Monday, October 26, 2009

Ah ha moment

Funny how sometimes you can be reading God's Word and you know you've read it before, but you just NEVER saw it. I had one of those AH HA moments the other day. During my reading time I was reading through Ezekiel 34. God was raking the leaders (or shepherds) of Israel over the coals. He wasn't pleased about they way they are leading His people. They are allowing them to preyed on, to wander around lost, and to starve. He tells them that they are his enemies and that he will hold them responsible for what happens to them. He is removing them from their positions as shepherd. (Some weighty words for those of us who lead others!)

But then came the ah-ha moment. Keep reading Ezekiel 34:11-24. He tells us that He himself will their shepherd. He tells them that he will search for the sheep and find them. He will rescue them and bring them back. He will feed them and give them pleasant places to lie down. He tell us he will be all the things that the shepherd in Psalm 23 is. But I've read some where else that Jesus is a Good Shepherd, haven't you? In John 10:10-21 when Jesus equates himself to being a Good Shepherd he wasn't just paining a word picture that people could understand. He was using the picture from Ezekiel to further confirm His role and mission. Don't you love when you find a buried treasure in Scripture and realize God has made his message so obvious if we will but look and listen!

The rest of the passage in Ezekiel also says that this good shepherd will judge between the fat and scrawny sheep and the sheep and goats. He will judge those that trample on others, that squash others down, that let them remain in their poor conditions. That reminds me of something else Jesus talked about in Matthew 25:31-46.

Have you had any ah-ha moments lately? I hope so!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Where are you standing?

My blogging here has been infrequent, but that doesn't mean I haven't had things I've wanted to share. It's just been harder balancing everything this day, and unfortunately this is the place where I often let things go.

A while I go I was reading Ezekiel and Ezekiel 22:30-31 grabbed my attention. It says, "I looked for someone who might rebuild the wall of righteousness that guards the land. I searched for someone to stand in the gap of the wall so I shouldn't have to destroy the land, but I found no one." WOW.

The wall of righteousness that guarded the land had been torn down. Unrighteousness could easily creep in and take hold of the inhabitants. When I thought about this in my life I applied it to my family. God has built a wall of righteousness around my family by his grace. I don't want that wall to be torn down. I want to set on its watchtowers and be sure it is not compromised. I want to care for it and maintain it.

I also thought of our nation. On some days it certainly does seem like the wall has crumbled. When you look in the news and at the things being considered in legislature and issues in the next election, and you see many areas where righteousness has fallen.

God continues in this verse, "I looked for someone to stand in the gap of the wall so I wouldn't have to destroy the land..." There is a breech and God was looking for someone to enter that broken space and stand for truth. Am I ready to do that for my nation? Am I ready to stand up and be counted for righteousness?

Sadly in Ezekiel, God doesn't find someone ready to stand in the gap, and so the consequence is that the land is destroyed. I don't want that to happened to my land. I don't want to face the wrath of God in order to have us repent and bow to Him. I want to learn the lesson now without the dire consequences. Judgement I believe has already started, but will increase as we continue to let the wall be broken. I am challenged to take action.

Now I'm not someone who is very politically active. I'm not someone who likes to get in people's faces with truth. But I do need to take a stand. I need to know what God says is right and live by it. I need to be active and in the gap, and not hiding out in a church pew. I need to know what is happening in my world and speak with a respectful, knowledgeable, voice. I need to love the people around me and show that love through actions. I need to pray for my nation and be humble before God, interceding for the sin of me and my people.

I hope you are encouraged to stand in the gap as well!

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Invitation

Although my reading has taken me elsewhere in the Bible, my heart is still stuck back in Isaiah. A new Bible study I've started brought me back to chew on a few verses in Isaiah 55. I couldn't be satisfied with just those few verses and now the chapter has given me much to think about.

I love what I've found here. Isaiah 55:1-3 is the best invitation we could receive. God asks if we're hungry or thirsty. He offers us more than wine or milk or fine food. And he offers it freely. We are to come ready to hear with our ears wide open and he will give us life as we listen. Am I ready to come to him with a listening heart? Do I hunger and thirst for him?

So what will we hear when we come? Vs 3 says we will hear about a never ending covenant. We will hear about unfailing love. We will hear of how he will work in our lives so that He is displayed in power and glory.

Isaiah tells us that God is near and we are to call on him while this offer is good. We are to change our ways. He will forgive us.

So why would God offer this incredible invitation to ones that need to repent, to ones that need to come close to him again? Because Isaiah 55:8-9 reminds that God's ways are not our ways. He doesn't look for the righteous, because there are none! He doesn't look for those that are closest and give them some pointers as to how they can strive better. He offers a way of forgiveness so that He can give what he so greatly desires. So He can give what will bring glory to him.

He reminds us that God's Word is powerful and will accomplish what he desires. (Isaiah 55:10-11) He sends out His Word and it always produces fruit. People will take him up on his offer. People will turn to Him and walk with Him, and they will live in joy and peace.

He reminds us that what was once barren and ruined will be filled with life. What was once sinful and full of death, will by the power of His Word in a heart seeking Him become full of life and fruitful.

That's some invitation! Why would God offer it? Vs 13 gives us a clue to the Invitor's heart. "These events will bring great honor to the Lord's name; they will be an everlasting sign of his power and love." God does this because of who He is. He offers us this because He is powerful and can do it and because He is love. The result is then honor to His name. Have you taken a look at this invitation recently? Draw near to the Invitor and find life in Him.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Fearing God's Name

The idea of fearing God's name, his character and reputation, has been buzzing around in my head for awhile. When my ladies' Sunday School class was working through the book of Malachi, we were constantly reading how they had contempt for God's name and did not fear His name. I guess the buzzing began there. I want to understand more of what it means to fear His name and live in a way that demonstrate this understanding.

I haven't had much time to study this area, but the phrases keeps jumping out at me in Scripture, so I know I'll learn more.

These passages for example:
Psalm 25:14 (NLT) The Lord is a friend to those who fear him.
He teaches them his covenant.

Proverbs 1:7 (NLT) Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true knowledge,
but fools despise wisdom and discipline.

Isaiah 33:6 (NLT) In that day he will be your sure foundation,providing a rich store of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge.The fear of the Lord will be your treasure.

I do know that to fear His name is not just to respect what I call God, but to revere his character and essence. But the Hebrew and Greek words that are translated fear mean just that....terror and dread of God. So, it's more than just honor and respect. It means to be aware of His awesomeness, His power, His holiness, and to treat him as set apart because of this awareness. It is to not take Him or my relationship with Him lightly. It is also to recognize how much he hates sin and the right he has to be judge.

A believer balances terror and dread of God with God's love which takes away fear. God's love doesn't change that He is still to be feared, but it allows us to approach Him and have confidence in His presence. I've noticed though that most frequently when somoene is in the presence of God, fear is the first response. Over and over again, God has had to say, "Fear not."

But what about the name part of the phrase? A name is what represents someone to the world. It's their history, their personality, their feelings and thoughts represented in a piece of language. I am to fear the totality of God.

So how do I keep a fearful perspective of God? The answer is found in God's Word. Over and over he commands us to fear Him and demonstrates who he is to us. When we meditate on His power, His awesomeness, His beyond us, then we will have fear.

And what does this mean for my day to day life? As I fear God I will obey what he commands. I won't do it because I'm just afraid of being punished, but rather because I recognize His authority, His power, and His rightness.

One more thing, spend some time with Psalm 103. May you be blessed as you fear His name!