Watch Out!

“Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me.

Ezekiel 3:17

After last night’s introduction to Biblical prophecy class, I started reading in Ezekiel to prepare for next week. Already this morning, many things were on my mind, not the least of which was Psalm 5:3 and praying expectantly.  

I’m participating in a forty day prayer challenge with some friends, and I have two main prayer focuses during the forty days. One involves people very close to me whom I long to see both in right relation to the Lord and in Godly Christian fellowship complete with accountability. The other concerns where God wants me after this school year ends, work-wise.

Also on my mind (with no little shame) was the temper tantrum I had with God yesterday morning and how He lost no time in correcting me through His word. Blessed be He who has me tutoring so that I had two distinct times in His Word yesterday and so received the rebuke!

At any rate, once I’d repented, He reminded me that one of the two big prayers I am focusing on is already on its way to being answered. Then to remind me that He isn’t bound to my time expectations concerning the other, He nudged me to pick up a collection of D. L. Moody when the book I’d planned for bedtime reading turned out to be one I’d already read.

Concerning Moody, his first Sabbath-school teacher, Mr. Kimball, wrote:

I can truly say … that I have seen few persons whose minds were spiritually darker when he came into my Sabbath-school class, or one who seemed more unlikely ever to become a Christian of clear, decided views of gospel truth, still less to fill any sphere of extended public usefulness.”

from The D. L. Moody Collection, edited by James S. Bell, Jr.

God can and will get hold of these loved ones. But in His time, not mine.

This morning, as I read about Ezekiel being appointed as a watchman, I couldn’t help but think that now in this present age, we are all watchmen of sorts. The Old Testament prophets served to bring the Word of God to the people. Often, as the next few verses of Ezekiel 3 state, that word was a word of warning, meant to bring the people to repentance.

Today, we have the written Word of God and the Spirit of God to be our guide and illuminate the Word to us. We still have prophets, but as last night’s teacher pointed out, we are warned to “test the spirits” (1 John 4:1) and not to “despise the prophecies but test everything…” (1 Thessalonians 5:20-21). We need to be watchmen, but watching that a prophecy is in line with Scripture and points to Yeshua Messiah; Jesus the Christ.

But another thing got me as I read this passage for the second time. Let’s back up two verses and read:

And I came to the exiles at Tel-abib, who were dwelling by the Chebar canal, and I sat where they were dwelling. And I sat there overwhelmed among them seven days. And at the end of seven days, the word of the LORD came to me:

“Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me.

Ezekiel 3:15-17

In the Complete Jewish Study Bible, the commentary here reads, “Rashi* states that God is asking why Yechezk’el [Ezekiel] is keeping silent.”

Besides being a watchman in order to warn others of danger, besides being a watchman in expectant prayer, what if I were to be a watchman who didn’t need to be reminded of God’s commands? A watchman who not only watched, but obeyed?

I don’t know about you, but when it comes to warnings and obedience, this watchman is going to be keeping a closer eye on herself…

And yes, I know a watchman can’t be a herself and I’m a girl and all that, but let’s call it the literary masculine and move on, m’kay?

*Rashi was an 11th century rabbi whose work is still widely respected. 

Tuesday Prayer: Expectation

Hear my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray. In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly. 

Psalm 5:2-3 (NIV)

Lord who hears us and who answers prayer, we praise You today for Your steadfast love and Your faithfulness. Blessed be Your name and Your Kingdom, and may Yours be all glory and honor now and forevermore! Thank You that even though You are the Almighty God, the Creator, You take the time to listen to the prattling of Your children. 

And children we truly are, Lord. So often, we fail to see the bigger picture as we pray, praying from  the limited perspective of our earthly lives rather than with Eternity in view. Other times, we hurl requests at You almost like a drive-in order, speeding off before we’ve taken the time to listen for Your reply.

Still other times, we ask for guidance but we do not search Your Word for answers, hoping instead that You will move heaven and earth to respond when we are not willing to move the covers of our Bibles to seek Your counsel. 

…Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Philippians 4:6

Lord, we confess that we can be impatient and demanding, self-serving and petty, and we too often forget that You are God and we are your creation not the other way around. Sometimes when we pray, we pray anxiously, not really trusting You to answer but pleading before You almost as if we’ve never seen You at work nor heard of Your works of old. Forgive us for such acts of unbelief or of selfishness.

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Hebrews 12:11

Today we ask that You will rid our hearts of all that is poisonous to the peaceful fruit of righteousness. By Your loving discipline, train us to pray, not anxiously, but expectantly – trusting in our Father to give us all good gifts and to withhold only that which would be detrimental to us for eternity according to Your perfect knowledge and wisdom.

Then, Lord, help us to watch and wait to see how You will work to bring glory to Yourself. Change our hearts to long for Your will much more than we desire our own wants, comforts, and whims met. Make us to want Your glory, not our own.

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

Luke 11:13

Instead, Lord, teach us to ask You for the Holy Spirit and the wisdom He brings, trusting You in faith to deliver these priceless gifts to us, though we are no more than clay jars.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.

