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.

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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?

Delighting in You (Vindication Part 6)

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“He sent from on high, He took me; He drew me out of many waters.”  Psalm 18:16

Here we are, Lord, looking at vindication again.  And today we’re going to talk about how You bring vindication to a person with clean hands.  And I was first sent, by my outline from the Bible study, to Psalm 18:20, “The Lord dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands He rewarded me.”  Do you know what my first question was?  Well, You know, Lord, because You know everything, into the deepest part of me even better than I.  How can anyone be righteous and clean by Your standards, I mean continually righteous and clean?

So I decided I ought to read all of what David was saying here, especially since it’s inspired by You.  And I came to verse 16.  I thought, “Look at that, that’s vindication happening.”  But I also had to ask, “What are many waters?  Is that supposed to be like being saved from drowning?  Is it important for what I’m learning today?”  I mean “many waters” can mean many waters, like oceans or streams.  But then it’s also used to give me this idea of the sound of You, Lord.  It’s used of Your voice three times in Revelation.  “And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps…” (Revelation 14:2)  “And, behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east: and His voice was like a noise of many waters: and the earth shined with His glory.” (Ezekiel 43:2)

Many waters.  I was just reading some thoughts on multiple dimensions and God and sound.  And the way God thinks and the way we think and how we are able to listen or not listen and how You, Lord, are able to know our hearts and just appear where there are closed doors.  And it all pertains.  Because what if sometimes, the many waters, is all about all the things that You control all at once.  What if it’s what You sound like because as You talk You are doing and being and encompassing and inhabiting and upholding and rescuing and rejoicing and more?  What if You are the Ultimate Multi-Tasker and it’s the most beautiful and thunderous noise?  What if it’s like the sound of all the waters of the earth in the greatest storm ever being controlled and molded by a Being Who is taking care of everything?

That really matters to me.  It makes the grandest difference in my life today. Because there are so many things going on in my life right now.  And I don’t have that control.  I hear this sound and that sound and the other sound, and on my own, I can’t bring them together into one cohesive body.  But You can.  You can decipher and control.  You can shape and mold.  You overwhelm and nothing overwhelms You.

Within the church, without of the church, I hear many voices, and sometimes it sounds like rushing waves that want to crash over me.  But this morning, I know those aren’t the voices that count.  This morning I know that there is One who puts all the many waters in my life, and every life, and in the universe and beyond, under and into His perspective and His control and His order.  So when it seems like I’m being drowned in the midst of many waters, I just look up, and I see the One, You Lord, whose voice alone is mightier than the many waters surrounding me.  I listen above the tumult around me, and I hear Your voice raising strong above the tumult, and as I listen I hear the multitudes in Your voice, and I remember that I am one of them.  And I hear the thunderings from You and I am not afraid because You are for me.  And I remember to sing with You, “Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigns!”

So with that as my starting point, and I think that’s a Solid Rock starting point, David is helping me see how I can be a person with clean hands.  I want to walk through Psalm 18 again.  My cleanness of hands and heart start with starting with You.   I must love You, rely on You as my strength, let You be my rock and fortress and deliverer.  I must trust in You alone.  You must be my salvation and the one I run to not only for protection but to see what lies ahead and what dangers are approaching.  It’s all about me being all about You.  So it’s all about You.  It’s all about whatever happens, that You are surety, that I run to You for my answers, my peace, my safety, my satisfaction, my being.  If this is my focus, if YOU are my focus, if my focus remains in YOU, if I am Yours and You are mine and I am living in that reality, and I mean living in that reality, then You WILL take care of me as You have promised.

And vindication will come as You deliver me from my enemies and those who hate me and those who were stronger than me.  You will be my support.  You will bring me out into a solid place of safety and rescue me.  I think that broad place of safety is You.  What better place could I be than in You?  Why?  Is it because I deserve it?  Is it because I did wonderful things for You?  No, it’s because You delighted in me because I was delighting in You and living in that delight.

You deal with me according to the way I deal with You and Your ways.  Am I living in You and Your ways?  Am I delighting in You?  Because Psalm 18:20 tells me that You deal with me according to how I deal with You.  Am I continually allowing You the opportunity to continually keep my hands and heart clean?  If I am, then You will reward me with more of You.  That’s the greatest reward I can receive from You.  Am I keeping Your ways or am I following the voices of foreign waters?  Who’s voice am I listening to and following?

