Ezra 3 – Returning Home

Ezra was a priest, a scribe, and a great leader. His name literally means “help” and this is exactly what Ezra did.  Ezra helped fulfill the promise of the Jewish people returning to Jerusalem. In this short chapter,  Ezra 3 has some powerful insights and reminders that can speak to your heart today.

The first insight is noticing one of the most important things the Jews did upon returning to the city.  Their first focus was on creation and use of the alter.  It was the symbol of God’s presence back in Jerusalem .  What does God’s presence look like to you? Is there a presence in your home? For me I think of some of the little things that represent and remind me of our trust in Him.  The verses that hang on our walls, the calendar that shows family pictures with verses written, the kids Sunday school handouts hanging on our fridge, the Resolution certificate framed from our marriage small group study sitting in our dining room.  In a kitchen you can find a mason jar full of prayers and praises from this year.  I also reflect on what do we model when others come stay? What are we modeling when we are alone? Are we intentional in having a place where we can rest in His presence and show our trust in His protection and presence like the Jews did upon returning home?

3 Despite their fear of the peoples around them, they built the altar on its foundation and sacrificed burnt offerings on it to the Lord, both the morning and evening sacrifices.

The second focus was on building of the temple, the people didn’t look ahead at the finished product, or the walls to protect the city, they focused on the foundation.  This could be a sermon on its own but I’ll keep it short.  Our foundation is everything.  It doesn’t matter if you are building  temple, house, or a fort.  The foundation is essential.  It’s Just like in our lives.  Our marriages, decisions about jobs, raising a family, making a decision to move…  really anything we do has to be given to God first. Our foundation has to be in God. If you short change, alter the appropriate materials, or modify the accurate dimensions of a foundation it can lead to disaster.  For some of the Jews, this had already happened to them once.  They didn’t want it to happen again. If our foundation is not strong, and when pain kicks in, hardships, fear, anxiety or lowliness sets in, without a solid foundation you will waiver and eventually fall.  Take time daily to build your foundation! Now, think about how the people reacted once the foundation was done. It says they sang, praised, and gave thanks. For He is good, and His loving kindness endures forever… Ezra 3:11 Take time today to sing, praise, and give thanks! Amen

2 Timothy 2:19 says, 19 Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.”

Lastly, look at the end of Ezra 3.  At first I was unclear about verses 12-13. The contrast between shouting for joy and weeping? In my study bible it talks about the mix of emotions being felt at that time between the generations.  That some Jews had lived when their first temple was originally built, while others were part of something for the first time.  How many times does the Holy Spirit produce that same emotion in us?  I can be standing in church arms up, praising God singing,  without any care for my pitch.  The next moment, my hands wiping tears from my face convicted once again.  I can often become sobered by my shortcomings, and full of joy, thanksgiving in other moments. In these moments I can see how there are times when it is hard to decipher.  Only God can move us that way.

12 But many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid, while many others shouted for joy. 13 No one could distinguish the sound of the shouts of joy from the sound of weeping, because the people made so much noise. And the sound was heard far away.

 

Where do you turn when your world has been flipped upside down? Maybe it was a marriage, job, your own child, a bad decision? Where do you return? You return home to the Lord.  If you have been lost, or maybe just need to rebuild.  Head into the wonderful arms of our Lord.

Have a blessed Tuesday.

Daniel’s longest night

Daniel Chapter 6

Over the last eight years, Jillian and I have had many long nights with our three children.  There have been nights where the kids have caught a virus or an illness and we are up all night with either child.   These nights have come and go as most parents can attest, but there have been some nights that have truly tested our faith. One particular night is when Oliver was in the hospital when he was six weeks old and had a procedure to secure nutrition.  He had to have a specialized intravenous preparation to give him the essential nutrients for his body to heal.  The procedure that her had to undergo would place an intravenous line directly into his heart and then he would be able to get the medication.  While in the procedure room with him the medical staff informed me that the next hours will be critical because of the risk of his body not maintaining the proper temperature and the risk for infection. After the procedure was completed, we returned to our room.   In the middle of the night we were woken with alarms in the room that he had dropped in temperature.  The drop was so significant the team had to use extraordinary measures to stabilize his body temperature and vital signs.  This was the longest night that I can remember.

