Walking with God in the Details

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“But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” Genesis 6:8

 
Today I’m back in Ezekiel reading about the measurements and specifications of the future temple, the future house of God. Only here I am quoting Genesis. Why? As I was reading and thinking about all the specifics in Ezekiel and about how the details matter to You God and how Your details ought to matter to us, I couldn’t help thinking about Noah and how You equipped him to build the ark.

 
Here was the condition of the world and the condition of the hearts of the people of the world in Noah’s day: “And the Lord said, ‘I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repents me that I have made them.” Why did it repent You or make You sorry You had made us? Because “the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” And that grieved Your heart because man, people like me, had so twisted who we were, by twisting our thoughts and our actions, that we no longer resembled what we were created for. And why couldn’t we resemble our purpose any more? Because we threw away the details. We wouldn’t pay attention to the Master plan. And get this. The Master Plan was someone we could know and respond to, like Adam and Eve or Cain or Abel. But like Cain, we turned to our plans instead of Yours and our lives became twisted.

 
But then comes this beautiful verse. “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” Maybe I’m wrong, but I see that as saying when God looked at Noah and examined his heart and life, He found within Noah a spark of something beautiful to God. What was it? What was that beauty in Noah? That Noah still held on to the presence of God in his life. That He remembered the stories and clung to the God he knew.

 
In this corrupt world of Noah’s time, He was just and perfect. What? Noah was a perfect man? Not in the sense that we think of perfect. He was “entire.” He was full of integrity and truth. He was without spot and undefiled. He was whole. He was perfect in God’s eyes because His heart clung to God and followed Him. He walked with God. Come on now. Look back at Adam and Eve. Isn’t that what we were created to do? Aren’t we to be walking with God every day of our lives? Hasn’t He designed us to know how and to do it? If a man without a written instruction book can figure out how to do that and do it, then what’s our problem? What’s my problem?

 
So Noah walks with God. That means that he cares about and acts upon what is on God’s heart. And God includes Him in what He’s doing. And here come all these measurements as God instructs Noah on how to build this ark, this first of it’s kind, this giant boat in this place where there isn’t even water to float it. But Noah doesn’t stop to say, “Hey, God, why are You giving me all these details? What’s up? Do I really need this? Is this important?” I think for Noah that this is a no brainer. He already knows that God’s way is the right way and the only way. He already lives like every detail matters because it does. And because He’s already living in God’s will, God is already protecting him and preparing him from the coming judgement. Not only that, but God is making Noah a beacon to others, an opportunity for others to walk with God instead and rejoice in God’s plan and in His details.

 
This has nothing to do with Noah’s abilities. He was just a man who walked with God. Because he walked with God, God walked with him. God gave him everything he needed to be His representative on earth. That’s what we were created for, to be God’s vessels on earth, to shine forth the power and love of God. And God does that work in us. Noah couldn’t build the ark without God. God gave Noah everything he needed from the detailed measurements, to the physical provision, to the skill to do so. And it didn’t stop there. God was the One who sealed Noah and his family safely inside the ark.

 
Which takes me back to Ezekiel. Chapter 41 starts with, “Afterward he brought me to the temple…” Doesn’t that sound like people walking together again? It does to me. It sounds like God is walking Ezekiel through something special here, something worth thinking about and valuing. And like Noah, if Ezekiel hadn’t already been walking with God, he would have missed this. And it’s not like this is just any building that You are showing Ezekiel. This is the temple that will one day be where every believer can walk into Your presence in Jesus Christ. This is the reality of You come to earth.

 
God’s word and instructions are all about being invited into an intimate relationship with our Maker. He gives us the details so we can participate fully with Him. They matter. As we participate with Him, we get to come to see and know things about Him. Building the ark wasn’t some mundane task that Noah was expected to do. It was amazing participation with God and amazing protection and salvation and deliverance. But if Noah had not participated with God? If Noah had disregarded the importance of the directions?

 
And what about Ezekiel. He didn’t get to build the temple but He paid close attention and then He declared what He was asked to declare so that this would be words of future encouragement. One day God is going to bring every one of those details to pass. Just like Noah had to wait for that appointed time before the ark was complete, so Ezekiel knew that the appointed time would come. So we can know also. What does this temple tell me? That God is coming, here to earth, to be with us. Jesus is coming back. Jesus will reign in His full capacity and I can look forward to that.

 
And since Jesus is coming back, we ought to be busy letting people know so that they can be ready for that appointed time. How do we get ready? We respond to God’s word by participating with Him in what He says. We pay attention to the details. Sometimes we hold onto it and ponder it in our hearts like Mary did until it was time for it to make sense. But all along, we obey. Listening isn’t listening unless the appropriate action to the listening follows. If I want God to be close then I ought to be close enough to His word to know how to be close to Him. And the only way to be close to Him is to participate with Him.

 
That’s why Jesus came. He redeemed us so that God’s glory could shine in us again. He redeemed us so that we could be reunited with God and participate with Him again in the way we were created to. Grace is there, always. But we won’t find it unless we find the One who offers it. Noah found grace because He walked with God. He found where grace flowed from and clung to Him. Ezekiel found grace because He walked with God and clung to where grace flowed from. What about me? May I cling to the One that grace flows from and walk with You in obedience and in intimate relationship by loving all Your words and allowing them to have their way in my life.

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Is God an Egotistical Tyrant?

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“Then shall they know that I am the Lord their God, which caused them to be led into captivity among the heathen…” (Ezekiel 39:28)

 
It must be really important to God that we know that He is the Lord. Is that because He is an egotistical tyrant? Absolutely not! All one has to do is look at what happens to those who deny Him. Cain waters the seeds of hate and kills his brother. People build towers to heaven and neglect the weightier things of life, like family and moving forward. Parents offer their children to the fires of Molech. Others exchange the natural for unnatural. Ecstasy outweighs love and commitment. Power and prestige are more important than compassion. People devalue other people. Why does this happen? Because people don’t KNOW God and won’t acknowledge Him as their Lord.

