Thursday, December 12, 2019

Helping the lost...

"And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever." - Daniel 12:3
There is a real sense of satisfaction when we help someone find the way to their destination. The most meaningful way to provide direction is when we take the time and lead the way. Why do we find joy in such an effort? Probably due to those occasions when we were lost and needed help. There's no GPS that can take the place of the personal guidance of a good Samaritan. And there's no greater accomplishment than helping the lost find their way. 
When prophetic Scriptures come to fulfillment and bring about the coming Kingdom, who will be the most honored? As the scene is explained to Daniel, emphasis is placed on those who who were spiritually wise in choosing eternal life. Along with the wise, are the givers of direction. Many will shine because of those who turned them to righteousness. And there's no greater accomplishment than helping the lost find their way... to God. 
Everyday we meet someone who is lost. They may not know it yet, but they need someone to show them the way. It doesn't take a seminary degree to give directions. And, when we do, we find great joy. Paul the apostle wrote.. "For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy." (1 Thess. 2:19) Remember, there's no greater accomplishment than helping the lost find their way... to God

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

The quality of mercy...

"O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations, and the city that is called by your name. For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy." - Daniel 9:18" 
"The quality of mercy is not strained. It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven Upon the place beneath."  - The Merchant of Venice, Act IV, Scene I
As William Shakespeare worded this plea in his play, the characteristic of mercy was beautifully stated. This defense given for the merchant Antonio, explained that mercy blesses the one who gives and the one who receives, it's mighty, majestic, and divine. And, it was well noted in a that without mercy, no one would see salvation.
Now, why didn't this successful and high ranking prophet of God appeal from a life of personal righteousness? His record of total faithfulness and ultimate sacrifice could have been used to provide leverage in prayer. But, he confessed, early in his prayer, "To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him..." Daniel’s prayer was both forthright and totally contrite, fully resting on the mercy of God, without which he couldn't be saved or forgiven. 
This lesson begins with our first step of faith with God, as Peter the apostle mentions in 1 Peter 1:3...."Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." Then, all along the journey... “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love." (Psalm 103:8) So, don't try to go it on your own, because without His mercy no one can be saved or forgiven. 


Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Superior Orders...


"When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously." - Daniel 6:10
Between November 20,1945 to October 1,1946, a number of military tribunals took place in Nuremberg, Germany. The surviving leadership of Nazi Germany were tried for the crimes committed in the holocaust and other war crimes. The repeated excuse for such crimes against humanity was "We were just following orders." This was a defense referred to as "Superior Orders". But, they failed to recognize the ultimate "Superior Orders" of God.
Daniel was informed of the "Superior Orders" of King Darius..."whoever makes petition to any god or man for thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions." (vs 7). Still, he had a prayer practice like King David of old... “Evening and morning and at noon I utter my complaint and moan, and he hears my voice." (Psalm 55:17) While Daniel understood the Kings order, he continued with his daily prayers because he recognized the ultimate" Superior Orders" of God. 
Your life is filled with authorities in every corner. You are also surrounded by peers that challenge and often threaten you to take an ungodly path. "Superior Orders" come at you day by day with conflicting demands. If you fail to comply you might lose your job, friends or family ties. So, what should you do as a Christian? Peter the apostle provided the answer in Acts 5:29... "But Peter and the apostles answered, "We must obey God rather than men."" We are expected to recognize the ultimate "Superior Orders" of God.


Monday, December 9, 2019

Scales...

“‘TEKĒL’—you have been weighed on the scales and found deficient." - Daniel 5:27 (NASB95)
Most Americans find that when they are weighed on the scales, they are found excessive. This is why they will avoid scales at any cost. These well designed instruments of revelation are only desired when one is prepared to discover the truth. You can fool yourself for only so long, but when your doctor weighs you on the scales, reality comes to light.
The Lord had previously chosen to bless Nebuchadnezzar with power and success. But, his audacious pride brought him to his knees before the Most High God. Sadly, his son failed to learn from his father's experience... "And you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this, but you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven." (vs 21-23) When weighed on the scales of God, reality came to light.
The selfish and sinful misuse of the Lord's blessings, without gratitude and  repentance, will eventually catch up to us. Paul the apostle put it this way..."For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth... For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened." (Romans 1:18, 21) Why wait for the scales of God to bring reality to light?