In this chapter of Daniel, Daniel is presented with a long night as well.  To the causal onlooker, life and death are weighed in the balance, but for Daniel this was another opportunity to show God’s love and grace. In the previous chapters, God has revealed many times before that the circumstances that we are present with are chances for God to do some amazing work: for both you and the other person.   At this point in the journey Daniel is approximately 80 years old.  He has seen the height of the Jewish authority; been exiled into a new land; made high officer in three different kingdoms; interrupted and conveyed the hardest information to ruthless kings.  Through all of these years and experiences Daniel has seen the glory of God and how these situations worked out for God’s Glory.

Daniel  2: 46

Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell upon his face and paid homage to Daniel, and commanded that an offering and incense be offered up to him. 47 The king answered and said to Daniel, “Truly, your God is God of gods and Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this mystery.” 

 

Daniel 3: 28

28 Nebuchadnezzar answered and said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set aside[f] the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God. 29 Therefore I make a decree: Any people, nation, or language that speaks anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb, and their houses laid in ruins, for there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way.”

 

Daniel 4:1-3

King Nebuchadnezzar to all peoples, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth: Peace be multiplied to you! It has seemed good to me to show the signs and wonders that the Most High God has done for me.

How great are his signs,
how mighty his wonders!
His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and his dominion endures from generation to generation.

At the beginning of the chapter, Daniel is reappointed to the highest position in the kingdom and is not admired by many except the new king Darius.  Darius makes proclamations about praying to other entities and deities, except for him.  This proclamation backfires on the relationship that Darius has with Daniel and Daniel is sentenced to the lions’ den.  This is a punishment that others have seen as ultimate condemnation for the acts against the king.  But this a final testament of the faith of Daniel, he was blessed by God to survive the punishment.

As we go through our journeys we will face many difficult and dark times.  Some we are able to navigate easily and others may be challenging, but we must always remember that when we have a relationship and have an unwavering faith in God, we will come out in the morning with renewed sense of self and bountiful blessings.

Make Me a Vessel

In Daniel chapter 5, the powerful King of Babylon, Belshazzar is having a huge party for his friends.  Everyone enjoys a good party or a get-together.  In todays day and age, I see many people gathering for “wine and charcuterie” or special dinner parties.  God has put an innate desire in each of us for community.  There is laughing and joy when relationships are deepening and hearts are being shared.  This is a true gift from God when we can share these times with family and friends.

In this instance from the book of Daniel, the people did not recognize God’s gift of community and were actually insulting God with their words and actions.  During the party king Belshazzar instructs his servants to bring in the gold and silver vessels that had been stolen from God’s temple in Jerusalem.

Belshazzar, when he tasted the wine, commanded that the vessels of gold and of silver that Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken out of the temple in Jerusalem be brought, that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them.  (v2)                        They drank wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone.(v4)

The party had taken a turn from community to dishonoring God.  God stepped in and judged Belshazzar and his court in a dramatic fashion.  Through mysterious and miraculous “handwriting on the wall,”  God judged their arrogance.  As the people were enjoying themselves fingers of a human had appeared and wrote on the wall.  Such a powerful event left the most powerful earthly king at this point in history with a pale face and legs that became weak.

Then the king’s color changed, and his thoughts alarmed him;  his limbs gave way, and his knees knocked together.  (v6)

God used Daniel, who was filled with His spirit to interpret the writing and tell Belshazzar exactly what the hand had written.  God made it clear that the king’s reign was coming to an end and his kingdom would be divided.  That very night, this king was killed and someone else took over his kingdom.  

King Balshazzar blatantly defied the Lord in word and deed.  He was puffed up with arrogance and turned to other gods.  He did not listen to Daniel’s interpretation of the writing and acknowledge that God was his only God.  

