Falling on My Face

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“…This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell upon my face…” (Ezekiel 1:28)

 
I know there are lots of commentaries out there but I still have lots of questions. Here is Ezekiel seeing this vision that You have given him, God. It’s about creatures with four faces, one like a man, another like a lion, one like an ox, and one like an eagle. They had four wings. Sparkling like burnished brass with straight legs and feet like a calf’s foot, they moved without turning. Two of their wings covered their bodies and two wings apparently stretched above and clasped together overhead. And there was flashing lightning and there were these wheels that went with them. And a wheel in the middle of the wheel. Read it. What am I to walk away with from this today?

 
Do you ever stop and wonder what Ezekiel took away from this? Did Ezekiel walk away from this vision trying to interpret every verse? Did he walk away and write down a commentary? I just wonder. Or did he walk away just thinking about the wonder and glory and unsurpassed glory of God? Do I need to be able to explain each item in this vision to see what You were showing Ezekiel? Can I really ever explain everything about You, God? Am I supposed to think that I can?

 
What if Ezekiel was given this opportunity to glimpse what it’s like before Your throne? What if he was given this opportunity to see how much different You are than us and that there is so much more to You that we don’t even know or understand? What if this is a vision of worship? And a vision of holiness? And a vision of power? And a vision of in-explainable things that match Your ways that are above our ways?

 
What if I would be better off standing and being amazed than explaining things? Maybe there are times when awe is more important than interpretation. What if my interpretation takes away from Your awe? Maybe I’m wrong or crazy, but I want to be cared for by a God who can’t be explained by man. I want a God who is bigger and knows more. I’m more than ok with You being in-explainable.

 
And if You are in-explainable, wouldn’t I expect those closest to Your throne to be also? I mean, if I could fathom You, You would no longer be infinite, would You? Finite things like me and this earth are fathomable. But not You and not things living and breathing according to Your spirit- like those living creatures.

 
Which makes me think. Maybe, the more of You in me, the more of Your Spirit that guides me like it guides those creatures, well, then maybe the less of me is fathomable. Maybe, in You, we begin to become unfathomable creatures, doing unfathomable things. Maybe that’s how the disciples and early believers turned the world upside down. Maybe they took on some of Your unfathomableness by taking on Your Spirit and letting it direct their paths like these amazing creatures.

 
I don’t know. I read the commentaries and it makes me think I can have an explanation for everything. And then I walk away with an explanation. Or I can read Your word, and think about what it would be like to see that for myself, and I don’t have an explanation. But I walk away with this greatness of You and this extra specialness of You above all things. And I can’t explain and I don’t want to and I don’t want to read someone elses explanation. I just want to be awed. I just want to respond like Ezekiel and watch in wonder until You show Yourself and then I want to fall on my face and just be allowed to be in Your presence and be overwhelmed by You.

 
I guess it takes me back to Isaiah 55. Isaiah is hearing from You, Lord, and You say, “Seek the LORD while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near: let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return unto the LORD, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.” I mean, who is the wicked or unrighteous man here? Maybe the wicked and unrighteous is a broader spectrum than we like to admit. Maybe I fall in that spectrum. Maybe I fall there because I think too much of my way and my thoughts and interpretations. After all, You tell us outright “[M]y thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways…For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”

 
I don’t just want to interpret You or have You interpreted. I want to see You and hear You and follow You and be moved by Your Spirit in all I do. Isaiah continues with Your words, “So shall My word be that goes forth out of My mouth: it shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” Your word is not static. When You say it shall be, hayah, it’s because it is becoming all that it is intended to become. It is doing. It is living. It is acting and being acted upon. It is accomplishing. It is delighting You. It is prospering and benefiting and bringing Your will to pass. It is being sent and being received. It is being heard and obeyed. Like the revolution of those wheels it, or rather, You are the center of our being and becoming.

 
I want to just sit back and take in the vision around Your throne. I want to remember who You are, that You are more than I can handle so that I let You be God, and I let You handle things and I let You handle me. I want the One who is glorious enough to create and control creatures as grand as those beings to control me by Your spirit. I don’t ever want to make You less than You are. I want You to be fully You in my mind and my life. I want to glory in You being God and You knowing more than me and being so capable that I understand what it is to fear the Lord. After all, when was the last time I fell on my face and trembled over You?

No Better Cake

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“…and I will save them by the LORD their God…” Hosea 1:7

 
Hosea was a prophet of God over a pretty long period of time, like maybe 70 years. That’s a whole average life span today! He shared the words of God over the reign of four or more kings, both influencing Judah and Israel. As I spend time going through Hosea, chapter by chapter, I really want to think about it. I want to think about what was going on and why. I want to think about what life was like for Hosea as Your representative during those times. I want to think about the things You required of Hosea and his attitude to Your requirements. I want to look at Your heart and Hosea’s heart and the people’s hearts and my heart.

