A Better Blessing
We have been talking about 4 key concepts to a successful Christian life
For the last 2 weeks we have been focusing on Word - the scriptures - particularly Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount
Last week we looked at the first few Beatitudes, and I was fully intending on continuing with the Beatitudes today
However, something happened this last week that made me want to take a small detour from our current topic
What was is that happened?
As you can see we are doing some minor renovations here at the church
One of the things we are doing is replacing our existing sound system, and part of that requires redoing some of the cabling for the sound system
To do that we needed to get under the stage, which required removing the carpet, so we decided to also replace the carpet on the stage
My dad was here last week taking up the old carpet and he made an interesting discovery
He found this packet of papers underneath the old carpet, placed right where the pulpit used to be
He didn’t read them, but saw that they were dated 1996 and left them on my desk
On Wednesday I took a look at the packet and discovered that they were prophetic words spoken over this church, as well as a few of the individuals who attended the church at that time
Before I go any further let me take a moment and talk about what I mean when I say “prophetic word”
How many of you know that every loving father enjoys talking with their children?
In fact, the desire to communicate with your children is, in my opinion, a non-negotiable if you want to be considered a loving father
As good and loving of a father as any man on earth can be, I think we would all agree that our heavenly Father is better!
Just like any earthly father desires to communicate to their children, so does our heavenly Father desire to communicate with us!
Prophetic words are one way in which God chooses to communicate with us
There are many within Christianity today that do not believe that God still uses prophetic words
However, there are many of us within Christianity today that whole heartedly believe that God still uses prophetic words
I’m sure it will come as no surprise to you that I am one of those people that believe God still uses prophecy today!
The purpose of this message is not to give a lesson as to the details of prophetic words, but I do want to make sure that we all understand the basics before I get into the meat of my message
Let me give you a good example of how many prophetic words work
My oldest daughter Sarah lives in Kansas, about 1100 miles away from good ol’ Liberty Pennsylvania where I live
Although we talk on the phone frequently, I only get to see her a couple times a year
Let’s say that you come to me and tell me that you are making a trip that will take you through Lawrence Kansas where my daughter lives
You say to me - “I plan to stop and have lunch with Sarah on my way through, is there anything you want me to tell her?”
I promise you that I will give you a message to pass on to her!
It might not be anything profound, and it certainly wouldn’t be anything extremely private, but I will give you a message for her
I may be a simple “tell her I love her” or a reference to some inside joke that we share
It might me a word of encouragement or some other message, but I promise you that there will be something I will have you tell her
Why? Because that’s what loving father’s do!
If someone comes to me and asks me for a word from God, I’m going to go say to God “I am having a conversation with so and so, is there anything you want me to tell them?”
God is the ultimate loving Father and He will almost always, with very rare exceptions, give a message to share with the person
I don’t want to spend anymore time on this today, I just wanted to give a basic explanation
If you would like to explore this topic further let me know and I will gladly set up a time to talk about it!
Anyway, back on topic - some prophetic words from 1996 were left under the carpet, right where the pulpit used to sit
I want to read some of those words right now
At the bottom of this prophetic word were a couple of Scripture references, one of which really hit home to me - Haggai 2:3-9
Again, to fully understand this Scripture passage we need to take a brief look at the background of the story
The people of Israel had been conquered by the nation of Babylon and taken into captivity – meaning that the people had been forcibly removed from their land and taken away to Babylon
Not long after this the Persian empire conquered Babylon
(read 283-284 of Talk Through the Old Testament, Date & Setting)
Haggai 2:3-9 'Who of you is left who saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Does it not seem to you like nothing? 4 But 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, 'and work. For I am with you,' declares the LORD Almighty. 5 'This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt. And my Spirit remains among you. Do not fear.' 6 "This is what the LORD Almighty says: 'In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. 7 I will shake all nations, and the desired of all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,' says the LORD Almighty. 8 'The silver is mine and the gold is mine,' declares the LORD Almighty. 9 'The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,' says the LORD Almighty. 'And in this place I will grant peace,' declares the LORD Almighty."
So, what’s going on here?
Haggai is reminding the people how awesome the first temple looked, but that the current temple remained unfinished
If you read the entire book of Haggai you will see that the main reason the temple was unfinished is that the people got caught up in their own lives and forgot about the temple
Well, maybe they didn’t forget about it, but they certainly did not make it a priority
Most likely they had the attitude of “We’re pretty busy with life right now, but we will get to finishing the temple as soon as things slow down”
Does that sound familiar?
