From the Pastor’s Pen . . .
Doing the Impossible
“This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power,
but by My Spirit,’ Says the Lord of hosts.” (Zechariah 4:6)
If you’ve ever been given an impossible assignment, you probably have some sense of how Zerubbabel must have felt upon arrival in Jerusalem c. 539 BC. He was responsible for taking a city that had lain in ruins for nearly fifty years and making it habitable and functional again. His first order of business was to rebuild the temple of the Lord and restore the true worship of YHWH among the remnant of Israel that had returned from exile in Babylon. Laying the foundation of the temple took place relatively soon after arrival, despite external opposition. Completing it to a point of being serviceable for the ceremonies of worship, however, would require more than two decades.
Most of us can probably agree that dealing with the stones and timbers was, relatively speaking, the easy part of Zerubbabel’s assignment. Much more difficult, I imagine, was restoring the true worship of and loyalty to YHWH in the hearts of the people. It is not that the returning exiles were unfaithful to the Lord. In fact, they were the proverbial “cream of the crop,” being only a small percentage of the total number of exiles who had the option of returning to Judea. Most chose instead to remain comfortable, avoid the months-long journey, and continue to enjoy the pagan pleasures of Babylon. No, the returnees were the faithful, loyal, patriotic lovers of God and His people. But there was a problem. A handful of the oldest among the returnees had seen the first temple. However, most of the returnees had never even seen the temple, much less participated in the sacrifices prescribed in the Mosaic law. Many, in fact, had even intermarried with the pagans of Babylon. In short, most had no concept of what it meant, how it looked, and how they were to live as the people of God . . . but they were willing to work, and willing to learn.
The word of the Lord to Zerubbabel, given through the prophet Zechariah, was the key to completing the impossible task he had been providentially assigned. “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of Hosts.” No amount of power or might could have overcome the opposition Zerubbabel faced from the kingdoms surrounding Judea. No amount of political leverage could have orchestrated the support received from Medo-Persian kings. Only the work of the Spirit of God could have accomplished this. Even more to the point, no might nor power could have instilled in the hearts of the people “a mind to work” (Neh. 4:6), except the Spirit of God. No might or power could have moved the people to willingly purify their lives and families for the service of God as they did, nothing less than the Spirit of the Lord.
As Glenwood enters the year of our Lord 2023, we also enter a new phase of the Relaunch. Since the decision was taken in August 2022 to move forward, the Church Council has been meeting, on average, every two weeks to pray, research, discuss, share, and plan, and set priorities. In addition to the ministry priorities shared recently (reports from the Church Council are available at various points around the church), the council has now identified several high-priority projects to make the facility more welcoming to guests and regulars alike (along with a long list of smaller upgrades, repairs, and improvements). You’ll be hearing more about these soon.
As we begin implementing the recommendations of the Church Council, it may seem that we, like Zerubbabel have before us an impossible task. We may face opposition in the form of oppressive regulations or requirements. There may be active opposition from secular elements of the Oak Ridge community. We may find ourselves criticized or demonized by the culture for standing true to God’s word, the Bible. We may become discouraged, or at least uncomfortable, as we begin to discover what genuine, New Testament Christianity should look like in today’s increasingly post-Christian world. At the same time, we may find ourselves tempted to be critical of brothers and sisters in Christ who are perhaps more reluctant to embrace a deeper understanding of what it means to be a true, active follower of Jesus Christ. We may face these kinds of obstacles and many more as we seek the become the people of God that He calls us to be. And our task may seem impossible. Unless . . .
Unless, that is, we remember God’s message to Zerubbabel, and I believe His message to Glenwood as well: “’Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord.” You see, this is not merely a promise to Zerubbabel, it is a spiritual principle, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12). Every lack, every obstacle, every form of opposition, is truly a spiritual problem. And spiritual battles are only won by the Spirit of God.
Our task is much like that of Zerubbabel in another way: It mattered little how quickly or how beautifully rebuilt was the temple of Zerubbabel, if it was not accompanied by a genuine renewal of worship and heartfelt service to God in the lives of God’s people, many of whom had never experienced it. The same is true of the Relaunch at Glenwood this year: It does not matter how beautifully we update our facility, how well designed are our ministries and programs, or how wonderfully presented our worship services, if not accompanied by a genuine renewal of our hearts and a fresh, spirit-led approach to living as the people of God living out the Great Commission. If our hearts didn’t need fixin’ and focusing, we wouldn’t need to relaunch. But be of good cheer! If our hearts couldn’t be fixed or refocused, God would never have brought us this far. We are seeing God answer prayers and move the Relaunch forward in amazing ways, and that on a weekly, sometimes daily, basis, demonstrating that God is with us, and nothing good is impossible with God. “’Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord.”
Blessings, and Blessed New Year to you all,