 
Right at the beginning of Your words to Hosea, Lord, You help us to see his wife and children. You tell Hosea to go out and marry a whore. Wow, that’s strong language! What a requirement! What does Hosea do? He does it! You told him “Marry a prostitute, and have children with that prostitute. The people in this land have acted like prostitutes and abandoned the LORD.” (Hosea 1:2) So Hosea marries Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim. Do you know what Diblaim means? It means “two cakes.” I can’t help but think of that expression, “have your cake and eat it too.” So I guess his daughter, Gomer, liked multiple cakes at the same time too.

 
Why would Hosea do that? Why would he marry a known prostitute? Why would he choose someone who was already unfaithful? Was it just obedience to You, God? Or was it more? Was it just fear of You? Or was it more? Could Hosea have truly understood Your heart for people and could it have been the heart that filled him for them also?

 
Hosea took Gomer as his own despite her background. Don’t You do the same with each of us? Didn’t we all start out as sinners; men, women, and children who prostitute Your ways and run after others more than You? Are we that far off from Gomer and Israel? All I can think of is how much love and mercy and patience this prophet Hosea must have had. He could have despised Gomer just as You could despise Israel or us. But Hosea took Gomer unto himself. And isn’t that what You do for us? You take us unto Yourself to make us Yours and make us holy in You.

 
Hosea doesn’t despise her but is intimate with her. From the fruit of that intimacy comes a son. God names him Jezreel, “God will sow.” All along, God is using this family as a picture to the people. It’s a picture of the reality of who Israel is, running after other gods, other “loves,” other pleasures. It’s a picture of our own hearts. It’s a picture of Your faithfulness, God, in the midst of when we don’t deserve it because of our lack of faithfulness. It’s a picture of unconditional love and love beyond imagination. It’s a picture of warning and long-suffering. You reap what you sow. But God is the Final Sower. And in the midst of all the junk we throw around in our lives and at God, You’re busy sowing love and patience and seeds for repentance and a return to relationship and forgiveness and restoration.

 
But there’s a price to pay. We can’t stay the way we are. Our strength in ourselves and our pleasures has to be broken. So that’s not so bad to be named Jezreel, and to be a warning to Israel, is it? But then Gomer conceives again and bares a daughter. Hopefully this is from Hosea’s loins. But wherever she was from , God named her Loruhamah. Now that’s a sad name. It means, “not pitied.” Why? Because this is how God would act toward Israel; no more mercy. He’ll take them “utterly” away. Can you imagine having a name like that? Ow!

 
But again, You will have mercy on Judah, and here’s the great part I got excited over- You will save them by the LORD their God, not by bow or by sword or by battle or by horses or horsemen. It’s so easy to look towards things to save us. “Oh, God, send Your angels to watch over me!” “Oh, God, do this or do that…” But You don’t need bows or swords or armies or horses or horsemen. Maybe we look for salvation in all the wrong ways and all the wrong places. Maybe salvation is in You and You alone. Maybe salvation is in our relationship with God who gave Jesus so He could take us unto Himself and make us His very own.

 
What if life isn’t about my mission or my job or my ministry or my family or my wealth or my whatever? What if life is all about who I am in God? What if everything else is effected by that relationship? What if true living is getting that relationship right? What if Hosea was successful despite the “crazy” things he had to do because he understood the One He was listening to? What if Hosea is a great man not because He was a great prophet but because he walked with God in relationship step by step no matter what? What if that is why God chose to speak to him? What if that is why we’re still reading about him today? And what if that walk and that relationship is what makes the stories of Gomer and her children a beautiful story of love and redemption by a man who got it because he understood the God who gives it and is it?

 
And if this family doesn’t seem sad enough, another son is born and God names him Loammi- not my people. And not being God’s people implies that neither is God your God. But this is not without hope! God says that in the same place where they were called Loammi- not my people, one day it would be said again there that “You are the sons of the living God.” And in that day there will be a great gathering together of Judah and Israel and they’ll appoint themselves one head. I think that head is more than a ruler but that head is One Source. That these sons of the living God will understand together that they have become sons because of Jesus, the Son of God who sacrificed His life to restore them to His Father. There is coming a time when those who ran from the Creator will run to Him in awe.

 
That word for head in Hebrew is rosh. It’s the same word used in Rosh Hashanah which is the Hebrew new year. And it’s all about recognizing and acknowledging the Source of everything. As a matter of fact, Rosh Hashanah begins the time period on the Hebrew calendar known as the Days of Awe. And I think, Lord, that’s pretty much where You were trying to lead the people during Hosea’s time, back to the reality of awe in You, not because it was ritual but because You are so worthy of awe. We are nothing without You. The problem is that we are so prone to forget the truth.