Sunday, December 8, 2019

Resolve...

"But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself. And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs," - Daniel 1:8–9
The New Year is soon approaching and with it will come many resolutions. Some will be to exercise more, while others will be to eat less. Most of these resolutions will last just long enough for the water to get hot. By March the treadmills will start to gather dust and bakery business will be booming again. Maybe we don't fully understand the meaning of "resolve".
Daniel was a young man of Biblical faith and understood the importance of obedience to God. It didn't matter that he was living in a foreign country with little possibility of ever returning home. The record tells us that "Daniel resolved" and he followed through to the letter. There was no question that resistance at such an early time could have been life threatening, but he stayed on course. Daniel fully understood the meaning of "resolve".
What are you willing to resolve for the Lord this coming year my friend... increased prayer, daily Bible reading or regular witnessing? The study of Daniel should help clarify your plans and strengthen your efforts to succeed. You will notice that the Lord gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of his unbelieving captors. If you take steps to improve your spiritual life and service, the Lord will give you the grace to succeed. But, do you fully understand the meaning of "resolve"?

Saturday, December 7, 2019

The "Who" of Hope...

"Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.” - Daniel 3:24–25

Every Labor Day weekend, when I was growing up, we watched the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon. It was entertaining and quite inspiring. We looked forward to the last few minutes of the show when Jerry would emotionally sing "You'll Never Walk Alone". The message was one of hope to all the MDA children that struggled with the disease. But, the lyrics never mentioned the "Who" of the hope.
The incredible story before us today centers on three men of strong conviction. They ended up in the worst situation imaginable and there didn't seem to be any way out. Simply put, their plight was hopeless. Then, everything changed when they were no longer "walking alone". They were filled with hope and delivered by "Who" of the hope. 
Hope is an inspiring and encouraging word. Songs and books of all kinds have been written about hope. We couldn't possibly face hard times without hope. Paul the apostle spoke often about hope, as in Romans 15:13... "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope." But, most importantly, he knew the "Who" of hope... Do you? 



Friday, December 6, 2019

Jehovah Shammah...

"The circumference of the city shall be 18,000 cubits. And the name of the city from that time on shall be, The Lord Is There.” - Ezekiel 48:35
We live in a lovely mountain community with a wide variety of homes tucked away in the woods. As you visit the area you will find well crafted signs posted at the entrances of many homes. There will be family names of course, but quaint references such as "cove", "hollow", "haven" or "retreat" are often found. Such names elicit inviting and pleasant thoughts about the location. Sometimes a name says it all. 
We've been reading through the dark and distressing history of Israel's drifting from God and the devastating results. The final chapters have shown a steady movement toward a promising future restoration. After all the predicted details of rebuilding and spiritual healing were given, a well crafted name was needed. And, "Jehovah Shammah" - "The LORD Is There" says it all. 
Do you have a quaint well crafted sign posted at the entrance of your home? The truth is, we all have a sign at the door of our lives. Some signs say "buzz off" or "beware". Other signs are more inviting, but the sign that says "The LORD is There" is the one that says it all. 





Thursday, December 5, 2019

The Source ....

"And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.” - Ezekiel 47:12 
What kind of water do you drink? Is it right from the tap or are you the type of person who chooses to indulge yourself with bottled water from exotic places? Today you can find water on your local grocery store shelf from Norway, France, England, Germany, Italy, and even the FIJI islands. You can choose from sparkling mineral water to natural artesian water. You might enjoy the water that Elvis Presley drank or the H2O that the race horse Secretariat loved. Whatever your choice, it's the source of the water that makes it unique.
The passage presents a beautiful view of the promised millennial kingdom of Christ. A day is coming when our Lord will reign on earth as King over Israel. The Temple will, once again, be a place of worship and great blessing. A river will flow from that Temple and it will bring rich provisions for all God's people. And, the days of apostasy and godlessness will have passed away. Wherever this river will flow, it will bring life, because it's the source of the water that makes it unique.
You can look for water in a bottle or quench your thirst in many other ways, but there's only one way to satisfy the thirst of your soul. Jesus said ...“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:37-38) Why choose water that leaves you thirsty moments after you drink? Why not take from the river of life, because it's the Source of the water that makes it unique.