Within all of our lives, there are times that we need to recognize and acknowledge God’s “handwriting on the wall.”  As we know God better, we gain a greater understanding of how we have used “His vessel” (our bodies, minds, spirits, and people around us) in ways that are unpleasing to Him.

Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.  (2 Timothy 2:21)

We need to daily acknowledge the handwriting on the wall in our lives.  If we want our lives to be refined and grow in our faith, we must give the Holy Spirit permission to do His most important work of conviction.  We need to see and have a willingness to see the areas in our lives that need changing and respond accordingly.  

The gift we have received because of Jesus is more than we can ever deserve.  Because He died on the cross for each of our sins, there is no judgment.  We do not have to face the outcome that Belshazzar had to face.  We have the grace and mercy of Jesus on us.  We can start new every morning and follow Him.  We can ask Him to make us a new vessel every minute of every day.  

“Make me a vessel, make me an offering, make me whatever you want me to be….”  (New Wine, Hillsong Worship)

 

 

Under Fire

Ah, Daniel 3. One of those classic Bible tales every kid still knows and loves. For good reason, it’s a classic tale of standing up for God and not allowing others to force you to bend your knee to them. Plus, after growing up attending Sunday school in the late 90’s/early 00’s, it’s impossible to ever get this tune out of my head: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jakg1_DCG3M

In what is not his first attempt, nor his last, at attempting to place himself higher than God in the hearts of man, Nebuchadnezzar oversees the building & erection of a comically oversized and ornate golden statue of himself. The Babylonian King likely found inspiration from his dream in the previous chapter, where an enormous statue of his likeness was crushed by the rock of God, somehow missing the point of the dream. And, after Daniel had explained how the Kingdom of God will crush all other kingdoms on Earth, Nebuchadnezzar decided to go ahead and have everyone worship this statue of him anyway in an attempt to unite the people of the world under his own likeness. After declaring that everyone must bow down and worship this statue, his Israelites-slaves-turned-court-administrators Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to adhere. After inciting Nebuchadnezzar’s rage and being questioned by him personally on the matter, under the threat of death by fire, the three calmly explain:

  • “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and He will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (Daniel 3:16-18)

That’s it. No excuses, no groveling, no needing to defend themselves. Just faith in God and refusing to betray His trust. How easily do we lose our nerve and betray our faith, not even when death approaches, but in small everyday instances? It would have been simple for the three former Israelites to follow the examples some of their elder Israelites had set and denounce their God when it counted. They could have said any number of excuses, like “God knows we don’t actually mean it”, “We can just ask for forgiveness later”, “It’s just the customs of a foreign land, there’s no harm in taking part while we’re here”, or “Others have denounced him in worse ways.” There’s plenty more, but you get the idea. The three demonstrated their faith in God by refusing to take part in this idol worship, showing incredible bravery and trust. Most of all, they admitted it was up to the Lord whether he wanted them to live or die, and to accept whatever His will would be.

The example here of refusing to bow down to the idols we face and to not fear to speak God’s word is important and powerful. But I want to offer extra attention here pertaining to one factor I noticed that could help explain how these three stood up to Nebuchadnezzar: community. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had already endured a number of trials together. They had watched the Babylonian armies lay waste to their home in Jerusalem, besieging the city, stealing all their wealth, and taking a considerable number of their contemporaries and acquaintances captive. They had stood with Daniel against Nebuchadnezzar’s will and threats twice before, and had experienced the blessings of God’s favor repeatedly. These friends had shared their hardships and trials, and learned together how to trust in the Lord, but to also share in His love by encouraging and building each other up. When we strengthen ourselves with wholesome Christian brotherhood and sisterhood, we share the Lord’s love with each other and better build each other up to stand up against the Lord’s detractors. It’s not any one of these three that stand up for the Lord any more than the others, but all three together. So today, give thanks to the Lord for the other believers you have been able to share your joy with, and thank them for sharing in the Lord’s love and encouragement alongside you. And if you need that fellowship in your lives still, pray for guidance and accepting, loving hearts in your search for Christian community. With loving Christian fellowship to build up our faith and bolster our defenses against sin’s grip, you will be able to stand for the Lord when He calls you to do so.

