- "With my daughter’s graduation, a new boat and a trip to Europe this year, we’re a little strapped."
- "I’m getting real tired of paying this rent every month! You’ll have to wait a few more days."
- "We’re a little short right now. But don’t worry—we’re getting a refund on my wife’s tattoo. The artist messed it up, and we’re getting back most of the bucks!"
- "I didn’t pay the rent because I’m saving up to move."
- "It’s your fault the check bounced. Why didn’t you tell me you were going to run to the bank the very same day!"
The problem: anything less than fully living for God is hollow… READ Hag. 1:6…. I like the story of the absent-minded professor. One day, on board a train, he was unable to find his ticket (I think this is a true story). The conductor said, "Take it easy. You'll find it." When the conductor returned, the professor still couldn't find the ticket. The conductor, recognizing the famous scientist, said, "I'm sure you bought a ticket. Forget about it." "You're very kind," the professor said, "but I must find it, otherwise I won't know where to get off."
If your priorities are wrong, if you are not living for God, you are like the absent minded professor who can’t find his ticket ~ you don’t know where to get off. READ Hag. 1:9. If your priorities are to live for yourself, to improve your own life, to increase your happiness, where’s the end? Just a little more, a little more… It’s a terrible feeling to be on a train headed somewhere but you aren’t sure where you are going. We’ve all been lost, not knowing where we are going, not knowing where to get off. Payday is not a great event when all the money vanishes.
I know why many people misspend their money. I’ve seen it a thousand times. The reasoning goes like this: “I have no money today, I won’t have any tomorrow, my money goes so fast, so when I get that check in my hand I might as well do something fun” ~ a Mardi Gra life ~ feast before the famine ~ a nice dinner while you have money in your pocket, splurge on an evening at the casino, tomorrow I’ll have nothing anyway ~ An endless cycle ~ find your ticket so you know where to get off!
BTW, this is not about wealth vs. poverty, it’s not the amount, it’s the attitude… Esther was supposed to be here today…but she had car problems…(I told her it was character building!) She and Wesley work hard. Her frustration was not that she can’t come up with the money for the $1000 +, it was that she was wanting to pay down their student loans… then she talked about some of their friends who have much larger incomes but seem to never have enough, crazy spending… money flows through their fingers… from the Bible Challenge Reading: READ Prov. 15:16. I guarantee if you don’t know how to spend the money you have when you have a little, getting a lot will only give you bigger problems.
Priority! Make the glory of God the priority in your life. Not your own glory ~ i.e. pleasure, luxury, pampering yourself. Nothing will give you more satisfaction than to give to the Lord. READ Eph. 1:11-12. Live for Christ ~ live for the glory of God in all you do, in all you are… Make the glory of God the priority of your life.
Here’s the situation in Israel in Haggai’s day ~ six centuries before Christ. The Jews had been slaves in Babylon, new conquerors, the Persians, let the Israelites go back to their homeland. The best guess is that about 50,000 Jews returned “home” although only the old timers remembered the homeland ~ a whole generation had been born in captivity. They kinda sorta start rebuilding the temple of the Lord, and they get sidetracked with their own life. Sixteen years pass, temple construction is stalled. Enter Haggai.
God’s spokesperson, Haggai:“isn’t it about time to finally do something…” No more excuses, no more delays. It’s time to figure out what’s important. Now is the time to find that ticket so you know where to get off the train and start living for God instead of for yourselves.
An open question for us as a church: several have been considering if this is the time for an expansion of our children’s ministry… I am not comparing us to Israel in the days of Haggai like we have been neglectful, I am saying let’s set our eyes upon figuring out how to share the Message of Salvation through Jesus Christ. May our twin priorities of this church be discipleship and evangelism ~ may each of us grow in Christ and share Jesus Christ with those who do not know him. It’s always the right time to make disciples and evangelize. Not if, but how… Whatever we do, may it be put through those two filters… No excuses ~ determine what is important and then do it… READ Hag. 1:2-5. The people were saying, “now is not the time.” Haggai says (we find out the number of years later) “you’ve had 16 years, when will it ever be time to put God in first place.”
Satan’s #1 strategy is not to get people to quit believing in God. It’s to get good God fearing people to put the Lord on the back burner./// Now is the time for the Christians of this world to rise up and let the world know there is a better way. Now is the time to put God front and center. Amen?
