Haggai 1:2-7 – This is what the Lord Almighty says: “These people say, ‘The time has not yet come to rebuild the Lord’s house.’” 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. (NIV)
How many of our fellow church members would say they believe God should be first priority in our lives? How many people in churches across our country? Around the world? The book of Haggai is written to people like many of us – people with busy schedules, people just trying to “make ends meet”, people who say “God needs to be first”, people whose actions did not match their words. Haggai 1:2 quotes the people as saying “the time has not yet come to rebuild the Lord’s house”, but they were actually saying it wasn’t important enough to be considered a priority. The same people who claimed to put God first were living in luxury while the temple was in ruins. They probably had a running list of excuses (too busy, too tired, no time, needed the money for other things), but all of their excuses were proof that God was not a high priority. God’s answer was to tell them twice (verse 5 and verse 7), “Take a good, hard look at your life and think about it.” The people were eating but were always hungry. They were drinking but nothing could quench their thirst. Their clothes no longer kept them comfortable. They worked hard but could not budget or save enough to pay their bills. Their work was not productive and their possessions did not satisfy because their priorities were their own and not God’s. Haggai draws attention to common problems we face today – we are so busy juggling the immediate, the urgent, the right now that we have neither time nor energy for what is really important, for what should be the main thing. We get confused with our priorities, but as Stephen Covey puts it, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” Haggai 2:12 tells us the people took God’s advice, gave careful thought to their ways, and realigned their priorities. Haggai told the people to rebuild the temple. In 1 Corinthians Paul tells Christians to build our lives on the foundation of Jesus Christ (3:10-17) and that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit (6:19). As you go about your day, ask yourself these questions:
- “Am I building a life that reflects my status as a temple of the Holy Spirit?”
- “Are my actions matching my words?”
- “Are my priorities bringing glory to God?”
It is so easy to allow our focus to drift. Lord, I seek Your wisdom is setting my priorities. I pray that my main thing will be to acknowledge You as the main thing and keep You as the main thing.
Luke 8:22-25– One day He and His disciples got into a boat, and He told them, “Let’s cross over to the other side of the lake.” So they set out, 23 and as they were sailing He fell asleep. Then a fierce windstorm came down on the lake; they were being swamped and were in danger. 24 They came and woke Him up, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to die!” Then He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waves. So they ceased, and there was a calm. 25 He said to them, “Where is your faith?”
They were fearful and amazed, asking one another, “Who can this be? He commands even the winds and the waves, and they obey Him!” (HCSB)
I am listening to the thunder roll as the rain pounds against my window. It’s the season for hard storms where I live and no one can stop them from coming, much like the storms in life. Some people believe if your faith in God is strong enough you will be immune from life’s storms, but the Bible does not teach that. The storm in Luke 8:23 was probably what we would call “a raging storm”, the darkness only broken by lightening bolts flashing across the sky. I am not surprised the disciples were afraid; I’d be surprised if they weren’t! Storms can create panic that causes more damage than the actual storm, but in Isaiah 41:10 God tells us not to panic, that He has a firm grip on us. Storms force us to cry out to God for help and Psalm 34:17 tells us that God is listening and will rescue us. Picture the scene of Luke 8:23 – Jesus is so contently napping that He has a small smile and a soft snore; meanwhile the men are franticly pacing and wringing their hands in fear and confusion. I always picture Jesus in verse 25 like a daddy getting up from his nap because the children can’t play nicely together. He says to Storm, the child causing the uproar, “STOP IT” and Storm goes from teasing to contrite. Then the daddy turns to Disciple, the crying child, and says “Why do you get so overwrought when you know he can’t hurt you?” The disciples were terrified in verse 24 because they had lost sight of verse 22 – Jesus had already told them they were going to the other side. In John 16:33. Jesus says we will have storms in life but assures us He has control over the storms because “He commands even the winds and the waves and they obey Him.”
Deuteronomy 11:19 – “Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (HCSB)
My husband is an avid sports fan. Me not so much. My favorite sports were whatever my husband and son were playing at the time, and as hard as I tried to care, my interest was limited to their personal time on the field. Occasionally, my husband will share some sports trivia – news, I meant news — with me. I listen because what he is saying is important to him. One day at a church function we were divided into groups to play a game matching sports teams to their team names. I was flying through the answers, and our group finished in record time. One of our group members thought my speed was the result of invented names and quit over Nittany Lions (Penn State by the way). Another of my teammates was amazed and wondered how I knew them all. My answer was “My husband talks about sports all the time.” In Deuteronomy 11:19 God says to talk to your children about Him all the time. Talk to them with focused Bible and prayer time, with casual conversation, with bedtime prayers, with daytime conversations, with the way you live. God wants us to be interested in Him, to know His Word, to call on Him, to live a life that shows Him to others. If you do these things, your children will listen. They will listen because they know it is important to you. They will listen because you live what you say. They will listen because they will see God at work. Webster’s Dictionary defines sports fan as “an enthusiastic devotee of sports”. I wonder what would happen if Christians became defined as “enthusiastic devotees of God.”