-Ross B.

Our Lifesaver

Today’s reading is Daniel 1.

King Nebuchadnezzar, leader of the Babylonians, took over Jerusalem and ruled the Jews. He asked his chief eunuch to bring in some of the sharpest Jewish youths to come and learn in order to teach them the language of the Chaldeans. They also must eat the king’s food which was different than the diet of the Jews and eating it would defile them. But, Daniel said he would not eat the food and defile himself leading Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to follow suit. Daniel even suggested that they test their diet by comparing them to others who ate the king’s diet and after 10 days, Daniel and his friends were healthier. Not only did the stewards of the king then let them eat their own diet, but when they were put in front of the king in Daniel 1:20, the king noticed they had much better wisdom and understanding than his own magicians and enchanters.

A while ago a brother in Christ shared with me a story about when he was in high school. He was a good athlete, popular, and known to be a Christ-follower and someone who although not perfect, stuck to his values and generally did the right thing. A group of peers, and one peer in particular, kept trying to get him to do something high school kids often do but that he did not. He stood his ground saying no many times, but then finally gave in agreeing to partake. Jesus says in Matthew 26:41, “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” I could have used one of many examples of my own missteps and mistakes, but this story is especially insightful. The one peer who was always trying to persuade him to take part admitted that he was not only surprised, but actually was disappointed that this individual finally gave in. You see, even those that try to persuade us to do bad things often secretly want us to stand our ground. Even though they will typically never admit it, not only do they respect us for doing the right thing, but they secretly want us to continue to do the right thing because they want to believe that good still exists. This inspires them to want to do better and believe that they too can do the right thing when faced with temptation. They may not come around at the time, but just like King Nebuchadnezzar who later came around and gave glory to God after God protected Daniel’s friends in the fiery furnace, they may too in the future as a result of your actions today. St. Francis of Assisi is generally given credit to saying, “Preach the Gospel, and if necessary, use words.” Others must see the truth and good that exists through the Holy Spirit and Jesus living in and through us.

We will, however, mess up. Thankfully, that’s when we have our greatest opportunity to speak the Gospel. Romans 3:23 says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” He’s our lifesaver. We humble ourselves before God and others to let Him and them know we are not perfect and are in need of a savior. We can let them know we are saved and forgiven by His grace alone through his death on the cross. And we too will live, just as He lives through His resurrection on Easter. They can do the same…all they have to do is ask and believe. Just grab the ultimate lifesaver right there within arm’s reach. Is it that simple? Yes..it’s that simple.

Dry Bones

 

 

Ezekiel 37

In the last week or so we have been looking at several of the prophets that God used over 300-400 years to call out to Israel and Judah. He wanted relationship with them so badly and they continued generation after generation to turn their backs on Him by putting other god’s before Him and choosing to disobey Him. At the time of Ezekiel, Judah and thousands of others had been deported to Babylon when their king surrendered to the leadership of Babylon because they couldn’t fight them any longer. (God would have protected them and kept them safe as a country if they would have followed His plan, but they chose their selfish ways instead of His and landed themselves in exile in another country.) God used Ezekiel as a watchman to warn the people of Judah to turn to God as they were living in captivity. His message was that God expected personal obedience and worship from each of them no matter their circumstances.

As I have read through the prophets this time I have developed a deep sympathy for them in the work God assigned to them. They spent their lives preaching to people who were not interested in their message.  Their job was vitally important and necessary in God’s plan, but in the world I think they just appeared crazy. When I picture Ezekiel calling out to people on the streets, or meeting with groups to deliver God’s message, the picture that comes to my mind is the guy in a crowded city or on a college campus who is yelling out his message to a bunch of people who are maybe a bit afraid of him, or who are wondering if he is mentally stable, or at the very least feeling uncomfortable as they pass by.  How do you stay motivated to get up every day and stay at the work at hand when you are mocked, ignored, and pushed aside every time you speak? I hope that my perception of what it must have been like for Ezekiel is wrong, but after reading chapter 37 and seeing Ezekiel’s personal encounter with God, I’m pretty confident that Ezekiel’s job felt like a steep uphill climb, daily!