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Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Making a Difference ...

"They shall teach my people the difference between the holy and the common, and show them how to distinguish between the unclean and the clean." - Ezekiel 44:23
When our grandson was a little younger, he expressed interest in what his two dogs were eating. He didn't understand the difference between people food and doggy food and thought the little K9 nuggets were yummy. Thankfully he was quickly discovered and corrected in his culinary choice. Well, even adults need a little help in food selection, as we find "best if used before 12/04/19" on many of our grocery items. Knowing the difference should make a difference.
From the very early days of Israel's history, the spiritual leadership was charged with the instruction of God's people. The wording was quite similar our passage in Ezekiel ... "You are to distinguish between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean, and you are to teach the people of Israel all the statutes that the LORD has spoken to them by Moses.” (Leviticus 10:10-11) The Lord knew that people needed clear direction in distinguishing right over wrong because... knowing the difference should make a difference.
On a much more personal note, can you really distinguish between God honoring activities and dishonoring? Do you prayerfully read the Scriptures and listen to Biblical preaching with an intention to discern between good literature, internet surfing, movies, and even friends from bad? Once you come to a conviction about some unworthy practice or relationship, are you willing to eliminate it from your life? Knowing the difference should always make a difference.

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Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Come near...

"And he said to me, “This chamber that faces south is for the priests who have charge of the temple, and the chamber that faces north is for the priests who have charge of the altar. These are the sons of Zadok, who alone among the sons of Levi may come near to the Lord to minister to him.” - Ezekiel 40:45–46
Our world is full of restrictions. We used to visit the statue of liberty anytime we wanted without notice. Now we have to have an appointment and background check. Only an approved few can visit this historic monument. It's the very same policy with visiting the White House or Buckingham Palace. Wouldn't it be nice if everyone were allowed to come near?
The Temple restrictions that we read about are based on the holiness of God and reverence of those who approached. Just a select group of levites were chosen to minister to the Lord. Any others would be in danger of a quick death. Those were times of select mediation for the many by a few. Wouldn't it have been nice if everyone were allowed to come near?
In a blessed contrast, we live in a day of open doors with the Lord. Jesus said in John 6:37, "...whoever comes to me I will never cast out." This invitation is further encouraged in Hebrews 4:16 with these words... "Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." Isn't it nice that everyone is allowed to come near? 



Monday, December 2, 2019

To know Him ...

"So I will show my greatness and my holiness and make myself known in the eyes of many nations. Then they will know that I am the LORD." - Ezekiel 38:23 
On Christmas Eve, 1914, just five months after the outbreak of war in Europe, a most unusual event took place. British and German troops began singing Christmas carols to each other across the battle lines. In the early hours of Christmas morning, German soldiers left their trenches and came over the British troops to wish them a Merry Christmas. The event was the last of it's kind to occur during the war, but for a moment in time the world knew the reality of God.
In a very different way, the Lord's dealing with the enemies of Israel was intended to bear witness of a great and holy God who alone was the LORD.  This message was being sent to a world lost in a quagmire of dominance and war. The Lord was dealing with every nation under heaven to draw attention to Himself as the only answer for mankind. In the midst of turmoil and confusion He set His glory and justice before them, that they might know the reality of God.
Why did the Lord leave the disciples behind when he ascended into heaven? Why has there been the presence of God's people in every generation and country? Whether during war or peace, in wealth or poverty, in city or jungle, God has had a witness. Was that witness intended to only build churches, hospitals or other ministries? Or was it to achieve something greater? The living testimony of God's people has always been intended for the world to know the reality of God.

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Sunday, December 1, 2019

New Life ...

