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Unless....

Have you ever had one of those nights when you just couldn't sleep?  You tossed and turned, just barely getting in some "naps" along the way.  I usually sleep the first four hours pretty soundly and get a great deal of my rest within those four hours.  Then I find myself sleeping "lightly" for the remainder of my night - usually another three hours.  God gives rest to his kids - the secret is to stop long enough to understand and enjoy the rest.  I actually do very well on seven hours of "physical" rest, but there are times when it seems like I don't take the time to get the "spiritual" rest I need.  I am setting myself up for a huge crash whenever this occurs.  You might just say I experience one of those "unless" moments - unless I stop, I will run headlong into something I'd probably not want to face!  How about you? Experienced any of those "unless" moments in your life lately?

If God doesn’t build the house, the builders only build shacks. If God doesn’t guard the city, the night watchman might as well nap.  
It’s useless to rise early and go to bed late, and work your worried fingers to the bone.  Don’t you know he enjoys giving rest to those he loves? (Psalm 127:1-2 MSG)

The idea of "unless" is the presentation of an "exception".  When I have had computer crashes, I get this screen which gives me one of those "exception" messages - if you want to start "normally", hit this key, or you can start in "safe mode".  It is an "unless" moment - you can start "normally" UNLESS you think something more major is going on and you need to take time to fix it before you do!  Today, we are faced with two "unless" moments:  Unless the Lord builds a house and Unless the Lord protects the city.

Unless the Lord builds the house....we get shacks!  In order to understand this, we need to stop long enough to consider what goes into building.  

First, there are plans and designs.  Without these, no amount of building actually will produce anything of significant and lasting quality.  God actually has plans for our lives, but I wonder how long we stop to consider allowing him to unfold those plans for us.  The other day I was on my way to work and saw a workman's drafted plans had fallen out of his truck - they were in the middle of the street.  I thought for a moment how bad his day was going to go without those plans.  If we stop to consider it, UNLESS we know and follow the plans God has for us, we will only be building shacks!  

Second, the building needs an allocation of resources.  No building actually occurs with only the plans - the builder needs the resources to build with. God provides the resources we need in the person of his Son, Jesus Christ.  Yet, so many times we choose to "allocate" resources within our lives ourselves.  The rub...these resources are far inferior to those provided by the master craftsman.  

Third, there must be a provision of a building crew - no building actually occurs with just two hands.  Some of the tasks might be manageable with only two hands, but try holding up a wall on your own, nailing it down, and starting on the trusses of the roof all without any assistance.  God's building crew consists of his Holy Spirit as foreman and his ministering angels (his other kids) in our lives. We need the entire crew to get the job done.

Fourth, there will be times of periodic inspection - this is just part of building. The purpose of the inspection is not to shut us down, but to verify the progress of the work according to the plans.  The inspector actually examines the plans, compares the work done "to date" and validates the building is true to the plans, or needs some subtle adjustments to ensure completion in a correct manner.

Fifth, the building is fitted with decoration - a form of adornment.  God doesn't just put up a shell of a building - he outfits it with the finest of interior and exterior design.  You might say he adorns us - with garments of praise and robes of righteousness.

Sixth, the builder focuses on the landscaping.  Once the majority of the building is completed, he turns his attention to sculpting the perfect "landscape" which not only provides protection, but gives us a little sense of his watchfulness over our lives.  A well-planned garden will provide much enjoyment.

Last, the final building is inhabited by its new owners.  The splendor is greater than ever before when the "purpose" of the building actually begins to accommodate the one for whom it was built in the first place.  

Unless the Lord protects a city...the night watchman might as well nap. Having pulled guard duty in the military, I know how shameful it is to fall asleep while on duty.  Letting your guard down for even a short period of time can open up the "guarded place" to all kinds of riff-raff.  We can station all kinds sentries in our lives:

- Those that act as dividing walls protecting us from outside influence - but we never grow in God's wisdom and the choices of our will are not challenged when we put up these walls.

- The sentry of self-will, keeping all others and all manner of health from the benefits of the protection within.  As long as we determine to be the sentry over our own lives, we limit the potential of the grandeur of the city itself.

- The sentry of pride which will never stand the test of hard winds and stampeding armies.  Pride is merely a display - take away all the fancy facades and you are left with nothing. 

God's protection over our lives cannot be short-circuited.  We need his skill to bring us outside of the walls we erect, so we can experience the challenges he has designed to help us grow.  We need his gentle graces to break down the self-determination of "personal control" - for no amount of "personal control" ever produces the products of grace in our lives.  We need his strong arm to hold at bay the desires of our flesh to present only the superficial facades of change - he looks much deeper and wants what he has created within to be on display, not our pretend images of his life-transformation.

Unless...a powerful word of contrast.  Unless...anything less than is just not good enough for one of his kids.  Just sayin!

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