 
It happens to heathen nations, those nations and people who follow the masses instead of God. I guess that’s basically what a heathen is. It’s a Gentile. It’s someone outside of Abram’s seed who didn’t answer the call to follow God. It’s someone who was outside of the family of God, outside of the nation of Israel, outside of the children of God.

 
I wonder why there are so many heathen nations? Do you stop to think about that? Do you go back to Abram’s beginning as a child of God? He was living in a heathen nation. Actually, I think it would be accurate to say that all people had become heathen at that point. There were none who followed God. But something started moving in Abram’s heart and he realized something wasn’t right. Jewish oral tradition has Abram realizing the inability of idols. And then God speaks to Abram. And Abram listens and obeys and leaves his people and nation. And God begins forming from his obedience a new nation, a nation in God, His own children, from one man who chose to listen to Him. From one man who walked by faith.

 
Now, maybe there were some others scattered somewhere around the earth, but if we look at the story, there weren’t many. And maybe there weren’t others. But compare the numbers. It’s daunting, isn’t it?

 
So we see that there are many among the non-God followers or heathen that don’t know God at all. But it’s God’s desire that they know Him. Only, if they won’t turn to Him like Abram and follow Him, the knowing at long last isn’t going to be a pleasant thing. The proof is going to come in judgement and not reward.

 
But the problem isn’t just one for the non-believer. Israel was suffering judgement too. Do I get that?  Israel, the nation of God, who were supposed to be God-fearers and God-knowers, had forgotten God and walked away from His ways. That means that this problem of not knowing and acknowledging God isn’t just a heathen problem. It effects believers too. It could wind up being my problem if I’m not careful.

 
There is a time that God sets his face against us, when He looks at us and judges us. And there is a time when God will hide his face from us as He allows the judgement to fall. But then there is also a time, when judgement has taught its lesson and God turns His face back in compassion. Is it egotistical for God to want us to learn to love rightly, to know Him and to know how to love others? Is it egotistical for a parent to punish the child who beats his siblings? Is correction wrong? Isn’t there a chance in correction that the harmful behavior and character might be corrected and changed? Or should Cain be allowed to slay his brother?

 
Imagine the patience and long-suffering of God as He waits and watches the travesties of our hearts where we mistreat and tear apart the lives of our fellow man. This is not His end goal. This is not His desire. This exists because of our choice and not His. He allows it but for a time. This is not His will. His will is far better. His will is love personified through and in Himself. His will is to know Him, our Creator and Benefactor. His will is to know Him intimately, by knowing His Character and His delights. His will is to know Him so intimately that we become like Him, that we are wholly influenced by His Spirit. His will is for Himself, His life, His love, His power to be spread from person to person throughout our planet.

 
Was that the heathen’s desire or goal? Was that Israel’s goal at this point? No. Their goal was to promote their own desires and themselves. Their goal was what they wanted. So God redirected them through situations they could not control. So God redirected them through times where they were confronted with the smallness of themselves so that they could see the bigness of God. God redirected them so that they could remember Him, and come to see their need for Him, and learn to rely on Him.

 
There is a time for everything. God will place a time in our lives that will be designed to be able to come to know Him. What we do with that time is up to us. I can fight the One who is wooing me to Himself. I can detest the One who puts the hard times in my life, who knows the egotism of my own heart. I can reflect it back on Him. It doesn’t matter if I’m a heathen or a Jew, my egotism can be the heart of my lack of knowing Him. But if I respond to Him, I can know Him and I can surrender to Him as my Lord. Because surrendering to Him as my Lord is the only way I can know Him. If anything else is lord of my life, I might as well prepare for judgement.

 
One way or another, I will know that God is Lord and God is God. I will either know it in the day of full judgement against me, or I will know it by my full surrender into His compassionate arms. The choice is mine. Even the heathen and the Jews had that choice. Look at Abram. He chose to know God. He chose to follow Him and obey Him. He escaped judgement because He attached Himself by faith to the Judge. What will I do? Whose side will I choose? I choose to stick to You God and wait for Your Spirit. I choose You, even through the tough times. You’re all there is.

Our Perpetual God

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“Because you have had a perpetual hatred…” Ezekiel 35:5a

 
Can you imagine having a perpetual hatred for someone? This is a pretty strong hatred. God uses the Hebrew word olam. Strong’s Concordance likens it as being unto the vanishing point or time out of mind. Sometimes it’s used for eternity or without end. The Pulpit series called this feeling that Seir or Edom had for Israel a “hatred of old, or eternal enmity.” Now remember who Edom is. Edom represents Esau and his descendants. Esau is long gone. Yet here his people are, generations later, still carrying deep enmity against Israel. The story of Esau and Jacob perpetually lives on, never changing, never being resolved, never being reconciled. Can you imagine life like that?

 
It doesn’t just make me think about the effects of hatred, but it makes me want to look at that word perpetual, or olam, because I’ve heard it used before in Scripture. And it makes me think that there are some things that God wants us to “perpetualize” in our lives. What might that be?

 
When I look back to Genesis 9, I see God establishing the rainbow. It was established for perpetual generations and as an everlasting covenant between God and every living creature on earth. How many generations is that? Who knows? I mean, where is the vanishing point? Maybe there is no vanishing point and that’s the point. How long will this covenant last? To that same vanishing point, where ever and how far away in God it is. And I’m wondering if the vanishing point isn’t less of a time or place than it is a position in God? After all, He’s the one who established this covenant. It’s all on him. It really doesn’t matter what we do or how we respond. He’s not going to break His word and destroy the whole earth by a flood again. Out of love and faithfulness and His glory, He made this perpetual promise to be perpetually displayed before us.

