Archive for March, 2008

Ezekiel 2

Today we move on to Ezekiel 2.  You may recall that Ezekiel 1 ended with a voice speaking to him.  In chapter two we find out what that is all about.  Ezekiel hears the voice and “the Spirit entered me and put me on my feet”.  God spoke and Ezekiel was impacted.  Check out what Ezekiel’s attitude was toward God here “as He spoke to me, I listened”.  Does that describe you?  When God speaks do you listen?  Or is there so much noise in your life you wouldn’t even hear Him speaking?  Some days that is true for me I am sure.  I allow so much stuff to collect in my head and surround me that God would need a megaphone just to get my attention.  Scripture talks about us hearing the “still small voice of God”.  That will only happen if we are listening.  We will only hear if we are tuned in.  God has a job for Ezekiel.  He wants him to talk to the people and speak truth of their rebellion.  Pay attention to God’s direction here: “Your job is to speak to them. Whether they listen is not your concern”.  God says you speak and leave the outcome to me.  He didn’t make Ezekiel responsible for something he could not control.  All that Ezekiel is held accountable to is being obedient to God’s direction to speak.  Sometimes we get caught up in feeling like it is our job to make sure people not only hear but also act on what we share.  That may be the salvation message, it may just be truth from God’s word.  The reality is that it is not our job to make people respond.  It is our job to speak the truth in love and let God deal with the outcome.  So many times we don’t share the gospel because we are afraid of how it will be received.  We don’t confront sin because we aren’t sure if someone will respond the way we think they should.  But that is not how God expects us to act.  He wants us to be obedient in sharing His truth and then let Him deal with the heart.  He will take care of the rest – we just need to do our part.  There is also a warning to Ezekiel we need to heed.  “Take care….that you don’t rebel like these”.  We must be careful as we minister not to be trapped in the lifestyle or sin of others.  Speaking the truth does not give me a pass on sin so I can “fit in” with those I want to share with.  Sometimes the enemy wants us to think like that.  I’ll just go and join these people and open the door to share.  I have seen folks do the joining and forget about the sharing completely.  We have to remember that we are called to be “set apart” for Him.  Speak the truth boldly.  Let God deal with the results. 

Ezekiel 1

Ezekiel is 30 years old as he begins to write his prophecy.  I love how his book starts: “God’s word came to Ezekiel….God’s hand came upon him that day”.  Does God’s word come to you?  Do you feel like God’s hand is upon you?  I know a few of you do – you have shared that with me in the recent weeks.  You feel God is at work – up to something in your life.  It is true for all of us – we just may not really recognize it.  I know that is how some of the rest of you are feeling – that you can’t hear God right now.  Why the difference?  There are probably lots of reasons but I know in my own life it usually revolves around a couple things.  I feel close to God and like He is leading and touching me when I am focused on that relationship – when I am taking time to communicate with Him often throughout the day – when I am listening to His leading.  When I don’t feel that touch is when I am focused on me and my problems and just too occupied to even notice.  Sometimes that is a pity party, woe is me kind of problem.  Sometimes it is just being too darn busy with my agenda.  But here is the good news – God never moves.  He is always there and always trying to speak and touch us.  Ezekiel writes about the four creatures and describes them in great detail.  I am certainly not going to try and interpret what this means, but I do want to call out one description that should be our goal for living: “Wherever the spirit went, they went”.  As I reflect on this verse it makes me wonder if I live like that.  Am I a follower of God’s spirit, or do I insist on leading?  Some days I am afraid it is the latter and that is when I get in deep trouble.  When I put me on the throne of my life, look out, it isn’t usually going to turn out so well.  But my goal needs to be to follow the leader (the Holy Spirit) that God has given to me as a Christ follower to be the source of direction for my life.  I remember playing follow the leader as a kid.  I hadn’t thought about the fact that my life needs to be follow the Spirit now.  Who is leading in your life?  Is it you?  If so take a hard look at how well you are doing and consider putting God in control.  As the chapter ends Ezekiel sees greatness and it turns out to be the “glory of God”.  How did he respond?  “He fell to his knees, face to the ground”.  Oh for a healthy understanding of God’s glory and the fear and respect we need to have of Him.  We serve an awesome God.  Next time we begin with the story based on Ezekiel’s last words “I heard a voice”.  That happens when he hits the deck in worship of God and His glory.  God speaks to him.  Are you on your knees seeking the Father?