 
Here You are, King of the Universe, Creator of everything, and yet we won’t even give You the time of day. Sometimes You just have to blow Your shofar loudly enough for us to hear it and be startled out of our self-induced slumber. And sometimes a shofar isn’t loud enough so it takes hard things in life to wake us up. We need to remember who we really are and we can’t remember that until we remember who You really are and that we wouldn’t exist without You. According to rabbinic teaching, “the sound of the shofar, then, is meant to stir the heart to fear and to inspire teshuvah (repentance).” Here in Hosea, Your story through the words and through Isaiah’s family was like a shofar. It was sounded to turn people back to You, to draw Gomer to Hosea and to You, to give his children a hope and a heritage, to give the people a way to return.

 
But it’s not just for Hosea, and Gomer, and Jezebel, and Loruhamah, Loammi, and Judah, and Israel. This is for us too. This is for me and this is for you. I’m just as much in need of redemption as Gomer; we all are. Jezreel isn’t the only one who will reap what he sows. And I’d rather reap what You sow, Lord. I can choose to live my own way and not accept Your pity. But I don’t want to. I want to be a Loruhamah who runs to You to receive the pity that You want to show me. Once I was not Yours, just like Loammi. But that was then. Now, I am Yours and You are mine. And if there is hope for me, then there is hope for anyone. I guess what happens is determined by how we respond when You blow the shofar. I just know that I want to wake up and listen. I want to wake up and hear. And I want to go even farther. I want to do what the shofar is signaling. I want to run to You for safety and salvation and belonging and purity and love and security and power.

 
Salvation is getting back to the relationship in the garden before the fall. It’s getting over me and never getting over You. You are the wonder of salvation. Jesus personified You for us but You are so much more. You are so much more that Jesus can change us and fill us with Your Spirit. You are so much more that You can be there in the midst of a prison or country where we are stripped of everything, yet we are not stripped of You. Our hope is not in any thing. Our hope, our reality, is in You. It is You. Oh, Lord, why do my eyes look at lesser things when You are every thing? You are It. That’s all I know. And maybe that’s all I need to know to think rightly.  You can choose your cake and eat it too.  But as for me, there is no better cake than Jesus.

Good Work

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“Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ…”  Philippians 1:6

Yesterday, I chose this verse.  And this morning I’m reading it again, Lord, and wondering why I chose this one.  And with everything that’s been going on with hearing Your Word recently and hearing and experiencing Your witness through testimonies around me, I can’t help but think about that good work You have begun.  And I find myself asking this question, “What really is the ‘good work’ that You are talking about here?”

It’s so easy for me to just think that the good work is the good things that I want to do, that these things are what You want me to be doing, like caring for the poor, loving my neighbors and my enemies, forgiving, and all those things.  But what if this goes deeper?  What if Paul is talking about the root of the good work?  And what if it’s not my work at all, but solely what You are doing through me and in me?  I mean, Your Word tells me that not a single one of us humans is good, no not one.  So how do You begin a good thing in me?

The Greek here for “good works” is “ergon agathon.”  “Agathon” has to do with what’s “useful, pleasant, agreeable, excellent, upright,” but if we go back to it’s etymology it points us to the word “awe.”  Now listen to the Hebrew parallel, because Paul would have been fully aware of it.  Here’s what Skip Moen shares, “[f]undamental to Hebrew thought is the relationship between God and good.  ‘God is good’ expresses the basic confession of Judaism. Therefore, what is ultimately good is defined solely by God Himself.  Yeshua [Jesus] acknowledged this essential identity when He said, ‘Why do you call me good?  Only God is good.'”  So any “good work” must be solely the handiwork of God, because only God can inspire true awe.

Now stop and think about this.  I was created to bear the awe of God in me and out of me and through me.  This is the work that He is doing in me.  This is His goodness being formed in me and shining from me as I surrender and respond in His will.  In order for this to take place, two things are necessary.  I must abide in Christ.  “Abide in me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.”  (John 15:4)  Our life is in Christ.  If it’s not, it’s not really living.  Am I abiding in You, Lord, really?  Are You abiding in me, really?  These just aren’t words and doctrine; this is truth and reality.  Can I say this is true in my life?   But this isn’t all.  There are two things.

I’m not complete in You if I only abide in You.  Really.  I must also die.  These two things must be present in my life.  I must abide AND die.  That’s what Jesus was saying when He spoke these words, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”  (Luke 5:24)  Paul even tells us to “work out” our own salvation “with fear and trembling.”  Why?  Because it’s not up to me.  I have to let You, Lord, have Your way in me.  Every day I have to surrender my own will and choose You.  Every day I have to say “No” to my will and “Yes” to Yours.  It’s a life in You, abiding in You, but I stay there moment by moment by dying to my self and my own desires and living to You.