 
Then there’s the land of Israel. In Genesis 13, God tells of a land that will be given to Abram’s seed for ever. It’s that same word olam. Now, Noah Webster says of the word perpetual that it is “literally true with respect to the decrees of the Supreme Being.” It’s never ceasing, continuing without intermission, permanent, and endless. Outside of God, what is? Maybe this olam is all dependent upon being in God. Face it, Seir and others are still fighting against Israel today, but there it still exists. Yet, does it exist as fully as God has decreed it would? Or will that existence solidify upon God being fully known and glorified in Israel? Yet try as you might to fight against God’s will, it’s a losing battle. God is this perpetual God and His will is perpetual and it will be as He declares. It really doesn’t matter how perpetual your hatred is. God’s glorious, loving, and righteous perpetualness is immensely more powerful and more real.

 
I could go on and on. Through Isaac, God established a perpetual covenant with his seed and those after. Get it, these perpetual covenants so far haven’t required action on man’s part. This is God’s doing, because He can and because His is faithful. In Exodus when God is telling Moses what to say to the children of Israel, He answers, “The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me unto you: this is My name for ever [olam], and this is my memorial unto all generations.” Are we just talking about God having the same name forever? Or are we talking that He is always the same God whose every decree and every word is true and worthy of respect and is and was and will be exactly as He decrees?

 
As we progress through Exodus, we see God establishing the priests and giving them their office as a perpetual statute. It’s not just that God appoints who shall be priest. It’s that the priest must be so in Him as well. Their honouring His statutes isn’t legalism, it’s part of understanding the perpetual life-giving nature of God and His presence and power over our lives. Or what of the perpetual incense that Aaron was to burn? Is Aaron able to do something perpetually outside of God and the generations of priests that God would equip? Is the incense the point or is it the understanding and living in the perpetuallness of God?

 

Keeping and observing the sabbath throughout their generation was a perpetual covenant. Not eating fat or blood was another perpetual statute. Why? Because God was showing us something about Himself in all these things to help us grasp His perpetualness so that we could live in Him from day to day and not just some day in some far away future in some far away place. Maybe you disagree and that’s o.k. But I can’t help hear it again in Jeremiah 5:22 as God says, “‘Don’t you fear me?’ says the Lord: ‘won’t you tremble at My presence, who has placed the sand for the bound of the sea by a perpetual decree, that it can’t pass it: and though the waves thereof toss themselves, yet they can’t prevail; though they roar, yet can they not pass over it?’” It’s not just that God set these boundaries in motion for the waves. It’s perpetual. He’s always there controlling it. He’s never left. He’s not just in Heaven. He’s here, still, just as present and just as strong. All these things that mattered to Him still matter today. He’s never changed. We just missed out on what it means to fear Him. We forgot who and what He is. We forgot what it was to tremble at His presence because we live as though He’s not here.

 
It was Esau’s problem way back when. He didn’t get the perpetualness of God with Him and around Him. He forsook that birthright, that place in God and then despised his brother for treasuring it. God asks another good question in Jeremiah 8:5, “Why then is this people of Jerusalem slid back by a perpetual backsliding? They hold fast deceit, they refuse to return.” And isn’t that Seir’s problem and our problem too often too? Instead of holding on to that which is truly perpetual, to God’s truth in Him and to His presence, we hold on to lies and deceit and hold on so tightly our lives our bound up in them. It could be hatred, or self-gratification, or pride, or whatever, but we ditch perpetual reality in God for perpetual falsehood because we like it better and figure the outcome is more to our immediate liking.

 

There are things that are perpetual in God that lead to blessing in Him and knowing Him and safety in Him and a future and a hope in Him. And there are perpetual things outside of Him that lead to perpetual sleep, perpetual desolation, and perpetual shame. This word olam or “perpetual” and it’s other forms is used at least 438 times in Scripture. Maybe it’s a truth God would like us to understand and live in.

 
Here’s a tidbit of Judaism. “Judaism advances the daring idea that man and God are partners in the work of creation. Faith is a call to human responsibility.” (Jonathan Sacks) It’s not that we can do it on our own. We must first partner with God in order for Him to partner with us. God created us for this purpose. Look back into the garden. God’s purpose, His perpetualness, was already in existence and already acting. Then He brought us into it, in Him and invited us to partner with Him in this work of spreading His perpetualness.

 

The problem with Seir is that they were not involved in any kind of intimate relationship with God. Life is all about embracing Him and all He does and thinks. Imagine having this kind of partnership with the One who created you! But Seir wanted none of it. Seir acted against it. We’re supposed to be intimately involved with Him managing His creation and being busy with restoration. We’re to be perpetually involved in what the Perpetual One is involved in. Eternal life doesn’t start in Heaven. It starts when we enter into the Perpetual One. Eternal Life has always been in Him. Eternal life is exhibited everyday and into forever.

 

Paul understood. That’s why he urged us, “by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” (Romans 12:1) It’s not just our spiritual service, it’s our perpetual service, and our perpetual position of being present in Him. This is life from now until eternity. This ought to change my every perspective.

 

Therefore, I’m still blessed in Him if people hate me and treat me poorly. Therefore I can love my enemies and do good to those who hate me. Why? Because I live in the One who perpetually loves and forgives. I live in the One who perpetually takes care of the hated and the forgotten. I live in the One who perpetually judges rightly and whose word and ways and decrees are true. I don’t just know about Him. I am intimately connected with Him through Jesus Christ. And because of this, I can enjoy Him now and look forward to an anticipation of something more to come in Him.

