First Things First (Haggai 1:1-15)


There is so much more to life than surviving in the ranks of the world, so why is it often so hard to break past the daily needs into the fulfilling and exciting parts of life?

The book of Haggai shows us that we can’t break through the surface level survival needs until we have our priorities straight.  God must be our foundation because nothing else is great enough to fulfill us.

Haggai was written after the exile (in the second year of King Darius)–there is peace among the nations and the Jews have returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple.  It was really a sacrifice for the Jews to return to Jerusalem because they were making so much money in Babylon.  So not too many returned, and those who did lost their nice houses and nice jobs, and fertile land and all that Babylon had given them.  (Hag 1:1)

When the book begins the Jews have stopped trying to rebuild the temple because they are frustrated and are instead just struggling to survive.  They say to themselves, “The time has not come for the house of the Lord to be rebuilt” because since ceasing the construction of the temple they’ve experienced even worse poverty.  But through the prophet Haggai, the Lord rebukes them saying, “Consider your ways!”  He shows them they are focusing on rebuilding their own houses before focusing on building the temple, and that is why the Lord Himself has caused them to suffer (agriculturally, economically, and so forth).  He says it’s like they’re putting money into a purse with holes, and exhorts them to get their priorities in order–to first rebuild the temple that He may be glorified.  (Hag 1:2-11)

We too, must have our priorities in order.  I don’t think it’s uncommon to find ourselves caught up in trying to make a better life for ourselves.  Perhaps, some of us have even experienced a similar move toward worse and worse situations in the attempt to pull together the basic pieces of our lives (or ministries).  Why?  The Lord answers here that it’s because we run to our own houses as His lies desolate–we turn to our own needs before we consider Him who has provided everything.

Fortunately, when Haggai gave this rebuke, the people listened, “obeyed the Lord” and “showed reverence for the Lord.”  And as a result, the Lord promised He would be with them and stirred up their spirits so that they would be productive in building the temple!  (Hag 1:12-15)

Notice, the promises the Lord gave the Jews were not physical, but of spiritual strengthening.  This is so simple: when God’s people demonstrate they love Him more than anything else, He provides them with all the tools to carry out their calling–above all, giving the Holy Spirit: God with us.  When the first things come first, the rest are easily carried out.


The Positive Side of Illness, Fatigue, and Physical Pain


I wrote this over a month ago in the midst of a physically trying moment and didn’t have the energy to edit it into a post.  I’m now 21 weeks pregnant, and have been feeling much better: nausea only in the evenings, less fatigue, and the comfort of feeling our little one move and remembering why I’m doing this.

This is what I wrote ten weeks ago:

I’ve pretty much been sick all eleven weeks of my pregnancy, minus a few great days here and there.  I’ve had the flu; I’ve had a long-lasting cough that threatened premature contractions; and the normal pregnancy symptoms (nausea, headaches, fatigue) have been enough to deal with on their own.

But while my tolerances have been stretched, this has also been an excellent opportunity for me to see my spiritual weaknesses and to fully depend on the Lord.

There is nothing like having the areas we most depend on ripped out from under us.  I’ve always been physically pretty healthy, and didn’t realize how much I’d pulled comfort and strength from my place of good health.  Having almost constant pain lately has been quite humbling.  I’ve also become aware of other areas in my spirit that need spiritual transformation, which likely would have gone unnoticed without this ‘forced fasting’.

For the first time, I think I’m understanding the spiritual directive to have joy within suffering–to count it my blessing when I experience trials (James 1:2-4, 2 Cor 12:7-10, Phil 4:11).  I’m not sure there’s a way to articulate this concept, but it is certainly a blessing to experience such a joy.  I have especially have fond memories of spending hours vomiting with intermittent praises to the Lord, and though I also don’t want that pain again anytime soon, it’s really quite amazing that I’d even think in such a way.

To my friends who are also facing physical trials: I want to encourage you not to pray immediately for healing or a ‘fixed’ circumstance, but to first press into the raw love of the Lord.  I have frequently been blessed with sudden immediate healing from the Lord upon praying–there is definitely a place for this and it can increase our faith in a miracle working God.  But let the Spirit lead you to pray before you assume you know what’s best.  I have occasionally been lead to pray for other things: for endurance and strength to face the trial, for the physical manifestation of the Lord’s love and peace, for wisdom and revelation of who He is, for heart, soul and spirit to be transformed into His nature, for the ability to rest in Him despite the circumstance, and so forth.  Sometimes the answers to heart issues are much more rewarding than the healing of the physical issues.

I pray we would not miss out on any of the Lord’s gifts, even when they come in painful packages.  There is a time and a season for everything under heaven (Eccl 3).