Then They Will Know

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Ezekiel 39:28 (KJB), “Then shall they know that I am the LORD their God, which caused them to be led into captivity among the heathen: but I have gathered them unto their own land, and have left none of them anymore there.”

All through the book of Ezekiel God uses this phrase, “Then they will know that I am God.” Some may have a few words added like “The Lord God” or “Sovereign Lord” but they all say the same thing I started counting in the seventh chapter and gave up. Over and over again God uses these words as He is explaining to Ezekiel what He is doing, what Ezekiel needs to do, and what the prophet needs to tell the people. All of this takes place during the exile to Babylon.

I have often pondered the events that took place in Jerusalem all those years ago. At first glance, it seemed that God was a tad cruel. After a few readings I began to understand a little better. After years of reading through the Bible, I began to side with God, feel deep sorrow in my heart for His spurned love and care. Eventually I understood as much as I am able, of why He allowed His chosen people to go as slaves into other countries.

Let’s take a look at Ezekiel 16:4-14 (NASB),

“As for your birth, on the day you were born your navel cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water for cleansing; you were not rubbed with salt or even wrapped in cloths. No eye looked with pity on you to do any of these things for you, to have compassion on you. Rather you were thrown out into the open field, for you were abhorred on the day you were born.   When I passed by you and saw you squirming in your blood, I said to you while you were in your blood, ‘Live!’ Yes, I said to you while you were in your blood, ‘Live!’ I made you numerous like plants of the field. Then you grew up, became tall and reached the age for fine ornaments; your breasts were formed and your hair had grown. Yet you were naked and bare.  Then I passed by you and saw you, and behold, you were at the time for love; so I spread My skirt over you and covered your nakedness. I also swore to you and entered into a covenant with you so that you became Mine,” declares the Lord GOD. Then I bathed you with water, washed off your blood from you and anointed you with oil. I also clothed you with embroidered cloth and put sandals of porpoise skin on your feet; and I wrapped you with fine linen and covered you with silk. I adorned you with ornaments, put bracelets on your hands and a necklace around your neck. I also put a ring in your nostril, earrings in your ears and a beautiful crown on your head. Thus you were adorned with gold and silver, and your dress was of fine linen, silk and embroidered cloth. You ate fine flour, honey and oil; so you were exceedingly beautiful and advanced to royalty. Then your fame went forth among the nations on account of your beauty, for it was perfect because of My splendor which I bestowed on you,” declares the Lord GOD.”

Who is He talking about? Unfaithful Jerusalem. His chosen people. Unwanted, cast out to die, picture a baby still with its umbilical cord attached thrashing, hungry and cold in its own blood, in the garbage dump. Unloved! Then along came the Creator of the Universe and chose them. While they were in that state …He loved them. He had compassion. He cleaned them up, dressed them, covered their shame, and decked them out in jewels. Till they were exceedingly beautiful! What a perfect picture of Perfect Love. It’s better than any fairytale and more romantic than any novel, so we expect a happy ending for Jerusalem, right? The “she loved Him for all of her days, thankful for all that He had done for her.” Let’s keep reading.

Ezekiel 16:15- 22(NASB), “But you trusted in your beauty and played the harlot because of your fame, and you poured out your harlotries on every passer-by who might be willing. You took some of your clothes, made for yourself high places of various colors and played the harlot on them, which should never come about nor happen. You also took your beautiful jewels made of My gold and of My silver, which I had given you, and made for yourself male images that you might play the harlot with them. Then you took your embroidered cloth and covered them, and offered My oil and My incense before them. Also My bread which I gave you, fine flour, oil and honey with which I fed you, you would offer before them for a soothing aroma; so it happened,” declares the Lord GOD. Moreover, you took your sons and daughters whom you had borne to Me and sacrificed them to idols to be devoured. Were your harlotries so small a matter? You slaughtered My children and offered them up to idols by causing them to pass through the fire. Besides all your abominations and harlotries you did not remember the days of your youth, when you were naked and bare and squirming in your blood.”

What? No way. After all this great Lover did for her, she cheated on Him! Can you feel a little righteous anger rising up in you? Can you see things from the eyes of the one who was spurned, mocked, laughed at, and stolen from? Now before we get all self-righteous… He is also writing about me. You. His Church. The Bride of Christ. Weren’t we unwanted, unloved, cast out to die, hungry, and cold wallowing in our own blood, our own filth, in the refuse heap. Then along came the Lover of our souls. Yet, while we were in that condition He loved us. He had compassion. He saw something in us that no one else did. He cleaned us up, dressed us, covered our shame, decked us out in jewels. Till we were exceedingly beautiful.

Our own sin took us there, that awful place where the unwanted, used up, garbage goes. He took us out of the dump and placed us in a palace. He exchanged our ugly garments stained in dirt and blood and dressed us in robes of praise. He did that.

