~~i want to be everything you dreamed when you called my name~~

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Dry Bones

Text: Ezekiel 37:1-14

This is blowing my mind this morning...I don't know why because I've read/heard about this passage many times before...but wow. God accompanied his servant Ezekiel on an incredible trip - a spiritual journey to a land of dry bones. In this vision, the Lord asked Ezekiel whether the piles of bones could come back to life. Simple question with an obvious answer - or so Ezekiel thought! And yet, he refused to give a definite response one way or the other (haha, I just chuckle thinking about this...). If he were to have reminded God that bones can't live, he would have been expressing doubt concerning God's power. On the other hand, accepting the premise that the bones could indeed come back to life would have implied endorsing a human impossibility. This is great! How often do we find ourselves in this position ("God...I have no idea how you are going to bring so-and-so to You, it seems impossible to me - but I'm not going to say it's impossible, because well, it's YOU I'm talking to..."). Ezekiel responded with what seemed the only plausible answer (and one I'm thinking we should consider more often!), "God - only You know that!" (Ezekiel 37:3).

Ezekiel did not formulate his own plan of action but instead placed his trust in God's ability to act. After Ezekiel had responded in faith, God gave him what seemed a ludicrous directive: "Prophesy to these bones - tell them to come back to life." WHAT?!?! Ezekiel must have been floored - doubting, but wanting so desperately to believe. It is one thing to believe that God can accomplish the impossible but quite another to become personally involved in the process! Ezekiel, however, did exactly as God had requested. Incredibly, those bones did take on flesh and become animate. Before long, an entire army stood at attention. On that day God performed a phenomenal miracle for Ezekiel's benefit in order to remind his people (then the Isrealites..now, us!) that He is indeed the Lord and that His promises are powerful and true!

When God's Word is faithfully taught, that which is dead in our souls is revitalized through the working of God's Holy Spirit. How many times do we think/say this verse..."I can do everything through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13). Now, when are we going to start believing it to be true??! Jesus told His disciples, "apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:5). The same Jesus who raised Lazarus from the dead, healed the sick, and fed more than 5,000 people with a few fish and loaves of bread can do the seemingly impossible for us!!! He can transform our listless spirits and make us a powerful army of servants...if we let Him! God can breathe life into the most desperate of situations...if we let Him! God will change your life...if you let Him!!!

Oftentimes our strength becomes depleted to the point of discouragement or even despair. What was that about our strength coming from Christ? Right. Oh, and that part about apart from Him I can do nothing. Sweet. We have got to trust in the truth of God's Word to instill new life into our monotonous routine filled lives! Nothing is impossible for our God!

What dry bones are you waiting for the Lord to speak life into? Do you believe HE can do it? Believe Him - take Him at His Word!! Can you even imagine what this world would look like if God's people started believing He can actually do what He says He can do?!

Believe Me now ~ Believe Me here ~ Remember all the times I've told you loud and clear ~ I am with you ~ I am for you ~ So believe Me now

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

In the Lions' Den

Between reading Daniel, and an email I received from a friend talking about how hard it is to continually trust in God to provide - and to turn away from the world...I was thinking 'what's up with the lions' so I did some research and had some thoughts...I love how He continually links aspects of my life together into His grand scheme...

So, the lions...at various times throughout history, rulers have used lions to both torture and kill those individuals who opposed them (the rulers). Apparently, during the periods of persecution during the first centuries following Jesus' death and resurrection, members of the early church were repeatedly thrown to the lions because their decision to walk with God and stake their lives on faith in his Son ran counter to the official government stance. Then there's Daniel - while Darius was ruler of Babylon, Daniel was accused of treason and thrown into a den full of restless, ravenous lions (Daniel 6:16-21). The beauty of this story is God sending His angel to keep the lions from attacking Daniel, protecting His servant (verse 22).

Which brings me to us...the very fact that we choose to walk with God involves a second implicit choice...a choice to walk out of step with this world (Romans 12:2; 1 John 2:15), and Satan makes certain that believers will feel the consequences of this decision (Job 1:7; 1 Peter 5:8). Stupid Satan...

Jesus warned his followers that they would be handed over...and put to death, that they would be hated by all nations because of their faith in Him (Matthew 24:9). Jesus also addressed this issue when He began his Sermon on the Mount with the recitation of the Beatitudes..."Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in Heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you" (Matthew 5:11-12).