"And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord GOD, you know.” ...  So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army." - Ezekiel 37:3, 10
 Our son Joel is now serving as a Federal Prison Chaplain at Fort Dix, New Jersey. After much prayer and heart searching, he was led of the Lord to enter this most challenging ministry to men who might never see freedom again. While the rest of society sees these inmates as "lost causes", Joel sees them as lost souls in need of a Savior and new hearts. When someone might ask, "can these bones live?", Joel is confident that by the power of the Lord, even the dead can live.
The condition of Israel seemed hopeless. They were dried up and lifeless, yet as the process moved forward, the bones took on life and an exceeding great army rose from the dead. Ezekiel didn't know where to begin, but when he said, "O Lord GOD, you know", he believed that the Lord's power could bring life to dry bones. The message to God's people was clear; when He makes a promise and begins a work, He will most definitely bring it to completion...even the dead can live.
No matter how dry your bones may be today, there is hope in the Lord my friend. He is in the business of taking totally dead souls and giving them a "new birth". He also takes those who have slowly dried up spiritually, and gives them a breath of new life. Our Lord is the God of second chances and there's no hopeless case with Him...even the dead can live.

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Saturday, November 30, 2019

Don't mess with the Name...

"I had concern for my holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations to which they came. Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came." - Ezekiel 36:21–22

Identity theft is a serious problem today. Great care is made to protect our wallets, credit cards and computers. The misuse of our names can mean the loss of all our possessions and future  financial credibility. Our name is not just who we are, but what we are, and ultimately, it's our very legacy. So, "sticks and stones, can break my bones" but don't mess with the name.
The Lord says ... "I have concern for my holy name". He isn't concerned with identity theft. It's all about the honor that He is due. It's about living before a watching world in a way that is worthy of His name. Israel was called to be Jehovah's inheritance and the apple of His eye, but they trampled His name under foot by their misconduct. His name was not only who He was, but what He was, and their lifestyle simply ... messed with His name.
So, how does this apply to you and me? From the day we place our faith in the Lord for our salvation, we become "Christ Ones" or Christians. We move through our daily activities identifying as a child of God. We call upon our Heavenly Father in prayer and we also invite others to believe in Him. But, when we choose to speak or act in a way that dishonors our Lord before a watching world, we are profaning His name. We may even use His name flippantly with such phrases as "Oh, my God". We are called by His name and if we fail to honor Him with our conduct...we're messing with His name.


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Friday, November 29, 2019

Doing it right...

"The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them. So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd, and they became food for all the wild beasts. My sheep were scattered; they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. My sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with none to search or seek for them." - Ezekiel 34:4–6
Job descriptions are really important. They aren't written just to give management reasons to fire someone. These simple paragraphs of defined expectations provide clear guidance for a productive business. In most cases they express the desire and heart of the owner for future success. Doing the job right has lasting value.
The spiritual care for God's people is not a business endeavor. It's something of far greater importance and the shepherds of Israel failed in their calling. It involved far more investment of life than they were willing to give. The job description demanded compassion, sacrifice, and total involvement in the lives of God's flock. The spiritual health of the Chief Shepherd's sheep has always been his heart's desire. Doing the job right has eternal value.
Whether it's a pastor, elder, deacon, Bible teacher or a spiritual leader of any kind... the job is singularly focused on the spiritual welfare of God's flock. If you have been called of the Lord and have accepted such a roll, your job is important. It's not an easy task, but it's one that shares the heart of the Chief Shepherd. Give it all your compassion and sacrifice...and love them like Jesus. Doing the right job has eternal value.


Thursday, November 28, 2019

The Hidden Hand...

"I will give it into the hand of a mighty one of the nations. He shall surely deal with it as its wickedness deserves. I have cast it out." - Ezekiel 31:11
Historians view the rise and fall of nations as the work of great or weak leaders. They attribute the success or failure to political wisdom or military strategy. Some nations force their way, while others buy their way into greatness. Whether rise or fall, history concludes that human effort is only the cause. The Hidden Hand is ignored. 
Sidon, Tyre, Assyria, Egypt and Babylon.... all nations of power and worldwide influence. Leaders came and went, battleground victories were many and generations passed by like the morning frost. Was their success or failure a matter great armies or international alliances? Only one cause supercedes all others... The Hidden Hand of the Almighty. 

Before you give yourself to anger, frustration or downright disgust over political leadership or national disfunction, remember the lesson of history. All mankind and every nation is a part of... His-Story. God has always ruled in affairs of men. He alone gives "into the hand of the mighty", He alone "casts out" the proud despot. Nothing happens apart from the Hidden Hand of the Almighty. 


Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Spoiling a good thing...

"You were an anointed guardian cherub. I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God; in the midst of the stones of fire you walked. You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created, till unrighteousness was found in you." - Ezekiel 28:14–15
Imagine that you've planned to make a scrumptious souffle for the Thanksgiving meal. You choose the best butter, finest flour, fresh milk, free range eggs, cream of tartar, ground salt and pepper. Every ingredient is selected with care, but you discover that you mixed in a rotten egg. What does that it matter? After all, everything else is  in excellent condition. No one will really notice?? ... It doesn't take much to spoil a good thing. 
The picture portrayed by Ezekiel calls the readers attention to the real source of evil in Tyre ... Satan himself. Such perfection, such wisdom, such beauty, and he was blameless in all his ways until, one little thing went rotten. Unrighteousness, in the form of pride, was found in this angel, which led to corruption and violence. In the end, this anointed guardian cherub came to an appalling and dreadful end. It doesn't take much to spoil a good thing.
How about your estimate of yourself my friend? Do you occasionally look in the mirror and think how blessed the world is to have such great person as yourself? Have you ever wondered how your company, neighborhood, church, or family could possibly survive without you? Confession, repentance and renewed humility will be needed to avoid an obvious fall from such delusions. The proud heart quickly forgets that... "from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever." (Romans 11:36) It doesn't take much to spoil a good thing.



Tuesday, November 26, 2019

How much will you give?

"The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, behold, I am about to take the delight of your eyes away from you at a stroke; yet you shall not mourn or weep, nor shall your tears run down." - Ezekiel 24:15–16
What does it cost to serve the Lord? Elizabeth Howard was born in Brussels, Belgium to missionary parents. She was led of the Lord to train for missionary work with the Quichua Indians in Quito, Ecuador. Elizabeth met Jim Elliot at Wheaton College and they were married in Quito in 1953 with a passion to reach unreached tribes with the gospel. In January 1956, Jim was speared to death, along with four fellow missionaries by Auca natives.
At twenty-nine years of age, Elizabeth became a widow with a ten month old daughter to raise, but her devotion to the Lord's calling kept her in Ecuador to continue the mission work until 1963. During those years she successfully reached into the tribe responsible for her husband's death, as well as wrote three of the twenty four books written over her lifetime. The cost to serve the Lord for Elizabeth Elliot was high, but the fruit of her service was great. 
The cost to serve the Lord as a prophet was just as high for Ezekiel, but the message of his life remains for all time impacting multiple generations. How willing are you to give your all for the work of God? Is reaching the souls of the lost important enough for you to pay the ultimate price? The well known entry in Jim Elliot's college journal says it all... "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose". 


Monday, November 25, 2019

Stand in the breach...

"And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none." - Ezekiel 22:30
Can one person really make a difference? Well, consider this man... He was raised on a rural North Carolina dairy farm. As a teenager, he was turned down for membership in a local church youth group and was almost expelled from Bible College. He was warned, "At best, all you could amount to would be a poor country Baptist preacher somewhere out in the sticks" But, according to his website, he preached to live audiences of 210 million people in more than 185 countries and territories. According to his staff, more than 3.2 million people responded to the invitation to "accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior". He provided spiritual counsel for every president from Harry S. Truman to Barack Obama. When God sought a man... He found Billy Graham.
It was a sad commentary on Israel that no one was found to "stand in the breach". But, will God find someone to do so for your country? Do you doubt that you can be that someone? Start with a simple prayer, "Here am I Lord, send me". Then "stand in the breach" everyday by praying for your world. When God seeks someone to make a difference... Let him find you.


Sunday, November 24, 2019

Where revival begins ...