Hosea 14

Hosea wraps up his words to the lost children of Israel by telling them how to return to God.  These words are just as true today.  Look at the formula he gives: “Take away our sin, accept our confession. Receive as restitution our repentant prayers”.  There are a couple key components to restoring or building a relationship with God.  First we have to accept the fact we are sinners and confess.  Confession means we agree with God that we have fallen short of being holy and perfect on our own.  Just as an FYI – that applies to you and every breathing person on this earth.  Scripture is clear – we are all sinners that have fallen short.  We all have to get to heaven by a method other than us just being good enough on our own – because we are not.  The second step is repentance – that means we turn around and go the other way – we quit sinning and begin walking toward and with God.  That is the salvation message and the reason Jesus came.  He is the only way for us to get our relationship right with God.  But Hosea goes on here.  He tells us how God will respond if we confess and repent.  Hosea tells us God will: “heal their waywardness…..will love them lavishly……anger is played out….will make a fresh start”.  But wait there’s more: “burst into bloom……put down deep oak tree roots….become a forest of oaks…..become splendid…..fragrance…..will be blessed by him”.  God is waiting to touch us.  He wants to respond to our confession and repentance.  He stands there just waiting to bless us.  We serve an unbelievable God.  Hosea ends with this advice: “If you know what’s good for you, you’ll learn this inside and out”.  We need to learn it well.  We need to teach our children.  God wants to be God of our life!

Hosea 13

Hosea continues his in your face approach to trying to get the truth to turn things around.  He describes the situation this way:  They are “back in the sin business again…..religion customized to taste…..anything you want in a god you can get”.  Do any of those words sound remotely like America today to you?  They do to me.  There are lots of “gods” available and certainly people get their “religion customized to their taste” at the many different churches (if you can call them that) that are available today.  Our nation has many of the same issues that the children of Israel had fallen prey to.  And I fear that the God we serve is equally as unhappy with us as He was with them.  How do we turn this around?  By living a steadfast life and teaching our children and everyone we touch about the God we serve.  We have to do it by living life boldly and openly.  We were not given “a spirit of timidity but of power, love and self control” is how scripture describes our heritage as Christ followers.  We will only change this world by taking our life and living it for God as we lead our companies, lead our families, lead people everywhere to be Christ followers.  Hosea makes this three step analysis of why this has happened.  Pay close attention to the progression he points out: “You were spoiled…thought you didn’t need me….forgot me”.  Here is the formula to falling away from God and running the other way.  We are all spoiled by a God who loves us and gives us far more than we deserve or should have.  When that happens we begin to believe we can do it on our own, we tend to become dependent on God only when we are beyond our own ability to control the situation.  And soon, we forget God completely and live life like it is all about us.  Here is the formula for disaster.  Here is the very reason why God tells us to talk about Him in the morning, through the day and before we go to bed.  We have to keep Him at the front of our mind.  We all are ADD when it comes to our relationship with God.  Some of us worse than others, but we all tend to forget Him far too much.  That is why journaling is so important.  We need to write down what God is up to and has done for us every day.  We need a record of His interaction in our lives.  God is alive and active and we must remember.  Then we need to teach our children and lead those who follow.  We don’t have to experience what Israel did here.  We can be different if we choose to.

Hosea 12

Hosea sure isn’t one of those “pick me up” kind of books.  He is in your face constantly with truth.  I guess that is what prophets do, and today in chapter 12 he is no different.  He is pointing out the utter sin and failure of God’s people and has them beat down and at God’s feet.  He points out that God “bested” Jacob and his ancestors and then was reduced to weeping and prayer.  But he asks a key question that I think we all need to consider.  God is who He is – that doesn’t change.  We are miserable sinners in His presence.  The answer is pretty clear actually.  We need to come back to God or draw near to God depending on our situation.  The question Hosea asks: “What are you waiting for? Return to your God”.  Seems so simple doesn’t it.  And it really is actually.  God isn’t a moving target – He never leaves us nor forsakes us.  His scripture makes that very clear.  He never stops loving us at all and is not hard to find.  But we have to do something for this restoration to take place.  We have to come back to Him.  Why wait and miss another day of His love?  That is actually just plain stupid on our part.  Hosea goes further and tells us how to “return to God”.  Commit yourself in love, in justice! Wait for your God”.  What a simple formula – commit yourself in love.  That is a small solution to a big problem.  Trouble is we struggle with that commit part of the equation.  On the plane yesterday I started reading the book “One Month to Live” and it has a chapter dealing with this topic.  If we are going to “commit” to God – we have to stay “plugged in” to the source of power for our lives.  We have to choose not to pull the cord out of the socket and go about our lives on our own simply coming back to plug in when circumstances dictate a big need.  “Commit” means exactly what it sounds like – we need to plug in and stay plugged in to His love.  We need to be completely immersed in God’s will and work in our lives.  We need to be His…..that is what “commit” means.  We are no longer our own but bougth with a price.  So what are you waiting for?  The time will never be better to become a sold out and committed Christ follower.  Return to God – He is waiting and ready to love you!

