Thursday, September 10, 2009

Dramatic Encounter with a Living God!


I want to know God is real. God is powerful. God is present.

I long for a dramatic encounter with a Living God.

Now old Ezekiel wasn't out looking for an "experience." He wasn't at a conference, or seeking anything special. He was simply obediently doing what God told Him to do. And at the time it was somewhat boring. He was following this guy who was measuring everything.

They came to the eastern gate.

"Oh! The bright Glory of the God of Israel rivered out of the east sounding like the roar of floodwaters, and the earth itself glowed with the bright Glory. It looked just like what I had seen when he came to destroy the city, exactly like what I had seen earlier at the Kebar River. And again I fell, face to the ground. "

God showed up!! Ezekiel fell to the ground in worship. Not on his knees. Not with hands stretched to heaven. No - face to the ground. "God you are awesome. I worship YOU. You are worthy, allpowerful, glorious."

4 -5 The bright Glory of God poured into the Temple through the east gate. The Spirit put me on my feet and led me to the inside courtyard and—oh! the bright Glory of God filled the Temple!
6 -9 I heard someone speaking to me from inside the Temple while the man stood beside me. He said, "Son of man, this is the place for my throne, the place I'll plant my feet. This is the place where I'll live with the Israelites forever. Neither the people of Israel nor their kings will ever again drag my holy name through the mud with their whoring and the no-god idols their kings set up at all the wayside shrines. When they set up their worship shrines right alongside mine with only a thin wall between them, they dragged my holy name through the mud with their obscene and vile worship. Is it any wonder that I destroyed them in anger? So let them get rid of their whoring ways and the stinking no-god idols introduced by their kings and I'll move in and live with them forever.
10 -11 "Son of man, tell the people of Israel all about the Temple so they'll be dismayed by their wayward lives. Get them to go over the layout. That will bring them up short. Show them the whole plan of the Temple, its ins and outs, the proportions, the regulations, and the laws. Draw a picture so they can see the design and meaning and live by its design and intent.
12 "This is the law of the Temple: As it radiates from the top of the mountain, everything around it becomes holy ground. Yes, this is law, the meaning, of the Temple. "
Ezekiel 43 ends with this:
27 "'After these seven days of dedication, from the eighth day on, the priests will present your burnt offerings and your peace offerings. And I'll accept you with pleasure, with delight! Decree of God, the Master.'"
So to recap. Ezekiel fully obeys God. God shows up in glory and with power. He has very specific demands which need to be carried out. And He says He will accept Ezekiel and the people with pleasure, with delight!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Beam me up Scotty!


Ok, I Know! That is the old version of Star Trek. But we have long been intrigued by the idea of teletransporting.

Thing is, its not new. Listen to Ezekiels experience.

1 -3 In the twenty-fifth year of our exile, at the beginning of the year on the tenth of the month—it was the fourteenth year after the city fell—God touched me and brought me here. He brought me in divine vision to the land of Israel and set me down on a high mountain. To the south there were buildings that looked like a city. He took me there and I met a man deeply tanned, like bronze. He stood at the entrance holding a linen cord and a measuring stick."
o
"God touched me and brought me here. He brought me in divine vision to the land of Israel and set me down on a high mountain." He says it so casually. Like it happened all the time. Was he physically transported? Taken in a vision? Like a dream? Pretty heady stuff.
o
Alright, the rest of the passage.
o
"He stood at the entrance holding a linen cord and a measuring stick.
4 The man said to me, "Son of man, look and listen carefully. Pay close attention to everything I'm going to show you. That's why you've been brought here. And then tell Israel everything you see."
5 First I saw a wall around the outside of the Temple complex. The measuring stick in the man's hand was about ten feet long. He measured the thickness of the wall: about ten feet. The height was also about ten feet. "
o
They went around and measured everything. The gates, the walls, the temple, the columns. Lots of measuring. I guess this was the earliest appraisal service!
o
15 -16 "After he had finished measuring what was inside the Temple area, he took me out the east gate and measured it from the outside. Using his measuring stick, he measured the east side: eight hundred seventy-five feet.
17 He measured the north side: eight hundred seventy-five feet.
18 He measured the south side: eight hundred seventy-five feet.
19 Last of all he went to the west side and measured it: eight hundred seventy-five feet.
20 He measured the wall on all four sides. Each wall was eight hundred seventy-five feet. The walls separated the holy from the ordinary. "
o
So this reading is somewhat hum drum. It turns out it IS a vision, because all of this is future. At the time, the temple, the walls the city of Jerusalem was in ruins.
o
But tomorrow's reading has some sizzle!
o
Stay tuned...
o
(Wait a minute. This is not a radio show. What is the internet equivalent of "stay tuned"?)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Judgement. Compassion. Holiness. Relationship.


