Story, Wk. 19 02/19/19—Highland—Meute
“The Return Home”
The Story, Chapter 19
Haggai 1: 2-9; Matthew 7: 24-29
Pearl: Giving God priority in our lives.
Function: To recall worshippers back home to the home where God is clearly the focus of our lives, where God is Lord of our lives.
What is in your “closet of forgotten passions?” Max Lucado came up with that image, not me. But I do have one. In my “closet of forgotten passions” you will find:
1. A box containing tubes of oil paint because in the past I often talked about painting on canvass some of the beautiful scenery around my home. There is one particular tree which I have photographed and want to paint one day.
2. In that same closet are my fishing poles. That is a passion which I have kept in the closet of forgotten passions in recent years.
3. There was one season when I wanted to learn Spanish. At the time my Aunt sent me a set of cassettes to use to do it. I listened to one. But did not continue.
4. You will also find in my closet of “forgotten passions” the remaining pieces of trim and wallpaper which I need to add to the dollhouse that I built over 15 years ago but have not finished. It now sits under a sheet in storage.
a. Most of us have various things in our “closets of forgotten passions.” Not all of them are that important. It is not a big deal that I haven’t yet painted as I have felt the urge to do.
b. However, if we have put our Lord in that closet of forgotten passions, then there is indeed a problem.
God deserves first place, all through our lives. It is a matter of keeping “first things first.” The popular English theologian and writer of the 20th century C.S. Lewis wrote: “If we put first things first, we get the second things thrown in; but if we put second things first, we lose both the first and second things.”
Cyrus was the King of Persia. God put into the heart of Cyrus a strange warmth for God’s people who were living in exile.
1. So Cyrus gave freedom to God’s people who wanted to return to Jerusalem so that they could live there and rebuild the temple which had been left in ruins.
a. This is interesting on at least two levels.
i. God wanted to restore his relationship with his people in the homeland which he provided for them.
ii. Foreign Kings and empires were hearing about the God of the Israelites/Judeans.
2. A good-sized group of the people of God was inspired to return to Jerusalem.
a. 42, 360 people plus 7,337 male and female slaves, 200 male and female singers, 736 horses, 245 mules, 435 camels, and 6,720 donkeys.
b. Around 537 BCE nearly 50,000 people headed back home to rebuild their lives in the land God gave to them. This was a first wave of people. It is important to note that the people returned in waves. Some remained in exile. The books of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther cover things happening in both locales as various waves of people made their way back in stages.
3. For that first wave of people returned to Jerusalem, The Lord’s chief concern was that they immediately begin rebuilding the temple. This was because it would be a constant symbol and reminder to them to keep God first in their lives.
It is as imperative to the Lord now as it was then that we keep “first things first.” Keeping first things first for followers of Christ is giving God first priority in your lives. It is certainly not keeping him in the “closet of forgotten passions.”
The people returned with great joy and thanks and high goals to rebuild their homes in their homeland with their God. They moved back in and the work on the temple got started.
1. It didn’t take long for opposition to what the people were doing crept up.
2. So the people lost some of their passion for the project. As their attention to God and his temple drifted they turned their attention upon their own homes and their own priorities. Work on the temple came to a standstill and there was a 16 year layoff from the project.
a. If you are learning anything from our journey through the Bible using The Story, what do you think God did about this loss of passion for his purposes? He stirred someone up with a prophetic message. In this case it was Haggai.
b. His message was powerful and speaks to any generation: Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it. (Haggai 1:6).
How often do you get inspired to return home—to your God—and then drift away from him as your first priority?
1. What usually motivates you to “return home to the Lord?” Often it is some kind of challenge or heartache which compels you.
a. After 9/11/2001 on the Sunday immediately following the attack on the World Trade Towers and the Pentagon, there was a spike in church attendance. It was sustained for a short while. But it did not last and the church overall did not see any real growth as a result.
2. Through our lives we get inspired by a message or something we read or someone who urges us. We sometimes get inspired by things that happen to us—whether good or bad.
a. Often it is the birth of children which motivates parents and their families to return home to God.
Whatever it may be the Lord is always calling you to return home to him, to rekindle your relationship with God, and to get about the work of his kingdom.
1. Today, God urges you to order your lives around him. He has many houses of worship throughout this region and throughout the world which make up a beautiful and diverse tapestry. Highland rejoices to have added some new members and more wanting to make this their spiritual home!
2. But God is most concerned for you to acknowledge him as head of your homes.
3. He wants it to be clearly obvious. It is God’s purpose for the neighbors to be drawn to him by his people. This is the way God works.
a. For good or ill, we are God’s greatest advertisements.
b. You are also the best ones to bring someone else “back home.”
4. Your calling is to build your lives around him. This is a day of many distractions. There are all kinds of things to distract you and break your concentration from what really matters.
Give God first place! He deserves first place in your lives.
1. God’s concerns should be your concerns. His mission should be your biggest concern. The Lord Jesus, throughout his entire life was always most concerned about “staying the course” of his Father’s mission.
a. He was frequently approached by Gentiles seeking healing or help and he would say that his mission was to the Jews. Even Jesus, compassionate as he is, focused his attention tenaciously on his precise mission at the time. It would extend beyond eventually. And in fact, he often did go outside his precise mission. Once he commented, “I have not seen such faith in anyone in Israel!”
2. What will it take for you to return home?
a. It may take a serious effort to do so.
b. It may mean doing some soul searching.
c. Your recent trial or time of testing, or even suffering could be God’s way of calling you to return home.
d. It may mean making some changes.
Jock, the painter, often would thin his paint so it would go further. So when a church decided to do some maintenance, Jock was able to put in the low bid, and got the job. As always, he thinned his paint way down with water.
One day while he was up on the scaffolding—the job almost finished—he heard a massive clap of thunder, and the sky opened.
The downpour washed the thinned paint off the church and knocked Jock off his scaffolding and onto the lawn among the gravestones and puddles of thinned and worthless paint.
Jock knew this was a warning from God, so he got on his knees and cried: “Oh, God! Forgive me! What should I do?”
And from the thunder, a mighty voice: “REPAINT! REPAINT, AND THIN NO MORE!”
This may be exactly what is required of you. Repentance is about changing direction. Returning home is a matter of giving God first place in your lives. Returning home to God and his Way is always the main work of your lives. Many of the things in your closets of forgotten passions are of no major consequence. Clearly, however, God and the concerns of his reign do not belong in your closets of forgotten passions!
The constant message of God’s Word, The Story, is to return, and to keep on returning home to your God! Jesus, the Word made flesh said, “Everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!” (Matt. 7:27).
Keep on returning to God, getting your house in order, and keeping first things first!