Hosea 11

Hosea brings a couple simple truths to light as he continues to point out God’s anger toward the people.  I am amazed at how quickly people forget God’s touch on their life.  What is the real issues – God points out the issue when he tells us: “when others called him, he ran off and left me”.  We sure do have a short attention span when it comes to God some days.  We can be totally dependent on Him when we are struggling or in trouble, but the moment things seem to be getting better we are off on another set of tracks and not paying attention like we should.  We need to be on track with the Father each day, moment by moment.  We need to be plugged in or our spiritual battery will go dead.  Another issue that Hosea points out really strikes me.  When he writes about other issues the people had, he says they “never admitted that I was the one pulling his wagon” about the children of Israel.  Not only did they ignore God much of the time, they also did not acknowledge God’s impact when He led them.  Do you share God’s leading in your life with others?  Are you letting them know who is “pulling your wagon” and giving you direction in your life?  I don’t hear it a whole lot unfortunately.  We are quick to ask for God’s help but slow to give Him credit for what He does.  We need to be sharing life with others by giving them a view into God’s touch on our lives.  We need to be walking and talking messengers to God’s faithfulness.  As the chapter continues the question comes up as to why God does not just wipe out the people.  He is angry – very angry with their lack of love and obedience. He gives us the answer: “Because I am God and not a human”.  God has every reason to be unhappy and angry.  Humans are not the most reliable when it comes to consistency in our relationships.  But God is not human – He is God.  In fact, He just is.  And I am glad He doesn’t act like me actually ever.  He is God and He is always the same, yesterday, today and forever.  Thank you God for being a God we can trust and rely on.  Thank you for loving me today and every day. 

Hosea 10

In Hosea 10, there are some straight words to the people about life.  This one jumped off the pages at me: “The more money they got, the more they squandered”.  Why is it that when we are blessed we tend to take it for granted and have the likelihood of becoming wasteful and selfish?  Money certainly can lead us to act in ways that lead us away from God.  That seems to be the case here in Hosea’s day and I see it all over America today as well, even when I look in the mirror some days.  When I consider the reality of people in Africa and China compared to those of us in the States, it is pretty obvious that having more is not an indicator of our dependence upon God.  In fact, it seems to be exactly the opposite.  Those who have little really understand where everything comes from.  Those who have much seem to believe it comes from their own hard work.  Oh how wrong we are about that.  People in Hosea’s time were making plans to take their idols to the King of Assyria as a gift.  They had become focused on self and what they had created.  They were all about ME.  God’s response – pay attention here – “I’ll come to teach them a lesson”.  It is 2X4 time for these folks.  How is it people can lose sight of God so easily when they are enjoying some success?  God entrusts us with success and money for a reason, and it is not ourselves.  We are merely stewards of what He has given to us.  It all belongs to Him.  We are given the blessing of being able to take care of it for Him.  The scripture is full of lessons like this.  It is not a new revelation here.  Yet we forget that so easily when we have much.  We begin to believe it is ours and we can do with it whatever we want.  Bad plan people!  God will hold us accountable for what we do with what He entrusts to us.  He will hold us responsible for not only the money He gives us, but all the gifts He freely bestows.  So the real question is – “what are you doing with what God has entrusted to your care?”  The money, gifts, talents, people that He has put in your circle.  What are you doing to be faithful to Him with all these things?  My suggestion is to get on your knees and find out what He wants you to do.  Much better to ask than learn by Him coming “to teach you a lesson”!

