Sunday, March 01, 2009

Fashion Forward? Fitness First? and Haggai and the Construction Industry

Due to the many Sloth-venly discussions of late, did not junk but actually went to have a play-around with the looklet.com beta site when the invitation code came in the mail. It's like Polyvore but with live model paper dolls thrown-in for dress-ups.

Looklet.com Beta
In a backalley somewhere, a model was aghast to discover herself the locus of a fashion disaster

There is probably a reason why Tom Gunn will not have the benefit of my unique fashion design sense any time soon...

Fitness too is all the rage these recessionary times, corporate rats finally having the time to work off the flab or get that gout treated. In the mail as well this past week was Lance Armstrong's livestrong.com, also in beta, where you can be inspired to find balance in your life, track the calories in your daily food intake and find out how many calories "standing quietly in church" would cost, and make teeth whiteners at home (eh, Micky Jackson?). The idolatry of control over one's life.

But why add to the abundance amongst Christians of the "vain spending of time, idleness, unprofitableness, envy, pride, worldliness, selfishness" (John Owen)?

The returns on the fashion and fitness industries look dim anyway. Haggai has convinced me that now is a good time as any to get into construction.

Mark O'Donoghue, A Sound Investment Strategy (Haggai 1)
Mark O'Donoghue, Crunch Time (Haggai 2:1-9)
Mark O'Donoghue, Investing For The Future (Haggai 2:10-23)

Deo gloria!, we say, to God be the glory! And nightly perhaps we extol, our Father in heaven, honoured be your name! But are God's glory and honour really our chief aim in life?

One can tell one's chief aim in life by one's investments. We all invest. Our investments are that in which we pour our time, ambitions, energies, dreams, money. What do we think will really make us happy? What do we day-dream about in that lull period during the day? What are we living for week after week, month after month? Is our investment in God's glory and honour? Are we giving all that we have to God's glory? And are we being to be singleminded about it? It's far too easy for personal fulfilment and comfort to replace the pleasure of God. Like the remnant of the people of God in Haggai's day who busied themselves each with his own panelled houses (Haggai 1:4) while God's house lay in ruins (Haggai 1:9), so we wrap ourselves in layers of material comfort, the hedonism of relaxation and happy feelings, and reject tough tasks and unpopular stances and exhausting relationships needed to build God's house. When man turns to religion, he wants tickling relaxation - to be soothed, supported, invigorated - hot tub religion. Do we who profess to be God's people have God-centred priorities or has something else just crowded in recently into our horizons? Are we prepared to go anywhere, do anything, give up everything for glory of God?

Sixth month, twenty-fourth day
So back to the construction business. The remnant were to rebuild God's temple, the physical one, with sticks and stones and bricks and bones.

After Christ, we now understand that the temple isn't a place to come in out of the sun and of the rain. The temple is no longer made of stones but of people, with Jesus as the living cornerstone (1 Peter 2:4-5). We are now to build a people amongst whom God will dwell for eternity. Do we want God to be glorified above our personal comfort and everything else? Will we give up financial security and personal safety to put ourselves forward as missionaries? Or will we claim a lack of gifting to thus escape our task?

Seventh month, twenty-first day
About a month after construction commenced, the temple was starting to take shape and it looked...like a ramshackle job, an amateur DIY job (Haggai 2:3). The oldies would have wept for the glorious temple of the past. And perhaps their nostalgia for the past might have sapped energies for working in present. Look at the pile of junk they had been working on. How could this temple ever be like the house in its former glory? Not by their own strength alone for God tells them to be strong and work because the LORD was with them (Haggai 2:4).

It is easy to pine for those halcyon days, which time has inevitably tinted with a shade of ancient rose. Oh, remember how clear and courageous this or that Christian hero was back then, how on fire for God the young people were; ah the thousands of people who wanted to hear the visiting evangelist, wanting to ask questions etc. And oh, look at the current trend, looks like returns on investment in God's kingdom will go down in the future - see all the infighting in church even amongst the leaders, hear how boring the preachers are, look at how lacklustre the men and how manipulative the women and how superficial and corrupt the young people, did you know that attendance at the evangelistic event was at an all time low and the speaker just had a one-to-one chat with the sole attendee? etc.

It is hard work and nerve-wrecking to tell people about Jesus. We just want to keep our head down when people diss stupid dour Christians with their coke-bottled eyewear and beetroot wholemeal sandwiches and smelly doctrines. Be strong for the present and work, Jesus says, for I myself will build my church. For from Christ the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work (Ephesians 4:16). God does not tell us to just pull up our socks, keep calm and carry on, but to be strong and work for he is with us. A comforting assurance when having to stand firm in a hostile classroom or workplace.

So let's keep on reading the Bible with the non-christian whom we met at an evangelistic service, or serving in a small group bible study, or ministering to the sick and grumpy etc. All this looks like thankless work but there is no better project to give ourselves to. Let us be certain about the future, a glorious breath-taking future that will outstrip anything we've seen thus far: a universal people, glorious temple, lasting peace. What a rock solid investment.

Yet also, Haggai 2:3 might be a warning against being easily satisfied with this tatty temple. Stop patting ourselves on the back at this edifice stuck together with duct-tape and get back to work. We are meant to be relying on God but also meant to have a dose of realism too - things are not as they are meant to be. There is a place for godly dissatisfaction with the present.

Ninth month, twenty-fourth day
Three months after project commencement and... the people were still in God's bad books! But aren't things supposed to get better after we turn back to him, the people might have muttered. Ok, so we admit that God was right to punish us before we bothered to build the temple (Haggai 1:6) but now that we've started construction, why is there so little wine (Haggai 2:16) and grain and fruit (Haggai 2:19)? And why has the little that we have and toiled so hard for been struck by blight and mildew and hail (Haggai 2:17)?

Don't presume on God's gracious blessing, says Haggai. God isn't a vending machine into which you put in a bit of sweat and get back a good harvest. Religious association alone is not sufficient. It's easy enough to be corrupted by what is unclean but impossible to be corrupted and evil by that which is clean and holy (Haggai 2:11-14). An unclean people inevitably offer up unclean sacrifices, so all their sweat blood and toil in construction came to nothing really because a holy God can only accept holy sacrifices.

Yet, suddenly, God promises to bless them who did not deserve to be blessed. Just like that. What grace. What mercy. No one would understand just how he could do this, until Jesus the Son died on the cross for all the sins the world had committed and would commit.

So we are left to pine for God's glorious future. On that day when God shakes the heavens and the earth, when he destroys the strength of the kingdoms of nations and overthrows the horses and their riders (Haggai 2:21-22), only the investments made for God's glory will stand. The crash to end all crashes.


Thus saith the Lord, the Lord of hosts: Yet once a little while and I will shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land.
And I will shake all nations; and the desire of all nations shall come.
(Haggai 2:6-7)

The Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to His temple, even the messenger of the Covenant, whom you delight in; behold, He shall come, saith the Lord of hosts.
(Malachi 3:1)

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1 Comments:

At March 03, 2009 11:39 am , Anonymous francis said...

hi shadow, thot u may want to know that dale r davis is coming this
april 09.  i gathered that u checked out his 2 kings and enjoyed it. more details on www.shalomrb.com., esp 17 apr evening (info will soon be up). yr mate in arpc, e.g. john wong, chelsia know about the events.

francis

 

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