What you are about to read is the final installment in a series of three blogs that have spanned September 2 through September 5, as a massive update on what God has been doing in my life through you, my incredible support and readership. You can catch the other previous two posts here: Part One; Part Two. I hope, as it states in the About section of this blog site, that you are encouraged, strengthened (maybe even convicted) by the Spirit’s presence; that the Holy Spirit would speak through my life, and thus through this blog. Thank you, so much, for hanging through this tumultuous and inconsistent past few weeks that I call my life. Lastly, I am humbled that you would even give this page a gander… so it is much appreciated (and most excellent)! In the words of Paul in Colossians 2:6, may these words be salty.
Well here we are, present day in Pasadena, CA. Let me, first and foremost, put out the disclaimer that I will continue to blog for as long as God inspires me to write. So this is not a “last” blog, rather it’s just putting everyone, including myself, all on the same page. It has been a much needed time of reflection, so thank you for participating in all of this. I can’t wait to see what He has in store for us next!
While I have been writing these blogs, I finished reading Hebrews and then decided to venture into Haggai for a day.
Have you ever read the book of Haggai? To be honest, if you would’ve asked me that five days ago, I might’ve said that exact word: “who?” It’s one of those books that you randomly find when you’re bored in a worship service (wow, that actually made my soul hurt a little typing that). Don’t act like while trying to find the color maps or cool bible verses you didn’t stumble into Haggai once and thought “I never even knew this one was in here!”
…oh… just me?
Well anyways, I vowed to read it after finding out that the writer of Hebrews quotes Haggai (with some minor changes) in Chapter 12 verse 26: “At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, ‘Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens’ (Haggai 2:6 ESV).” In context of the chapter and the quotation, it’s actually quite confusing at first glance. However, the writer of Hebrews is using the verse from Haggai to reference the heavens and earth being judged in order to establish the future reality, which is eternal, or the Kingdom that is unshakeable.¹ I’m still figuring out what it all means myself, but take what I have with a grain of salt and investigate for yourself! It will totally be worth it. And then I’ll have a friend who can share with me in my love for Haggai.
This book of prophecy, sandwiched between Zephaniah and Zechariah, is incredible because it focuses all on the restoration of God’s house, his temple, his dwelling place on earth. Haggai is a prophet, sent by God, of which we know very little about and have no genealogy of (which is crucial in the Old Testament). He is sent to speak to Zerubbabel, heir to the Davidic throne but cannot actually claim it (not quite as awesome as King David was, but hey we need ol’ Z-babel to carry the line of David to Christ, so he has his moments for sure). Haggai is also sent to speak to Joshua, an heir to a high priesthood. So let’s make this history lesson quick: these people called the Babylonians, in 586 B.C., laid waste to Jerusalem and the temple there. A year after the ransack, the foundation of the temple had been rebuilt but then fast forward half a century later and Haggai, in 520 B.C. is still looking at an unfinished temple. So Haggai, instilled with the word of God, is sent to motivate Zerubbabel, Joshua, and the people of God to once again begin building on the squalid foundation.
Here’s the awesome part: what they’re building is God’s house, his temple, his dwelling place on earth; but even before they begin building in verse 13 of Chapter 1 it says:
I am here with you, declares the Lord.
I would even go so far as to say that it is this phrase is what motivates Zerubbabel, Joshua, and the people to begin working again. As they continue, God again assures them:
Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, declares the Lord. Be strong, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land, declares the Lord. Work, for I am with you, declares the Lord of hosts, according to the covenant that I made with you when you came out of Egypt. My Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not. (Haggai 2:4-5 ESV).
God saw the unfinished temple as a dead corpse that the people of God were touching. The unfinished temple made them unclean in his eyes and he wanted them to be clean and for the temple to be completed and restored to its former glory, that he might bless them with a good harvest rather than blight. But the fact remains that He was with them, engaging in his everlasting promise: before, during, and of course, after. Regardless of whether a temple was there or not.
Let’s be the people our Lord called us to be, knowing his Spirit remains in our midst.
My awesome roommate and occasional impromptu editor of this blog site is named Layne. Layne and I went down to the beach in Santa Monica to walk the pier, watch the street performers, and most of all, become captivated by the incredible west coast sunset. While watching the sun go down, we noticed two small kids, the older, who was around 10, and his younger brother, probably 5 or 6, build a sand castle. But this wasn’t just a mound of sand; we’re talking at least 4 moats around it, each bigger and wider than the next extending out from a pail-formed mass in the middle. The best part was as the tide came in, both brothers would lay down in front of the heavily moat-ified sand lair, sacrificing their bodies to preserve their sand kingdom.
Isn’t that such a beautiful, but haunting metaphor for our own lives? We build and fortify our own little kingdoms, sometimes excessively, and then, when it comes down to it, we will literally risk our lives to preserve that kingdom we built with our bare hands. Be that as it may, it is not what Christ wants for us.
In Haggai, part of the reason God saw the temple as a dead corpse, and was disgusted at its undone state was because the people would build their own houses first before building the temple (1:9). Do we not build our own kingdoms first? Then realize way down the road that ours pales in comparison to the Kingdom of God. In the midst of talking about how we should take up our cross and follow him, Christ says:
For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. (Matthew 16:26-27 ESV)
When we build our own kingdom rather than God’s, when we do things to benefit ourselves and not others, when we conform to this world and reject the transformation found in Christ we enter into the business of forfeiting our souls.
This is heavy, it’s not easy to swallow. I know it because I have walked past over 50 homeless persons just within the two weeks I’ve lived here. Each time, when I see their faces, some have scowls; others bear a deep sadness and another is ashamed. Then, there are the few that I make eye contact with… and it’s like they’re peering into my soul, trying to find the piece of it that would have compassion for them. It makes me cry.
I’m not sure if you are, but I’m tired of forfeiting my soul. Because a forfeited soul walks by with everything, giving nothing. I want to give everything, and stand before our God with nothing but my love for him and his Kingdom. I hope you do too.
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (the words of Paul in Philippians 3:8-11 ESV)
¹ESV Study Bible.Crossway. Personal Size paperback Edition. 2011. see footnotes on Hebrews 12:26, page 2384.