2 Corinthians 4:7

May we walk before You in obedience and humility, letting our prayers and our very lives be guided by You. Help us to keep our minds on the things above not on the things of this earth as we pray and live and move in this world, loving You and those You put around us to love, amen. 

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.

Colossians 3:1-2

Dismembered

If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

1 Corinthians 12:26-27

I’ve been thinking a lot about bodies lately, specifically about one Body – the Body of Christ. Forgive me if I ramble, but it’s been a long week of migraine issues and this is the closest to coherency I can get my thoughts to be!

I suppose the topic is on my mind because of some teens I know and love. Though they have been raised in the Word of God and in the church, here at the very cusp of legal adulthood, these things have fallen out of their routines. Despite the fact this lack of Christian connection has leaked into their language, values, and worldview, at least some of them consider themselves to be Christian.

I find this disconcerting, and part of the reason all goes back to Paul’s most excellent analogy in 1 Corinthians 12. As I’ve thought over all the benefits of belonging to this great Body, I’ve realized how even the difficult parts of church are good.

Now when I say, “the difficult parts,” I really mean “the difficult people,” for it’s by having our feelings hurt that we learn to forgive; by being jealous that we learn our own selfish tendencies; by being overlooked or marginalized or mocked that we learn whether we serve God or ourselves, and so on.

If we are never hurt, how can we be healed? In the Body, interconnected as we are with the other parts, we all learn and are strengthened and heal together, just as a living body does.

But should we decide we love Christ, the Head, but don’t have any real use for His body and so we remove ourselves from it, I have to wonder… is it possible to be thus removed and be a healthy part of the body? Unlikely.

Oh I know church can hurt. I get that; truly I do.

I know people – even Christian people – can be mean and hateful and horrible. I’m as guilty as anyone – perhaps more so – but I also experience sorrow, regret, and repentance when I allow this ugly part of me to show. I’m ashamed when I misrepresent my Lord so.

However, if we remove ourselves from the Body of Christ because it isn’t “working” for us, we are really removing ourselves from the chance to grow or to heal (and don’t get me started on the “working” tangent…). 

I guess the way I am imagining the thing is as a sort of surgical excision. If my left arm were to be removed, could it still be considered a healthy part of my body? Would it continue to be nourished by my blood flow, heal when it is wounded, or be affected by my diet and exercise levels as the rest of my body does? Food for thought…

So while Lone Ranger Boulevard may be the place where you feel the most loving towards your fellow man, remember that Jesus loved the ones who flogged Him and the ones who clamored for His crucifixion. The church is His Body and it’s because He loves it that He doesn’t spare it from every little discomfort. Because not all things that feel bad are bad.

Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.

2 Timothy 2:3-4

Why not? Because it’s in sharing in suffering as a good soldier of Christ that we can learn some of the most Christ-like lessons of our lives. And that, my friends, is how we grow up and become mature.

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

Ephesians 4:15-16

Lord God, I pray for my son and for all Believers who have chosen to become disconnected from the Body of Christ for whatever reason. Stir hearts to see the need for Christian community, even with all its flaws and failings. Keep us humble no matter where our place in Your Body is, and teach us to fulfill our given role wholeheartedly, not out of a sense of duty nor for what we get out of it, but out of sheer love and devotion to You, amen.

Tuesday Prayer: Fruit

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Galatians 5:22-23

Great Vinedresser, we know that You are the one who does the needed work of pruning in our lives so we can bear much fruit for You. We cannot bear fruit on our own but must remain connected to the Vine – to Jesus, the living Word of God who is Himself the embodiment of the truth of Scripture. He is our Savior who is also the Way, the Truth, the Life, the living Water, and the Bread of Life. In all ways, Jesus is our sustenance and our strength. 

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.

John 15:1-2

Because of this, we give thanks for Jesus and for Your Holy Spirit who causes His fruit to grow in us. Thank You for pruning our hearts no matter how painful it may be at the time, so that we can bear more fruit. Thank You, too, for the solemn warning that any branch which fails to bear fruit will be taken away. You are good and wise, and we trust You even when a time of pruning doesn’t make sense to us. 

We also pray to You, Father, and ask that You will make us to bear much fruit. Since attributes such as love, joy, peace, and so on are the fruit of the Spirit, we recognize that we cannot manufacture them on our own but must ask for the Spirit to make them grow in us. Yet we cannot only pray for it then sit back with folded hands as if our duty is done. Time and time and time again, we also need to obey for it. 

“You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you.

Acts 7:51

So it is that we ask You to open our eyes to see each opportunity You provide and open our ears to hear Your voice as we respond to each divine appointment. Guide us in being mindful of the gentle nudges of Your Spirit so we become more and more attuned to sensing His leading. Help us not to tune Him out but teach us to listen intently and diligently in all our days.

Please, Lord, let this year be one in which Your fruit grows so plentifully in our lives that we are radically and permanently changed. Make us to truly be plantings for the display of Your splendor and teach us to give You glory as it happens, amen. 

A New Year Invitation

Thus says the LORD: “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls…

Jeremiah 6:16a

I rang in the New Year with a migraine.