It’s 100% about what I am letting You do in me.  But first it’s 100% about what I am doing with You.  Am I delighting in Your mercy?  Then You’ll delight in placing Your mercy in me.  Am I delighting in Your blamelessness?  Then You’ll delight in placing Your blamelessness in me.  Am I delighting in Your purity?  Then You will place Your purity in me.  Am I delighting in Your humbleness?  Then You will place Your humbleness in me.

David is telling me time and time again that it’s all about You and what I’m doing with You and what I’m allowing You to do in me.  You save.  You bring down.  You light my way.  You give me strength to run and leap.  You are my refuge.  Your words equip me fully for battle, and successful battle at that.  You make my way blameless.  You secure me.  You give me skill.  You empower me.  You allow me to overcome my enemies.  You deliver me from strife.  You raise my head.  You subdue my enemies under me.  Sometimes You give vengeance for me.  Why?  Because You live and You are blessed and You are exalted above it all, and if that’s how I’m living my life, then You’ll look to everyone like the God You are because that’s who I’ll be showing them and that’s who You’ll be showing Yourself to be in me.  You vindicate me, You vindicate Your children, who keep their hands clean in You, because You love them steadfastly, so much that You actually delight in us and in this work that You alone are doing in us.

So what does it look like in real life to act this out?  Well, since David is describing it poetically here, let’s look back out how he enacted it in his every day life.  I’m going to jump to 1 Samuel 24.  Here we have David running from Saul and he’s hiding with his small band of man in a cave in the Wildgoat’s Rocks.  Saul, steps inside this very cave to relieve himself.  David’s men think it’s Scripture being answered, that he should kill Saul right then.   But David sneaks up and cuts a piece of his robe.  And even just cutting a piece of his robe, cuts David’s heart.  And even though God’s word had said, “Behold, I will give your enemy into your hand, and you shall do to him as it shall seem good to you,”  David’s heart was struck because he also remembered Your word that forbids one from putting their hand against Your anointed ones.  How is that for a sensitive heart to You and Your ways?

Then what does he do?  After Saul left, David went out and declared what he had done and asked why Saul was pursuing him when he had only done right by Saul.  He put before Saul the reason he had not killed him, because of obeying Your words, Lord.  He was respectful to this man pursuing his life because this man was still Your anointed one, even though he wasn’t acting like it.  He put judment in Your hands, Lord.  “The Lord judge between me and you, and the Lord avenge me of You: but my hand will not be upon you.”  So who was in control?  David was letting You be, no matter what.  There were many waters trying to wash over him, trying to persuade him otherwise, but he didn’t listen to them.  He listened to Your voice and let that come together over the tumult around him.

He called out to You to look at the actions and the heart of both men.  He called out to You to judge between the two.  He called to You to plead his cause, to deliver him.  And momentarily, David’s decisions had an effect on Saul.  He repented.  He realized his actions were evil and David’s were righteous.  Why?  Because David didn’t respond as he was; David responded with kindness to Saul’s evil actions.  That’s a work of God.  Saul knew he wouldn’t have made that decision.  Well, Saul made David promise to not kill his descendants (as was the custom of conquering kings).  I don’t think that Saul would have made that promise to David.  But isn’t it something how Saul knew that when David rose to power through God’s hand, he could depend on this righteous man who delighted in God and His ways to keep his word?  So even the unrighteous know a righteous man when they see one.  And when God’s full vindication came, and he was avenged, David kept his promise.  And that vengeance that came, well, it wasn’t a sweet thing for David.  The deliverance was, but there was sorrow for those he loved, even the one who had turned against him.

Lord, don’t let me forget what You are teaching me today.  Don’t let me forget anything You’ve taught me ever.  Just let it build up, stone upon stone, delight upon delight, faith upon faith.  Let me so delight in Your Word and bring it back to my mind that I have whatever I need at every right moment.  Instill Yourself in me.  And let me instill myself in You.  I owe You everything, absolutely everything.  I can’t have clean hands or a clean heart without You.  I want to hear Your voice continually.  I want to be caught up in the sound of Your voice, like many waters, like so many mighty waters that all other waters are put to shame, that I know, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that You are in control over everything, and I mean absolutely everything in my life and in every life.

Second Peter 2:19 tells me, “For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.”  Well, I want Your voice and Your ways to overcome me.  I want to give into you.  I want to be willingly conquered by You.  Because being Your slave is a beautiful privilege, full of glorious benefits.  Because being Your slave entitles me to the benefits of being Your child.  Why?  Because that’s what You decided, that’s what Your word promises.  It’s worth giving up all my rights, just to have You be in control.  I want to have to do Your will because I want it to be so delightful to me that to do anything else would be utter dissatisfaction.  And I want You to delight so in me that You just have to take care of everything because it’s Who You Are.