So three quarters of the book of Ezekiel is God’s message to Judah while in captivity. The entire book is filled with God’s words that Ezekiel speaks to the people of Judah over years of time, until chapter 37 hits. In this chapter Ezekiel reports the events of the vision God gives to him one day. The first verse, “The Lord took hold of me, and I was carried away by the spirit of the Lord to a valley filled with bones.” The bones were scattered out all over the ground and dried out completely. God asked Ezekiel if these bones can become living people again. Wisely, Ezekiel answers that God alone knows the answer to that question. So God has Ezekiel prophecy to the bones that He will put breath into them and make them live again. He will put flesh and muscle over them and cover them with skin and they will come to life. So Ezekiel obeys. As he speaks there is a rattling noise all across the valley and the bones gather themselves into complete skeletons and as he watched, muscle and flesh formed over the bodies but they still had no breath in them. So God again told Ezekiel to prophesy over the bodies. As he did, breath came into their bodies and they all came to life and stood to their feet. Then God told Ezekiel that the bones represent the people of Israel, old dry bones…all hope gone. God told Ezekiel to prophecy to the people anyway and tell them that He will open the graves of exile, cause them to rise again, and then He will bring them out of exile back to the land of Israel. When this happens they will know that He is the Lord and He has done what He said He would do.

God reached out to Ezekiel to encourage him and give him new urgency and motivation to share God’s message. Ezekiel had been sharing God’s word for years with no fruit, no change in the people, and no hope for change.  (Frankly, I would have given up!)  God knew that this message needed to land in some hearts so He could accomplish His plan for bringing Jesus to the earth in a family from the line of David. God needed Ezekiel to stay faithful in a steep uphill climb so that Israel and Judah could be reunited and He could live among His people again.

This morning, can you see encouragement from God anywhere in your life to stay at something that feels hard but needs to be done?

Bold prophecies

The Lord instructed Ezekiel to draw a picture of Jerusalem on a clay tablet and to stage a miniature siege of the city, complete with siege ramps, enemy camps, and battering rams. The prophet was also to place an iron pan between himself and the city. This action perhaps illustrated the unbreakable nature of the siege or represented the barrier between God and His sinful people.

God also instructed Ezekiel to symbolically bear the punishment of Israel. He was to lie on his left side for 390 days, corresponding to the years of the Northern Kingdom’s punishment. He was then to lie on his right side for 40 days, corresponding to the years of Judah’s punishment.

At the Lord’s command Ezekiel made bread from various grains and stored it in a jar. During the 390-day period he was to eat a daily portion of eight ounces of bread, supplemented by two-thirds of a quart of water. This restricted diet would symbolize the food rationing that would be necessary during the coming siege of Jerusalem. The Lord also told Ezekiel to cook his bread over a fire fueled by human excrement. Though the Old Testament law does not specifically prohibit this, it does suggest it would be regarded as unclean (Duet. 23;12-14). Ezekiel’s action would portray Judah’s spiritual uncleanness and the plight of the exiles, who would be forced to eat food in an unclean foreign land. When Ezekiel objected that he had always kept himself ceremonially pure, the Lord allowed him to use cow manure as fuel.

Applying this prophecy to my daily walk with the Lord, and putting something into words to share with you this morning was a challenge. What meaning do these prophecies have in our lives here and now? Probably more than my feeble mind can comprehend 🙂 Today though, my takeaway is this: How many of us would be willing to so dramatically portray the sins of our nation?

I need to pray for greater boldness in my witness for the Lord.

 

Dangerous Calling

Ezekiel 2-3

I don’t have much understanding of prophets.  They are far too mystical for me to understand.  Most of the time, I think of crystal balls, tarot cards and Ouija boards.  In our culture, these things are shrouded in secrecy and darkness.  There are at least two reasons I do not go near them or the people that interpret them. The first is skepticism.  What makes them so important that they can see the future?  If I could get over my skepticism, I would be confronted with fear.  You see, when our future is predicted, our sense of control disappears.  We must endure the future without choices.  I have to consider the pain and suffering that will come along with it.  It’s hopeless.  I want nothing to do with it!