 

“In the Mishnah, one rabbi says, ‘This world is like a lobby before the Olam Ha-Ba. Prepare yourself in the lobby so that you may enter the banquet hall.’ Similarly, the Talmud says, ‘This world is like the eve of Shabbat, and the Olam Ha-Ba is like Shabbat. He who prepares on the eve of Shabbat will have food to eat on Shabbat.’” (Jewfaq.org) I can choose to live life in and according to the perpetual nature of God, or I can choose to live according to my own nature, whether that be through hate, or whatever. One will leave me walking into God’s future for me with Him, prepared in Him. The other will leave me living outside of the presence of God, unprepared for a future with Him, devoid of His presence. What will my perpetual choice be? It doesn’t only matter for later. It matters each and every day of my life. What do I really want my perpetual story to look like? Maybe today is a good day to decide, before God must choose for me.

An Apetite for Beauty

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“…I am of perfect beauty.” Ezekiel 27:3

 
You walked into the party
/ Like you were walking on a yacht
/ Your hat strategically dipped below one eye
/ Your scarf, it was apricot
/ You had one eye on the mirror
/ And watched yourself gavotte
/ And all the girls dreamed that they’d be your partner
/ They’d be your partner, and/ You’re so vain
/ You probably think this song is about you/ 
You’re so vain,
I’ll bet you think this song is about you/ 
Don’t you?
Don’t you? (Lyrics by Carly Simon)
I think of these words and Tyre’s thoughts of herself, “I am of perfect beauty,” and I start to think, “Well, what’s the problem with beauty?” But I won’t just reason it out in my own head. I want to look at it through the eyes of Scripture and see it Your way, God. I mean, who doesn’t want to be beautiful? Who doesn’t love to look at beautiful things? Isn’t that why we get excited about sunrises and mountain views and Grand Canyons and art and music and so much more? Is that bad? No, absolutely not. I know beauty in itself is not bad because You created beauty. But there is something about beauty that can become it’s own antithesis. And that happens when we forget where our beauty originates.

 
Here was Tyre, this powerful, lucrative, sea port. They were strong. They had all kinds of nations working with them. They had knowledge and wisdom. There builders were phenomenal. They had access to the finest wood and craftsmen. Their ships were to rave about. They received the finest goods in trade from Egypt and the isles of Elisha. Wise mariners were their pilots from Zidon and Arvad. Even their caulkers were wise men. They had armies. They guarded their walls and were upon the ships. Their many merchants brought in items like silver, iron, tin, lead, slaves, brass, horses, horsemen, mules, horns of ivory and ebony, emeralds, purple, embroidered work, fine linen, coral, agate, wheat, honey, oil, balm, wine, white wool, cassia, calamus, chariots, lambs, rams, goats, spices, precious stones, gold, blue clothes, and chests of rich apparel. Imagine the sight of this city!  Imagine it’s pride and the pride others bestowed upon it! And imagine the beauty that God blessed Tyre with, becoming the beauty that Tyre believed she had attained through all her own works. Imagine Tyre never even acknowledging God as her bestower of beauty. Imagine the glory of Tyre as Tyre revels in itself with no thought of God who is the Giver and Bestower of beauty. Imagine that which was made beautiful thinking it made itself that way.

 
I wanted to think on these things this morning, so I searched out Your word about beauty. I found Psalm 50:2 which states, “Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God has shone forth.” And I think, really? Is Zion so beautiful now? Is it what we think of as beauty? And I wonder if we can take what God intends for beauty and strip it of it’s beauty in how we handle it? I have no doubt that Zion was created to reflect God’s beauty in perfection. And I have no doubt that it is still retaining a faint reflection right now. And I have even more confidence that God will reinstitute the beauty of Zion as He changes men’s hearts and returns His image of beauty to Zion in Christ who is perfect beauty in God. But, for a while, Zion is Tyre, who took their God-given beauty and twisted it into some form of their own, which totally distorted things.

 
Now, when I read Scripture, I think that God wants us to think about it all. That it’s not just parts for women and parts for men, but it applies to all mankind. I mean, after all, Paul said when we’ve put on Christ that “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” (Galatians 3:28,29) So I’m not going to write off something as only for men or only for women because a woman or man was being addressed. I hope the reader won’t either. Because in God’s word, what’s good for the goose is so good for the gander too.

 
So in Proverbs 31:30 we have, “Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.” The truth is that Solomon was sharing wisdom with his son. Do you know, that if he was sharing this with his daughter, it would apply just as much and God probably would have led him to say, “Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a man who fears the Lord, he shall be praised.” And maybe he would have chosen some different masculine words, but the truth would have been the same because charm and becoming full on one’s own beauty isn’t just a female problem. And You don’t just praise the woman who knows where her beauty comes from. You praise the man who acknowledges You as His beauty.

 
But the problem begins when the Jew or the Greek, or the slave or the free, or the male or the female twist the source of their beauty. Then, instead of being a sweet perfume to God and those around us, “there will be putrefaction; instead of a belt, a rope; instead of well-set hair, a plucked-out scalp; instead of fine clothes, a donning of sackcloth; and branding instead of beauty.” (Isaiah 3:24) The sad news is the beauty is not ours to own outside of and separate from God. It will corrupt us. It will bring us to the point of facing judgment for stealing that which was not ours. We’ll be brought down from our self-appointed high place where we’ve built our tower above God because the truth is, we aren’t God. God will always be the Beauty of beauties. God will always be God. And one day, if we don’t choose to humble ourselves before You on our own, You will need to humble us. I mean compared to You we might as well start lamenting, “Is this the city of which they said, ‘The perfection of beauty , a joy to all the earth?’” (Lamentations 2:15) “How can this be a joy to all the earth? They only care about themselves. They destroy others for their own gain. They ignore God.” But God is God and will be God because He can’t be other than who He is. Only, we try to be other than who we are. What a sad pretense.

