Monthly Archives: November 2014

Ezekiel 29-31; James 5

Hell, the pit, Sheol, death. Sounds like Bible thumping, screaming, condemning verbal assaults coming from self-made preachers standing on street corners.  If you have never heard one of these tirades, feel fortunate. I have been embarrassed that these harbingers of doomsday are called Christians.  I prefer to align myself with the well-respected pastors and leaders in church whose demeanor is gentle, who have a teaching style, and who are quick to pat you on the back or give you a fatherly hug. I’m not alone; multitudes flock to the beauty of freshly oiled wooden arches over Renaissance art in stain glass windows, the efficiency of soft, padded chairs with back pockets for Bibles, pencils, and offering envelopes, and the visual and sound stimulation of a high-tech audio/video system complete with theatre lights and digital recording for posterity.

Ezekiel 31:8 No tree in the garden of God was like it in beauty. I made it beautiful with a multitude of branches, So that all the trees of Eden envied it, that were in the garden of God. I have enjoyed living in the shade of such a beautiful tree, a church, a house of worship, a refuge for the hurting, and an outreach to the community. I have noticed that over time, however, my evangelistic energy has waned; I now allow volunteer opportunities to fall to others, and I am challenged to attend church services even once a week, sometimes forgetting to bring my checkbook. Like the words to the TobyMac song Made to Love, “Whatever happened to a passion I could live for?”

Meanwhile, God is working still. Lives are being broken, sinners are becoming saints, and saints are falling into sin. Where am I in that day? Ezekiel 29:21 In that day I will cause the horn of the house of Israel to spring forth, and I will open your mouth to speak in their midst. Then they shall know that I am the Lord. Am I prepared to be the mouth of the Lord? Do I see when my brother stumbles or do I laugh it off in disbelief? Do I accept God’s will as righteous or rationalize away His judgments? Am I willing to turn back a soul from death with truth or be satisfied offering tissues for tears?

James 5:19-20 Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins. As much as I am repulsed by pulpit-pounding and finger-pointing from zealots, I cannot deny an eventual need to abandon my preferences of comforting religious etiquette. Not only am I dulling my sense of purpose in Christ to spread the Gospel, but I am insulating myself from those around me who are on the proverbial cliff. God calls prophets who will open their mouths to speak words like, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live, Ezekiel 33:11. Without this message, what is the alternative? Without a messenger, who will bring the words of life?

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Ezekiel 27, 28; James 4

Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor? James 4:11-12

I see and hear it all over, judgment and criticism spewed out everywhere, on every one; people playing judge and jury for people they may not even know. Society as a whole has seemed to really embrace this holier-than-thou attitude, especially since the rise of social media and blogging. Everyone has the right to their own opinion; they have the right to make their own choices in how they walk their journey in life. But, for heaven’s sake, your decisions better look like mine, or else. Right!?…Wrong!

Don’t bad-mouth each other, friends. It’s God’s Word, his Message, his Royal Rule, that takes a beating in that kind of talk. You’re supposed to be honoring the Message, not writing graffiti all over it. God is in charge of deciding human destiny. Who do you think you are to meddle in the destiny of others? James 4:11-12 (MSG)

I’ve been there, both on the giving end of judgment and the receiving end. Neither one is pleasant. Hearing criticism against me and the choices that I have made in life, for myself, for my family is hurtful. I know I am doing the best that I can in any given moment, and in the words of Iyanla Vazant, “When I know better, I do better.”

As a mother, it is even harder. At any given moment, I am being judged based on my choices to co-sleep, baby wear, breast feed, vaccinate, switch between cloth and disposable diapers, discipline based in love versus rejection, spend time on my smart phone while the kids are playing at Chick-fil-A, let my kids watch TV, etc. I am even judged by some on the decision to not shave my girls head to ‘make their hair more beautiful’, for allowing my youngest to comfort herself with a pacifier, and to let my girls drink juice when they are sick.

I don’t need any help from anyone else to feel like a failure; I already struggle with that lie from the enemy, even though I know that I am doing a good job despite the circumstances of my life. What I need, instead of disapproval, is help; a village surrounding me to pick up the pieces when I inevitably fumble.

Even as I am writing, I am convicted in my heart that I too often stand in that place of judgment. I also condemn others for choosing differently from me. Whether I judge people on their politics, their lifestyle choices, their parenting skills, their actions or beliefs, in that twinkling of an eye, I have put myself over them and over God to find them guilty. It doesn’t matter if I have posted my views all over the internet, gossiped to my friends, or simply considered it in my thoughts; I have spoken evil against another…I have sinned. And, who am I to judge my neighbor?

