" See, I am doing a new thing" - my latest picture, hot off the press!
'Hibiscus schizopetalus' the label said. Wow! There's a name to conjure with! Googling it, I discovered a flower that thinks it's a lantern - a very beautiful sight! Check it out for yourselves! Over Christmas (seems a long time ago now!) I also discovered a new way of making a cheese sauce. I'm sure some of you out there reading this are very proficient in several ways of cheese sauce making, but I've always known one way which has served me well and I've stuck to it - until now! I love discovering new things, new ways to do things, creating new ways to paint - bringing in the new. Although done at any time, January can be a pivotal month of looking back at the year just gone and of looking forward to the new year ahead. What was good and needs to continue or repeating? What was not so good and definitely needs pruning out? Is there something new that needs to be brought into my life? What about that new fitness program I was thinking about???!
About 1000 BC, King David found himself in such a moment:
'Before long, the King made himself at home and God gave him peace from all his enemies. Then one day, King David said to Nathan the prophet, 'Look at this, here I am comfortable in a luxurious house of cedar and the Chest of God sits in a plain tent.'
Nathan told the King, 'Whatever is on your heart, go and do it. God is with you.'
But that night the word of God came to Nathan saying, 'Go and tell my servant David: This is God's word on the matter: You're going to build a 'house' for me to live in? Why, I haven't lived in a 'house' from the time I brought the children of Israel up from Egypt till now. All that time I've moved about with nothing but a tent.......So here is what you're to tell my servant David:.......God Himself will build you a house! When your life is complete and you're buried with your ancestors, then I'll raise up your child, your own flesh and blood to succeed you and I'll firmly establish His rule. He will build a House to honour me and I will guarantee His Kingdom's rule permanently. I'll be a Father to him and He'll be a son to me.'(2 Samuel 7:1-6,11-14 The Message)
What a wonderful play on words! With the Lord's help, David had built Israel and established Jerusalem as its capital. He had built himself a fine home. So what was his next move - surely a House for the Lord! But the Lord had another 'house' in view - the royal dynasty of King David and the Lord's own future Kingdom. The Lord's words would be fulfilled in the Kingship of Jesus Christ, born from the house of David (see Matthew 1:1). God's horizons are vast! Like King David, we only see the immediate and tentatively plan for the future, and very often miss what's right under our noses!
Fast Forward in time to the apostle Paul who had the awesome job of explaining the Gospel, mainly to ordinary folk who knew nothing about Jesus Christ, but were looking for a different way to live from what was around them. A bit like you and me really........sometimes Paul would use the analogy of buildings and building stones to help explain the gospel. Here, in a letter to the Ephesian church, he used the idea of the Temple in Jerusalem, much in use at the time.
'He (Jesus) came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through Him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Himself as the Chief Cornerstone.
In Him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a Holy Temple in the Lord. And in Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit.' (Ephesians 2:17-22 NIV)
To the core of his being Paul understood Jesus' words, 'Surely I am with you always to the very end of the age.' (Mt 28:20) and also fully understood that Jesus' Kingdom had nothing to do with buildings. The Lord is a People Person, not a buildings person. The Lord is bothered about folk like you and me - whom Paul calls 'foreigners and aliens'. The Lord is still building His Kingdom on the firm foundation of the lives and teachings of the apostles and prophets. But the most important 'stone' - the 'Cornerstone' on which everything depends, is Christ Himself - the God who simply loved and loves unconditionally and sacrificially. What better foundation is there?
But Paul tells us there's more:
Those who are following Jesus are 'being built together'. Jesus spoke Peace - that is, unity and working together in harmony. However, in order that the parts really do get built together, they have to fit! In reality, that means being shaped, honed and perhaps having a few untidy corners cut off! But all of this is done 'in Him' - in Christ - in Love.
Buried underneath these words of Paul is an invitation to come, belong and follow Jesus. So while you're considering having a 'prune' of your diary, why not think about this - what are you building your life upon right now? What are your foundations and what do they look like? Perhaps it's time to consider Paul's invitation.........................