 
This is an old, old story. It’s actually much older than the story of Zion or of Tyre and definitely so much older than you or me. Ezekiel brings up this issue of beauty frequently. See, we can start trusting in our beauty instead of trusting in the Giver of our beauty. That’s dangerous. That’s when we start building our own high places and deciding our own version of right and wrong and following whoever or whatever tickles our fancy. But I digress.

 
If we jump ahead to Ezekiel 28 we find God equating Tyre with someone else. All of a sudden, as God is talking of Tyre, He begins relating the story and sin of Satan. Think- king of Tyre= Satan. “You had the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.” Notice that God had created Satan (Lucifer) and established him with everything he was supposed to be, full of wisdom and beauty to the point of perfection. But that was not enough for Lucifer. God continues, “Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom by reason of your splendor. I cast you to the ground; I put you before kings, that they may see you.” Beauty devoid of God failed for Lucifer. It failed for Tyre and for Zion. And it will fail for me.

 
Let’s just think about this a little more. I’m even wondering how Jesus would compare to the sight of Lucifer. After all Isaiah 53:2 tells us “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” Wait, are you telling me that Jesus is not beautiful? I find that hard to believe because I’m pretty sure that God is beauty, pure and unadulterated. But I do think that in His beauty, Jesus didn’t attract attention for His own glory, for His own beauty, for looking at Him but that what shone forth and was shone forth by Christ was the glory and beauty of the Father. And unless we’re looking for that, we won’t see it and we won’t desire Him.

 
But Lucifer was all about his own glory and being noticed for himself. So when we have our hearts set on being noticed and made more of or commended or patted on the back, we notice “people” like Lucifer. we see him, and we’re attracted to him, and we desire him because that’s what we want for us. I guess that’s what the expression, “Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder” means. What we value is what we consider beautiful. But beauty isn’t up to our consideration. Beauty is God. Nothing more. Nothing less. Anything else is a dead imitation.

 
I need to learn to say, “You, Lord, are perfect in beauty!” Lucifer has no concept of love or grace because even in his high position and close proximity to God he was totally warped in his perception of God and dragged down many others with him. I mean, I wonder how he could be right there in the presence of God and not get it? But I guess, whether we’re angels or men and women, boys and girls, Jew or Gentile, slave or free, it all depends on what we want to see and what we’re really looking for.

 
I’m so glad that Jesus, being God, still chose to shine forth God’s glory and not His own, even though he had it to flaunt it. But flaunting wasn’t important to Him. Showing us the way to God was. Showing us where true beauty lies was. Showing us the beauty of love and grace and obedience and sacrifice was. Beauty, in and of itself, will lead us away from God like Lucifer led so many other angels. But the beauty of God in Christ Jesus, who for the glory of God and our salvation sacrificed Himself on the cross, gave up His own beauty for God first and for our well-being second, has been shed abroad for us. This is love. This is beauty.

 
“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” ( 1 Peter 3:4) Sorry, but I’m pretty sure that Lucifer would have done well to have understood this truth, and that Tyre and Zion would have done well too. Our beauty, no matter who we are, married-unmarried, male-female, child-adult ought to be the outflow of Christ in us. That’s the inner man. Because without Him in us, without some way for God to flow out of us, we’re heading for our own downfall and the downfall of all those that follow us. There is only one thing that is not corruptible, that will never perish, and that is God and life in Him through Christ. Unless He’s our ornament and our beauty, we have no beauty that counts. And if we have His beauty emanating from us like it does from Jesus, well, then we’ll have a quiet and meek spirit just like Jesus’. Get it? Our life will shine forth with the beauty of Jesus. And then others will follow Him in God’s beauty.

 
C.S. Lewis said, “We do not want merely to see beauty…we want something else which can hardly be put into words- to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it. That is why we have peopled air and earth and water with gods and goddesses, and nymphs and elves.” But the truth is God has invited us into the unity of His beauty from the very beginning. Dostoevsky’s prince in The Idiot stated, “Beauty will save the world.” “The appetite for beauty comes inscribed into every soul and it is a very large appetite. ‘By nature men desire the beautiful,’ says St. Basil the Great (circa 379 A.D.)-and I might stress that they desire it immensely.” (Andrew Cuneo) Beauty is a God-given appetite but our appetite was designed to be after God’s beauty and to let it adorn us. Think about it, if we want to be united with beauty so much, why not enter into the Maker’s beauty? Why would I want it on my own?

 
Lord, I totally get what C.S. Lewis said. More than anything I know my heart longs to be united with beauty. But sometimes I run to the short-cut or I grab for it now and I settle for less. I don’t want to settle for less because less is just emptiness and air and nymphs and elves. I want to be united in the Real Deal. I want to know real Beauty from the Source, and that’s You and only You. Lord, I want You to be my perfect beauty. May I cast off all that’s of me and let You clothe me in all that is You. I want You to look at me, like in the beginning of creation and say that I’m good, because then I’ll know that You’ve made me beautiful in You according to Your standards.

How Much Life is in Your Bones?

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“…for I know the things that come into your mind…” Ezekiel 11:5

Imagine that, God knows the things that come into every one of our minds. Every thing. Every one of us. How’s that for a thought to “chew the cud” on? How’s that for something to meditate on? Is that a scary thought? Is that a good thought? Is that a life changing thought?

Here God is, sharing another prophesy with Ezekiel. He shows Ezekiel two princes of the kingdom of Israel, Jaazaniah and Palatial. And God knows their plans and their counsel. And He says, “Thus have you said, O house of Israel; for I know the things that come into your mind.” I’m wondering if they even said those things out loud or if God heard them before they were ever spoken. Aren’t You telling us God that You already know our thoughts before we even speak them?

I just can’t stop thinking about the truth that You know the things that come into my mind. And I want to really understand that so I can live rightly under its weight. Because it is a weighty matter.