But I rang it in after a leisurely morning in the Word of God. I also rang it in at midnight with my husband and all three kids present, including our almost-18-year-old who went out to see some friends and came back in time to toast in the New Year with our family tradition: sparkling grape juice for them and water for this old girl.

So I managed to be awake(ish) at midnight with a heart full of joy despite any pain. Maybe even joy in defiance of pain. But not only because of my family.

I’m still nursing the same migraine today, medicated enough to keep me out of bed but make my thoughts rather difficult to string together. Still, even today I am filled with joy.

This is an abiding joy which would have been with me even if I’d rung in the New Year alone with my migraine and cut off from medication, family, friends, or any friendly face. It’s a joy I’ve been granted, which I’ve found buried in the Scripture records of ancient paths and growing in me as I’ve followed in the footsteps of those who have traveled the Good Way before me.

For this reason, perhaps, as I read in Jeremiah this morning, verse 6:16 captured my attention. However, there is a bit more to the verse:

…But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’

Jeremiah 6:16b

My friends, I don’t know what you are facing on the first day of 2019. None of us know what we may be facing tomorrow. In fact, we are never guaranteed tomorrow.

But we have today. We have right now.

Today I invite you to a journey of joy. It isn’t a pain-free journey, nor it is a fool’s journey though you may be called a fool for embarking on it. I invite you nonetheless. Come, ask for the ancient paths where the good way is and find rest for your souls. Walk it, and do not refuse.

I know some of you are dealing with the slow decay of cancer. Others deal with the no less malignant cancer of anger, envy, unforgiveness, self-exaltation, or even the twisted egoism of self-loathing. Leave them by the wayside and find rest for your soul.

Others deal with pain rooted in an unhealed childhood wound. Many have addictions of one type or another, whether to food, entertainment, alcohol, drugs, sex, or something else. If you’ve lived long enough with any of these, you’ve experienced already the law of diminishing returns. The fun is gone, only the endless grind of need remains and grows like its own ruthless, devouring cancer. But you can lay those aside, too. Find the good Way, the One you were meant to be addicted to, and find rest for your soul.

Some have rejected the very idea of God so bitterly you think you can never turn to Him now. People would laugh. He would laugh and refuse to accept you now. He won’t.

You are not the first mocker to find that His way is the one you’ve been seeking after all. Peter, Jesus’s disciple, denied Him at His arrest. I once did, too. But the Lord had mercy on us both. So join me in searching the ancient paths like Peter’s and the paths of our lives today for signs of the God we once denied and like me, find rest for your soul.

The Peter who denied the Lord later received the gift of His Holy Spirit and spoke with enthusiasm to a crowd in Jerusalem. You can read about it in Acts 2. But what is remarkable to me is this: The joy I speak of, the rest for your soul that is promised along the good way, is part of what is called by Paul “fruit of the Spirit.”

…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…

Galatians 5:23-24a

This fruit grows along the ancient paths and nourishes those who choose the good way, even when the way is hard and the night seems long.

But even on the darkest night in the midst of the most horrendous pain, joy can still light your way and peace be your comfort because you will never walk the good way alone.

Tuesday Prayer: The King’s Birthday

I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have given me life. I am yours; save me, for I have sought your precepts.

Psalm 119:93-94

My Lord and King, today is the day we celebrate Your birth as a human child. Though we don’t know the hour or the date, we do know that our almighty and eternal God did something incomprehensible: You stepped down from Your throne of glory and clothed Yourself in the flesh of Your own creation – not to proclaim Your might as Sovereign but to set us an example of humility and service by Your death. Truly, You are Immanuel – God with us.

Lord, no act of humility or service I can offer You will ever come close to matching what You’ve already done for me. Nothing in creation is worthy of wrapping up and giving to You. I have nothing to offer You on Your birthday; nothing to give that You haven’t first given to me.

All I have is my love for You and my will, such as they are. Though it may be a feeble thread of what ought to be, I offer You my love. I surrender my will to Yours and pray for the grace to remain in a posture of surrender forever.

I give You my adoration, my mind, body, and soul. These are the only gifts I can give my King, and even those exist only because You created them in me. And so as I celebrate Your birthday this year, I give You back what You’ve already redeemed as Your own. I am Yours, Lord; save me. Amen.

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

Isaiah 7:14

Christmas Out of (Virtual) Office Message

Merry Christmas to all blog friends far and wide! Aside from a couple of pre-scheduled posts that I think I did earlier, I will probably be spending the next few days grabbing several quiet moments with my Lord in the middle of less quiet moments with my man and our three teenagers.

I may have time to jump over into the blogosphere and say hello, but then again, I may not. Either way, my prayer for all of you is that you will have a keen experience of joy in the salvation that comes from Yeshua Messiah alone – a joy that resonates from this day and throughout your earthly life.

May He be the Guiding Light in your dark places and the Purpose and Impetus behind your every waking moment. May His joy so flood your senses that it leaves you both oddly satisfied and yet thirsting for more.

Merry Christmas! And lest I be accused of taking myself too seriously, I leave you with this… ah, interesting perspective on an age-old Christmas carol:

Do You Hear What I Hear?