From Praying the Names of Jesus Week Twelve, Day Four
Stones were used for building altars, homes, palaces, and temples. When "capstone" or "cornerstone" is mentioned in the Bible, it refers to a particularly important stone that held two rows of stones together in a corner, one that stabilized the structure at the foundation, or one that formed the keystone over an arch or at the top of a roof parapet. In order to hold the structure together, the cornerstone had to be perfectly fitted for the task, both strong and well shaped. A flawed or poorly cut stone would compromise the building's integrity.
Jesus is the Cornerstone or Capstone to which we are joined as living stones. Together we form a spiritual house in which God can dwell.
As the foundation stone on which God is building his kingdom, Jesus is strong enough to hold everything together. He is also the fitting conclusion to all God's work. When you pray to him as the Cornerstone, you are praying to the One on whom you can base your life.
Jesus looked directly at them and asked, "Then what is the meaning of that which is written: ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone'?" >Luke 20:17
Praying the Name
Unless the Lord builds the house,
its builders labor in vain.
Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash. >Matthew 7:24 - 27
Reflect On: >Matthew 7:24 - 27.
Praise God: Because he cannot be shaken.
Offer Thanks: For all the ways Christ has steadied you in times of trouble.
Confess: Any fear you may have about the future.
Ask God: To increase your confidence in his love and care.
A few years ago I signed up for a calculus course. I had little choice in the matter since it was a prerequisite for an MBA program I was pursuing at the time. Worse yet, before I took calculus, I had to take trigonometry; and before I took trigonometry, I had to take Algebra II. I began to realize that studying math has a lot in common with building pyramids. You have to lay the foundation precisely, proceeding step by step. If you don't understand concepts sequentially, in their proper order, you won't be able to proceed to the next level. There's no fudging, no skipping things. It's not like taking a literature course. You can enjoy reading Jane Austen, for instance, regardless of whether you have ever read Shakespeare. In mathematics as in pyramid building, all the blocks have to be carefully laid out, one on top of the other in proper alignment.
This principle of building a strong foundation underlies much of life. Build your house on a sandy cliff and it may one day come toppling down. Build your marriage on distorted expectations and it may not last. Build your investments on faulty information and they may soon amount to nothing. The truth is, we often do not know how sound anything is until it is tested by various kinds of stress and trouble. But how on earth can we withstand all the troubles that may assail us in a lifetime? We can't possibly plan for every contingency — or can we?
Jesus tells us there is a way. But it is not a way that squares with our own intuition about how the world works. It has nothing to do with building on our personal strengths, insights, or efforts. Self-reliance isn't a strategy for ultimate success. Nor can we build on the institutions of this world, however good they might be — marriage, family, higher education, work. If we want to build something that in the end will last, there is only one way. Forsake ourselves and follow Christ. We put our faith in Jesus and express that faith daily through what Eugene Peterson has called (borrowing a phrase from the philosopher Nietzsche) "a long obedience in the same direction." That's how our lives become joined to the One who is the tested cornerstone, perfectly shaped, solid, and strong.
Friends of mine lived on the top floor of a high rise in Mexico City. In the early morning of September 19, 1985, they awoke to a massive earthquake (8.1 on the Richter scale). Their building swayed crazily, like a length of wire that had been twanged by a giant hand. Though more than eight hundred buildings — hospitals, hotels, schools, businesses — collapsed, killing more than ten thousand people, their building held. They were fortunate, blessed in an extraordinary way.
When I think of how God holds us when we build our lives on his Son, I think of that building. There will be times when we will feel shaken to the core, perhaps even terrified as my friends were. Belonging to Jesus does not make us immune to tragedy. But basing our lives on him through faith will enable us to stand rather than collapse in the face of unbearable pressure. Our standing will have nothing to do with luck but everything to do with where we are standing — on the cornerstone, tested and true.
Ask yourself today whether you need to shift your priorities in order to stand more squarely with Christ. As you let God's Spirit probe your heart, take up the words to the old hymn "How Firm a Foundation":
How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in his excellent word!
What more can he say than to you he hath said,
You, who unto Jesus for refuge have fled?
Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid;
I'll strengthen and help thee, and cause thee to stand
Upheld by my righteous,
The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I'll never, no never, no never forsake.
Two of Ann Spangler's most-loved books have been released in paperback: Praying the Names of God and Praying the Names of Jesus.
These books help us understand the biblical context in which these names and titles were revealed, and help us gain a more intimate knowledge of the Father and of the Son.