Reading the Bible is a quest to know God.

Can God be known? No - never. Never fully.

Does He reveal Himself? Yes - He does.

Does He want us to know Him? Most definately.

I'll admit it. Reading Ezekiel has been hard.

My life is not pleasant right now, and reading day after day of God's judgement, and destruction is hard.

Yet through it all, God is revealing Himself.

He is not adverse to having His people suffer.

His goal is to purge their lives of unfaithfulness and wickedness.

His sense of timing is WAY different than ours.

So here are four aspects of God's character on display (from Ezekiel 39).

Judgement:
21 -24 "I'll put my glory on display among the nations and they'll all see the judgment I execute, see me at work handing out judgment. From that day on, Israel will realize that I am their God. And the nations will get the message that it was because of their sins that Israel went into exile. They were disloyal to me and I turned away from them. I turned them over to their enemies and they were all killed. I treated them as their polluted and sin-sated lives deserved. I turned away from them, refused to look at them.

Compassion:
25 -29 "But now I will return Jacob back from exile, I'll be compassionate with all the people of Israel, and I'll be zealous for my holy name. Eventually the memory will fade, the memory of their shame over their betrayals of me when they lived securely in their own land, safe and unafraid.

Holiness:
Once I've brought them back from foreign parts, gathered them in from enemy territories, I'll use them to demonstrate my holiness with all the nations watching. Then they'll realize for sure that I am their God, for even though I sent them off into exile, I will gather them back to their own land, leaving not one soul behind.

Relationship:
After I've poured my Spirit on Israel, filled them with my life, I'll no longer turn away. I'll look them full in the face. Decree of God, the Master."

Miracle of the dry bones


Can a pile of bones come to life? - NO!

Can dry bones obtain marrow, and sinew, and blood, and life force? - NO!

Can disconnected bones come together and stand up and walk, and talk, and think, and feel? - NO!

It would take a miracle to make a pile of dry bones come to life.

God wanted to prophesy to and through Ezekiel, so He took him and plopped him down in a field of dry bones...

Ezekiel 37
Breath of Life
1 -2 God grabbed me. God's Spirit took me up and set me down in the middle of an open plain strewn with bones. He led me around and among them—a lot of bones! There were bones all over the plain—dry bones, bleached by the sun.
3 He said to me, "Son of man, can these bones live?"
I said, "Master God, only you know that."
4 He said to me, "Prophesy over these bones: 'Dry bones, listen to the Message of God!'"
5 -6 God, the Master, told the dry bones, "Watch this: I'm bringing the breath of life to you and you'll come to life. I'll attach sinews to you, put meat on your bones, cover you with skin, and breathe life into you. You'll come alive and you'll realize that I am God!"
7 -8 I prophesied just as I'd been commanded. As I prophesied, there was a sound and, oh, rustling! The bones moved and came together, bone to bone. I kept watching. Sinews formed, then muscles on the bones, then skin stretched over them. But they had no breath in them.
9 He said to me, "Prophesy to the breath. Prophesy, son of man. Tell the breath, 'God, the Master, says, Come from the four winds. Come, breath. Breathe on these slain bodies. Breathe life!'"
10 So I prophesied, just as he commanded me. The breath entered them and they came alive! They stood up on their feet, a huge army.
11 Then God said to me, "Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Listen to what they're saying: 'Our bones are dried up, our hope is gone, there's nothing left of us.'
12 -14 "Therefore, prophesy. Tell them, 'God, the Master, says: I'll dig up your graves and bring you out alive—O my people! Then I'll take you straight to the land of Israel. When I dig up graves and bring you out as my people, you'll realize that I am God. I'll breathe my life into you and you'll live. Then I'll lead you straight back to your land and you'll realize that I am God. I've said it and I'll do it. God's Decree.'"