"... And begin at my sanctuary.” So they began with the elders who were before the house." - Ezekiel 9:6
The average teenager is usually skeptical of authority. One of the reasons for this attitude rests on the inconsistency of their parents. No one is perfect, but when parents set the rules of engagement high, and fail to live up to them themselves, cynicism will run rampant. Any form of leadership will rise or fall as a result of a consistent or inconsistent lifestyle. Simply put, they need  to... "Practice what they preach"
The nation of Israel ran after every form of idolatry, immorality, greed and sorcery. Whether in town or on the high places, hearts were cold for God and hot for sin. The question rises, "Where were the watchmen of souls?" Before the average man on the street could be dealt with, the leaders needed to be called into accountability. They were the ones who failed to live up to God's Word. They were the ones who dishonored the Lord at every turn. They were the ones who failed to... "Practice what they preach".
Today, many of God's people are praying for revival in our nation. We see the godless ways all around us and we cry out, "How Long, Oh Lord?" But, historically and Biblically, revival must always begin with God's people. The convicting messages of Revelation, chapters 2 and 3, were spoken to the churches. Such words of rebuke such as..."I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first." (Revelation 2:4-5), call for the revival of the watchmen of souls. Before God's people can hope for national revival, they need to ...  "Practice what they preach".

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Saturday, November 23, 2019

Great Expectations...

"“As I live, declares the Lord God, surely with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm and with wrath poured out I will be king over you. I will bring you out from the peoples and gather you out of the countries where you are scattered, with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and with wrath poured out." - Ezekiel 20:33–34
It's thirty-two days before Christmas and counting. For the little ones (and big ones as well) this countdown is an exciting adventure. Every day takes them closer to special gifts and celebrations. For retailers each day is a new opportunity to make it rich. School students also have their eyes on the prize of a break from classes. Life seems so much better with great expectations.
There was overwhelming hardship for the people of Israel at the time of Ezekiel. Their days were darker than ever, with the Lord against them, the nations against them and their past catching up to them. Their families were being broken up and scattered around the world. Yet, in the midst of prophetic bad news there was a glimmer of hope... The Lord would restore them some day. Life became easier with great expectations. 
The real reason for joy and hope in this season doesn't rest on presents, profit or a break from school. It centers on God's fulfilled promise of a Savior and the return of the Lord one day soon. No matter how dark your days may be, the presence and the promise of Jesus will bring you lasting light. Life is always better with great expectations of HIM! 


Friday, November 22, 2019

Turn and live...

"Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?" - Ezekiel 18:23
I don't know about other fathers, but for myself the following statement was always true... "This hurts me, more than it does you". Whatever the discipline was for my sons as they grew up; time out, writing "I will not hit my brother" 25 times, being grounded from a favorite activity, or going to bed early, I never enjoyed the process. I knew such guidance was needed, and was always relieved when they got the point and matured in their walk with God. My goal, for both sons, was a spiritually healthy future.
The reader of the Israel's wayward ways and God's chastening hand might grow weary of such sadness. One might conclude that the Lord was a hard taskmaster who had little or no mercy for His people. It could be concluded that God reveled in the retribution of the rebellious. But, the above statement is the Lord's way of saying... "This hurts me, more than it does you." He greatly desired that wicked hearts would turn from their evil paths and be restored to a spiritually healthy future.
No matter how difficult your life has been, when the Lord leads you through the dark valley, there will be joy in the morning. When discipline is necessary, and it often is ...("My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” - Hebrews 12:5-6), know that it comes from your heavenly Father whose goal is a spiritually healthy future. 

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Thursday, November 21, 2019

Skin deep?

"And your renown went forth among the nations because of your beauty, for it was perfect through the splendor that I had bestowed on you, declares the Lord God. But you trusted in your beauty..." - Ezekiel 16:14-15
"InStyle", "People Style Watch", "ELLE", "VOGUE" and "Glamour" are all popular fashion and beauty magazines. According to recent research, followers of these periodicals number approximately 2,894,766. Then there's this: Annual sales for... Skin Care = $5.6 billion, Makeup = $8.1 billion, Fragrance = $4.3 billion. This has become a driving force in our society, in spite of the fact that such beauty is only skin deep.
The story before us in Ezekiel 16 tells of the Lord's beautifying Jerusalem. In an allegorical manner, He spoke of anointing her with oil, clothing her with embroidered cloth and fine leather, adorning her with ornaments, bracelets, neck chains and earrings. He gave her the greatest "make-over" of all time. As a royal city, she was the very first "My Fair Lady". But, rather than honoring God with her beauty, she gave it away to others. She trusted in her blessings, becoming unfaithful to the One who blessed her. In the end, the beauty that she settled for was only skin deep.
Solomon noted in Proverbs 31:30 that "Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord will be praised." (CSB) The outer beauty that cost us so much time and money is fleeting. Time and life always takes it's toll, but the beauty that God gives is a heart beauty that lasts forever. We can nurture this beauty to honor the Lord, or we can settle for the outer beauty that will always and only be skin deep. 

