THE LORD IS BUILDING HIS HOUSE...
This past Wednesday evening saw the coming together of the Church of Jesus Christ in our community to call out to Him with one voice, one heart and one mind: contending as one man for the faith of the gospel. We were - and are - one in Him regardless of age, race, denomination or gender. As we sought Him with intercessory fervor our leader Pastor Hill reminded us of this hope: "THE PEOPLE WHO WERE SITTING IN DARKNESS SAW A GREAT LIGHT, AND THOSE WHO WERE SITTING IN THE LAND AND SHADOW OF DEATH, UPON THEM A LIGHT DAWNED." We were praying that the darkness would be pierced by the Light–that a thin place would be created.
According to Celtic Christianity, a thin place is any place where the wall between this material world and the realm of the divine becomes so thin that we can experience a glimpse or taste of the glory, majesty, and love of God. These are moments when heaven and earth seem to touch–natural and supernatural worlds collide. "This, then, is how you should pray: ‘your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’” Our Lord has instructed us to pray toward this concrete reality - it is not the vain babblings of an abstract mystic.
“The House of the Lord” is this thin place - this is what our Celtic forebears discovered. As it is built in our communities the Presence of God comes to preside. These are places of true worship that our Lord is seeking. When the Father finds them He will come. As some have said, “They attract His Presence.”
We must be constrained by the truth that these places come into existence as a result of the Father’s initiative. Since the Scripture says that He is seeking them we can rest assured that He will find them. The call is laid on the doorstep of the Church in our community - will we respond to the Divine Initiative? It might be better said, “Are we able to resist it?”
“Unless the LORD builds the house,”
“Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain.” Psalm 127:1 This is an exhortation that calls the People of God to action. It speaks to motivation. God is creative - He is active - He calls us to join Him in His activity. It does not say not to build, but to build in accord with His directions.
“In union with him the whole building is joined together and rises into a holy sanctuary for the Lord.” Eph 2:21 ISV These words of Paul to the Church at Ephesus puts an end to the peril of passivity. On the Sabbath the Lord rested, but He did not stop. In the Lord of the Sabbath we rest in His finished work, but we do not stop.
The place of His Presence is the seat of His authority or throne- where He holds sway over the affairs of man in our communities. Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne. The Son declares that the church He will build cannot be overcome by the authority of hell–for it pales in comparison to the radiant majesty of the Eternal God. Darkness is forced to recede - it cannot overpower light for it has no forward motion of its own–it is bereft of initiative. We often speak of encroaching darkness, but it only exists where light has withdrawn. To dim a room we do not turn the darkness on - we turn the light off. There is no such thing as a “dark switch.”
The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.
The prophet looked forward in hope to declare: “Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.” Isaiah 9:7 NIV
The zeal of the Lord is infectious. I love the way this translation describes the passion of the Messiah: “And it came to the minds of the disciples that the Writings say, ‘I am on fire with passion for your house.’” John 2:17 BBE This form of passionate zeal propels the people of God forward. Can we not say it is nigh irresistible!? Fire produces light.
The Celts were wholistic. They did not see anything as being outside the realm of their God. Therefore He could not be limited to specific times or places - for them He was unconfinable. Their experience was one of true worship. They were possessed and propelled by the Spirit of God. Thus they carved their witness in the escarpment of what is now Wyoming County in West Virginia: “Christ was smitten and paid an abundant ransom for those who will allow His wind to drive their ship.”
This is an echo once again of Paul’s words to the Church at Ephesus: “but keep on being filled with the Spirit.” 5:8b ISV One can fill himself with wine, but he cannot fill himself with the Holy Spirit - and be continually filled. How then does Paul’s exhortation find its place in us? Paul of Tarsus - a great Mediterranean center of commerce - would have known what it was to see the great trading ships cast off their restraints, raise their sails, catch the prevailing currents of the wind to be filled and propelled toward their intended destination (read: destiny).
The early Celtic Christians realized that the spirit of man is a potential thin place longing to be united and filled (to become one) with the Spirit of God - the divine current of creative initiative in the One born before creation and through whom it came into being. “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit." John 3:8 ESV We may not have the luxury of knowing where we are being directed, but the Spirit of God is not confused.