God was going to bring His people - as broken and scattered as a field of dead, dry bones - back to life, back to health, back to a vibrant relationship with Himself, back to their land.

But it would be a miracle. A complete and total miracle.

So cool I think I would put it to music!

It would go something like this...

DRY BONES
Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones
Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones
Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones
Don’t you hear the word of the Lord?

Toe bone connected foot bone
Foot bone connected leg bone
Leg bone connected knee bone
Don’t you hear the word of the Lord?

Leg bone connected knee bone
Knee bone connected thighbone
Thighbone connected hipbone
Don’t you hear the word of the Lord?

Hipbone connected backbone
Backbone connected shoulder bone
Shoulder bone connected neck bone
Don’t you hear the word of the Lord?

Monday, September 7, 2009

God berates pastors, blesses sheep

I will start with the end. In this Oh-so-harsh book of Ezekiel, listen to what God says about YOU - His beloved sheep...

"You are my dear flock,
the flock of my pasture,
my human flock,
And I am your God.
Decree of God, the Master."

But before He gets to that, He has some things to say -

Ezekiel 34
When the Sheep Get Scattered
1 -6 God's Message came to me: "Son of man, prophesy against the shepherd-leaders of Israel. Yes, prophesy! Tell those shepherds, 'God, the Master, says: Doom to you shepherds of Israel, feeding your own mouths! Aren't shepherds supposed to feed sheep? You drink the milk, you make clothes from the wool, you roast the lambs, but you don't feed the sheep. You don't build up the weak ones, don't heal the sick, don't doctor the injured, don't go after the strays, don't look for the lost. You bully and badger them. And now they're scattered every which way because there was no shepherd—scattered and easy pickings for wolves and coyotes. Scattered—my sheep!—exposed and vulnerable across mountains and hills. My sheep scattered all over the world, and no one out looking for them!
7 -9 "'Therefore, shepherds, listen to the Message of God: As sure as I am the living God—Decree of God, the Master—because my sheep have been turned into mere prey, into easy meals for wolves because you shepherds ignored them and only fed yourselves, listen to what God has to say:
10 "'Watch out! I'm coming down on the shepherds and taking my sheep back. They're fired as shepherds of my sheep. No more shepherds who just feed themselves! I'll rescue my sheep from their greed. They're not going to feed off my sheep any longer!
11 -16 "'God, the Master, says: From now on, I myself am the shepherd. I'm going looking for them. As shepherds go after their flocks when they get scattered, I'm going after my sheep. I'll rescue them from all the places they've been scattered to in the storms. I'll bring them back from foreign peoples, gather them from foreign countries, and bring them back to their home country. I'll feed them on the mountains of Israel, along the streams, among their own people. I'll lead them into lush pasture so they can roam the mountain pastures of Israel, graze at leisure, feed in the rich pastures on the mountains of Israel. And I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep. I myself will make sure they get plenty of rest. I'll go after the lost, I'll collect the strays, I'll doctor the injured, I'll build up the weak ones and oversee the strong ones so they're not exploited.
17 -19 "'And as for you, my dear flock, I'm stepping in and judging between one sheep and another, between rams and goats. Aren't you satisfied to feed in good pasture without taking over the whole place? Can't you be satisfied to drink from the clear stream without muddying the water with your feet? Why do the rest of my sheep have to make do with grass that's trampled down and water that's been muddied?
20 -22 "'Therefore, God, the Master, says: I myself am stepping in and making things right between the plump sheep and the skinny sheep. Because you forced your way with shoulder and rump and butted at all the weaker animals with your horns till you scattered them all over the hills, I'll come in and save my dear flock, no longer let them be pushed around. I'll step in and set things right between one sheep and another.
23 -24 "'I'll appoint one shepherd over them all: my servant David. He'll feed them. He'll be their shepherd. And I, God, will be their God. My servant David will be their prince. I, God, have spoken.
25 -27 "'I'll make a covenant of peace with them. I'll banish fierce animals from the country so the sheep can live safely in the wilderness and sleep in the forest. I'll make them and everything around my hill a blessing. I'll send down plenty of rain in season—showers of blessing! The trees in the orchards will bear fruit, the ground will produce, they'll feel content and safe on their land, and they'll realize that I am God when I break them out of their slavery and rescue them from their slave masters.
28 -29 "'No longer will they be exploited by outsiders and ravaged by fierce beasts. They'll live safe and sound, fearless and free. I'll give them rich gardens, lavish in vegetables—no more living half-starved, no longer taunted by outsiders.
30 -31 "'They'll know, beyond doubting, that I, God, am their God, that I'm with them and that they, the people Israel, are my people. Decree of God, the Master: You are my dear flock, the flock of my pasture, my human flock, And I am your God. Decree of God, the Master.'"

