Don’t You Dare Give Up

(Today’s post by Adam Cooper)

Zechariah 3 and 4

Don’t you Dare Give Up: Full Disclosure and Filthy Rags

dontevergiveupIn the interest of full disclosure I must say that every time I sit down to write my post for The New Normal I am always challenged. What do I want my voice to be in what I write? I struggle between being open and conversational or rigid and educational. At times I feel that I even come off a little as the angry preacher on the street corner trying to beat a thought into someone’s head by calling them out in front of the world. My heart is not the latter. Some of my best posts, at least as far as I am concerned, were those when I felt the Spirit led me to write certain things on a particular topic; I didn’t have to think about it too hard, it just flowed. With some posts however, I struggle to write something that is meaningful.

When you think about it there lies the crux of the problem, “I” try to write something meaningful. How can I be so proud to think that I can write anything meaningful about the most meaningful Word that has ever been written? And, who should it be meaningful for? Me? You?

I must say that I enjoyed Marc’s post from yesterday and his thoughts on Spiritual discomfort. I always enjoy Marc’s openness and willingness to put himself out there, in all of his struggle and learned wisdom, to simply say what he has to say. His transparency is refreshing when it comes to an honest appraisal of what God is trying to tell us.

When I looked at the imagery within Zechariah 3 it was like looking into a mirror. Joshua is an image of myself and every other believer I know. We came before God in filthy rags, being accused by Satan, and God re-clothed us and rebuked Satan through His son Jesus Christ. What filth did you throw off when you stepped into the Lord’s presence? As men in today’s society I know that struggles with pornography and inappropriate thoughts and images are constantly trying to drag us into the depths of depravity; the acceptance of inappropriate lifestyles is also eating through the moral fiber that God has established; and, the worldly focus on obtaining the BBD (bigger better deal) has caused numerous men to pursue money as a crushing idol of excess. Zechariah 4 then continues to lay out hope for those who have been re-clothed. Although on the surface you see lampstands and olive trees when you look into the cracks and crevices you see the Holy Spirit (signified through the oil in the lamps) bringing light to all through the church and eventually the Jewish people. We also see the olive trees of Joshua and Zerubbabel as the chosen ones to lead this reinstatement of the temple and God’s chosen people at this point in their history. Although I fail to see any prophetic undertones in them unless God is telling us about the two witnesses that are seen in Revelation.

So let’s lay this out straight – in this rudimentary finger painting of prophecy we see Christ (the branch) who has re-clothed us, washed us in His blood through His substitutionary atonement on the cross. We see Satan rebuked as Christ died and then conquered death claiming victory over the evil one once and for all. We see the Holy Spirit filling those who would believe in Christ who subsequently shine light into the darkness of this world. And finally we see the ultimate reconciliation of the Jewish people.

Yet, in spite of all this, we still struggle daily to walk with Christ.

I personally thank God for that struggle. What I mean by this is that if it were easy we would not appreciate it; I was always raised that if you had to work for something you would take better care of it. I have to work every day to keep my eyes focused on the cross and I find that the longer I successfully fight the dual sides of humanity and faith the easier it gets at times.

I had the pleasure of doing a funeral this week for a man that lived his life the way Christ would have lived among us. However, he was never a fan of “organized religion”. The more funerals I do, the more I hear this comment and unfortunately it speaks to the disconnect between the church and the people it needs to be reaching. What is clear when I hear these words is that this person was most likely hurt by “organized religion” at some point in their life. And what is bad is that many of us have also been hurt by that same “organized religion” at some point in our lives. That is probably why we are not still at the first church we ever attended. Given the Good News that we as believers have knowledge of we have to figure out how we can handle this disconnect. How can we step away from “organized religion” and into the type of relational Christianity Christ endorsed? I guess if we could answer that question we would be revolutionaries. Prophets like Zechariah talked of Christ long before He ever came on the scene and we are still fighting some of the same struggles his people were. The good news though….we are still trying! Keep trying. Everyday. Never give up!

Spiritual Discomfort

(Today’s post by Marc Cannon)

Zechariah 1 & 2

discomfortI’ve got to get something off my chest. I have a hard time being comfortable; in everything! No matter what I do each day I struggle to find comfort physically, mentally and even socially. Up until the last couple of years I never took notice of how uncomfortable I really was/am. Is it that I’m getting old and my mind, body and soul just aren’t what they used to be or is it that I have just been this way all my life and I’m just now becoming mature enough to recognize these things in myself? Being comfortable is human nature and I do realize that I’m not the only person that walks on this planet that struggles similarly as I do. I would suggest millions upon millions of people who inhabit this rock feels the same way I do.

I haven’t tried everything to be comfortable but I’ve tried a lot. Alcohol, working out, fitting in with the clothes I wear, using mindless activities as distractions or masking my issues. The simple fact is that none of these things gave me anything more than temporal comfort from any of the things mentioned above.