Jesus said that those who were forgiven much, loved much. Yet look at Israel. They turned their backs. How could they? They didn’t really know who their Lover was. When we know Him, really truly, know Him, we won’t leave. Never. We will be like Job and when those around us say, “curse God and die” we will reply, “I know that my redeemer lives, and even if He slays me, yet will I praise Him!” Job lived before grace, so did those adulteress Israelites, but even now under such glorious, scandalous grace, people still turn away from Him. If only they understood how much He loves them. If only they realized that no matter how “green” things look on the other side of the fence, it’s all lies, an illusion, its mirrors and parlor tricks by our enemy to lure us away. Or no matter how rough the path we are on looks, it’s His way. He planned it, He knows where it ends, and He walks with us.

Even after all of Israel’s sin. He saved a few faithful. His word did not return void. Some “knew that He was Lord” because of all they witnessed. Shouldn’t all of His goodness cause us to say, “I know that He is God, He truly is my Lord, the Lover of my soul?”

He will gather them back, if you stray, He will call for you, asking you to come back to Him.

But, the best plan would be to never leave, to remain faithful to your first love, to love Him all the days of your mortal life and for eternity beyond this one. To dedicate yourself to pleasing Him, to showing His love to others, to proving how much you love Him by word deed. It may be lawful for us to do anything under grace, but the question shouldn’t be “is it legal” but “does it please Him?” Don’t run away from the best thing that ever happened to you. Let yourself be “exceedingly beautiful” under His love. Show the world your beauty. It will glorify Him.

Then they will know… that He is Lord.

My Greatest Performance

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Ephesians 2:7-10 (Message Bible), “Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.”

Once we give ourselves over to Jesus, really and truly become His bond slave (a slave by choice and not by force- a love slave), we then our faced with a choice of how we are going to walk out this new life. We can continue to live by our flesh or we can live by our spirits. We each are three part beings, just like God. As he is Father/Son/Holy Spirit, we too have three parts to us. Though all of Him, the whole Godhead is Holy and there is no corruption found in Him, we still have to deal with some stuff. We are a spirit, we have a soul, and we live in this body. Our soul is the mediator between our flesh and our spirit. At salvation, God puts a new spirit in us. Our flesh however is still the same old hunk of … lust and appetites and evil and selfishness and all of the other things listed in Galatians five.

The problem is that if we continue to allow our flesh to reign, we are in for a constant struggle.

Maybe you just took a look at Galatians and are thinking, “that’s not me,” but if you are trying to walk this walk with God in your own strength, that’s the flesh. Flesh always thinks it’s about us. Our performance, our good deeds, our strength, our righteousness. This was the Pharisees’ insisting they wanted to follow the law and not take the offered Sacrifice of Jesus Christ as their atonement. This is the person who said a prayer to follow Jesus and then pushed Him out of the way and took the lead. This is that one who refuses to humble themselves and repent and ask God for help. The Sunday pew sitter who hears a good message and thinks it’s for someone else.

Living by the Spirit is just the opposite. It’s real life, not just getting by. Its freedom from the law and the whole performance based religion. Letting His Spirit lead our spirit takes all the pressure off of us. It isn’t about us anymore at all, it’s all about Him. His ability, His love, His forgiveness, His will, His performance. We can’t do the performance thing perfectly. He already did. Perfectly. Our greatest performance is nothing buy garbage.

Isaiah 64:6 (NIV), “We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind.”

Shakespeare said, All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players.”He was pretty much right. The thing we have to get into us is that we don’t have the lead part. Ever. God chose the cast, He set the stage, He wrote the play, He chose Himself as the lead. Which makes perfect sense don’t you think?

So what’s my greatest performance? It’s letting Him take the lead.

How Do We Accept Loss?

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Today I found out that a very young girl, one of my first students when I started teaching, lost her husband today. It was quite unexpected. They are barely out of their teens and have a six month old baby. He wasn’t ill. There was no warning. She was in Wisconsin with her baby taking care of her younger siblings while her mother was in the hospital recovering from illness. Her husband had gone back to Idaho so that he could work and provide for his little family. When his mother went to wake him up for work, he had already gone on to be with Jesus.

Thankfully they are saved. We all know that this young man is in a better place, yet…

There are some parents without their son, some friends without their buddy, siblings without their brother, a wife without her husband, and a precious baby boy without his father.

How do we handle loss like this?

There are so many clichés, so many “Christian” sayings. None of them sound right to me, and I think some would even be hurtful. When you’ve lost someone, you don’t want to hear, “He’s in a better place” or “You will be with him again someday.” You want them here, now.

