Thursday, September 29, 2011

O Be Careful, Little _____ What You ______

Ezekiel 44

v. 2,4:  The LORD said to me, “This gate shall be shut; it shall not be opened, and no one shall enter by it, for the LORD God of Israel has entered by it; therefore it shall be shut....”  Then He brought me by way of the north gate to the front of the house; and I looked, and behold, the glory of the LORD filled the house of the LORD, and I fell on my face.

Impression:  How lightly and casually we regard the LORD God in our thinking, our speaking, our doing.  Perhaps the greatest sin—one that opens the door to so many others—is to think too little of God.  We presume upon the body and blood of the Lord Jesus an intimacy of brotherhood. But God is our Father—not our buddy.  God remains the awesome, commanding, sovereign Lord of the universe.  If we but understood His power, greatness, and wisdom we, too, would tremble and fall.  We would be unable to stand and go about our daily business for fear of the LORD GOD.

Application:  How might a better understanding of God affect my prayer life?  To recognize His awesome might and sovereign control would put my requests and desires in perspective.  Would I still ask for the petty things that please me?  How would a better knowledge of God affect my actions?  If I lived out the children’s song, “For the Father up above is looking down in love, so be careful little _________ how you ________,” what would change?  My personal entertainment, my indulgent eating, my relaxed laziness?  But I don’t want to.  I don’t want to know God because, yes, it would demand change.  It would remove the self-indulgence and shackle my desires, my efforts, my time, my resources to God and God alone.  But what better place to be?  “Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.” (Psalm 84:10)

God is glorious.  God is gracious.  God is lovingly kind.  God is merciful.  God is peace.  God is joy.  God is the Provider and Protector of His people.  Because of Christ’s substitutionary death, “My beloved is mine, and I am his.” (Song of Solomon 2:16).  But never at the cost of flippancy or contemporary causality.  God is.  My existence depends on that.  Past.  Present.  Future.  He is the I AM.  I am a dependent clause.  May God allow us to fear Him that we might walk in humble service and gratitude.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

There's Not Enough Time

Melissa and I were bent over picking straw flowers and purple statice in her dusty Wyoming garden when she stood, tears in her eyes, and said, "There's not enough time...  He died on Sunday and if he hadn't been at Bible School the week before," her voice dropped off.  A little previously unknown fellow had visited their Vacation Bible School and trusted Jesus as his Savior.  That next weekend he and his family were instantly killed in a vehicle accident.

At this time of year when life is swirling and it doesn't seem everything that needs to be done will get done, I remember Melissa's dark brown eyes and the tears running down her freckled cheeks.  "There's not enough time to reach them all."

May we never lose the urgency of loving and serving, reaching others with the good news of Jesus' substitutionary death, trusting that He will sovereignly direct our steps.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


I had a moment of realization the other day that the Bible reading and meditating I did more than a month ago is finally bearing fruit.  I often have the expectation that my daily reading will affect that day--that what I read in God's Word today is my daily bread, and tomorrow God will provide another day's worth of bread, etc.  But as I sat in Sunday school this week I realized that I am not "wanting what I want" like I did earlier this summer.  Hurray!  Yay, God!

I distinctly remember sitting in the coffee shop at church camp last month, early in the morning, and praying over Proverbs 13:25, "The righteous has enough to satisfy his appetite, But the stomach of the wicked is in need."  My question that day, and the remainder of the week was, "Am I choosing to be satisfied?"  God has given me all I need.  He is my Shepherd and I am not in want (Psalm 23:1).  So am I living as one who is satisfied?

Now as our women's Bible study groups are beginning the book of James, I can see the discontent.  The twelve tribes James is writing to: don't like trials (James 1:2-4; 5:10-11), they don't have enough money (1:9-10, 4:13-14, 5:1-6), they aren't getting what they want (1:13-16, 4:1-5, 11-12; 5:9), they want more (2:3-4, 3:14-16, 4:2-3, 13-16; 5:1-5), and their selfishness results in hurtful words, actions, and attitudes (1:20-21, 26; 2:1-7, 13; 3:2-12, 14-16; 4:1-4, 11-12, 16; 5:1-6, 9, 12).  James is calling them to obedience. 

Contentment comes through obedience.  When I get busy doing what God has called me to do, I don't have time or interest for other things.  It is a call to refocus, not on what I don't have, but on the many things I do have.  It is a call to put Christ first, to trust Him with my wants and needs, and to serve others over and above myself.  After all, "He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?"  (Romans 8:32).

