Friday, July 20, 2018

tears and joy

But many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers' houses, old men who had seen the first house, wept with a loud voice when they saw the foundation of this house being laid, though many shouted aloud for joy, so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people's weeping, for the people shouted with a great shout, and the sound was heard far away.
Ezra 3:12-13

As the returned exiles began construction of a new temple for the worship of God in Jerusalem, a spontaneous worship service erupted as the foundation was laid. And it was highly emotional. The elderly among them who had seen the temple of Solomon as children wept with the memory even as the new generations rejoiced that the work of rebuilding could begin.

And this has me reflecting on both worship and motives for ministry. First... worship. It would seem that worship is what people bring to it, in terms of emotional connection at least. That is what happened here. The place we come from in our own personal walk with God emotionally charges our worship experience. God is the same for all those assembled, but emotion is highly affected by experience.

And concerning motivations for ministry, this is also true. We serve from differing backgrounds and our experiences of serving God are also influenced by this back story. It is OK to both serve and worship God with joy. It is also equally OK to have some sorrow in these things when it is godly sorrow. God is bigger and blesses both experiences to draw us closer to Him.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

an inheritance

This is the land that you shall allot as an inheritance among the tribes of Israel, and these are their portions, declares the Lord God.
Ezekiel 48:29

Ezekiel’s prophetic message ends with big visions. God reveals to the prophet that one day Israel would return to their ancestral homeland. The tribes will be restored in glory to God. A massive new temple will be on display for the worship of their glorious God. The borders of the land of Israel will be expanded to include new territory where His people live in peace. The city of Jerusalem will be beautifully rebuilt by God Himself on a massive, impressive scale and renamed “The LORD is there.” Every part of Israeli life will be about the glory of God.

And all of this is going to happen because God is a covenant keeping God Who fulfills His promises to His people. His Word is true, so I look to this future glory with anticipation knowing I will see God do these marvelous things. The world will know God’s glory in these events.

And these promises are glimpses into God’s love for His people. They are pictures of the deeper love and deeper covenant God made by sending His Son as the Savior of the world. In Christ there is the greatest glory. He is restoring our lives as we believe and follow Him. He is making His glory known in the temple of my life. He is mine forever! Jesus is my inheritance with God among the saints for all eternity!

Monday, July 16, 2018

God’s concern for God

But I had concern for my holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations to which they came.
Ezekiel 36:21

God’s motives are exclusively bound to His holiness and the glory due His name. He deserves the worship of His creation and will move the forces of heaven and earth so that His people may once again declare His name. When He is not worshiped in holiness, He will not take the profaning of His great name lightly. He will judge His people when their hearts are not committed to the passionate worship that He deserves. This was the story of Israel. They were called out of the nations to declare God’s greatness to the nations so that the world might know the Lord. The didn’t do this. They were judged.

When God acted to deal with the serious matter of the profaning of His holy name, He did so not out of anger, but out of holiness. He did so out of concern for His own unique holiness. He did so in order that Israel might return again to His so that the world could see His restorative love for His people.

The end of this chapter (Ezekiel 36:33-38) shows the lengths to which God would do ALL the restoring work. He would cleanse them of all sin. He would restore them to their cities and farms. God would rebuild Israel and replant Israel so that the nations would know His greatness. Then all will know that God is the LORD.

You judge sin and You humble Your people so that we might glorify You in repentance. You restore and You help Your people recover. You specialize in rebuilding lives our sin has destroyed. You are great, holy, and God. The world will know You are the LORD.

Friday, July 13, 2018

rise... and fall.

I will bring you to a dreadful end, and you shall be no more. Though you be sought for, you will never be found again, declares the Lord God.
Ezekiel 26:21

The Philistines and Phoenicians all were enemies of Israel who tempted Israel into constant materialism and idolatry. When God judged Israel, He also judged the nations surrounding them. And Tyre, the trade capital of the region and Phoenicia’s chief city, would be in that promised judgment. The Lord vows to utterly destroy Tyre: She would lose all her merchant fleet. She would lose all her wealth and influence. She would be brought to an end, never to rise to any kind of influence every again.

And the lost trade empire of Tyre is indeed now gone. There are no more fleets of ships plying the Mediterranean with goods and influence. There is no wealthy city of traders in Phoenicia whose sailers covered the coastline with their influence. God’s decree was real. The mighty city was ruined and is no more. You can tour the ruins in Lebanon today.