Reading these two chapters I was confronted that the people of God were living uncomfortably as well; justly in His wrath and the Spirit asked me…What about your spiritual comfort? Ummmm, What, Lord? Spiritual Comfort, What is that?

You see these two chapters deal with repentance and the comfort God offers to us through that. In all of my life I have never been confronted by God asking me about my spiritual comfort. I’ve thought about it and honestly I have to say I lay in angst at times knowing that I’m spiritually lacking. It’s really more painful than anything I have mentioned above, but I’ve used the very same things I thought would comfort me with my personal issues to mask the spiritual hollowness I’ve felt at times. Just to take my mind off the fact that I’m wrapped up in something I have yet to give up; to repent. That in itself is hard for me to admit.

It’s not that I have been oblivious to conviction or the function of repentance. In fact there are many sins I’ve left in my past. But in my life, and I’m sure I’m not alone; the lack of comfort we deal daily has painted a lie that there is no such a thing in Spiritual Comfort and we’re destined to always live with a contentious spirit.

For me, sadly, that lie has left many wounds in my time, but they’re never too deep to be healed by His hands. If you’re struggling with a wound or an unsettled spirit, and truly want the comfort that only He can provide, pray that He reveals that to you. If you know why your spirit is unsettled, confess it to Him and repent! You will surly find comfort in His grace.

Discipline is an Act of Love

(Today’s post by Wayne Bunting)

Haggai 1-2

discipline is loveHaggai continues the story of the time in which the Jews had returned from exile in Babylon and are rebuilding their homeland, taking place 18 years after their homecoming. Haggai is a prophetic (and a bit historic) letter directed at Zerubbabel, the new governor of the new Israel that is being re-established. He is of royal blood, being a descendant of David, and therefore the continuation of the promise and covenant God has with Israel. This prophetic book is one of the most important books of prophecy in the Old Testament because the people actually listened. It was a direct confrontation of the wrong that the people were doing followed by a path laid out for them to follow.

The situation at hand is that a few years earlier, in Ezra 4:24, the people of Israel had stopped their building of the temple because of external pressures. There it is mentioned that it was halted until the second year of king Darius (The King of Persia who is also the king who freed them from Babylon and presided over them). 16 years later the book of Haggai begins in the second year of king Darius. Suddenly the call to build the temple resumes, just as stated in Ezra.

So, why did the building of the temple stop after two years of trying to build it? Despite the people’s enthusiasm of being freed from exile in Babylon, and their subsequent enthusiasm for the rebuilding of the temple, the people were still harboring stubbornness in their hearts. Haggai 1:9-11 says that “You looked for much, and behold, it came to little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? declares the Lord of hosts. Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house. Therefore the heavens above you have withheld the dew, and the earth has withheld its produce. And I have called for a drought on the land and the hills, on the grain, the new wine, the oil, on what the ground brings forth, on man and beast, and on all their labors.”

God’s people, despite all that God has taken them through previously, have still forgotten God and have instead focused on themselves. So their desire to focus on themselves and their own house instead of God’s house has seen impotent results. All of their labor, having been done for the sake of themselves, has resulted in nothing. Subsequently, this is about to change. Haggai is sent by God to speak to Zerubbabel, the governor of Israel, to correct this problem. God stirs up the hearts of many to accomplish this task, and history shows the result. The temple is built, and the end of this book uses Zerubbabel as a metaphor to point to a more eternal king who will establish a more eternal temple representing a more eternal kingdom. Sound familiar? It should. If you have been following this blog you might notice that many of the prophetic books of the Old Testament hint at something that is coming that is in the form of what is current at the time (kings, temple, kingdom etc.). We know now this is Jesus, who is the fulfillment of the Law and the prophets, who brings the Kingdom of God.

The fact that the temple was rebuilt shows that the Jews moved from a devotion to themselves to a devotion to God. It was a long and difficult road to go down for God’s people, but God is not one to abandon His people to their own stupidity. The same is true with us today. We know that God disciplines those He loves (Hebrews 12:6, Revelation 3:19). And as such God cannot be seen as just a wrathful God who is only out to smite all those who do wrong. The point of God’s wrath and correction is discipline, just as a father disciplines his kids. Because God loves us He disciplines us. If this same God loves us so much that He would die for us, then why would He not go to great efforts to correct us when we subsequently stray from Him after knowing Him? He certainly does do this. I’ve seen this in my own life and also in the life of others’. God will allow things to happen to those He loves for the sake of their correction, for the sake of keeping them on the path to Himself. He will also give us over to our own desires for the sake of our correction, to put us back on the right path.

He is patient and loving, but He is not a God whose character is such that His patience and love allows us to stay in our sin and our own way. If we as the church seek after our own way, and focus on “our own house” then God will intervene. His love for us requires it. Would a good father not fight for His son, despite the objection of that rebellious son? And what loving husband would not fight for His wife? The same is true with God. He loves us, and His love does not mean allowing us to stray off a cliff because He “loves” us. It means disciplining us and correcting those He loves.

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