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded…Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. James 4:7-8; 10

When I realize that I have been judgmental or that I need to forgive someone who has judged me, I know that it is time to get right with God again. I need to step down from the judge’s bench and let Him have His seat back. I need to humble myself, submit myself once more to Him, because God is the only One who can clean my hands, purify my heart, and keep my mind in alignment with His love, grace, and mercy.

When I repent and when I offer forgiveness, my heart grows with compassion, and what I once saw through blinders, I am now able to see through truth. I am able to see better through the defenses that have been put up by others to protect themselves from judgment, and I am able to break down the walls I’ve built around myself. Instead of judging someone else for being different than me, I am able to choose to love them right where they are, no matter what their life looks like. And when I am feeling judged, I am able to focus more on the intention behind the critique, which many times is actually care and concern, glean God’s truth from the comments, and choose to be vulnerable, to share my struggles and even ask for help.

It takes courage to stop standing in the place of judgment, to choose to not be the one to cast the first stone. It takes courage to forgive others, then submit the criticisms received to God and ask for His truth and wisdom. And, when I step out in courage, I am honoring God and living by His Word, which is the best way to live.

 

Blessings – Julie (writing from the U.S.A.)

 

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Ezekiel 24-26; James 3

“…But no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil full of deadly poison.” James 3:8

Ouch. I know this to be true. One minute positive words come out of this mouth, the next minute a complaint, criticism or a curse. My very words condemn me. I commiserate with Isaiah when he cries, “Woe to me! I am ruined for I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” Isaiah 6:5.  Between God and me, I am the only one surprised by the inclinations of my heart. Thanks to Jesus, my guilt is erased and I am  restored. I think of the line of the song, “fall down six times, get up seven.”

Friends of mine just went to a marketing seminar where they were advised to tap into the human desire to think of oneself as superior. That couldn’t be farther from James’s advice to embrace humility and provide no safe harbor for “bitter envy and selfish ambition” within my heart. These are words to dwell on before I take my seat at the Thanksgiving table with parents, siblings, in-laws and outlaws. It’s amazing how quickly adults can revert to old childish ways when back in the family fold.

So along with preparing the traditional dishes, this upcoming week, I’ll focus on cultivating a heart of gratitude as well as commit these words of James to memory:

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness. James 3:17-18.

When I fall short, I’ll quickly breathe that prayer of repentance:

Lord Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. Amen

Klueh

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Ezekiel 22-23; James 2

It was a mother who made my friend cry. She called me to tell me the story, all the while struggling to get the words out–of how that mother’s face gnarled and hurled nasty comments. Women can work up the cruelest hate–a mother to a child, a sister to a sister, a friend to a friend, a neighbor to a neighbor.

Is anyone immune to the things that divide? James talks about prejudice–and I’ve seen that preference play out in plenty of circles–the inner circle vs the outer circle … public schoolers vs homeschoolers … girls’ night out vs homebodies … bottle feeders vs breast feeders … scratch bakers vs box mix … there’s no shortage of things that can cause a divide.

My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others?

For example, suppose someone comes into your meeting dressed in fancy clothes and expensive jewelry, and another comes in who is poor and dressed in dirty clothes. If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, “You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor”—well, doesn’t this discrimination show that your judgments are guided by evil motives?

Listen to me, dear brothers and sisters. Hasn’t God chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith? Aren’t they the ones who will inherit the Kingdom he promised to those who love him? But you dishonor the poor! Isn’t it the rich who oppress you and drag you into court? Aren’t they the ones who slander Jesus Christ, whose noble name you bear?” James 2:1-7, NLT.

My beautiful friend called and cried at accusations spewed at her, and my heart broke for her and her accuser. My heart broke because I’ve been part of those battles, and sometimes I don’t know which side I’m on.

Yes indeed, it is good when you obey the royal law as found in the Scriptures: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you favor some people over others, you are committing a sin. You are guilty of breaking the law.

10 For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God’s laws. 11 For the same God who said, “You must not commit adultery,” also said, “You must not murder.” So if you murder someone but do not commit adultery, you have still broken the law.

12 So whatever you say or whatever you do, remember that you will be judged by the law that sets you free. 13 There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you. James 2:8-13, NLT.

I know in my future there will be plenty of times to choose a side. Lord, help me to choose mercy.

Courtney (66books365)

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Ezekiel 20, 21; James 1

The first chapter of James is like trying to drink out of a fire hydrant with a straw. It’s like James was afraid he’d run out of time so he decided to pack all of his thoughts into the first section. Faith, perseverance. Wisdom, doubt. Social status, longevity. Temptation, sin, death. God’s generosity. Anger management. Taking action in God’s word. Taming the tongue. True religion. What am I to take away from all this? Perhaps he was so scattered because he was writing to such a scattered audience—twelve tribes of Jewish believers with their own unique and individual problems.

Every time I’ve read through this chapter, I’ve gleaned something fresh from it. A different aspect connects with a different part of my life at that time. I’m sure every time I’ve read it, I’ve been living out of one those twelve tribes different tribulations.