Hosea 9

Hosea has some strong words for the people that have turned their back on God.  He starts chapter 9 with the words “don’t party your life away”.  Sometimes we tend to make light of the situation we are in as we live daily.  We are actually in a spiritual battle and need to keep our eye on the ball.  We need to be focused on what matters to God.  It is not about pleasure and fun – it is about obedience and holiness we should be focused.  God is unhappy because the people were “starved for God”.  They had built idols and were chasing after the things of this world, not building a deep relationship with God and following His direction.  Hosea says it like this: “they took to sin like a pig to filth” – how is that for a way to be described.  Having been a pig farmer for many years of my life – I get more than a slight visual here.  Pigs always love filth – they are drawn to it and wallow in it when it is anywhere they are able to get to it.  They cover themselves in it and enjoy the time there.  Sin is like that.  We have to battle the temptation to run to it and just immerse ourselves in it.  It looks appealing – it draws us – but it is never a good place to be.  We have to run the other way from sin.  Holiness is God’s only acceptable way.  Sin is never tolerated by God.  It is impossible given His character and nature.  In fact, Hosea says that God is “wasting no more love on them” when he speaks of the people.  God cannot just let it slide.  “My God has washed His hands of them” is the reality of the sin issue in our lives.  Jesus went to the cross for this very problem.  That doesn’t change the fact that sin in my life and yours separates us from God.  It always has and it always will.  But Jesus has come to give us a way to bridge that chasm and come back to the Father.  The key is that we have to be willing to repent and change how we live.  We have to quit being a “wanderer” from a life of holiness and focus on obedience and change.  God wants us back.  He never quits pursuing.  But we have to accept His gift of forgiveness through a relationship with Jesus.  There is no other way.  Have you taken the gift offered to you?  Is your sin forgiven?

Hosea 8

The last half of Hosea 8 brings some strong truth about what God expects from us if we are going to live in deep relationship.  God points out that they were doing things:

1.       Without asking

2.       Without letting Him in on it

Whoops. I might be guilty of that myself.  Do you realize that God desires to be part of what we do moment by moment?  He wants us to ask for His direction.  He is like a compass – always there to give us direction if we will only take time to look.  But sometimes I treat Him like a compass I have put in my pocket and only pull out if I can’t figure out which way to go.  Why not build the habit of checking the compass first, rather than getting down the road and figuring out much later I went the wrong way?  That is what God desires.  He wants to be involved in our life continually – giving us direction all along the way.  Hosea is quick to point out that when we chose not to be obedient we are “going to reap the consequences” of our lives.  There is a price to pay for being disobedient to God’s plan.  There is a price to pay for sin.  So what is the problem – we don’t pay attention.  This verse really hit me square between the eyes: “I write out my revelation for them in detail and they pretend they can’t read it”.  More and more it is becoming obvious that God has already told me 98% of what I need to know to be obedient in His Word.  Yes there are certainly plenty of specifics I need His direction on along the way, but if I only know and live what He has already told me in the Bible, I am going to be on track most of the time.  Problem is I don’t spend nearly enough time reading and applying what He has already said.  I need to do a lot better job of that rather than going on about how I need to know God’s will for this decision or that.  He has been very clear in many, many areas already.  I need to choose to live in obedience to that instruction every day and then seek the few specifics He needs to clarify from there.  But like these people in Israel, I somedays have “forgotten his maker and gotten busy”.  I allow the busyness of life to crowd out the time to read, study and follow God’s already stated will for my life through His Word.  No excuse my friends.  God has given us a roadmap to follow.  He expects we do exactly that.  It is not going to work to claim ignorance when He has already spoken His truth clearly about so very many things.  Time to dig in and understand what He has already told us to do.  Open that Bible and be obedient to His commands.  Today!

Hosea 8

This morning as I share a few quick thoughts from Hosea 8, look at what happens: “Blow the trumpet! Sound the alarm! Vultures are circling over God’s people who have broken my covenant and defied my revelation”  The people are in trouble again and things look somewhat bleak.  The response?  Same thing I do – cry out to God.  When things look tough the tough start crying out – right?  We handle things on our own as long as possible.  But when overwhelmed we are quick to call out.  Isn’t that God’s job – to rescue us?  Not exactly.  Here is the rest of the story: “Predictably, Israel cries out “My God! We know you! “  But they don’t act like it”.  Here is the true measure of how much we know God.  Do our actions really show that we do?  Do I live with Him every day in relationship?  That is what God wants.  He wants you and me to be in daily relationship.  There is no emergency when we are already walking with Him.  No calling out is needed if He is right by our side.  And He is, every moment of every day. We just lose focus on that.  We just allow the chaos of the day to distract us from the facts.  God loves us and He never leaves.  We need to be sure that we love Him with all our hearts.  That is the key to a great relationship.  He always loves 100%.  Do you?

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