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/Discussion Thought of the day:
I write a lot about broken people – and even about broken churches. One of the reasons is there seems to be an endless supply of them. And every time I think I am completely healed, or those I minister to are, life comes along and seems to break us again. It really doesn’t, but boy does the agony, and the pain, feel like we are broken again.
St. Paul reminds us what it is like to be broken, even as he reminds us of our being made whole….
3 There was a time when we too were ignorant, disobedient and misled and enslaved by different passions and dissipations; we lived then in wickedness and malice, hating each other and hateful ourselves. 4 But when the kindness and love of God our Saviour for humanity were revealed, 5 it was not because of any upright actions we had done ourselves; it was for no reason except his own faithful love that he saved us, by means of the cleansing water of rebirth and renewal in the Holy Spirit 6 which he has so generously poured over us through Jesus Christ our Saviour; 7 so that, justified by his grace, we should become heirs in hope of eternal life. 8 This is doctrine that you can rely on. I want you to be quite uncompromising in teaching all this, so that those who now believe in God may keep their minds constantly occupied in doing good works. All this is good, and useful for everybody.
Titus 3:3-8 (NJB)
Obviously the way we were, – very broken- you can’t but read that and realize that Paul is describing people traumatized and torn by sin. As much their own sin ( which we don’t like to face at all ) and the sins of those around us, and even the sins of those who went before us. To be blunt – life being broken sucks!
Yet, God doesn’t – He won’t leave us there. I absolutely love the description of baptism in this and those two words:
Rebirth – being born again of water and of spirit – taking what is dead, and giving it new life.
Renewal/Restoraton – to make brand new! (and it seems like He has to do this daily – sometimes hourly)
It changes everything – our brokenness – no longer is there – though it may appear that way, though it may cause us to struggle,. That is why Paul urges us to keep teaching this – without any compromise – because our hearts need to trust in God’s doing this, more than in the circumstances in which we find ourselves! We are healed – by His stripes ( see Isaiah 53) God hasn’t abandoned us, He has rescued us and we can and do praise Him as the One in Psalm 22 does, as we realize we are not abandoned – we are His!
Living in view of that is different than living broken as well…. for our thoughts become less and less about ourselves – and more about others who are broken. We begin to do good works because He is working in us. This is a promise long awaiting prior to Christ – God’s great plan – which so many testitfied to – but one of my favorite promises of it is found in Ezekiel:
36:25 I shall pour clean water over you and you will be cleansed; I shall cleanse you of all your filth and of all your foul idols. 26 I shall give you a new heart, and put a new spirit in you; I shall remove the heart of stone from your bodies and give you a heart of flesh instead. 27 I shall put my spirit in you, and make you keep my laws, and respect and practise my judgements.
Ezekiel 36:25-27 (NJB)
God has done amazing things to those He has cleansed – as He fulfills a promise to take our weary broken, anxiety laden hearts, and transforms them into His own image….
As we cry, “Lord, Have Mercy” may we trust that He has done what He said He would do! AMEN!