Thursday, February 2, 2012

"It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time"

When I was about nine years old, I was inspired to take my bmx bike apart. I got out some of my dad’s tools, a 7/16th and a crescent wrench was about all you needed to dismantle a dirt bike. I started to take off wheels, handlebars, chains. I completely dismantled the peddles, and even had a set of greasy bearings scattered in the lawn as I stepped back to observe my handy work. Once I finished, an obvious question came to mind, “what next?” The answer: “wait for Dad to come home and help me put it back together.” I remember my dad’s response being full of both grace and disbelief. “Why did you take it apart?” he asked.
I felt a little like Vin (Steve McQueen‘s character in The Magnificent Seven) who was asked by Calvera (the bad guy who was terrorizing the little village that the magnificent seven were trying to defend) why he would take a job helping these poor farmers. Vin responded, “It's like a fellow I once knew in El Paso. One day, he just took all his clothes off and jumped in a mess of cactus. I asked him that same question, ‘Why?’” Calvera pressed him for the answer, and Vin responded with a smirk, “He said, ‘It seemed to be a good idea at the time.’”

(If you haven’t seen the movie, go watch it right now and then come back and finish the blog.)

At any point in our lives, a person constantly faces the nagging question, “is this where I am suppose to be?” Is there some other place I should live, some other job I am suppose to be doing, or is their some other state of being that is really what I should be experiencing? Am I really doing what I am suppose to be doing? Like Vin in The Magnificent Seven, we are asking ourselves the same question…“what am I doing here?” When this question comes up, it is nice to have a copy of the script, to know that in the end Calver (the bad guy) will get his comeuppance and the village people will get saved.*

*Note: Sometimes it is nice to not have the script if you’re one of the guys that dies in the end. (I’m not saying that happens for all you who still need to see this movie, but if it did, it is less fun to see the script.)

Building a Temple

“The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also complete it. Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you. For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel.
Zechariah 4:9-11

The Bible is our script (that‘s why we call it scripture, heh, heh), and it gives us the bigger perspective we need to understand our situation in life. Sometimes I feel like my life is like my old bike, and I am standing and staring at what once was whole and is now scattered all over the lawn. The people of Israel kind of had this feeling. Their kingdom had been overrun, their temple smashed and they had taken a long journey back to their homeland to try and rebuild their lives. They started a temple, but after a whole-lot-a work, they stood back and thought to themselves, “this stinks!” (That’s a paraphrase.) The temple was nowhere near the awesome temple that Solomon had built. Then they decided to give up and start working on their own little houses. They despised the fact that the temple would never again be awesome and they were ready to give up. Whatever our lives are suppose to be about as Christians, they should be about the work of building the temple and not our own houses. But if our view of the temple is what we can build in our lifetime, with our plumb line, then we will surely find disappointment.

Zerubbabel (the guy in charge of the building of the temple) did not only have a goofy name, but he was turning out to be a far cry from Solomon. God had something different in mind, and He reminded the Israelites that the temple was not something they were building, but something He was building. And that Solomon’s temple was not the greatest thing, no, God was going to use the small things to recreate something far greater.
What this passage is telling us first-off, is not to despise the seemingly small things going on in life. Whether in your marriage, in your parenting, in your relationship, at the job you hate, at the church meetings that bore you, at the worship services you think are lame or in any other area of life that seems far from what you imagine it should be.

The Plumb Line

As I pondered Zechariah 4:10, I began asking the question of “what is going on with the plumb line?” The plumb line represents the tool used to make sure the building is straight and true. It is the key to this passage, and the key to a perfect temple. The key is not Solomon, or Zerubbabel , or me or you or any particular work we may doing, but that it is derived by the accuracy of the tool in the builder’s hand, the plumb line. The temple is not a building, as good protestants we all know that. But the temple is also not the ministry, it is not the church organization, it is not a worship service, conference or particular act (such as praying, dancing, singing, worshiping or serving.) The temple is the people of God, not what the people of God are doing, and the temple is being built by Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit. The worse thing that Jesus said to the leaders of Israel, which caused them to seethe inside, was that He could tear down their temple and rebuild a new one in three days. What Jesus is essentially saying is that he is the plumb line Amos was talking about in Amos 6.* He is the one who is perfect, the very being of God Himself who created the world and called it good. (John 1) And it is in him we find both the power to be forgiving, and the power to be His temple no matter where we are at in life.

Peter expounded on this in his letter to the church who found themselves persecuted and in difficult times. He reminded them of not only what the prophets spoke of, but also of what Jesus had opened his mind to imagine. A temple that consisted of more than brick and mortar, and had more stones than a million of Solomon’s temples. The entirety of God’s people living, worshiping, creating, and loving in perfect accord with the perfection they were given by Christ who stands at the center. (The Corner Stone)

1 Peter 2:4-6
As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For it stands in Scripture:
“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone,
a cornerstone chosen and precious,
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

When the focus of my life becomes fixated on my circumstances, then my moods, my sense of identity, my satisfaction in life rises and falls with how I perceive my situation to be. Go has been reminding me not to forget that my grand purpose is to be the stone cut by Christ wherever I am, and that the temple is not something I am helping Christ build, but rather the larger structure of believers, past, present and future, that I belong with. It is the context for my sanctification and my life in the very present, not always easy, or ideal, but it is, right now, with my family, at my work, yes, today in Kalocsa.

Our Family

I am not making an argument that our physical location, and our daily activities are not important. A big question our family is trying to answer is “what is the next step God is leading us to take?” This is a very real question to us and it includes many variables including, what has God laid on our hearts, how can we use our giftings, what is best for our kid’s education, etc… But who we are as stones in God’s temple should be the light that sheds truth on the meaning of our physical location. If the present circumstances begin to shed its light, or rather darkness, on our identity, then the results will be a desperate attempt to build a new little house, instead of working on the temple. The reality that Peter reminds believers is that one day it is all going to come together. We will be made perfect, just as Christ is perfect. We will be united, millions of believers from ages past, gathered together in perfect unity. Our pride will be gone, our hope will be met, and we will witness something both glorious and wonderful. (Romans 8:18)

*Amos 7:6-8
The LORD relented concerning this:
“This also shall not be,” said the Lord GOD.

This is what he showed me: behold, the Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb line, with a plumb line in his hand. And the LORD said to me, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A plumb line.” Then the Lord said,
“Behold, I am setting a plumb line
in the midst of my people Israel;
I will never again pass by them;