The rise and fall of all power among people is overseen by God. He can end empires by His Word. He can reduce the wealthiest of nations to ruin until they are never found again. He can turn the page of history as His will is done, so that all the world may know that He is the Lord and there is no other. And only one King of kings and Lord of lords stands at the center of human history on the world stage: Jesus Christ, Our Great Savior!

Thursday, July 12, 2018

sovereign in life

I am the Lord. I have spoken; it shall come to pass; I will do it. I will not go back; I will not spare; I will not relent; according to your ways and your deeds you will be judged, declares the Lord God.
Ezekiel 24:14

There may not be a more definitive declaration from God taking responsibility for His sovereign rule anywhere else in scripture. It is clear: God is in control of even our most painful suffering. Nothing happens outside His sovereign rule. And no hardship visits us that is not His direct and loving control. For the citizens of Jerusalem, this meant God’s judgment on idolatrous sin was irreversibly upon them as the king of Babylon began the siege of their city (Ezekiel 14:1).

This truth has me thinking hard about God’s sovereign hand at work in my own life. 2018 has been hard for me for personal reasons, even though in terms of ministry, many long term dreams are coming into being. Now in the second half of the year, I have found nearly all the year filled with wistful longings for my past. It’s weird because I am usually a forward thinker. I’ve wished to roll back the calendar (often by decades) nearly every day this year. I’ve filled time watching old family videos and flipping  through old pictures. I don’t know if it is a late mid-life crisis, or just what men catch themselves doing in their mid-fifties, but things seemed so much simpler in my life when my kids were not adults. Yet as I think about it, that weird wistfulness isn’t recognizing God’s sovereign care. Peppered with the nostalgia is a worry about the future. I conclude today that this action isn’t very gospel-centered on my part and I should stop.

God is in control of my life and always has been. What He is doing in my life NOW is for His glory and my good and is JUST AS GOOD as what I saw him do 20 or 30 years ago. He has spoken in His Word and it shall be. And it has all been done in Christ because He began the good work in me and is completing it for HIS GLORY! All the promises I have in Jesus are great! I will trust Him in this current life stage and stop idealizing (and idolizing) my past.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

damning duplicity

When you present your gifts and offer up your children in fire, you defile yourselves with all your idols to this day. And shall I be inquired of by you, O house of Israel? As I live, declares the Lord God, I will not be inquired of by you.
Ezekiel 20:31

The hypocrisy displayed by the Jerusalem leaders coming to the prophet Ezekiel during difficult times to “inquire of the Lord” would not be tolerated by God. They had burned their children in pagan idolatry and now wanted to hear from God! In answer to their request, God recounts the history of Israel’s continual rejection of Him for idols, from the Exodus from Egypt, through the wilderness, into the Promised Land, and up to that very moment. In every episode, Israel rejected God. In every episode, God had the right to judge, yet showed remarkable mercy to them. But now God would act decisively in a strong judgment upon them. And He would not hold back His wrath because He knew these people had no intention whatsoever of turning from their idols when they inquired of Him. It was not repentance.

Sin is an insult to God. And when we pretend to worship God while still treasuring our false worship and sins, God will not hear us. It is a serious matter to love something else above God. Our idolatry condemns us before God. It is why we must regularly repent and trust only what Jesus has done for us... not our own efforts... not our hopes in something of this world.

O God,
You are holy and deserve my undivided worship. I cringe knowing my heart is drawn to idols and from You all too easily. I want to turn from these idols, to Your Son for the grace only You give so I may have His righteousness plead for me before You... always.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Only God atones.

I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall know that I am the Lord, that you may remember and be confounded, and never open your mouth again because of your shame, when I atone for you for all that you have done, declares the Lord God.
Ezekiel 16:62-63

God does the saving work. Even in the Old Testament, the keeping of God’s Law was powerless to save, as Israel proved. They failed to obey, turned against God, and sold themselves to idols. And it would take God’s atoning work to save them and restore the covenant with them again. They could do nothing to save themselves. They were lost and powerless in the tragic destruction from sin.

I am reminded of Jonathan Edwards’ astute observation: “You contribute nothing to your salvation except the sin that made it necessary.” Jesus has done the atoning work. God sent His Son in the fullness of time to redeem us! We are powerless, dead in our sin, and dead men can do nothing! God has done it all for us in Jesus!

“Not the labor of my hands
Can fulfill Thy Law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.”