Tough to be a preacher


Everyone wants to know the future.

Everyone wants to be "lucky", or "blessed" or have divine intervention working in your favor.

Every general would love to know the outcome of the battle beforehand.

Every business person would love to know if the plan, the strategy, the endeavor will be wildly successful, or a dismal failure.

Every one would love to hear from God.

Sort of...

Preachers and prophets have been mocked, excoriated, dismissed and denounced. Many killed. Many banished.

Occassionally a preacher or a prophet is held up. It usually does not last long.

Listen to what God told Ezekiel...

30 -32 "As for you, son of man, you've become quite the talk of the town. Your people meet on street corners and in front of their houses and say, 'Let's go hear the latest news from God.' They show up, as people tend to do, and sit in your company. They listen to you speak, but don't do a thing you say. They flatter you with compliments, but all they care about is making money and getting ahead. To them you're merely entertainment—a country singer of sad love songs, playing a guitar.

They love to hear you talk, but nothing comes of it.

33 "But when all this happens—and it is going to happen!—they'll realize that a prophet was among them."

The Watchman


George Washington Bridge guards lose jobs after being caught napping on duty

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Two George Washington Bridge security guards photographed sleeping on the job have been fired, according to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

In one set of photographs by commuter Joey Lepore, taken during a Wednesday rush hour at 7:15 a.m., a guard tilts his head downward and dozes. The other snoozer's on-the-clock siesta is more brazen: he uses his arm as a pillow as he dozes at 10:15 a.m. last Monday.

Before releasing the photos, Lepore hesitated, knowing it would likely cost the guards their jobs. But ultimately he decided the security of thousands outweighed the job security of two.

"If there's two people on this bridge who don't care about my safety and the safety of anybody who comes over this bridge, then I really don't have an obligation to withhold what I have," he said.

Being a watchman is a boring job. No surprise that someone would fall asleep on the job. Problem is, you are paid to be there for the off chance that something happens that is not at all boring.

God compares Ezekiel to a watchman. By extension, each Christian is a watchman.

Ezekiel 33
You Are the Watchman
1 -5 God's Message came to me: "Son of man, speak to your people. Tell them, 'If I bring war on this land and the people take one of their citizens and make him their watchman, and if the watchman sees war coming and blows the trumpet, warning the people, then if anyone hears the sound of the trumpet and ignores it and war comes and takes him off, it's his own fault. He heard the alarm, he ignored it—it's his own fault. If he had listened, he would have saved his life.
6 "'But if the watchman sees war coming and doesn't blow the trumpet, warning the people, and war comes and takes anyone off, I'll hold the watchman responsible for the bloodshed of any unwarned sinner.'
7 -9 "You, son of man, are the watchman. I've made you a watchman for Israel. The minute you hear a message from me, warn them. If I say to the wicked, 'Wicked man, wicked woman, you're on the fast track to death!' and you don't speak up and warn the wicked to change their ways, the wicked will die unwarned in their sins and I'll hold you responsible for their bloodshed. But if you warn the wicked to change their ways and they don't do it, they'll die in their sins well-warned and at least you will have saved your own life.