“You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.”–Matthew 16:18

I have always been fascinated with the limestone rock houses that dot the Midwest.  Many are vacant, wood sills and shingled roofs rotted away long ago, but the stone walls still stand, despite Kansas tornadoes and the unending wind.

Early pioneers were thrilled to find limestone deposits here.  They knew limestone was soft enough to be shaped, but became tougher when exposed to the elements.  They knew the hard work involved to build a rock house, but knew the finished product would be a strong shelter for their families.  They could build a house by an easier method–but pioneers knew they would have to live in the house they built.

Rock houses and their construction are a good example for our spiritual lives:

Limestone can be shaped. We sometimes come up with our own ideas about what constitutes good works, and pat ourselves on the back for doing good deeds, without ever once consulting God about whether we’ve spent our time the way God would have us spend our time. We need to ask God to chip away our pride and self-righteousness.  We don’t ask God to shape us into perfect people, but humble servants.

It takes hard work to build a house of rock.  Common sense tells us that when the wind and hail pound on the walls and lightning flashes and rain pours–that’s not a great time to try to fix the leaks and cracks in your house.  It’s during times of fair weather that we prepare our homes for the worst.

Many Christians, though, seem to think they don’t need much hard work to develop their faith–until a storm of life hits. Then they scramble to try to figure out God’s presence in their lives in the midst of the fury.

Anyone who’s ever sat in a hospital waiting room . . . or at the side of an open grave . . . or with a bankruptcy notice in their hand–those are the times you can hardly pray beyond “Please God, help”, let alone tend to your spiritual development.   Faith development takes intentional work, every day, in good times and bad.

You have to live in the house you build. Jesus says “Everyone who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on a rock.”  (Matt. 7:24)  We can try to take shortcuts in our relationship with Christ.  We can spend time pursuing our own interests–money or hobbies, careers and cars and comfortable lifestyles.  We’re good at justifying our unkindness towards other people.  We go in our houses and shut the door and claim our own private relationship with Christ while never acting on the commandment he taught: Love God, love your neighbor.

Jesus called Peter a rock on which He would build His church.  What kind of building material would Jesus call us?

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