There are many reasons that people die young. None of them good ones. Sometimes we aren’t surprised because of a certain lifestyle or bad life choices. But this was a good man, a follower of Jesus, a good son, husband, friend, and Daddy. So we can ask ourselves “why” and keep going over everything, around the mountain again and again. We can get bitter, be angry at God, or this fallen world, or whoever and whatever. Or we can… grieve. Pray. Be there for those who are hurting. Help where and when we can. And if we don’t know what to say, be quiet.

I know life can be hard. In fact sometimes it feels like it isn’t worth it, or that the pain will break us.

But I also know this; there is One who loves you. He not only sees your tears, He experiences your sorrow with you. He hasn’t abandoned you to grieve alone. He has sent the comforter to you.

Sometimes the only thing we can hope to understand is this: no matter what is going on around us, no matter how tough things get, God is Good.

Revelation 21:4 (KJB), “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”

(Please pray for this young lady, Elizabeth, and her little man, Gabriel)

Am I Teachable?

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Philippians 2:2-4 (NASB), “make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”

Our Senior Pastor, Dr. William Hohman, teaches about humility quite often. One of the things he often says is that “humility means you are teachable”. A humble person admits that he or she doesn’t know everything and is open to sound teaching. Many times over the years as an employee, a manager, a parent, and a teacher, someone would know of an easier way to do something that still got the right results. Most were thrilled to learn and to save time or energy, I know I was. Some insisted their way was best, too proud to admit that there might be an easier way and continued to do things their own way. It works both ways as well. There were times that the so called “easy way” ended up with more work in the long run, or didn’t get the right results, but stubbornly, those who knew the short cut wouldn’t admit the fault in their efforts.

Our Father knows a better way, for everything. His way may not always look too easy, or it may look way too easy to believe in any results, but it is always better. I wish I had a dollar for every time I gritted my teach and dug in my heals, and insisted on doing things my way, only to have it come back to bite me in the rear parts!

I have always loved to learn. Pretty much anything. I loved the new books, pencils, classroom, assignments, and even test day. Loving to learn doesn’t make me humble or teachable. Admitting that the teacher or professor is trying to teach me a better way does. Opening my heart to the Father, allowing myself to be led by His Spirit and not thinking too highly of myself makes me humble. The Holy Spirit can teach me all things when I am humble. He, or anyone else, can’t teach me anything if I already think I know everything.

Humility isn’t a lack of confidence. It isn’t low self-esteem.

Ken Blanchard, in his book “Lead Like Jesus” says: “Humility is realizing and emphasizing the importance of others. It is not putting yourself down: it is lifting others up. Humility gives credit to forces other than your own knowledge or effort when a victory is won or an obstacle is overcome…Jesus’ humility didn’t come from lack of self –esteem, love, power, or ability. His humility came from the fact that He knew who He was, where He came from, where He was going, and whose He was.”

With that confidence in who we are, where we are going, and Whose we are, we can’t help but be humbled.

James 3:13-16 (Message Bible), “Do you want to be counted wise, to build a reputation for wisdom? Here’s what you do: Live well, live wisely, live humbly. It’s the way you live, not the way you talk, that counts. Mean-spirited ambition isn’t wisdom. Boasting that you are wise isn’t wisdom. Twisting the truth to make yourselves sound wise isn’t wisdom. It’s the furthest thing from wisdom—it’s animal cunning, devilish conniving. Whenever you’re trying to look better than others or get the better of others, things fall apart and everyone ends up at the others’ throats.”

Book Review for: “The Sarian’s Sword”-Christian fantasy/sci fi

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I was given a copy of The Sarian’s Sword (Tales of Vantoria book 1) in exchange for an honest review. This is a great fantasy/sci fi read. It is unapologetically Christian and I loved the characters and the mix of modern and old in the story. A good allegory and I love those. I give it four stars. Fun read with a very good message that will get you thinking. No sexual content or swearing, there is fighting and violence (mild). I can recommend for teens and up.

Peace and Confidence

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John 14:27 (NIV), “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

Our peace and confidence do not depend on our performance. It all depends on Jesus’ finished work on the cross.

John 14:27 (NLT), “I am leaving you with a gift–peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”

Our confidence does not depend on us, the government, our boss, our Pastor, our spouse, or the Church. It is OK to be confident in people but we can’t depend on them as our source of confidence and peace. They will all at one time or another fall short of our expectations or what we need done in our lives. When all those people and things fail us our confidence in the Father still remains. No matter what things may look like, we can be confident that He is working things out for our good. If we are truly His and we aren’t just practicing religion, then His promises are “Yes and Amen.” God alone is faithful enough to put all of our trust, to depend on for our peace. Jesus said it was a gift! We don’t earn a gift; it is given out of love.

Philippians 1:6 (NASB), “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”

He won’t leave you high and dry. He’s the one who chose you. He is the one who wooed you and gave you that new heart. Surely He will finish all of the things He started.

Jesus was crucified-He rose from the dead-He took the keys to death and Hell-He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God. He did it! It’s a done deal.

Be confident in that!