Friday, September 16, 2011

Zealous for His name

Ezekiel 39:25
“Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I will now bring Jacob back from captivity and will have compassion on all the people of Israel, and I will be zealous for my holy name."

What does it mean that God is "zealous" for His name? Another translation says that He is "jealous" for His name. What does this mean?
In the context of Ezekiel, God is saying that He will prove to Israel and the nations exactly who He is. In His omnipotence He will act. In His justice He will divide. In His wrath He will punish the wicked. In His mercy He will gather what was scattered. In His compassion He will bind up the wounded. In His wisdom He will establish His people. In His omnipresence He will guard His holy mountain. In His grace He will proclaim His way. In His goodness He will bless. In His love He will discipline. In His generosity He will pour out His Holy Spirit. In His sovereignty He will secure His own. In His Glory He will restore what was lost.
God is not silent. He does act and His actions are proclamations of His character. To say that God is good does not describe His actions or His attribute but His very nature. God is not good because of what He does. What God does is good because He is the definition of good. And He is passionate about the proclamation of His nature, His character, His name. All that He does is so that He, in all His glory, might be known and renowned.
So what would it look like if I was jealous and zealous for the name of the Lord? How would my actions, words and thoughts change if my goal in life was to bring glory to the One who is truly glorious and worthy of glory? What would it look like to remove me from the spotlight of my life and turn my efforts toward shining a light on God?

Lord - teach me to be zealous for Your name. Amen.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Breathing life into hopeless situations

Ezekiel 37:3-6
He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”

I said, “O Sovereign LORD, you alone know.”

4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! 5 This is what the Sovereign LORD says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. 6 I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the LORD.’”

While I know this passage is truly about the regeneration and restoration of Israel, I was challenged by a question that came to me while applying it to my life.
What are the dry bones in my life? What are the things that I've given up on, believing that even God could not fix or restore them?
Are there people that I've given up on? Are there dreams I've abandoned? Are there habits or devotions that I've let lie?
To Ezekiel God says, "prophesy." Through Ezekiel the Lord commands, "Hear the Word of the Lord."
The dry bones in my life also need to hear the Word of the Lord. I need to be bold enough to open my mouth and speak truth into desperate situations. Yet, first I need to believe the truth of God's Word and the Gospel message of reconciliation. I need to believe that God is able and willing to restore what is according to His will yet dry and lifeless. What I see as hopeless is not.
Am I willing to believe this and speak God's Truth into my life's situations?

Father guard me against hopelessness and make be believe that you can breathe new life into the dry bones of my life. Make be bold to prophesy and speak these Words of Life to those I've given up on, to what I've walked away from and to what I've let lie. Bring new life that all may know that You are the Lord. Amen

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A tender heart toward God....

Ezekiel 36:24-31
“‘For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land.
I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols.
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.
You will live in the land I gave your forefathers; you will be my people, and I will be your God. 29 I will save you from all your uncleanness. I will call for the grain and make it plentiful and will not bring famine upon you.
I will increase the fruit of the trees and the crops of the field, so that you will no longer suffer disgrace among the nations because of famine.
Then you will remember your evil ways and wicked deeds, and you will loathe yourselves for your sins and detestable practices."

What beautiful words!
I sat for a long time just meditating on these words this morning.
If I was to outline this in a sermon I might say...
Here, progressively, God says to His people:
I will redeem you.
I will regenerate you.
I will recreate you.
I will reside in you.
I will proclaim you.
I will protect you.
I will provide for you.
I will promote you.

I am especially touched by verses 26 and 27,
"I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws."

The sign of a soft and tender heart is obedience. Many may raise their hands in worship, weep in prayer, nod to Scripture and even give generously. But a tender heart, filled with the Spirit of God will be moved to obedience in every way.
Is my heart tender toward God? There is only one test for this... obedience.
In this regard, there are many spots within my heart that are tender toward God, soft to His touch and ready to be moved. Yet, there are far too many hard areas where I do not let the Lord move me, where I am hard and stony. That's where the Spirit of God plays the largest role in my life. There, as He resides in my heart, He begins to identify those stony areas and pick at them with conviction of what must change in me and reminders of what I used to be. There, in the quiet of my heart, God promotes in me a desire to change... or at least a desire to not stay the same.
The key to responding to the Spirit's work is to sit still long enough each day to feel the pick, to hear His voice, to sense His touch. This is why I sit daily with the Word of God.

Lord, soften my heart. Make me tender to recognize your touch and ready to be moved by you. Remove the stony areas from within me and replace them with a tender heart. Move me to obedience that I might live a fruitful life that proclaims Your faithfulness to all those around me. Amen.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Good Shepherd

Ezekiel 34:15-16
I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign LORD. 16 I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice.

This is the promise of God to Israel.
As I consider these words and the person of Jesus Christ I cannot help but call to mind His words.

Luke 19:10
"For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”

John 10:14-16
“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd."