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Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Nothing but the Truth ...

"The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel, who are prophesying, and say to those who prophesy from their own hearts: ‘Hear the word of the Lord!’" - Ezekiel 13:1–2
During the late 19th century a form of newspaper reporting developed called Yellow journalism. It was a style of reporting that emphasized sensationalism over facts. During its heyday it was one of many factors that helped push the United States and Spain into war in Cuba and the Philippines. Today, we hear about "Fake News", where facts are slanted by the reporter's personal prejudice. Over the years, messengers of news have often failed to give the truth, and nothing but the truth.
You might say that the prophets of Israel, during the days of Ezekiel, were also guilty of reporting "Fake News". These were men who were out of touch with the Lord and yet, claimed to have heard from Him. They had their own personal prejudice and it was woven through all that they prophesied. They spoke "from their own hearts", and "they misled (God's) people, saying, ‘Peace,’ when there is no peace" (13:10). They failed to give the truth, and nothing but the truth.
This passage should warn us to choose carefully those preachers and authors to whom we pay attention. But, it also gives us food for thought concerning our own life paths. Are we really in touch with the Lord? Do we spend sufficient time daily, in the Word of God and prayer, to discern His voice of direction? Or, do we feed ourselves with "Fake News" from "our own heart"? Do we convince ourselves that we're at peace, when there is no peace? Do we fail to listen to, and obey the whole truth and nothing but the truth?

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Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Step by step ...

"And the glory of the LORD went up from the midst of the city and stood on the mountain that is on the east side of the city." ~ Ezekiel 11:23 
How does "This Old House" reach a level of progressed deterioration? Does it happen in a few weeks or months? Not really. Many years of little upkeep and another decade or two of total neglect. Decay begins without any notice and continues in the same way. Slowly, over time, what was once a beautiful home, turns into an old dilapidated wreck. The glory of past days slips away step by step.
In the very same way, apostasy and godless living took it's progressive toll on Israel. The slow decline ate away at the very core of her wealth, health and strength. Without recognizing that the Lord God was the single source of all she needed, she lost all the blessings and privileges. Slowly, over time, what was a beautiful people of God, turned into a broken and depraved nation. The Glory of past days slipped away step by step.
You may ask yourself today, tomorrow or next month ... "How did I end up in this mess?" Prayers for relief and blessing have been made over and over again. Yet, you can't understand how the Lord could allow you to slip into such a sad condition. It takes time for spiritual decay to wreck your life, but until you return to the Lord with a repentant heart, hard times will continue. And the Glory of past days will slip away step by step. 

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Monday, November 18, 2019

Limited value ...

"They cast their silver into the streets, and their gold is like an unclean thing. Their silver and gold are not able to deliver them in the day of the wrath of the LORD. They cannot satisfy their hunger or fill their stomachs with it. For it was the stumbling block of their iniquity." ~ Ezekiel 7:19
Gold and silver have been desired as fine jewelry for both men and women. These metals reflect wealth as well as stylish living in many circles. The history of "gold rushes" tell us of the sacrifice that some people will make to gain these precious metals. Then there are those who have chosen to include both silver and gold in their investment portfolios as they plan for their financial future. Whether you wear it, give it or bank it, gold and silver will always have a limited value.
When the judgment and wrath of God fell upon Israel, everything changed dramatically. Treasures that rocked their world and ruled the market place became empty and meaningless. Though they had a great wealth of gold and silver, it wasn't able to deliver them from God's wrath and it failed to satisfy their hunger. For years they depended on the value of these metals to carry them through the hard times, but when placed against their spiritual needs, they had limited value.
Gold and silver are beautiful, as well as other earthly treasures. The real problem isn't in the shallow worth of such things. The stumbling block is found in the fact that we grow to trust in these commodities to deliver us in times of troubles. When we trust in anything or any one other than the Lord Himself, we soon discover our great poverty, since our gold and silver will always have limited value.

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