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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...




The Mark of a Messenger

By George O. Wood
Oct. 23, 2011

The following is an excerpt of General Superintendent George O. Wood’s keynote message presented Aug. 2 in Phoenix at the 54th General Council of the Assemblies of God.

On the first day of the sixth month of the second year of King Darius — Aug. 29, 520 B.C., to be exact — Haggai preached his first of four short sermons that in four months brought a complete turnaround in God’s people from apathy to accomplishment.

Haggai’s sermon series includes three big Ds — Delay, Discouragement and Defilement — that keep us from accomplishing the fourth big D — Destiny.


Delay

Haggai’s opening verbal salvo is: “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘These people say, “The time has not yet come for the Lord’s house to be rebuilt.”’” (1:2, NIV).

Sixty-six years earlier, the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem, including the Temple of Solomon, and the people of God were carried off to a strange land.

In 538 B.C. almost 50,000 people led by Ezra returned, intending to rebuild the temple, and actually laid the foundation for it. Then they grew fearful because of opposition from their enemies and stopped the construction. Eighteen years passed. Imagine starting construction on a new church building, getting the foundation in, and then nothing happens for 18 years. How would you ever rouse the congregation to finish the job?

That’s the daunting task facing Haggai.

The Lord of hosts is not happy with His people. He’s had it with their excuses.

They were in the midst of a great recession caused by drought and failed crops. God had blown away everything because they had not put Him first.

Let’s leap out of 520 B.C. into A.D. 2011.

What matters to God most right now? What does He want us to do as individual believers and collectively as the Assemblies of God?

We have our fourfold reason for being: evangelism, worship, discipleship and compassion. For the local church, we have the Acts 2 Model of a Healthy Church: connect, grow, serve, go, worship. For strategy we have five Core Values: passionately proclaim Christ, strategically invest in the next generation, vigorously plant and revitalize churches, skillfully resource our Fellowship, and fervently pray.

What have you started that you have stopped? What vision did God put in your heart at one time that has been put on the shelf? What dreams did the Lord give you that now seem dead?

You may answer back, “Oh, I don’t want to think about that. I’ve quit dreaming about what could be. I heard the Lord once, but I don’t hear Him clearly anymore, if at all. I’m in the routine of life. My todays are like my yesterdays, and my tomorrows will be like my todays. I’ve settled down. I have a roof over my head. I have an income to get by on. I’m taken care of, and I’m burned out doing the Lord’s work. The time has not yet come for me to do anything differently than I’m doing now. I’m living in my own paneled house, in my own paneled, walled-off world.”

If that’s what you are thinking, you are experiencing delay.

The Spirit, through Haggai’s preaching, turns our focus away from our circumstances to the God who is all-powerful and able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine.

What is the antidote to defeat? What is the jumpstart for a people or a minister that has begun a good work but not progressed? The antidote is this: “The One who is I Am has sent you.”

“I Am” is the word God gave to Haggai to arouse a defeated people from their slumber. It’s the same word He gives to you: “Then Haggai, the Lord’s messenger, gave this message of the Lord to the people: ‘I am with you,’ declares the Lord” (1:13).

Over the past few years we have lived in challenging economic times. We could sit back and say, “It’s not the time to do church planting. It’s not the time to focus on bringing a sick church back to health. It’s not the time to expand our colleges and universities and Chi Alpha ministries. It’s not the time to take on more missionaries. It’s not the right time to add a staff member or a ministry. It’s not the right time to build.”

Take all those excuses and lay them against what the Lord Almighty says: “These people say, ‘The time has not yet come.’” Notice that God does not call them “My people,” but “These people.” Whenever we shrink back in unbelief and do not exercise faith, the Lord says, “You’re not acting like My people.”

How do you make your mark? Something must happen in your heart. There must be a sense that this is more than a good idea, that this is God’s idea. And we know it’s from the Lord because it’s rooted in His Word!

Haggai preached his first sermon on Aug. 29. His impassioned words resonated with the people, and on Sept. 21, twenty-three days later, they began work on the house of God (1:15).


Discouragement

It’s not long, however, before the second D sets in — discouragement.

We are so often better at starting than finishing.

It’s easy to get discouraged when we don’t see progress.

Have you ever started something, and almost immediately — you got whammed.

I’ve found that this is a very common experience when you begin something in the Kingdom. You begin with great vision and enthusiasm, and then harsh reality sets in. Instead of going forward, you’re going backward. Things aren’t working the way you thought they would. Opposition appears in the form of unsupportive people and unfavorable circumstances.

The enemy knows it’s much easier to defeat a ministry, an outreach, a building program when it’s in the concept stage, the start-up period. So he’s going to throw the kitchen sink at you in order to discourage you and make you quit.

That’s exactly the reason for Haggai’s second sermon in chapter 2:1-9.

Discouragement has set in all over the place. Some old-timers came out and looked at the beginnings of temple restoration and said, “We remember when Solomon’s Temple stood here. It was so grand, so beautiful. But what you are building is nothing compared to that.”

One of the problems we face in ministry is the tendency of some to glorify the good old days. I want to tell you that some of those good old days weren’t all that good.

Sure, Solomon’s Temple was gorgeous — but how conveniently the old-timers had forgotten the denunciation from the prophets regarding what was happening in the temple. Read Ezekiel 8, and you will find God’s disgust with life in the temple: “Son of man, do you see what they are doing — the utterly detestable things the house of Israel is doing here, things that will drive me far from my sanctuary? But you will see things that are even more detestable” (8:6).