Jesus was not shy about proclaiming His identity. He was not cryptic in his proclamation. He was even bold in living into this identity as the Good Shepherd; seeking the lost, healing the sick & wounded, defending the poor and marginalized. He was and is the divine, Davidic shepherd of Ezekiel 34.
As an under-shepherd, under the authority of the Good Shepherd, I am called to follow in His steps, to reflect the model He has provided, to care for His sheep as He would.
Is my identify as obvious? Is my proclamation as bold? Are my passion and compassion as deep? Is my sacrifice as ready? Obviously not... but am I striving in this direction?

Lord - make me a shepherd in Your likeness. Teach me to faithfully shepherd Your flock. Strengthen me to sacrifice, to protect, to provide, to proclaim. Amen.

Friday, September 9, 2011

We are watchmen

Ezekiel 33:6
"But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet to warn the people and the sword comes and takes the life of one of them, that man will be taken away because of his sin, but I will hold the watchman accountable for his blood.’
“Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak out to dissuade him from his ways, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood."

Are we so different from the son of man, Ezekiel, the prophet? We have the Lord's warning, the word of truth, the trumpet of salvation. If we fail to sound the trumpet, to speak the word, to issue the warning, we too will give account when we meet the Lord. I'm not sure what that means or what accountability will look like... but I'm convinced that I don't want to find out first hand.

Lord - make me more bold to share your Word, to speak the Truth. Break my heart and create in me a heart that breaks. Make me compassionate toward the lost and keep me vigilant for opportunities to share the Gospel. Let no blood be upon me. Amen.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Holiness in me before blessing around me...

Ezekiel 28:25-26
"Thus says the Lord GOD: When I gather the house of Israel from the peoples among whom they are scattered, and manifest my holiness in them in the sight of the nations, then they shall dwell in their own land that I gave to my servant Jacob. And they shall dwell securely in it, and they shall build houses and plant vineyards. They shall dwell securely, when I execute judgments upon all their neighbors who have treated them with contempt. Then they will know that I am the LORD their God."

I'm intrigued by the ESV translation of this passage; particularly two phrases. To Israel God said He would "manifest (His) holiness in them" and then bring them back to the land and prosperity. Secondly, God declares that, "then they will know that I am the LORD their God."
I believe there are some important progressive truths brought out in this passage. We must first acknowledge God's presence and sovereignty IN us before we can acknowledge His provision and power around us. His Holiness must be manifest IN us before His hand of blessing is manifest around us. Too often we expect God to manifest His blessings around us before we allow His holiness to be manifest in us. We expect provision, protection and prosperity before personal holiness. This is not the way that God works.
Secondly, God will not provide the tangible, external confirmation of His favor until we produce an internal holiness that confirms our faith. In other words, true faith produces holiness which produces the favor of God.
Finally, God wants to manifest His Holiness "in the sight of the nations." That means that He is primarily concerned with revealing His presence though us, then his provision around us. His desire for my holiness is primarily for the sake of His name and secondarily for my blessing. I am first a means of blessing and then a recipient of it.
So how is my faith? Have I allowed God to manifest His Holiness in me? Am I willing to be a means of blessing through personal holiness? Am I proclaiming God's presence and power "in the sight of the nations" and trusting His provision to follow in His time?

Lord - teach me to be holy. Give me the right heart and mind to understand and reveal Your Holy Presence in me before I expect it around me. Make me a testimony, a light in the sight of the nations. Amen.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Holy & Common

Ezekiel 22:26
"Her priests do violence to my law and profane my holy things; they do not distinguish between the holy and the common; they teach that there is no difference between the unclean and the clean; and they shut their eyes to the keeping of my Sabbaths, so that I am profaned among them."

Have you ever heard the argument that there is nothing secular or common but that all things are sacred? I hear it in regard to the Sabbath sometimes. "Aren't all days important to God?... Should we really honor Him more or less on any given day?... Should we honor God every day?" I've heard it regarding the Bible. "It's just paper, pages and cover... like any other book. It's the meaning behind the words that matters. To treasure the paper would be to make it an idol." I've heard this argument regarding the church. "It's just a building. Should we act any less reverent outside the church? Should we act any more reverent simply because of the label we place on this building or that?" Or regarding the church as a gathering of believers, "Am I more connected to God because I'm with others at church? Can't I connect with God at home, on a walk, on the golf course too? Is my connection to God less real based on where I am or who I am (or am not) around?" It's obvious in how many approach the sacraments as well; the elements are "just" bread and juice and the celebration of baptism is "just" symbolic. I've even heard this creep into our idea of marriage as couples compromise their covenant in reckless divorce; forgetting that their covenant was more so with a Holy God than a sinful spouse.
The truth is... God has ordained certain things Holy. His church, His people, His Word, Marriage, His Sabbath... these are Holy; set apart for those under His Holy Covenant. The priests of Israel lost sight of this. High places were erected outside of Jerusalem, offerings were compromised and ceremony lost the strength of its imagery.
Are we guilty of the same sin in our churches today? Have we communicated that there is nothing Holy by communicating that nothing is common/secular? Have we watered down the imagery and ceremony God has ordained so much that people have lost sight of what is Holy?
How can we regain a sense of holiness in our churches today? How can we regain a sense of holiness in our own hearts, homes and habits?

Lord - teach me what is Holy. Teach me to treasure what is Holy. Teach me to teach what is Holy. Amen.