First, is the fact that You know, You “yada” what is in my mind. You use that same idea in John 17:3 when Jesus tells us, “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” It goes way beyond the facts or confessions of what we believe. This is about a knowing that is about intimacy in relationship with our Creator. It’s an embracing not only of Who You are but what You do. It’s engaging our life in partnership with You.

 

That begs me ask a question. What am I doing in that partnership? What is my part? I must know Your part to know mine. What are You doing? Are You waiting to escape the world before You do what You do? Or do You enter the world and do and create and change and transform here? If that’s what You do, if Jesus came to be about His Father’s business and it was here on earth, then isn’t my partnership to do Your will here on earth in the same way that my Jesus did? Did Jesus wait for the day He was back in heaven? Or was he creating restoration on earth? Am I supposed to be that kind of instrument? If I am really participating with God, if I really know You, wouldn’t I be doing what You do here? Didn’t Paul say, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain”? Is that because heaven is the goal or is Christ’s fullness the goal and living is the way we reach that fullness when death comes? Does eternal life really begin when we start co-creating with You and follow Your footsteps, and accept the challenge?

Well, that’s how I ought to know You. But the problem is that God knows the extent to which we know Him. Without Him we are twisted co-creators who choose our own plan devoid of Him and even have the nerve to say it’s His plan. This knowing takes us back to Genesis 2:17, “but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.” Did Adam and Eve not know right and wrong? Then how could God punish them if they didn’t know? But what if they knew and the choice wasn’t about right and wrong, but a choice about life -God, and death-not God? God is good, right? Therefore good is life because I know that God is life (I am the way, the truth, and the life…). Evil is death because evil is the opposite of good and death is the opposite of life.

Let’s think of the tree momentarily. “The Tree is not one way of life versus another way of life (God’s way). The Tree is death! It might look like it is living, but that is the deceptive quality of existence apart from relationship with God. The seduction of the Tree is that it mimics life.” (Skip Moen) The word for “knowledge” here is da’at, a derivative of yada. It’s about “knowing via the senses” and knowledge of a personal, experimental nature; or technical ability like what was needed for building the temple; or for discernment. The fear of the Lord brings forth wisdom, a related word. God is the possessor of da’at. He teaches da’at to us. But Genesis teaches us that da’at or knowledge devoid of God is death.

That’s what the Tree was. It was Adam and Eve’s choice to attempt life apart from their Creator, apart from God. That’s what Jaazaniah and Palatial were choosing and leading others to choose. That’s what I can choose if I’m not careful. This is what happens when I choose independence from the breath of life. How foolish to think anything else with breathe life into me, when it was You God who animated man. Anything else is “borrowed animation.”

Abraham Heschel put it this way, “Man’s sin is in his failure to live what he is. Being the master of the earth, man forgets that he is servant of God.” The truth is that someone, or rather Someone, owns my life and it’s not me. I was created to bear the image of God but I am not God. I can base my life on living according to the divine by walking in faith or I can choose to live apart from His voice. But to choose to live outside the divine is to choose death, no matter how beautifully the fruit is packaged.

Maybe Jaazaniah and Palatial and the others and I ought to ask ourselves some more important questions than, “What am I feeling? What do I want? What would make me feel better? What will make me happy and complete?” Maybe, before asking myself anything, I ought to stop and hear what God is asking me first and really think about it. “Can these bones live?” How’s that for a question? Look at white bones laid out with the flesh bleached off. Can they live? Well, can they? What about me? Where did my flesh come from and the blood that animates my bones? Can I live unless Someone gives me the breath of life? How does anyone or anything live, really? Maybe my answer should be like Ezekiel’s, “O Lord God, You know.” (Ezekiel 37:3)

And here we are back at knowing again. Only God is the One that knows like that, not any of us. “Only You know, Lord.” How long will we desiccate our own bones before we let You restore us to life? How long will I neglect myself by neglecting You? How long will I choose selfish things that waste me away? How long will I choose disobedience that leads to my own destruction? I don’t even know that, but You know.

 
I guess that can be a scary thought depending on how well I know You and how intimate and deep our relationship is. You care that much and You can give my dead bones and soul life, moment by moment, day by day, year by year. But if I’m not surrendering to You, how will this turn out for me? Palatial fell down dead at the end of the prophesy. I guess that means that just as You can give life to dry bones, so You alone can take life away from animated bones. Which side will I choose?

 
Did you ever think that the fall wasn’t about Adam and Eve’s nakedness? What if the fall was about people hiding the fact that now they were fragmented and broken? And I’m not just talking about a lost world. I’m talking about we, who call ourselves believers? Maybe we’re all more scorched bones than we like to imagine. Maybe it’s time we realized it so we could surrender to God and let Him animate us in Him. Maybe we’d be better off if we stopped hiding behind our flesh and our fig leaves and got behind You instead.

Ezekiel answers, “You know, Lord.” Restoration is in the hands of the Creator. We can absolutely know our depravity. That is the gift of the serpent. We know without a shadow of doubt that we have something to hide. But whether or not we will be restored is not something we are privileged to know on our own. For that we must rely on the Creator. He knows that outcome, just as He anticipated our inadequate “fig leaf” answer.

 
Yes, Lord, You know the things that come into my mind. You know what comes up, like going up stairs to another altar- maalah. You know what thoughts in my own mind rise up against and over Your thoughts. You know it when I don’t even realize I’m doing it. You know that perfectly, that completely, that deeply, and that intimately. And You do everything on Your part to try to help me to understand what I’m doing so that I can change my fragmented thinking and think and live life again.