It should because we hear it all the time today - “I’m soooo busy, I’ll take care of it when things slow down”
The reality, however, is that things never seem to slow down
But, there is always time to fulfill the will of God!
If it’s God’s will, but you are too busy to do it, then you are busy doing the wrong things!
Back to Haggai - I think there is a dual message in this passage for us today
One directly for Harvest Family Fellowship and one for the Church at large
What’s the message for Harvest Family Fellowship?
I think it goes back to a couple of the prophetic words that were given back in 1996
What about the Church at large?
How many are old enough to remember when the Church was relevant in society?
What do I mean?
By and large, the Church as a whole is pretty irrelevant in Western society
This was not always the case
We forgot about building the Kingdom and started building an empire
You can legislate morality but you cannot legislate heart change
The problem with this is that if our focus is to pass all the “right” laws so that people are behaving correctly then all we are going to have is a bunch of well-behaved heathens
They are still not right with God, so in the end it is no different for them at all
Our focus needs to not be so much on passing all the “right” laws – although there is a place for that, it just shouldn’t be our focus
Our focus needs to be on building the Kingdom of God – preaching the Good News of the Gospel and the Kingdom of God
Loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and loving our neighbor as we love ourselves
If our focus is to help people begin to a genuine relationship with God then one by one the problems in society will disappear
Not through a law that we are forced to obey, but through a relationship that we desire to maintain
I’m going to say something that is going to ruffle some feathers
It may even make some of you mad
It’s also something that could very easily be misunderstood so please listen carefully to what I’m about to say
I have been a Christian for 33 years
During that 33 years I have had a deep, deep love for the Bible that has only grown deeper as the years go by
I have made it my life’s work to understand and teach the Bible to all who are willing to listen
I heard a great analogy yesterday from Pastor Brian Zahnd of Word of Life Church in St. Joseph MO
He said that Scripture is the soil in which our faith, our relationship with God, grows
Think about soil and a tree – the soil is where the roots of the tree grow
The soil is what holds the tree up, and the deeper the roots of the tree grow into the soil the stronger the tree will be when the storms of life come
But no one ever confuses the soil for the tree
Soil is necessary for a tree to grow, but it is not the tree
The tree is separate and distinct from the soil
With that being said, without the soil the tree would die – but the tree is not the soil
The same holds true for our spiritual life
Scripture is the soil in which our faith, our relationship with God, grows
However Scripture is not our relationship with God
You can know the scriptures inside and out
You can quote them in their original languages
You can know as much as it is possible to know about the Scriptures
But that doesn’t mean you have a solid relationship with God
You can have soil without a tree, but you cannot have a tree without the soil
Jesus had this to say to the religious leaders of His day
John 5:39-40 You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life.
Scripture points to Jesus – it leads us into a relationship with Him
However it is not the focal point of our faith
You’ve heard me say this many times before and you will hear me say this many times again – if we get our relationship with God right, everything else will eventually fall into place
The relationship MUST be the priority
This is where, in my opinion, the modern evangelical church has lost it
When we focus on the Bible and not on the relationship with God our faith becomes nothing more than following a list of rules and ascribing to a certain set of beliefs
There is so much focus on the behavior, the rules, and almost no focus on the relationship with God
But Praise God I am seeing a shift
There is a small, but growing segment of the Church at large that is beginning to focus more on the relationship
Focusing on falling in love with God
Yes, the Bible plays a very important role in that, in fact, I will go so far as to say that it would be nearly impossible to have a relationship with God without the Bible
But the focus of all of this is on the relationship with God, not on the Bible
The Bible must be studied, the Bible must be an integral part, but the relationship is the focus
So, what’s the point?
What it is that God wants us to get out of this?
When I read the prophetic words given back in 1996 they all focused on the foundation – the thing that we build on
Our foundation here at Harvest Family Fellowship is okay, but it could be stronger
How do we do this?
Build our relationship with God
Listen to what He says and DO IT
The word given to Haggai is something I think is very relevant to us today
6 "This is what the LORD Almighty says: 'In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. 7 I will shake all nations, and the desired of all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,' says the LORD Almighty. 8 'The silver is mine and the gold is mine,' declares the LORD Almighty. 9 'The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,' says the LORD Almighty. 'And in this place I will grant peace,' declares the LORD Almighty."
I fully believe that our best days are before us