We treat God like a diet: tomorrow I’ll eat better. Tomorrow I’ll get around to it. God says, “And you wonder why you haven’t received the blessings I have promised?” READ Hag. 1:9. READ Hag. 1:6. When you put God on the back burner, the result is a hollow life ~~~ you need to find that ticket so you can know where to get off the train!
Haggai is talking about the neglect of the temple, but the temple itself is not the important thing. It’s what the temple represents that is of utmost importance. Neglect of the temple is symbolic of the neglect of God. The temple represents forgiveness and restoration of the people. Those are the things the people were missing. “Give careful consideration” God tells the people. ~ stop and think, do a self assessment of how you are spending your time, your energy, your money, your resources. Give careful consideration.
The Temple, at least in Spirit, has some similarities to this church building. Are we using this place for God’s purposes? Sometimes people say I don’t need a building, I don’t need a church family, because I can worship God in my own way. True, sort of. But that is not God’s full calling for his people. We are called to be together. To encourage one another, love one another, work together for the sake of the kingdom… God’s calling is for us to be organized, to be a church family, to invite others to join us. This building is a place for the people of God to gather together. We can make a huge Kingdom impact with how we choose to use this place, take care of this place, which has been entrusted to us.
Haggai makes it personal. “You have focused so much on your own personal needs, built homes way beyond what you need, now go back to God by giving first to God.” If you are having trouble making ends meet, if you have debt that is beyond your means, this sounds counterintuitive/ illogical ~~~~ you turn things around by giving to God first. This is your calling. This is your privilege. It helps put into perspective your priorities. When you put yourself first it’s like riding a train frantically searching for your ticket so you know where to get off…. Somehow you never get to where you want to go…
One of my dreams for Sumas has to been to have people available for budget counseling so people can figure out what their priorities are based on their spending, and if needed change their spending patterns to reflect healthier priorities. How you spend your money is a superior measure of your priorities than your words or even your heart. I can find the people to counsel others. The problem is that few people with money problems really want to change. “Give careful thought to your ways” says the Lord. Honesty is always the first step in getting control of your life. We’ve started studying Nehemiah in the Thursday Community Bible Study… the first thing Nehemiah does when he finds out there are major problems back home in Israel is to cry, as he honestly faces the problem. Do you want to put teeth into changing your life? ~ make giving to God a priority of your life, your purpose for living. That includes your time, your money, your resources….
The temple represented God’s promises, a place where the people meet with God, the temple represented a continuity of God’s people through time. As the temple lay in ruins, unusable, unsafe, uninviting, the ruins reflected the people’s heart. 16 years since the people returned from Babylon, and the temple was still in ruins. 16 years of putting God second place. Is God second in your life? Give careful consideration. Now is the time to give to Him as a first priority.
I want all of you mature in your relationship to Jesus Christ. You do it by giving careful thought to your ways and making him truly the number one priority in your life. Notice in Hag. 1:8 that Haggai tells the people to literally start building, don’t put it off any longer. You start giving to the Lord of your time, energy and money, and you will see an immediate change. At last you will find the lost ticket so you know where to get off the train of focusing on yourself.
Postscript: A word of encouragement. Perhaps you are thinking you have so little and you are in over your head ~~ I cannot give my money, I don’t have the time, I have nothing to offer God. A word of encouragement found in the details of this scripture. Haggai and other prophets of his time use a powerful name of God ~ 4 times in this scripture, 14 times in the short book of Haggai, 40 times in the next book Zechariah, 24 times in Malachi the next book ~ all bring God’s message to the same people at the same time as Haggai. The old Testament closes with one dominant Name of God. What is the name?
THE LORD ALMIGHTY. God of the Armies. The All Powerful God.
The people of Israel were feeling weak, vulnerable, shaky. They needed to hear God is more powerful than the King of Persia ~~~ he is the one who you can trust. He is able. He will protect you. In our world we feel helpless, many living from paycheck to paycheck, the uncertainty, in our own community folks who don’t even know where they will lay their head. Even when you get to the place that you have enough, the world is fragile. The Name of God itself is a PROMISE. Put your trust, put your hope in God, as a first priority, and THE LORD ALMIGHTY will save you. Amen.