This time, my mind snagged on this theme of God’s lavish generosity. Coming up on a season of giving, I am suddenly aware of how my small my most prized gift this year will pale in comparison to God’s unshackled blessing.

“Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow. He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession.” (v. 17-18, NLT)

I can’t get over the multitude of God’s gift. In wisdom, He created us. In love, He allowed us fall. In mercy, He sent His beloved son to atone for our mistakes. In grace, He daily offers His presence by His spirit to renew and free us from sin. He gave His true word. And ultimately, gifted Him to make us His prized possession. Wow.

Jesus, I am amazed by your goodness. I am overwhelmed by your generosity. Help to me to more fully comprehend the depth of your grace and presence in my life in a fresh way.

– Christian

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Ezekial 17-19; Hebrews 13

Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we may boldly say:“The Lord is my helper;

I will not fear. What can man do to me?” Hebrews 13:5&6 NKJV

As Thanksgiving gets closer, a common theme that keeps coming up in my life, is being thankful. I have been trying to make a conscious effort to write things I am grateful for in my journal. Because I know that if I don’t, I will quickly forget. This happened to me recently. I could see a way that God had provided, and just as quickly as I thanked him for it, I started to feel discontent. Than God sent this little nugget of truth my way in an Ann Voskamp blog. In it she says, “Yeah, so I’ve struggled with this addiction. A ‘Waiting Room Addiction’: Waiting for the next season of life to say it’s good enough. Waiting for the next number on the scale to say we’re okay enough. Waiting for the next dream, the next house, the next bend in the road, the next time I get it together—before I can finally step out of the Waiting Room Living & into Really Living—and frankly? I’m just done with that”… “What cures us of our addiction to Waiting Room Living is ThanksGiving: When we give thanks for the miraculous Gift of Now-we get to step out of Waiting Room Living and into the miracle of Really Living.”

Dear Father, Help me to be content in You.

And all the trees of the field shall know that I, the Lord, have brought down the high tree and exalted the low tree, dried up the green tree and made the dry tree flourish; I, the Lord, have spoken and have done it.” Ezekial 17:24 NKJV

Dear Father, Help me to stay humble, knowing that everything I have is from You. Thank you that You are always with me. That You never change. Thank you that in all the chaos around me, I can rest in that truth. Amen.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Hebrews 13:8 NKJV

Amy(amyctanner)

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Ezekiel 16; Hebrews 12

‘For this is what the sovereign Lord says: I will deal with you according to what you have done when you despised your oath by breaking your covenant. Yet I will remember the covenant I made with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish a lasting  covenant with you. Then you will remember your conduct, and be ashamed when you receive your older and younger sisters. I will give them to you as daughters, but not on account of my covenant with you. I will establish my covenant with you, and then you will know that I am the Lord.'”

Ezekiel 16:59-62

Ezekiel 16 is an especially heavy chapter,

The indictments against God’s children Israel are serious, so serious that the best way that God can explain what they’ve done to him is through the context of a wife who chose to become a prostitute.

But not only that, the story starts with a classic ‘rags to riches’ tale. Israel was nothing, they weren’t even a nation when God called Abram and made the promise to him. After taking the Israel from a wandering bedouin, to a powerful force amongst the nations, you would think that of course they would only worship God, but not so.

They play the harlot with other gods and other nations, making treaties with them when instructed not to, worshipping their gods, and taking their women as wives.

But even worse than a prostitute the Lord calls them, because not only did they give themselves to others, they did it for free! They didn’t gain anything from these other nations, in fact they were often attacked and enslaved by them yet God says they still gave themselves freely to the false gods. And even worse than giving themselves away for free, they even brought offerings, they paid others for the honor of being their prostitute!

But after all that, the Lord, who can always bring beauty out of the ashes and brokenness, says that he will remember the covenant that he made with them. And even better than that! he says that he will even expand the covenant to include Israel’s ‘older and younger sisters’ which is what God was calling the pagan nations that Israel had been proverbially sleeping around with.

It’s hard sometimes to fathom the grace of the God that not only forgives Israel, but forgives the pagan nations that attacked, and led astray Israel his wife.

What the old covenant signs foreshadowed, Christ has now completed.

God provided the ram to Abram, that he might not sacrifice Isaac – on the same mountain that years later Jesus would die on, to allow in all tribes, tongues, and nations to the family of God.

God alone walked through the animal parts to seal the covenant, as if to say: ‘you and your descendants can’t possibly uphold this covenant, but as I walk through it now, so my son will walk through it finally, to seal you as mine forever.’

So since we are receiving an unshakable kingdomlet us give thanks, and through this let us offer worship pleasing to God in devotion and awe.

Hebrews 12:28

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