the part of the meditation that is quoted in green above. Obviously, for someone who has and longs to see God bring life to and from that which was dead… these words resonate deeply in my heart.
I’ve seen the people who shout for joy because of new birth found in Christ. I’ve see those who weep and cry out in pain, because the renewed temple/church/people of God don’t quite resemble the glory of what was, of what they so dearly remember. There is a deep tendency in us to guard not the vision, but the memory, To look back and miss what was, not seeing the hope that others are crying out in joy over. How does one minister to both groups simultaneously? Or do you neglect one for the other? How do you keep them from grating on each other’s nerves, for Romans says we should be in common – weeping with others while they week, rejoicing while they rejoice. But when both groups are reacting, and pouring everything they are into their tears or cries of joy…. ? When others see the vision becoming reality, and others struggle to see the vision through their tear flooded eyes?
There is only one place I know of, where you can do both simultaneously…. that is in the presence of God. To realize that He is the comforter of the broken, the strength of those who are weak. That the congregation, that the building finds it existence, not in its past, or its future, but in His purposes. To redeem, to reconcile, to justify and sanctify for God a people of His own calling. There is the room for joy and tears, for repentance and for submission to God’s vision for the future. There is healing, and the Spirit working through us to use that which God has blessed us with, including our churches, including the places where God puts His name – for His people, and for those who need to come, and find out He is real.
For a critical, no, the critical part to seeing the foundations built upon, for seeing the bones of Ezekiel’s dry bones live and have the Spirit breathed into them, is that intimacy with God. It is where the prophets and priests and people of the Old Testament found their strength, it is where the apostles and pastors and saints still find their strength today. It is what brings comfort and strength, it is why we treasure the past as visions came to be. It is the reason we have hope for the future, knowing that same vision will come into being as well – because that is God’s heart. As God refocuses our buildings to be used powerfully for His purpose, He first does the same with out hearts, calling us into a relationship with Him, a relationship that deepens, that grows, that reaches out in love to draw others in, that they may know the healing, the hope, the love.
We need to rebuild so many of our churches, to re-purpose them to the very visions that they were built to see happen. But the power, the strength, the determination that will succeed is found, not in us, but in seeing the building used for His purpose. And His purpose is fairly simple – that we would be His people, His offspring, and that we would know HE is our God..
(1) Celtic Daily Prayer Book – Aiden reading July 8th
(2) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 2010-2012). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 In the first year that Cyrus of Persia was emperor, the LORD made what he had said through the prophet Jeremiah come true. He prompted Cyrus to issue the following command and send it out in writing to be read aloud everywhere in his empire: 2 “This is the command of Cyrus, Emperor of Persia. The LORD, the God of Heaven, has made me ruler over the whole world and has given me the responsibility of building a temple for him in Jerusalem in Judah. 3 May God be with all of you who are his people. You are to go to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple of the LORD, the God of Israel, the God who is worshiped in Jerusalem. 4 If any of his people in exile need help to return, their neighbors are to give them this help. They are to provide them with silver and gold, supplies and pack animals, as well as offerings to present in the Temple of God in Jerusalem.” Ezra 1:1-4 (TEV)
“Land of my fathers, how I long to return, to touch the thy earth, and find again they sacred paths, well walked with the Gospel of peace, veiled now in the shadow of mediocrity. What means these stones, which beset they coastline, who in tristed in agaony cry out in praise and supplication of Him, and the renewal of the faith that bled to secure them there….Yet we would walk again Thy sacred paths, repair Thy ancient ruins, restore Thy Broken Altars, raise of the foundations of many generations….” (1)
Since I watched a small church in Van Nuys close, the building sold away, the money given to more growing and “growing” churches, some might say I have an attitude problem.
Every time I hear of a church being written off, or the attitude that we can combine parishes, that we can leave churches in “maintenance mode”, until they whither and die I get a bit…. well pissed off is what I want to say, but know I should not. Experts give up on churches that are more than 25 years old, they say they are in a death cycle, and quote statistics about churches that are 5 years old or younger being the source of most abult baptisms and growth. We buy into these studies – and dismiss the lessons of scripture – we dismiss the times where God has taken things that have long been broken, or considered dead and/or impotent, and created life that is wondrous and beautiful and so outrageous we say with jaws dropped open….. WOW!
Israel in captivity for 400 years plus – rebuilt into a powerful nation
Exra rebuilding the temple – at a unbeliever’s direction and underwriting
Ezekiel’s Valley of the Dry Bones, Jeremiah’s promises.
Hannah and Elizabeth and Sarah – wombs that were old and dried up (that’s what scripture says) Their men weren’t spring chickens either…
Though my wife and I aren’t in their age bracket – or in their physical deterioation – we are both within 366 days of being considered “senior citizens” by our community. And we just found out we are expecting. That kind of shock makes you think.
Or renders you incapable of thinking.
Gof has interesting plans in life… and life is what His plans are about. Restoring it, Rebuilidng it, Cleansing it, with all His craftsmanship rendering it into a masterpiece that makes you jaws drop – more than a 48 year, 364 day old man trying to get his mind to consider he will be a dad again.
My point is, if God can do this – why would he want to let a congregation die, or fade off? Why would he want where his name has been put, to be rendered impotent, the doors closed, the windows bordered up – the building sold and a starbucks or liqour store or antique store put in its place?
I don’t believe He does, it is not how He has worked. He has brought us, His people, to the place where we can cry out to Him, and like those who have gone before testify to us – He always answers…. Rebuilding our congregations is about trusting Him, hearing Him, knowing His love for us and our community.
So let’s cry out Lord have mercy – and knowing His heart – let us see how He will rebuild our churches, His Church, through us!
(1)from Celtic Daily Prayer – Aidan Reading 2/10