Haggai 2:4-5 But now be strong, O Zerubbabel,’ declares the LORD. ‘Be strong, O Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land,’ declares the LORD, ‘and work. For I am with you,’ declares the LORD Almighty. ‘This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt. And my Spirit remains among you. Do not fear.’
There are a lot of good company slogans out there and among my favorites is Beacon Plumbing. “Stop freakin. Call Beacon.” It’s clever, funny, and catchy. The point is – when you are having a plumbing catastrophe, don’t freak out, just call in the pros. They have successfully imprinted their company name onto my mind. When I think of plumbing emergencies, I think of Beacon.
Do you ever find yourself freaking out in life? Maybe it’s the overwhelming circumstances you are facing. You are frustrated and scared and unsure of what will be around the next turn. Maybe you are feeling stuck. Stuck in your sin, stuck in your present situation, stuck in general. Or maybe you are feeling out of control. You used to be able to control what was happening around you, but you just can’t do it anymore. And you are about to freak out. Fear starts to knock at your door and you feel weak. Frustration is mounting and tension is high.
Stop freakin’! Call…. well….. on the Lord. In Haggai 2, God is speaking to His people, telling them to be strong. Be strong because I am with you. Be strong because I have made a promise to you. Be strong because my Spirit is with you. And do not fear! Because just as much as Beacon can handle plumbing catastrophes, God can handle ALL of life’s catastrophes. He’s the pro that you need to call. He’s the strength that you need to rely on. He’s the truth that stands strong in the face of the lie. He’s God. So stop freakin’ today. Call on the name of the Lord!
*Is there an area of your life that causes you to freak out? Call the professional today and stop freakin’.
Haggai 1:9 “You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the Lord Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with your own house.
Busy. Have you ever asked someone who you haven’t seen in a while how they’ve been? The answer I often get (and even sometimes give) is: busy. We are all busy. I don’t meet many people who say: “I’m bored with life. I have nothing to do.” I’m sure those people exist, but I’m too busy to find them. I’m busy, you’re busy. Yes, most of us are busy. But what are we busy with? Now that’s a question worth looking at.
In Haggai 1, The Lord spoke to His people saying, “you are too busy with your own stuff to pay any attention to mine.” While you may think this verse is a good one for a church to guilt people into a church building project while they live in run down shacks, you would be wrong. Let’s take a more personal look at what God is saying to His people here. He is saying: why am I not your first priority? Why are you so consumed with your own life that you don’t stop to engage in mine? Why do you spend more time running your own kingdom rather than investing in mine?
That’s the true heart of the matter here in this verse. The people of God were so occupied building their own lives that they neglected to put Him first. They lost sight of the fact that this life is lived best when we focus on building His kingdom and not our own. Jesus said in Matthew 6:33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. We should be seeking Him first. We should be giving Him our best. Because when we do that, He takes that best and overflows it into our lives. But when we live to serve ourselves first, we find those things shriveled up, blown away, and useless. Don’t let His house lay in ruin any longer. Determine to be a kingdom builder.
*What adjustments do you need to make in your own life to put God first?
Zephaniah 3:11-12 On that day you will not be put to shame for all the wrongs you have done to me, because I will remove from this city those who rejoice in their pride. Never again will you be haughty on my holy hill. But I will leave within you the meek and humble, who trust in the name of the LORD.
Show of hands: who likes to sit and listen to an arrogant person? I would say you can put your hands down now, but I’m fairly certain that no hands went up. Listening to pride carry on is quite nauseating if you ask me. I want to listen to a humble person. Now let me be clear. I am not talking about the difference between confidence and insecurity – those are entirely different things. I’m talking about pride and humility.
Never again will you be haughty on my holy hill. (I just love the way that is worded.) God promises in this passage to get rid of the arrogant ones. He vows to remove those who stand on the mountaintops and shout of their greatness. He doesn’t want to hang around people who are full of themselves. After all, if you are full of yourself, how could you possibly be full of Him? Let that sink in for a moment….
Someone who wants to be full of God would do well to first become empty. Let’s say you wanted to fill up a glass with water. But that glass has some milk in it. Wouldn’t you pour out the milk first and even rinse out the cup? What I’m saying here is that humble man is the empty one. He is the man who says, “God I am nothing without You.” He is the man who has been emptied, rinsed out, and is ready to be filled. Indeed, being full of the Lord starts with humility. No haughtiness on His hill!
*Do you have some emptying to do?
Zephaniah 2:10-11 This is what they will get in return for their pride, for insulting and mocking the people of the LORD Almighty. The LORD will be awesome to them when he destroys all the gods of the land. The nations on every shore will worship him, every one in its own land.
When he rolls up his sleeves he ain’t just puttin on the ritz; our God is an awesome God. Thanks for that, Rich Mullins. I’ve never thought about God rolling up His sleeves and especially never considered that He would be puttin on the ritz. That’s just weird. I do know, however, that our God is an awesome God. He regularly overwhelms we with His pure awesomeness. I mean it; He really is amazing! He is all knowing, all powerful, all…. well, everything. But here in Zephaniah 2, the prophet is talking about a different kind of awesome.
When I think of awesome, I think of gravity defying slam dunks, grand slam home runs, and cringe worthy snowboard tricks at the X-games. I think of Candace Glover performing on American Idol or Pentatonix performing anything anywhere. I think of shooting stars and colorful sunsets. Yes, that’s awesome! Awesome is also Happy Gilmore crushing the golf ball and Tom Hanks’ performance in Castaway. It’s buy one get one free airfare and upgrades to first class. It’s a short line a the grocery store and making that green light just by the skin of your teeth. All awesome!