James is a book of action, but more than that, it is a book that calls us to a choice:  am I satisfied, truly satisfied, with Jesus?  Does life reflect greed or gratitude?

Friday, September 16, 2011

Pick on Me!

One of my greatest struggles is wanting to be known.  I can tell myself I'm not the center of the universe, but on some level I want to be recognized, acknowledged, appreciated, thought of.  We all do.  It's a God thing.  The sin in me seeks recognition and acknowledgement from other people through means that are self-centered, stealing the reputation of others, creating envy and strife.  The Christ centered part of me knows that God gave His all to recognize and save me.  That is more than enough.  It is a characteristic of God--a part of being made in His image--to be known.

The book of Ezekiel is all about God revealing Himself to mankind.  The phrase, "Then they will know that I am the LORD," is used 65 times.  In Ezekiel 35:11, He says, “therefore as I live... I will deal with you according to your anger and according to your envy which you showed because of your hatred... so I will make Myself known among them when I judge you.”

God makes Himself known in judgment as well as prosperity.  He meets out punishment in accordance with our sin and rebellion.  We deserve nothing more than just recompense for our actions, thoughts, words, and choices.  Our good does not outweigh our bad.  Good is not equal to bad.  Good is expected.  Good is required.  Perfect goodness is the baseline (James 2:10-13).  So, in reality, I deserve God's punishment regardless of any good work of my own--I can't make the cut.  But He Himself paid the penalty of my sin.  Amazing!  Only God could do that--or would do that.

Have I seen or sought Him in difficulty?  Have I acknowledged His hand in blessings, in pleasant experiences and prosperity?  Either way His desire and goal is to make Himself known.  If I fail to look to Him, depend on Him, seek, worship and acknowledge Him in the good, He will reveal Himself in other ways.  That is the focus, the goal, the treasure:  God and God alone.  

Am I looking, listening, acknowledging His supremacy today?  There will be a day when "every knee will bow of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2:10-11).  May that day be today in my life....

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

I've Got Your Back!

"I've got your back!"  I love it!  It's what we say to each other whether we're a parent of teenagers (I know) or a law enforcement officer (I'm glad I don't know). I joke with my son's best friend about eating his vegetables then whisper to his mom, "I've got your back!"

In Ezekiel chapter 33 God gives Ezekiel charge of Israel's back as a watchman.  He has the responsibility of warning the people of coming judgment.  If he does his job, the people will bear the weight of their choices.  If he fails to warn them then he, personally, will bear the guilt of their demise.

To personalize this and put myself in the place of Ezekiel is frightening.  It is a call to personal responsibility for national failure.  But this was written to Ezekiel--for my learning (Romans 15:4)--but to Ezekiel for the direct benefit of Israel.  How does it relate to me?

You may or may not argue that each of us, personally,  bears the weight of our nation's sin.  Either way God's warning should be taken seriously.  The New Testament gives us further motivation to speak truth:  "God...reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. " 2 Corinthians 5:18-20

God has blessed me in incredible, eternal,  bountiful ways through the sacrificial life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Now, with a heart of love and gratitude, I have the privilege of calling others, not to judgment, but to that same life-giving Source!  What a privilege!  What a goal!  What a passion!  I know that I am free from judgment and condemnation (Romans 8:1-3), I have eternal life--now (John 6:47), I live with an eternal perspective and purpose (2 Corinthians 4:16-5:10).  To know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings compels me to share Him with others (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). 

Whose back do I have?  I know Jesus has mine!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Focus Regained

It happened.  I allowed myself to become too busy and now I'm regretting it.  I lost sight of the reality of life and gave in to the demands of life.  They were all necessary things, but they overwhelmed the one good thing--my daily time with God.  Sick children, prior commitments, pricks at pride that persuaded me to take on just one more task.  Poof!  My morning time started with running feet instead of bended knee.

Last night as I tossed after my own bout with stomach flu I took comfort in hearing Scripture and here I am, again, to lean on and discover the fear of the Lord.  It is not an immediate find, nor a once-a-day pill.  It is not a task to check off my to-do list or to write on the calendar.  It is a searching, seeking, consuming, integral mindset that guides my life and determines my choices.  It is an awareness of the cross, of my dying Savior, of my living Lord, of my constant need and wretchedness.  The fear of the Lord is a humility of thinking, of speaking, of waiting, of living that pushes aside the razzle-dazzle and walks in faith, one step at a time.  It does not depend on the future or the finances or the forecast, but on the being in the here and now as I am conformed to the image of the Son, Jesus Christ.  This is the fear of Lord.

Back to the Book....