This is what the Gospel is all about.  This is the Gospel in action.  This is the life of the Gospel.  I suppose I could replace the word Gospel with Christ or Jesus or Yeshua.  You are the Gospel.  It’s not just that it’s good news about You that I’m supposed to be spreading, even though that’s part of it.  Scripture says the treasure is me!  I’m what Your Gospel is all about.  This “ergon agathon” is all about the risen Lord and Savior doing the miraculous work of redemption and life in me, in His children, in His treasures, in His vessels.  Stop and think about that.  You and I are walking Gospels!  If Jesus lives and abides in us and we in Him and we are continually dying to ourselves and allowing Him to live through us, we are demonstrating the power of the life of Christ, the Gospel itself, the Good News of why Jesus came!

Why did You come, Jesus?  To not only save sinners but to save them unto life in You and to make them Your very own treasure, Your very own spotless bride, to unify them with You again.  I am to demonstrate with my life the power and purpose of Your resurrection.  That is the awesome work that You are doing in me.  That is what draws other people to You.  That is truly amazing and only You can do that.

Listen over and over again to how You have intwined the Gospel, all that You are and all that You purpose into our lives.  “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the Gospel’s will save it.”  ( Mark 8:35)  “Jesus said, ‘Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the Gospel, but he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions, and in the world to come eternal life.'” (Mark 10:29)  Yes, we must abide in Christ and be willing to die daily to ourselves to let Christ live in us.  This is true Christianity and You can’t separate these two.

Jesus said “the Gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations.”  How do we do that?  We abide and die and we proclaim not only with the written Word but by His Word written out in our lives and demonstrated in our lives.  Our lives become the demonstration of the power of His Word.  We become the reality of His Word, the Gospel in living color!

Remember the woman who gave her last mite?  Remember the woman who poured the alabaster box of ointment over Jesus?  That’s what He is calling us to.  They were proclaiming the Gospel to the whole world and they didn’t even have the words.  But their message was so powerful in the Lord that He said, “And truly, I say to you, wherever the Gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” (Mark 14:9)  Wow!  So when You tell me Jesus to “Go into all the world and proclaim the Gospel to the whole creation” it takes on a whole deeper meaning now.  You must be the One proclaiming the power of the Gospel through me by my changed life, not just my words.

Just like Paul, we have been called and set apart for Your Gospel.  You alone are the Witness who knows if the works that I am performing are of me or You.  Well, I know also.  I want to serve You with all of my spirit and all of my being.  I want to live in Your Gospel.  I want You to live out Your Gospel through me.  I want to preach not only with Your awesome Word, but with every bit of power and love and grace and more that You give me to demonstrate it with and in my life.  I want to die to self so I can abide and live in You fully.  This is the way I am eager to preach, with my mouth and with my life.  I want to truly be able to not only say, but demonstrate with every fiber of my being that “I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.”  It’s the power of my life.  It’s You in me.  That’ s it.  The Gospel is the life and power of You, Jesus, in us.

Jesus in me.   Like Paul, You have called us to create Your living Gospel in us.  We preach You with our lives, not eloquent words of wisdom.  People must see the power of the cross of Christ.  People must see it’s reality.  They must see it in our lives.

I can’t help thinking about 1 Corinthians 9:14 where Paul says that those “who proclaim the Gospel should live of the Gospel.”  And I also know that people were complaining because people within the church were providing his needs and it’s about providing for the Lord’s laborers.  But it also tells me that those who live out the Gospel, as Paul did, those who let Christ have  His way in all their life, will also be cared for by the power and provision of Christ, by that same Gospel they are living.  Later, Paul tells me that living out the Gospel allows us to bless others.  And we’re not blessing them with our selves or our words, but we are blessing them with Jesus Himself.

This is so gloriously beautiful.  You, Lord, have called us to live in and live out this Gospel that is You in us.  You have called us to be partakers with You.  You have called us to be Your ministers in You according to God’s awesome grace by the working of Your power, Your “ergon agathon.”  This is faith in action, when we let You have Your way in us.  Because the Gospel isn’t just in word, but it’s in power and in the Holy Spirit and in full, not partial conviction.  And those who live in Your Gospel prove themselves. (1 Thessalonians 1:5)

These are the ones You choose to make Yourself known in.  These are the ones You choose to demonstrate the riches of Your glory, to make Your mystery known, that mystery of Christ in us, our hope of glory!  (Col. 1:27)  So, as I received You, Lord, in all Your fulness, that’s how I ought to walk in You, continually, daily rooted and built up in You, continually being established in the faith by You, continually being taught by You, continually giving thanks in You and for You.  (Col 2:6,7)  It has nothing to do with philosophy or tradition but everything to do with the resurrection of Christ, the Gospel, in me.  “For in Him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in Him, who is the head of all rule and authority.”  (Col. 2:9,10)  I want nothing more than to abide fully in You and to die to self so that I can live fully in You.  So help me by Your power to do Your good work in me.