Monday, October 12, 2020

Greater Than

Nostalgia is defined as "a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past."  We have lots of nostalgia in Abbeville, even being fine with being "stuck in the 50's."  It is not necessarily a bad thing as many things from past years were good, wholesome and worth preserving.  I am good with all of those things ... but God's Word seems to want us looking, up, forward and onward.

We spent last Sunday in Chapter 1 of Haggai.  Haggai, speaking God's words, told us to focus on the things important to God, specifically His temple.  It was sound advice.

In Chapter 2 of Haggai, the prophet reminds us that God has some great plans for us that will be better than past plans.  The people are rebuilding the temple and they, naturally, are in the nostalgia of past temples and past glory.  God says ... "not so fast!"  "The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house! (Chapter 2:9)" What does this mean?

I think this means 2 specific things.  First, God is always cautioning us to remember He is into newness.  Revelation 21:5 says ... "See, I am making all things new!"  Isaiah 43:18 and 19 also reflect this attitude of newness.  Personally, I think God wants us to always retain the good things of the past, but leave the bad things behind.  He is refining, growing and purifying us as we live life and process life's experiences.  I love walking the streets of Abbeville, listening to 50's music, seeing the really good things that remind me of wholesomeness and values that were good and noble.  But as I remember, I also think of things we should and must leave behind.  History is filled with attitudes, ideologies and wrongness that we must see as non-Biblical and non-Godly.  I believe God wants His new temple and His new Church to learn, grow and become better every day.  He is doing a new thing.

Second, let's always remember that it is God's glory we seek.  Through all of the prophets God expresses that His glory and His presence is what we seek.  In verse 2:5 God encourages us by saying, "Do not fear ... My Spirit remains among you!"  God's glory reminds us that we can come boldly into the presence of God.  Hebrews 4:12 says, "Let us come boldly to the throne of grace!"  When we are all seeking the glory of God, we can come, pray, sing, serve and live in boldness, knowing that we all want to glorify God.

I think our "newness" in our present situation is similar to the newness experienced by Isaiah as he began his ministry.  Isaiah enters the temple and realizes, as he offers his prayers and worship, that there is a presence that has a life, consciousness and purpose of its own.  Isaiah becomes aware that this presence is pure holiness, power, goodness and perfection.  It is the glory of the Lord that fills the whole earth.  Isaiah says, "I am a dead man ... I cannot survive this encounter!"  The newness is both pure and terrible to an unholy person (like you and me).  Then God, in His mercy and grace does something.  God purifies Isaiah and puts him to work.  The story is a parallel to what God is trying to do with us.  Isaiah is not sent into some old system, a nostalgic pattern of worship or the "good old days."  God, instead, changes everything and tells Isaiah to speak truth to a people who don't want to listen or hear that truth.  "Take my glory out to the people, and shout it to the mountains and the valleys!"  It is new because God is vastly beyond anything we can imagine.  Yet, we seek God's glory ... we pursue God's plan ... we enter the dangerous, beautiful and terrible presence of a holy God ... and we trust Him to do what is necessary to bring us to His place.  So, "Thank you Lord for Your mercy, grace and presence!  Come and fill the hearts, lives and worship of Your people." Maybe we, like Isaiah, can't survive the presence of the Lord, because we need to die to some things.  It sounds like salvation, transformation and new life to me!  God's plan is for us to be greater than before!  Randy

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