Joshua 1:9 – Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (HCSB)
Fear can give a quick jump in heart rate that soon passes or fear can be paralyzing. Fear can be amusing or life altering. Fear can take control of a moment or control of your life. Recently I realized I have allowed fear to become my idol, giving it more power than God in my life. Several years ago I felt God giving me a directive, but instead mimicking Isaiah’s “I’m ready to go” (Isaiah 6:8), I was more like Moses with “I can’t do that.” (Exodus 3:11). God answered me much like He answered Moses – “I’ve taken care of everything. Don’t worry about it.” (Exodus 3:12), but I allowed Fear to build on the foundation of my low self-esteem to create a wall of panic and doubt. Some of my fears proved to be true, which made the wall even more substantial. Time after time I was Gideon asking for a sign (Judges 6). Time after time God answered, but Fear told me I needed more. When I should have been fierce, I was frightened. I continued to question God and continued to point out the flaws in His plan. I was so focused on the “what if” my eyes lost sight of the “I AM”. In Judges 6:15 Gideon asks “How can I save Israel?” and then went on to explain his shortcomings. Instead of being electrified, Gideon was terrified. He used the words “how can I”, but he was saying “I can’t”. In verse 16 God answers “I will be with you.” Instead of thinking, “Well, that changes everything!”, Gideon is thinking “yeah, but” and begins to ask for proof that it really is God talking. Often, like Gideon, I feel that I need to explain things to God and give Him a clear picture of the situation. God answers and I ask for a sign ….. and another sign ….. and another. I may begin to march out with self-confidence and tenacity but Fear blocks my way and I become shaken and timid. I knew that I could not accomplish anything on my own, and I was right about that, but He never even hinted that I was on my own. Isaiah 41:10 says I don’t need to be faint-hearted because He is God and He is holding my hand. Peter was able to walk on water until he took his eyes off Jesus and then Fear took over (Matthew 14:29-30). Fear kept Gideon’s eyes focused in the wrong direction, but he had to turn his eyes away from himself to see God (Judges 6). When my eyes are on Fear, I am focused on people’s criticisms, comparisons, and even my own opinion of my abilities. When I turn my eyes to God those things are no longer in my line of sight. To paraphrase Paul in Romans 9: 31 “since God has my back, what difference does it make about what people think or do?” Fear is a bully waiting to pounce, but God says “Don’t worry. I’m with you and nothing can take Me away.” (Romans 8:35-39)
2 Kings 5:11 – But Naaman got angry and left, saying, “I was telling myself: He will surely come out, stand and call on the name of Yahweh his God, and will wave his hand over the spot and cure the skin disease. (HCSB)
My teacher friend and I were sharing coffee and memories when a story came up about the daughter of the school superintendent. Her classroom behavior resulted in numerous reprimands but no positive results so the teacher called the principal to step in. The daughter’s response was “Do you know who I am?”. She had a sense of entitlement because of her last name and demanded her father be called, but that phone call did not bring the response she had planned. 2 Kings 5 tells us Naaman also had a sense of entitlement and left angry because Elisha did not respond the way he had planned. I picture him stomping away, muttering “Doesn’t he know who I am?” then adding complaints about a small and dirty river, about Elisha sending a servant, about being treated as an average man. As believers we read about Naaman and shake our heads as his expected special treatment, but sometimes we have that same attitude with God. Why doesn’t He protect me from all hardships, illnesses, and unhappy situations? Doesn’t He know I am a faithful follower? I sing the church songs asking Him to test and try me, even closing my eyes in worship and raising my hands in praise but fully expect Him to acknowledge my praise not my petition. I recite God’s command to go into all the world (Mark 16:15) and faithfully make it as far as my own church building. I boldly answer Jesus’ call to love my neighbor (Mark 12:31) by loving on the person sitting beside me in the pew – not the crying woman, the other one with the highlighted Bible and the Beth Moore study book. Naaman’s sense of entitlement left no impression on Elisha but my sense of entitlement must grieve God’s heart. God owes me nothing but gave me eternal life. I am entitled to nothing but carry the title Child of the King. Do you know who I am? I am a sinner saved by God’s grace.
Ephesians 5:1 – Therefore, be imitators of God, as dearly loved children. (HCSB)
Some people think that my granddaughter looks like me; some have doubts. She has a way of using her eyes to leave no uncertainty about her feelings, and no one doubts that “look” came from me! I am thankful everyday that she inherited my “look” rather than my artistic talent – she has an abundance, I have none. I love the idea of Bible journaling with drawings, but every animal, plant, and person I draw looks like a tick. I stared with admiration (and occasionally drooled with envy) at the artwork others added to their Bible pages. I tried to compensate with stickers — close but not the same. One day I attended a class where an amazingly talented lady illustrated Bible verses as she talked. I was thinking of my failed journeys down the dark path of Bible journaling when she handed me a copy of her work and gave light with the words “Just copy what I have done.” I didn’t have to do it alone! There was no need for me to struggle through continued failure; I had a perfect plan to copy. Isn’t it that way with our walk with Jesus? Charles Spurgeon said, “The Christian should take nothing short of Christ for his model.” It is not necessary to stumble down the dark path of continued failure; Jesus said He is the light (John 8:12). Many things in this world are “almost Jesus” or “close to being like Jesus” but “close” is not the same. It would be foolish of me not to accept the perfect Bible journaling plan. Isn’t it even more foolish not to accept the perfect Savior?