Some say they are pursuing God - or God the Holy Spirit. To me it is more like I am being pursued by Him–at one He calls His people forward while filling and propelling them by the wind of His Spirit. I have found myself in places and situations that definitely were not in any plans I had for my life.
This is really all about attitude. Do we have the attitude to “allow His wind to drive our ship” or are we stuck in port securely moored to the dock proclaiming as our mantra, “We have never done it that way before!”
“I will make justice the measuring line and righteousness the plumb line;”
Once again through the prophet of the Lord Isaiah speaks - He will judge or test what we are building: “I will make justice the measuring line and righteousness the plumb line;” Isaiah 28:17a NIV This is a metaphor taken from builders, who in building use the line and plummet to carry on their work even and regular, retaining such stones as agree there unto, and rejecting such as do not. A building that is level and plumb is said to be “true” - that is, it has integrity.
In his letters Paul addresses this matter from this side of the Cross: “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.” I Cor 3:11 “in whom you also are built together for a habitation of God in the Spirit.” Eph 2:22 WEB
It took a non-Jew to reveal this concept to the world. As a result of his zeal the Roman Centurion Cornelius created a thin place through the doing of righteousness and justice. God took note and revealed his plan and purpose to Cornelius - not for him only, but for all who would believe on His Word.
This Gentile’s testimony is recorded as a witness to us: “He was a devout, God-fearing man, as was everyone in his household. He gave generously to the poor and prayed regularly to God.” Acts 10:2 NLT An angel of the Lord in a vision calls him by name: “Cornelius!” In incredulous alarm Cornelius replies: “What is it Lord?” It should be noted here that Cornelius was quite surprised, he was not expecting this to happen - he was not giving to get. His reverence was one of true worship.
The angelic messenger declares to him: "Your prayers and alms have ascended as a memorial (or as a reminder) before God.” His prayers were deeds of righteousness directed vertically toward God while his giving of alms (gifts to the poor) were deeds of justice directed horizontally toward his fellow man. As a result of God-fearing zeal Cornelius had unwittingly built the House of the Lord in his own household! He had created a thin place - and an angel of the Lord came to him with His endorsement.
At the same time the Lord was working in the heart of Peter a Jew - a proclaimer of the Gospel.
Yet in the doing of these deeds alone, there was no saving power - although they were welcoming. At the same time the Lord was working in the heart of Peter a Jew - a proclaimer of the Gospel. "What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy." God had prepared Cornelius and in him all Gentiles, but salvation had not yet come to his household for he had not yet heard the message.
Peter yielded to the call of God, answered the summons and went to the household of Cornelius bringing in him the words of eternal salvation: “And He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead. Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.” Acts 10:42-43 NASB
Paul eloquently and succinctly summarizes: “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, ‘HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!’” Romans 10:14-15 NASB
Building the House of the Lord in our communities does not provide for transformation alone - that can only be accomplished by the individual transformation of the human heart. For the veil - no matter how thin it may be - must still be rent in twain.
The thin place makes the way for the message - but it is not the Message Himself. It could very well be thought of as the womb–the place of preparation for the birthing of the Message. The Celts also understood this for a second carving in Wyoming County - illuminated left to right by the sun’s rays pouring through a cleft in the rock on the winter solstice declares unequivocally: “A virgin was with child: God ordained her to conceive and be fruitful. Ah, Behold a Miracle!”
"Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
As the tenor of fervent intercession began to build my eyes fell on the verse following the passage Pastor Hill had used: From that time Jesus began to preach and say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Matthew 4:17 NASB The nearness of the kingdom of heaven calls mankind to repentance. And toward the conclusion of Luke’s account of the Good News, “and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” Luke 24:47 NASB
Here is the summoning call for the Church of Jesus Christ in our Community and it is our compelling hope: “For we do not preach ourselves but Jesus the Messiah as Lord, and ourselves as merely your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God's glory in the face of Jesus the Messiah. 2 Corinthians 4:5-6 IST
for as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children. Isaiah 66:8b KJV
Pastor Ron Thaxton - The Church In The City, Charleston, West Virginia
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
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