My definition of prophets helps me.  Wait a minute. Maybe that’s not the right way to say it.  My perspective of prophets might be preventing me from fully realizing my calling as a Christ-follower.  How does that work?  Read through God’s calling in Ezekiel 2:3.  It reads, “And he said to me, ‘Son of man, I send you to the people of Israel, to nations of rebels, who have rebelled against me. They and their fathers have transgressed against me to this very day.”  God wants Ezekiel to rebuke them.  Now, imagine that God said that to you.  I’m guessing that your response is similar to mine.  “No, way!”  Why not?  Because my reputation, my friendships and my very life are at stake.  What will people think of me when they hear me talking like that?  Guess what?  It doesn’t matter.  God continues with Ezekiel saying, “whether they hear or refuse to hear” Ezekiel 3:11 (ESV).  These words are important to us because I believe that God may be calling us to be prophets.

No, God may not endow us with powers like Elijah or the ability to determine future events.  We need to think about prophets differently.  I would like to share something I learned from A.W. Tozer.  He helps me fix my picture of prophets and how we fit in.  In his book Tozer on Christian Leadership,  he describes today’s prophet as someone who interprets the present.  This calling requires discernment to understand current events and the ability to translate God’s position on them.  Unfortunately, I think most Christians cut ourselves short.  God may be wanting to bestow this gift of prophecy on us, but our refusal to surrender to Him inhibits the spirit from working.  What would it look like if we fully sought him and surrendered?   Maybe, you are like me, worried that He might call you to be something more.

It’s time to retire my old definition of prophet and replace it with God’s truth. Jesus Christ does not remove control from me.  He restores control to me.  Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, my future is secure. Abundance, peace and love are mine.  Forever and always.  If you believe that, it is worth considering what a prophet looks like.  I’m sure that we have been given the command, just as Ezekiel was given the command.

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  Matthew 28:19-20 (ESV)

 

Show me Your Glory

A few years ago I was part of a women’s bible study called Seamless. This study guides you through the entire Bible, start to finish, showing the connections of God’s plan for us, from Creation to Jesus, to the Early Church, and everything in between. It showed the seamlessness of the Bible, and how it all fits together when you look at the bigger plan of salvation. I absolutely LOVED this study! For so many years I felt like the Old Testament was a bunch of separate Sunday School stories that were anything but seamless. I didn’t understand the timelines or eras, and while I knew some of the main characters and plots, I didn’t have it “mapped out” and how it all points to Jesus.

In the last month of Bible Journal entries we have moved from Kings to Prophets. Thanks for following along with us as we uncover these early leaders in the Old Testament. If you take a step back, you can see that God’s people have been led by Priests, Judges, Kings, and Prophets, each role spanning different time periods and for different reasons. God used the prophets to guide His people back to him. Stick with us – it really does all come together and point to Jesus!

Today I get to introduce you to Ezekiel. He (and other Israelites) have been living in exile for five years in Babylon, at the hand of King Jehoiachin. The next few days we will cover more scripture from Ezekiel – and heads up, it gets pretty interesting.

Chapter 1 he leads right off with a vision that God gave him, of the glory of God. Take a few minutes and read it. Do you need a pen and paper to draw out what he is describing, to keep it all straight? All the features, and body parts and animals? I’m not a bible scholar or dream interpreter…and it’s hard to know what to make of all of this! I read this several times and I thought and prayed… Okay Lord, what do you want me to learn from this?