 
You know the things that come into my mind. That word for mind is ruach. It’s that word that is used for the spirit or for breath or wind. I think back to when You breathed the breath of life into man in the first place and he became a living soul. It was the ruach that You shared from Yourself that animated him and every human thereafter. It makes me think of John 4:24 which states, “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

 
What is it to worship in spirit and truth? Usually the words hesed v’emet are used together, that’s loving kindness and truth. Emet, truth, is not about correctness. It’s about reliability, steadfastness, and trustworthiness. It’s what flows from God. It’s more than a character trait. It is His character. He established it. If we worship God, we act like that also because what flows from Him will flow from us. So, “to worship Him in truth is to do what He says”, because it is doing what He is and He lives in us. See, the loving kindness part is the action, especially directed at someone else. So to live in mercy and truth is to act out God acting in me in the world to others.

 
But here Jesus used ruach v’emet, spirit and truth. What’s the difference? Remember where I said that ruach means breath, spirit or wind? But it’s also about “power, value, aggression, mental activity, angelic existence, conscience and life itself.” In other words, worship is this all encompassing part of all that we are acknowledging and responding back to You appropriately. It’s the natural response of every human, and every created thing. It’s what is natural until the natural is broken or fragmented.

The truth is that Israel did not exist until God called Israel out of Ur through Abram and created a nation that knew Him. Adam and Eve did not exist until God created them and gave them life animated by His spirit. Palatial and Jaazaniah and Ezekiel owe their very being to this same God who created them and animated them by His spirit. And so do I. Now, the question is, what will I do with this knowledge? How will I live and who will I live for? Who will I give the credit for and of my life to? Is it mine to order or does it belong to the One who daily breathes His life into me, the One who animates these very bones and determines the days my flesh lives on them? I wonder if life is a treasure or a privilege? I think it’s a treasure, and when I realize the immensity of the love and power with which my Creator designed me, I think I’m best off letting Him direct my plans and letting Him animate my life. So, what do you think? Because God already knows, but what you think will determine how much life is in your bones.

Put Down Your Branch, Get on the Train

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Photo credit goes to someone on the internet.

 

“Then said He unto me, ‘Son of man, have you seen what the ancients of the house of Israel do in the dark, every man in the chambers of his imagery? For they say, ‘The Lord doesn’t see us; the Lord has forsaken the earth.’” Ezekiel 8:12

 
So now this fiery figure of God comes to Ezekiel and takes him in a vision of God to Jerusalem to the temple. And as Ezekiel was told to look, he was shown the “image of jealousy in the entry.” But it didn’t stop there. God says, “There’s worse abominations to see here.” God brought Ezekiel to the door of the court and showed him a hole. Then He told Ezekiel to dig there and Ezekiel found a door. He went in, beyond the wall, I guess inside the wall, and found creeping things, and abominable beasts, and idols all portrayed on the wall round about. Not only that, there were 70 men and Jaazaniah offering incense to these idols.

 
As if all that wasn’t bad enough. Then God says, “There’s more.” He brings Ezekiel to the door of the gate and there are women weeping for Tammuz, a Phoenician diety. Let’s keep going. Now, to the inner court, between the porch and the altar, were 25 men with their backs to the temple worshipping the sun to the east.

 
God called it “putting the branch to their nose.” What in the world does that mean? I’m pretty sure it’s a Hebrew idiom. Some think it was a part of worshipping idols where the worshipper picked up a twig or branch and placed it over their face as to shield their face from the diety, like the sun. But to God it would be like sticking your thumb to your nose and sticking out your tongue in defiance. Whatever it was, it was gloating in your abomination before God. It was digging in your heals, and inviting violence into your own land and your own life. It was asking for God’s anger to be ignited, provoking the fire to burn.

 
You know, what we think we can get away with in the dark, eventually comes out in the open. What was hidden behind walls and in men’s and women’s minds and hearts is not hidden from God, and he showed it to Ezekiel. The truth is that God knows what is going on in the “chambers of man’s imagery.” What is that? Could that be more than what we do hidden in a room? Could that mean that God knows what is in the secret chambers of our imagination? I think so.

 
I guess we have this idea that God has nothing to do with the dark. Maybe we think that God, being God, can’t go into the darkness. But Psalm 139:12 tells us, “Yes, the darkness doesn’t hide from You; but the night shines as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to You.” The truth is that You “form the light, and create darkness: [You] make peace, and create evil: [You] the Lord do all these things.” (Isaiah 45:7)

 
There is no place that God cannot go and that God is not in control. You see into the “secret” places even of our hearts, way beyond our dark closets because nothing is hidden from You. The problem is that we get involved in labeling things our way instead of Yours. Isaiah said, “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” The people of Israel had God, they had You, they had what was good. But they started to chase after other ideas of good, after other standards, and adopt them as their own.

 
But they are no worse than us. We sit back and say, “How can a good God allow evil?” What kind of God would create evil? Why even let that be part of the picture? Because we’ve labelled You as a good God based on our idea of goodness. We make You who we think You should be instead of who You ARE. The truth is that You are all that You are before we even understand it. Your goodness is even in how You create evil.

 
It’s there for a purpose. Just because I don’t see that purpose doesn’t mean it’s not for ultimate good. Think about it. God created the garden with the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil before Adam and Eve were created. Do you really think God created that beautiful angel of light who fell and made an “oops”? I can’t explain God’s intent with evil, but darkness is a part of the plan, and none of it, and none of the plan is hidden from God’s intimate knowledge.

 
Maybe there are too many multiple connections going on in my brain today. But I know this, it’s not You, God, who doesn’t see. We’re the ones who don’t get it. And maybe if we would be honest enough to admit it, and get off our high horses, and set our thumbs and our branches down from our nose, we just might start to see and get it right. Well, we can keep on thinking we’re getting away with the stuff we do in “secret,” we can even think it’s time to come out in the open because God won’t do anything, but Paul warned in Romans 2:5, “Because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.”