It's a hard choice to choose walking with God, knowing that you are opening yourself up for attacks from the enemy on a daily basis. Satan would love for us to forget God's promises to us...that He has sent His Spirit to guide and protect us - and to reveal God's truth to us when we choose to live for Him (John 16:13). In this world we will have trouble - it's a given...but be of good cheer...our King has overcome the world!!! (John 16:33)

Be encouraged friends - Heaven is coming...Jesus is coming! Don't lose sight of that hope!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Radical Transformation

I think one of the pitfalls we face in following Jesus is the temptation to focus on how our lives look to other people around us - rather than on how God is changing us from the inside out - one day at a time. We get so caught up in how things look to others, it's such a lie from Satan! It's that Casting Crowns song - Stained Glass Masquerade...
Are we happy plastic people ~ Under shiny plastic steeples ~ With walls around our weakness ~ And smiles to hide our pain ~ But if the invitations open ~ To every heart that has been broken ~ Maybe then we close the curtain ~ On our stained glass masqueradeWe are so worried about how others will perceive how our relationship with the Lord is going...we lose the point - that the Lover of our souls is changing our hearts and molding them to be more like His. So not the point of what I was going to write today...but a good tangent nonetheless!
What I really wanted to write about is how our hearts are God's chief concern, not what we look like to other people around us. I've been reading a ton in the Old Testament lately, and I'm always quick to judge the Isrealites for losing their focus on God in the context of what looks to us like the clutter of endless rituals, but aren't we the same way?? We, too, are tempted to take our eyes off the Lord and concentrate on our outward appearance of spirituality, on how we present ourselves to other people...to God..or any other number of lies Satan fires at us to get our focus off the Lord. Satan stops at nothing to steal our gaze. Stupid jerk.
God promised Ezekiel that he would provice the nation of Isreal with a new heart and a new spirit. The people would experience a fundamental transformation from the inside out, and this radical change of heart and spirit would inevitable lead to a life of obedience (Ezekiel 11:19-20; 36:26-27).
First, God promised a new heart. Sin rejoices in prompting us to deny the truth, but God is explicit in his analysis: The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure (Jeremiah 17:9). Our entire self has been permeated and corrupted by sin, we are powerless to change that fact. BUT - God is a heart surgeon of incomparable skill - in fact, he administers a total heart transplant! (Eat your heart out Dr. Burke...no pun intended). God removed the old heart of stone (Ezekiel 36:26) that has resisted his will and replaces it with a new, softer version - one that is vital and responsive! A new heart offers new life, new direction, new desires and new possibilites for us!
Second, God promised that along with their new heart would come the very Spirit of God (Ezekiel 36:27). In the OT, the Spirit of God came on people, but did not live in people. God's promise of his indwelling Spirit must have sounded strange to the 'ol Isrealites - how could God dwell IN them?!? Much later, Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would be present after his ascension to guide not only the disciples - but US into all truth (John 16:5-15). The outpouring of the Spirit occured in a dramatic way on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4...wouldn't that have been cool to see?). The key here is, it is the SAME SPIRIT within our own hearts who infuses in us the power to resist sin and to obey the Lord (Galatians 5:16-26). The power of the life-giving Spirit has set you free from the power of sin that leads to death! (Romans 8:2)
So you see, it's the combination of the new heart and the new Spirit that God imparts to us that gives us the power to resist sin, and be transformed radically by our Father! Jesus made it abundantly clear that we are incapable of camouflaging that dark, icky stuff in our hearts. He knows our hearts better than we know them ourselves! Remember the Sermon on the Mount? It was there that Jesus made the profound statement that, "where our treasure is, there our heart will be also" (Matthew 6:21). Later on, he told a group of Pharisees the "out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks" (Matthew 12:34).
Then remember that command Jesus gave us...Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength (Mark 12:30).
With heart, soul, mind, and strength - in other words, with everything we are - we are called to love our God!
And out of this love will inevitably flow an outpouring of heartfelt and selfless service, service that the world will see and recognize as genuine...not a fake mask we're putting on to look spiritual and put together!

So once again...it all comes down to our hearts and love...amazing!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Not because of what I've done...
But because of who You are...
(From 'Who Am I' by Casting Crowns)

As a Christian, as a human, this is the hardest thing to come to grips with.
You're saved,
you are going to heaven,
and you didn't do a thing to deserve it.
You didn't say a million prayers...
Or convert a hundred jungle natives...
You didn't do anything except what came naturally...

You heard the truth.
That God, the creator of everything, loves you.
He became a man so He could relate to you.
He died in your place.
He rose from the dead so you could be assured that He has the
power to fulfill any promise He makes.
How can you help but fall on your face and worship and adore Him!!
If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved (Romans 10:9)

Monday, May 01, 2006

Ahhhh Yeah!!!

I'm not sure which is sweeter...

The AVS advancing to the Western Conference Semifinals...or the Red Wings getting beat by Edmonton in the first round!!!!