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June 28, 2007

Chapter-a-Day Ezekiel 24

God's Message came to me: "Son of man, I'm about to take from you the delight of your life—a real blow, I know. But, please, no tears. Keep your grief to yourself. No public mourning. Get dressed as usual and go about your work—none of the usual funeral rituals." Ezekiel 24:15-17 (TM)

Truth can be a tough pill to swallow, and that makes reading the Old Testament prophets a difficult task, at times. The truth is that God is sovereign, and while He has a plan for our lives, there are times that He has the bigger picture in mind. His plan for us also includes developing within us character qualities like maturity, wholeness, endurance, perseverance - for which the teacher is trials and difficulties.

June 22, 2007

What I don't get...

Does that guy on the plane not look in the mirror and see the gross bumper crop of hair sticking a half-inch out of his nostrils? Does that lady not see the six stringy long hairs sticking out of her chin?

Chapter-a-Day Ezekiel 20

"'What you're secretly thinking is never going to happen. You're thinking, "We're going to be like everybody else, just like the other nations. We're going to worship gods we can make and control." Ezekiel 20:32 (TM)

God seems a lot easier to take if my god is a god that I can control. If I can have a god of my own choosing, who fits with my world-view, who doesn't make me uncomfortable, guilty or ashamed of my behavior. On the face of things, a god of my choosing will make me feel more comfortable and better about myself. Yet the god of my choosing is really just a reflection of me and my selfishness. A god of my choosing is not holy, or just, or right. A god of my choosing just entrenches me deeper into my own ways.

God, help me to see you, hear you, and trust you as you are - not as I would have you be.

June 21, 2007

Chapter-a-Day Ezekiel 19

Sing the blues over the princes of Israel. Ezekiel 19:1 (TM)

The "blues" in Ecclesiastical Old Testament terms was a "lament", but it was "the blues". Yesterday I noted that "fairness was never part of the human equation" - but sadness definitely is, as well as sorrow, and difficulty, and pain. We shouldn't marvel at this. God told us at the beginning that this is the way it would be. Ecclesiastes (along with The Byrds) remind us that there is a time for everything under the sun. There is a time to rejoice, and there is a time to sing the blues.

When it comes time to sing the blues - let it wail.

June 20, 2007

Mission: Mexico

Mexico_050 Taylor and Madison had a rewarding week on their mission to Mexico. Working in orphanages and building homes - they worked hard and loved hard. Over Father's Day dinner they shared their experiences. As with all missions there were the humorous memories that will live on in infamy, like Taylor getting to San Diego and realizing she'd not packed underwear. She had to buy "granny panties" in Mexico. There were also scenes and experiences that gave them new perspectives to consider. There were opportunities to love others and to be loved.

Mexico_029_2 I remember when the girls were small and you could leave in the morning and come home in the evening to realize that their little bodies had grown. As I listened to the girls share about their trip and heard the heart-lessons God gave them on the trip - it was clear to me that their spirits had grown in that week. Their horizon is a little broader. Their wisdom is a bit deeper. Their perspective is a tad sharper.

Growth is good.Mexico_017_2

Chapter-a-Day Ezekiel 17

"And yet Israel keeps on whining, 'That's not fair! God's not fair.' "I'm not fair, Israel? You're the ones who aren't fair." Ezekiel 18:29 (TM)

Fairness has never been part of the human equation.

June 18, 2007

The Perfect Father's Day

I couldn't have received a better Father's Day than to have Taylor and Madison back home from their trip to Mexico. They arrived home late Saturday night with big hugs for Wendy and me. They were tired, but full of stories and memories and laughter (more to post later about their trip).

Yesterday morning we worshiped together at Third. As I entered the sanctuary on of the ushers came up to me and said, "You have the best daughters in the world. I was with them in Mexico, and they were so sweet and worked so hard!" Now that is a Father's Day present all it's own!

We went home from church to enjoy a Father's Day feast, complete with Wendy's to-die-for chocolate cake (Madison to Wendy: "You should open up your own restaurant and call it 'The Other Wendy's"). The girls chattered on through lunch about their experiences in Mexico, and we took it all in.

The girls took Wendy and me to a matinée of "Surf's Up" after lunch and we laughed together. Then we were off to Smokey Row for a cool summer afternoon treat.

It was a perfect day for this father.

Chapter-a-Day Ezekiel 16

"'God, the Master, says, I'll do to you just as you have already done, you who have treated my oath with contempt and broken the covenant. All the same, I'll remember the covenant I made with you when you were young and I'll make a new covenant with you that will last forever. You'll remember your sorry past and be properly contrite when you receive back your sisters, both the older and the younger. I'll give them to you as daughters, but not as participants in your covenant. I'll firmly establish my covenant with you and you'll know that I am God. You'll remember your past life and face the shame of it, but when I make atonement for you, make everything right after all you've done, it will leave you speechless.'" Decree of God, the Master. Ezekiel 16:59-63 (TM)

God spends much of Ezekiel 16 railing against Jerusalem's "whoring" ways and unfaithfulness, proclaims punishment - but then ends up with this promise of the coming New Covenant when God makes atonement for us. It does leave me speechless. What "amazing grace" that, after all I've done, God still loved me enough to send his Son to make atonement for my sins.

June 14, 2007

Chapter-a-Day Ezekiel 14

"Son of Man, these people have installed idols in their hearts. They have embraced the wickedness that will ruin them." Ezekiel 14:3a

Isn't it interesting that God's issue with the people of Jerusalem was not with the physical act of setting up an idol in their home, their temple, their city - but the fact that they set up an idol in their hearts. Jesus made the same distinction in His sermon on the mount. It's so easy to focus our time, attention, guilt and shame on a sinful act - that we never deal with the heart-issue that motivated that act.

God isn't as interested in cleaning up our acts as He is in cleaning up our hearts. When the heart is clean, the actions will follow.

June 12, 2007

Chapter-a-Day Ezekiel 12

"Also tell them, 'I am drawing a picture for you. As I am now doing, it will be done to all the people of Israel. They will go into exile as captives.' Ezekiel 12:11 (TM)

God asked Ezekiel to perform. He produced and staged a little street theater for the people of Jerusalem. Ezekiel was asked to bundle up his belongings in the street like he was being taken into exile and then spend the day digging a hole in the wall of his house. That is something that people will notice. Most people thought he was nuts. I imagine a few considered the message of Ezekiel's act, and hopefully repented.

What Ezekiel did was the physical drawing of a picture for people to see. It was a metaphor, warning them of what was to come. Metaphors like paintings, theater, film, video, and music can express messages of truth in powerful ways that simple words can't. When God's prophets had spoken until they were blue in the face, God turned to staging metaphorical 'word pictures' to communicate truth through His prophets.

In our rapidly changing times, people have so many distractions to keep them from the truth. We are bombarded with so many messages that a simple sermon on Sunday morning gets easily lost in the noise. Since the Dark Ages, there has never been a more critical time for the Body of Christ to  experience a renaissance of God's Creative Spirit within us. There has never been a more critical time for us to express truth in metaphor for a world that is increasingly deafened to the spoken Word of the Message.