Today, I see God at work powerfully in our midst. A whole new generation has emerged with a great passion for the Lord, and they are going to fulfill the vision our founders declared at the Second General Council in Chicago in November 1914: “We commit ourselves to Him for the greatest evangelism the world has ever seen!”

We are going to believe God for a great spiritual awakening across America, for multiplied thousands of new churches and revitalized churches to reach into every city, every suburb, every small town, every neighborhood — believing Christ is going to build His Church and confirm His Word with signs and wonders that follow. There is going to be a renewed passion in our Fellowship for missions, for evangelism, for discipleship, for compassion, for worship, for church planting, for church revitalization, for Pentecostal higher education, for all our ministries across the board.

How do I know this?

Because God’s Word is true. Lift the words of Haggai off the page and apply them to yourself. Look at the phrases Haggai recites repetitively:

“‘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” (2:4).

The Lord uses the words “Be strong” three times. When we are not strong, we fear. We must heed the word Jesus spoke to His disciples in the storm: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid” (Mark 6:50). The personal presence of the Lord gives courage, determination and conviction that He will not permit His cause to fail.

God speaks through Haggai to the leader, to the priest, and to the people. God Almighty gives two commands and a promise. The commands are, “Be strong and work!” The promise is, “I am with you.” That same promise was made by Haggai at the conclusion of his first sermon; now, seven weeks later, it is repeated. It’s a promise still being repeated today.

In one of the earliest issues of the Pentecostal Evangel, from 1913 (one year before the General Council was organized), I found this statement: “If I think of the world, I get the impress of the world; if I think of my trials and sorrows, I get the impress of my trials and sorrows; if I think of my failures, I get the impress of my failures; if I think of Christ, I get the impress of Christ.”

We do not serve a weak Jesus, a powerless Jesus, a Jesus who forgets His promises or abandons His people and His work. The more we focus on Him rather than our circumstances, the stronger we become. Our watchword must be, “He is able!”

 “‘I will fill this house with glory,’ says the Lord Almighty. … ‘The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘And in this place I will grant peace,’ declares the Lord Almighty” (2:7,9).

It’s a staggering promise.

The glory of God, the Shekinah, which appeared at the dedication of the first temple, never is recorded as being present in the second temple.

So when exactly did the glory of the second temple surpass the first? When Jesus, the Lord of glory, came into its precincts!

The words of Psalm 24:7-10 came to pass with Jesus’ entry into the temple:

“Lift up your heads, O you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O you gates; lift them up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is he, this King of glory? The Lord Almighty — he is the King of glory.”

God fulfilled the promise He made through Haggai that the best was yet to come. The negative people of Haggai’s day couldn’t see that because they were looking back. If they had looked up to God, then they could have looked forward to what God was going to do.

The cure to discouragement is to stop listening to the naysayers and start listening to Him — the Lord of hosts, the Lord Almighty!


Defilement

Haggai’s third short sermon is found in 2:10-19, on defilement, transitioning quickly into an amazing promise.

Haggai looks back to the time before the people had begun their rebuilding effort. They were neglecting God’s work. Their priorities and hearts were not right; whatever they offered God was defiled.

But, Haggai says, “Things are different now.” The people have demonstrated months of commitment to the work of restoration. Responding to Haggai’s passionate preaching, the people had repented. “The whole remnant of the people obeyed the voice of the Lord their God and the message of the prophet Haggai, because the Lord their God had sent him” (1:12).

What a great word to speak to a demoralized and declining church that has repented for not fulfilling God’s intention for it: “From this day on I will bless you” (2:19)!


Destiny

Haggai’s shortest sermon — the destiny sermon — is just three verses long (2:20-22).

Haggai’s closing words are amazing. God chooses Zerubbabel, the grandson of the disgraced Jehoiachin.

It is God’s way of saying, “I’m not done with the line of David after all.” That signet ring of royalty, proverbially speaking, is handed down from one generation to another by those in the genealogy recorded in Matthew’s Gospel until … it stops on the finger of Jesus.

Jesus emphatically declares at the end of His ministry, following His crucifixion and resurrection, as He prepares to ascend to heaven: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18).

Those are the words of One who holds the signet ring of God — the One who has authority to forgive sin, heal diseases, baptize in the Holy Spirit, cleanse hearts, deliver addicts, open prison doors, and raise the dead to life. And He shall reign until all enemies are under His feet.

Our theme at this General Council is “Make Your Mark on Our Movement.” It’s not really our Movement. It’s God’s. However, we all want to make our life count for the Lord, and so we will make our mark on our families, friends, churches, ministries and communities.

As we stand on the brink of the future, I want to encourage each of you: Now is not the time to draw back. Now is not the time to live in our own paneled houses. This is God’s hour. The Spirit has put something deep into your own heart. Don’t delay in responding! Don’t let discouragement keep you from staying at your task! Don’t let others’ bad example or negative attitudes defile you!

From this day on, God is here to bless you. The destiny He has for you is to lead you from victory to victory — all the way to the throne room in heaven. May the Holy Spirit empower each of us to make our mark in our service to Christ!

View this entire message at agtv.ag.org/gc11-tuesday-night-service.


GEORGE O. WOOD is general superintendent of the Assemblies of God.

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