I’d truly be guessing if I tried to share some big theological explanation of what his vision could symbolize and mean. When I was studying and digging deeper into this chapter, I found a lot of smart opinions and guesses out there. If you’re into that kind of stuff, your bible may have a lot of cool footnotes, or google and dig around the web. When I did an image search for ‘Ezekiel 1 Vision Picture of God’s Glory’ it was crazy to see all of the different ways artists interpreted Ezekiel’s description – the picture in my mind was completely different! I also found it fascinating how one source compared verse ten’s four faces (man, lion, ox, eagle) to Jesus. Jesus is fully man, he is king and victorious like a lion, he is a servant and sacrifice like an ox, and he transcends and is spiritually sovereign like the eagle. Chapters like this leave me curious and hungry to understand more – heaven, come quick!

There were also two things I learned about Ezekiel that really encouraged me:

First, Ezekiel is BOLD. And like I said – STAY TUNED – there’s more coming. He’s clearly being directed by the Lord, and has no qualms about telling the Israelites every detail of what he just saw. They’re living in exile, and God is using Ezekiel to share His message with His people. What message does God have for you to share? Maybe it’s not an indescribable being from a vision, maybe it’s your own life experiences. Maybe it’s not a message for a people group living in exile.. maybe it’s something God has for you to share with your family, a group of teens at your church, or some co-workers. I’m encouraged to be BOLD, even at the risk of sounding a little loony.

Second, Ezekiel is reverent. Verse 28 tells us that when he sees all of this he falls on his face. He didn’t run and hide in fear. He didn’t look the creature in the eye or give him a high five. He went to the ground, face down, to show his humility, awe, worship, and adoration. Have you had those fall to your knees or go face down moments in your faith journey? Those deeply spiritual moments you can always go back to, that can draw your heart to worship and praise? Whether the circumstances were tragic or triumphant – your only response was one of complete surrender?

I can go back to some of those moments in time in my life, like when I first made a commitment to follow Christ, or when my daughter came out of spinal cord surgery at five and a half months old. Remembering and reliving those moments of complete praise and surrender draw my heart closer to the Lord.  Third Day has a song called Show Me Your Glory, and I love this part of the chorus:

Show me your glory
Send down your presence
I wanna see your face
Show me your glory
Majesty shines about you
I can’t go on with you Lord

We don’t have to wait for heaven to experience the glory of God – what a gift! Let’s ask God to help us see His glory today!

Fallen Fortress

There are two very heavy vehicle-sized doors made of iron at the entrance of our driveway and a very tall fence around the perimeter of our multi-family dwelling. The only way in is through the doors or climbing the fence so it feels relatively secure.

Unfortunately this week our “fortress” was proven to be weaker than we had thought. While leaving for work one morning, I discovered someone had “keyed” the side of my car. Why… how… who…? I have no idea… After the initial shock and disgust there were many other feelings. I was a victim to a crime which led me to feel powerless, betrayed and violated, with no one to rescue me.

What if (hypothetically) in this scenario I had a brother who was aware of the crime taking place? And in this crime my brother not only sat idle and did nothing, but then proceeded to help the criminal destroy my vehicle and then insult me after doing so?

That’s pretty much what happened in Obadiah 1.

The people of Judah (their brothers) were being attacked and not only did the Edomites sit idle, they helped the attackers! Imagine first the feeling of “being attacked” then imagine your brother (or someone who should help you) helping the attackers complete the job, then laughing in your face, pillaging and plundering your belongings.

In the end, God was furious with the Edomites (the house of Esau) for their pride, greed, violence and betrayal. God made it clear that they would pay dearly.

 For the day of the Lord is near upon all the nations.
As you have done, it shall be done to you;
  your deeds shall return on your own head. (Obadiah 1:15)

As always I look for Jesus in the story. We betrayed him. We spit upon him, denied him and murdered him therefore we deserve the same fate as the Edomites. We betrayed God’s chosen one and we continue to betray him through our sin.

Unlike the Edomites, we can look to the one we betrayed for redemption. Even though we are guilty of putting him on the cross through our sin, he does something what no other “god” can do: Jesus forgives us even though we do not deserve it, then he offers us an eternal place with him in Heaven.

Mercy and grace and an eternal home in a place with no sadness in exchange for our hearts. Deal.

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace (Ephesians 1:7)