I digress. As I was saying, the awesome in Zephaniah 2 is different. It’s a terrifying awesome. It’s a jaw dropping, mouth hanging open, screaming with terror kind of awesome. It’s watching Sodom and Gomorrah burn or the world flood. It’s a blown away, can’t believe what is happening, oh snap! kind of awesome. God’s enemies were mocking His people and He was about to roll up His sleeves and not dance, but destroy. He would ruin their false gods and teach them who’s boss. That’s the kind of power God has over His enemies. That’s the kind of power in which Jesus overcame at the cross and made a show of the enemy.
God doesn’t display this terrifying awesomeness just for kicks. He doesn’t do it to show off. Rather, He does it to remind the world that He is the only one worthy of worship. And this is the response that God was going for in Zephaniah 2. He was going to destroy what they were trusting in so that they would turn to Him. He was going to be scary awesome so that they would wake up and realize who really holds the power. We ought to be aware that this God we serve is scary awesome, too!
*Let your scary awesome God have at your idols today. Let Him remove those things you are trusting in and make the awesome God your one and only.
Zephaniah 1:7 Be silent in the presence of the Lord GOD, for the Day of the LORD is near. Indeed, the LORD has prepared a sacrifice; He has consecrated His guests.
Some people like to talk… a lot. There are people who can talk their way in or out of anything. They can get a speeding ticket dropped or get into a theme park for free. I don’t know how they do it, but they obviously have the gift of talk and persuasion. Sometimes you just want to tell those people: shhhh. I don’t need to hear your excuses; I don’t need to hear you reasons. Just shhhh. And sometimes we are those people to God. We think we can talk our way back into His graces. We think we can convince Him that we aren’t really as bad as we are. We think that we have to prove ourselves to Him in order to be accepted. But He says, shhhh.
The reason? Because there’s nothing we can do to measure up. There is nothing we can do to make Him love us more. Indeed, the Lord has prepared a sacrifice; He has consecrated His guests. He sent His Son to sacrifice His life for you, so you didn’t have to do all that talking. You don’t have to try to persuade God into accepting you; you just need to accept His Son. No more carrying on. No more elaborate speeches or convincing arguments. Just grace. He provided it, you accept it. It’s that simple.
Acts 28:30-31 For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.
Today, we come to the concluding chapter in the book of Acts. There’s no real finish, no ending; rather, it is a story of beginnings. It is a story of how God birthed the New Testament church. So we end with a final look at Paul’s journey. From persecutor to prisoner, from destroyer to builder – that’s Paul. Our final look gives us a glimpse into the prisoner who was an evangelist. Or maybe it was the evangelist who was a prisoner. He traveled to Rome all expenses paid, even if it was in chains. But as he arrived, he gained favor and continued to do the work of the Lord.
Boldly and without hindrance… that’s how Paul preached. He didn’t look back at his imprisonment and fear being arrested. He didn’t wonder, after all he had been through, if God still had a plan for his life. He didn’t water down his message to keep himself safe. Instead, he preached boldly and without hindrance. There was nothing hindering him. He was no longer under the watch of a guard; he was no longer in chains. He had been set free from the prison that hindered his mission and was now free to live it to the full. So he spoke with a boldness that could get him arrested!
In assessing our own lives, we should ask ourselves if we speak of our God with the same conviction. We aren’t in chains, so why don’t we preach without hindrance? We probably don’t have all the reasons Paul does to shy away from the message, but do we lack boldness? I find in my own life that I let many things hinder me from being bold for the Lord. I make excuses and point to my own insecurities. Yet Paul, who had every reason to pull back, didn’t. Let this final verse in the book of Acts challenge us to answer the call to our life’s mission and to speak of our God with boldness and without hindrance.
*What are you letting hinder you?
Acts 27:9-11 9 Much time had been lost, and sailing had already become dangerous because by now it was after the Fast. So Paul warned them, 10 “Men, I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship and cargo, and to our own lives also.” 11 But the centurion, instead of listening to what Paul said, followed the advice of the pilot and of the owner of the ship.
Experts. It’s fun to talk to them, isn’t it? I’m not talking about people who think they are experts, I’m talking about the real deal – pilots who know how to fly planes, doctors who know how to perform surgery, and CEOs who know how to run a business. We can gain so much insight from these people, their training, and their experience. They have wisdom that we don’t have in their area. But there’s another expert who knows even more.
Paul was on a ship with 275 other guys when thinks started getting a bit sketchy. The captain of the ship said everything will be fine. Wouldn’t he know best? After all, he is the trained one. He is the guy with experience. But he was wrong; things weren’t fine. The storm got bad and the shipp crashed. How could Paul have known? He was just an ordinary guy, let alone a prisoner. No, Paul was not an expert. He did, however, have the expert living inside of him. Although the captain had training and experience, Paul had the Holy Spirit.
You need the Holy Spirit, too! You need his presence, his wisdom, his knowledge, and his power to walk through this life. You don’t have to be an expert. You don’t have to be trained. You don’t have to be equipped. If God calls you to something, the Holy Spirit will give you all that you need to walk it out. He is the real expert! Lean on him and ask him to guide you through all of life’s decisions. Let the words that come out of your mouth be his and let his expertise shine through you.
*Are you trying to live life without the real expert living in you?