 
Do you really feel badly for the branch wavers who provoke and tease and defy? Do you really think they haven’t been given ample time to listen and turn and repent? What about me? If I stand in front of an oncoming train and wave that twig in it’s face defiantly, who is going to lose? Didn’t I have time to get out of it’s track? Did the train invite my death or did I call it on myself? God says, “Therefore I will also deal in fury: My eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity: and though they cry in My ears with a loud voice, yet I will not hear them.” (Ezekiel 8:18) Is that Your fault, God? Or has the train whistle not been warning enough? It’s not like it just snuck up unaware. If I choose to ignore the warning whistle, over and over again, the train won’t have pity, and it will be my own fault.

 
There is a time for everything. There’s a time to see, and to listen, and to hear, and heed. There’s a time to seek pity and receive it. There’s a time to hear from God and to cry out to Him. There’s a time that God hears and it’s a reciprocal time. In other words, if we won’t hear God, neither will He hear us. Maybe it’s time to put down our branches and get off the track. It’s a much more glorious decision to board the train and go where it’s going, under it’s protection than to be run over by the train.

 

P.S.  I’ve read that this gesture can be interpreted by some as a very vulgar statement.  I wasn’t aware of that earlier.   I choose to include it, because those being addressed in Scripture before Ezekiel were being THAT rude to God and sometimes we are too.  Sometimes, we are THAT deliberately offensive.

On Life and Fulfillment

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Photo credit to Stephen Cunningham.

 

“Then those of you who escape will remember me among the nations where they are carried captive, how I have been broken over their whoring heart that has departed from me and over their eyes that go whoring after their idols. And they will be loathsome in their own sight for the evils that they have committed, for all their abominations.” Ezekiel 6:9

It’s funny how we say this is an awful way for God to feel. But I wonder if we were married and loved the one we were married to with all our hearts and they “went a-whoring” and left us for others, how we would feel? And I’m not saying that anyone should run out and destroy their unfaithful partner. That’s not my point. Isn’t the truth that they have already not only begun destroying themselves, but destroying true intimacy itself? Aren’t they bringing turmoil into their own lives and into the lives around them? Aren’t they being caught up in twisted thinking that will one day lead to their own demise?

Had God’s people ever been warned? Had they witnessed the power of the true God versus the lack of power of the gods of other nations? Had they witnessed and been supplied by the provision of the true God? Did You, God, really cause their demise? Or were You there trying to continually call them back to the safety and provision of You?

The people were playing with what they shouldn’t be playing with, nations who didn’t care about them. They were making themselves vulnerable because they were no longer alert. They were allowing themselves to lose their identity in God, who was their strength, and falling into the lie of the nations that they were great of themselves. They were worshipping at empty altars that bring emptiness and desolation.

Paul talks of desolation, this word shamem in Hebrew, also. “For it is written, ‘Rejoice, barren woman who does not bear; break forth and shout, you who are not in labor; for more are the children of the desolate than the one who has a husband.’” (Galatians 4:27) What is this about? What is today’s reading in Ezekiel about? It describes “the inner barrenness of an unfulfilled life.” (Skip Moen) Shamem is about being desolate and amazed. It can mean one or the other or it can be both at the same time. It’s like looking around at the great desolation and destruction around you and being totally appalled and overwhelmed at the same time.

The reason judgment comes is because we refuse to live fulfilled lives. We were created to be filled fully with God, to bear His image throughout this world. This is true fulfillment, what we were created to be filled with, just like Adam when God breathed into him and he became a living soul. But we choose, yes we choose, to warp that image and defile it and create our own. We choose to live unfulfilled lives in these places of desolation, and we don’t even realize how appalling it is. But God does. He never intended us to walk in the wilderness. He hadn’t intended for Israel to walk there. They chose desolation instead of the kingdom. Aren’t we doing the same? And then we have the nerve to blame our consequences on God? And all You have ever been trying to do is to turn us back to our purpose, true life fulfillment in You.

The truth is that God doesn’t leave us alone in the wilderness. He was there for Hagar. He was there for the Israelites. He is there for us today, waiting to rescue us from emptiness and unfulfillment. We think self-sufficiency is the answer but the answer is in dependency on a God who is fully able. Think about it. Joseph couldn’t rescue himself from that pit his brothers placed him in. The Israelites couldn’t find their way out of the desert. Hagar couldn’t find water to keep her and her son alive. Moses couldn’t even lead a people on his own. The truth is not one of us is sufficient on our own.

Paul understood that. He was once a very self-sufficient man. But not once he met the risen Jesus. He shares, “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God…” (2 Corinthians 3:5) God enables us in Him to do and to bear His image in this world, that we may fulfill our purpose in Him.

How could a barren woman have more fulfillment than the one with a husband? How did the desolate woman find more fulfillment? Because our fulfillment doesn’t come in our husband or in our job or in our position or in our ministry. Our satisfaction and fulfillment comes from God. This world is a wilderness and we have to learn to cling to God in the midst of it because clinging to the wilderness will always leave us empty.

Are you in an overwhelming place right now that seems totally desolate? Stop fighting God. Let Him come to You in the desolate empty place and let Him fill You. Run into His arms and let His ways become Your ways. Let Him redefine Your thinking and Your living by His standards, by His love, by His grace, and by His mercy. Let Him be the spouse that He promises to be to you and let yourself be His. Let go of the emptiness. Walk away from it and walk into His arms. You don’t have to stay there. You never did. He’s been waiting with open arms every minute of every day, right there with you, only you wouldn’t acknowledge Him or give Him the time of day. But He never stopped thinking about you or reaching out to you.

We can keep fighting a losing battle and trying to find fulfillment elsewhere. But it will always leave us empty and grasping for more. Or we can stop fighting and let the One who has always loved us, the One who created us, fill us full of Himself and we can live out our purpose in life and eternity. The choice is each of ours. Only, don’t get upset if you choose the consequences of self-fulfillment. It’s not like we’ve not been warned. The blame game is a losing game. Let’s take responsibility for our choices and let’s choose life and fulfillment.