In the second year of King Darius, on the first day of the sixth month, the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest: This is what the LORD Almighty says: These people say, "The time has not yet come for the LORD's house to be built."

So begins a most important message to God's people today. These words are found in the first chapter of Haggai. Yeah, I know. You read it all the time, right? No, I didn't think so. But this is not a history lesson. This book is in the Bible for a purpose, one that stares after us as we walk away from God.

The Israelites had returned to their land from years of captivity and began to rebuild the temple. At first there was great excitement and much effort. A foundation was laid. And then...nothing. They just quit. So God called on Haggai to deliver a special message: "Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?" (Haggai 1:4)

God's people had become more interested in providing for themselves than carrying out their responsibility toward God. It wasn't the structure of the temple that was important, but what it represented...what the building of God's house represented. Glory, Honor and Praise. As His people worked to become wealthy, wear fine clothes, and live in grand houses, they forgot about Him.

Their excuse? The time has not yet come for the Lord's House to be built. Not yet. All in good time. We'll do it later. First, let us see to our own needs...our own wants...our own desires.

Years ago I was asked to help resolve a dispute within a church. It was a small church, but as the community developed, God blessed this congregation with tremendous growth. People moved into the area and fell in love with the little church, but soon there wasn't enough room for everyone. Some suggested moving the church so they could build larger facilities. Others couldn't bear the thought of leaving the place where they had raised their families. And still others just complained about the cost.

I went to one meeting, well represented by all sides, each quite eager to present the "holy" merits of its position. At the end, there was one brief, heated vow. "You're not going to ruin my church!" I raised my hand. " My church? When did God give His church to you?" The room became quiet. "If God says to you, as He did to Abraham, Leave this behind and go to where I lead you ...will you?" I looked around the room. "And if God says to you, like John the Baptist, Stay in this place and minister here ...what will you do? Why don't you ask Him what He wants to do with His church?"

They were all Christians, but as with the Israelites of Haggai's time, they had become obsessed with control. They wanted to choose their own path and make their own decisions. When any of us do that, we forget about God. The Israelites spent more time and money on their houses, allowing the temple to lie in ruins. Their focus was on their businesses, their pleasures, what made them feel good for the moment, their own well-being...rather than the house of God. I saw the same in this little church.

The "house of God" is not one church. Every church, indeed every group that gathers for prayer, Bible study, or sharing the Gospel...whether in a building or a hut, in a stadium or under the trees...each is a room in the house of God. And the purpose of this house is to bring glory, honor and praise as we come to worship Him...and Him alone.

Ah, but what do we do? Sometimes we focus on one room, allowing the others to suffer. Sometimes we refuse to leave "our" room and fail to expand God's house. And sometimes...sometimes...we leave His house to build our own. Our business becomes more important. Our job becomes more important. Our toys and pleasures become more important. So we work and worry and work some more...and it is never, ever enough. Soon we lose interest in "our" room in God's House. We don't care about those other rooms. And any idea to add onto His House? Well, we'll do it later. It's just not the right time.

This isn't a message about moving or building churches. It's about moving and building lives. Ours and those who are lost. And I pray that if someone should write of us one day, that book will hold the same hope and promise as Haggai was able to share with his people:

"the whole remnant of the people obeyed the voice of the LORD their God...Then Haggai gave this message to the people: I am with you , declares the LORD." (Haggai 1:12-13)

Take care and be God's,

Chuck Graham

Ciloa ... Encouraging one another as long as it is called Today! Ciloa is a registered trademark of Ciloa, Inc., a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. A Note of Encouragement is a copyright interest held by Ciloa, Inc.

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