We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have access by faith into this grace in which we stand through him, and we boast in the hope of God’s glory. … This hope doesn’t put us to shame, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Romans 5:1b-2, 5

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On the twenty-first day of the seventh month, the Lord’s word came through Haggai the prophet: Say to Judah’s governor Zerubbabel, Shealtiel’s son, and to the chief priest Joshua, Jehozadak’s son, and to the rest of the people:

Who among you is left who saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Doesn’t it appear as nothing to you? So now, be strong, Zerubbabel, says the Lord. Be strong, High Priest Joshua, Jehozadak’s son, and be strong, all you people of the land, says the Lord. Work, for I am with you, says the Lord of heavenly forces. As with our agreement when you came out of Egypt, my spirit stands in your midst. Don’t fear.

Haggai 2:1-5

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The university where I work recently constructed a new football stadium, dismantling the old one in the process. On the last day of demolition, a crowd gathered in the rain to watch, and more than a few had tears in their eyes as they remembered times shared with family and friends throughout 63 seasons there.

The people of Israel confronted even stronger memories as they returned to Jerusalem after 70 years in exile. One of their first priorities was to rebuild the ruined temple, but after a month’s construction, the site only discouraged the people. Their new project just couldn’t match their memories.

The Lord, though, brings encouragement through the prophet Haggai. God gives the people three instructions: be strong (repeated three times!), work, and don’t fear. But God doesn’t just give the people a list of commands; God also offers them reasons for hope: “I am with you…. My spirit stands in your midst.” Assured of God’s presence, the people could look ahead in faith, even while their immediate circumstances offered little hope.

Joshua Hays

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God, thank you for your presence with me through your Holy Spirit. Give me strength to look beyond what I see with my eyes so that I can do your work in the world without fear. Amen.

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Go now,

looking back on what the Lord has done for you,

looking ahead in faith to what the Lord has promised,

looking around you for those in need of hope and love.

Joshua Hays

Joshua Hays is a researcher at Baylor University’s Institute for Studies of Religion and author of two books. He lives in Waco, Texas, with his wife Rebecca Poe Hays and their rescue dog Cooper.

Reflections on the Way: Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing

Ken Medema

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