A big box! Yes, that is how I would describe it. It was a big square building with a small rectangular platform at the end. Two small rooms on either side of the platform were used mostly for storage. The carpet was of a non-distinct color from fading over many years: the stories it could tell. A large organ and a piano engulfed the left side of the platform and a sadly empty choir loft was center stage. The hymnals had seen better days, mostly torn from many years of wear. A few Bibles graced the back of the theater style chairs. The air was a bit musty, and very little light filtered through the small windows. A small but proper, wooden pulpit stood on the edge of the platform with a cross engraved on the front. As I entered the building, I took this all in. I was eight years old.
Quietly I sat in the third row with my mother and we were quickly greeted with a huge, gracious hug from the pastor. He had a smile that could light up a room and was a man of God. His dark eyes held a glint of humor and his tanned skin was weathered. His black suit was a touch wrinkled and his shoes, obviously too big for his small stature. This pastor had been placed by God, because no one would deliberately choose to pastor a church in this neighborhood. He loved the Lord and he loved the people of the Lord.
But there was, in the corner, a gentle giant…
He was tall and lanky. Many years my mother’s senior. At first glance, he was slightly unsteady on his feet. On closer observation, you could tell that, at one time there had been a stately elegance about him. Yet, we rarely saw him on his feet. We were far more likely to see him on his knees.
Before any of the congregation arrived, Brother Kolb, as he was known, would have found an altar. He did not require the wooden benches that served as altars in the sanctuary. No, they were up front, where everyone could observe someone in prayer. A small corner on the front row of chairs would do, and he knelt before the Lord, his God, and quietly cried out for holiness. He called out for the fire to consume the things in his life that were unpleasing to God. He wept for his unworthiness! When, finally, he stood, his face was glowing. I thought to myself, this must be what Moses looked like when he came down from the mountain, because Brother Kolb had surely seen the face of God.
Another man of God stood silently in the desert night, looking up at silvery stars that seemed to laugh at the simplicity of life on this planet, we call home. He felt the cool breeze touch his face and he closed his eyes. The vision was clear. There had to be a temple for the sacrifice, for the atonement of the sins of the people. “I am too old I guess,” he whispered to the twinkling stars. He was of the tribe of Levi, a priest. Ezra, reached to the rope tied around his waist to grasp the anointing vessel that was always at his side. The Shofar felt cold in his hands in the night air. He looked closely at the foundation of the new temple. It was not quite as large as Solomon’s temple, but would contain all of the required elements. So why was his heart stirring so?
The people had sacrificed for this and given what they could for a house for Almighty God to reside in. But was it enough? The men had climbed the mountain that day for the unveiling of the foundation. Young and old alike were invited. Ezra had laughed at the youthfulness and energy of the young men as they ran up the hill to get the first glance. They danced and they shouted and laughed at the promise fulfilled. It was a good day!
It took the elderly longer to climb. As they topped the hill and got their first look at the promise, the hearts of those that had seen the first temple were shaken. The young did not even notice, but the old men wept. They cried for what was and for what could have been. The young were simply glad to have a temple, but the old remembered…they remembered the glory…they remembered what was.
The wailing and the shouts so mixed together that day that none could distinguish between the two. But on this night, Ezra looked beyond the stars to the heavens and wept.
A great pendulum has swung. It is in constant motion, but we do not perceive the movement because we have acclimated to its sway. Just like, a frog placed in a pot of cold water, as the temperature rises we notice little until it is too late. Oblivious to the changes in spiritual temperature that brings an imbalance to our very minds, we simply enjoy swimming in the pot, until the swimming turns into sleeping and the sleeping turns into death. Then we become no more than a meal for Satan to devour. He loves his meals fat with little meat or muscle.
Pendulums have one thing that is consistent, they always return to where they started, but not without being acted on by an external power. In other words, if the pendulum swayed in one direction and it was not acted on by gravity it would continue on the one path. The object dangling precariously at the end of the pendulum would travel in one direction and always travel in that direction. Because of gravity, the pendulum sways back to its original position.
Gravity holds things to Earth like unseen glue that keeps everything anchored to the world. Do you know that gravity varies on different parts of the earth? It decreases with altitude to the extent that, if you are on top of a very tall building, a pendulum style clock may actually have to be reset to keep accurate time.
The church was meant to travel in one direction from a very high elevation, but our earthly nature, our gravity, keeps pulling us back to Earth. Because of the momentum that is gained from the fall, we swing too far and once again find ourselves in a nosedive. Brother Kolb was traveling in one direction, unaltered by the gravity of sin because he lived in constant surrender and constant repentance. His eyes were focused on the final lap of the race. He continued to pursue holiness and only his tears fell back to earth.
The altar of holiness is demanding, and yet so satisfying. It is the path of righteousness that is truly for His name’s sake and not our own. Our lives are not our own, but we were bought with a great sacrifice. A monumental price was paid for our souls. We have joined an army, and just as our troops do not live to themselves, but become the property of the US Military, we can no longer pretend to be soldiers in the Army of God. We must BE worthy soldiers in the Army of Almighty God, the property of God, and no longer of ourselves.
The church of the first century, or for that matter the church of just a century ago, is no longer recognizable in the lives of some Christians today. Rather than taking up our crosses, we raise our glasses to the grace that allows us our spiritual freedom. I believe in the grace of God. I believe that we are saved though faith and not of works. However, I also know that our personal salvation, as wonderful as it is, is not the final purpose of our lives. That would simply make the gospel a type of insurance.
The final purpose of our lives is at the pendulum swing that takes us into the great commission. “Go ye into the world and preach the gospel…” There in that quiet command is the purpose of our lives, but if the gravity of Earth pulls us plummeting toward a lifestyle that resembles everyone else, why would the world want what we have? They already live that lifestyle and they are completely miserable. Seeing no difference, they will not hear what we have to say until they see what we have to offer. If God commands us to go into the world does that not imply that we do not begin our journey with them? God does not need a church that relates. He needs a church that revives! Holiness still awakens the darkened heart, and those who seek it, hear the sound. They hear the call of the Shofar.
Excerpt taken from the eBook, “The Fate of Holiness” by Pamela Telgenhoff, available on Amazon and at FifthookMedia.com.