Who Are The Prophecies For?

Scripture: Ezekiel 12:

26 The word of the LORD came to me: 27 "Son of man, the house of Israel is saying, ‘The vision he sees is for many years from now, and he prophesies about the distant future.’

28 "Therefore say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: None of my words will be delayed any longer; whatever I say will be fulfilled, declares the Sovereign LORD.’ "

Ezekiel 12,13,14; Revelation 5 – Passage Lookup – Today’s New International Version – BibleGateway.com

Observation: As we interpret scriptures we often read our own meanings and agendas into them.

Application:   In our scripture today Ezekiel is sent by God to the people of his time to tell them that these prophecies are for them.  It would be very easy for us to attach America into these warnings against Jerusalem, we could compare the rebelliousness and idolatry of that ancient culture to ourselves and see how similar we are, and then we might conclude that these same prophecies are speaking to us today.  Lots of people do that in the prophetic and apocalyptic scriptures, they take what was being said about specific situations and attach them to new things.

I’m not saying that the prophecies of scripture have no meaning for us at all.  Because we can certainly learn from them and be inspired, and we can surely be instructed about the nature of God.  We can even go ahead and claim these ancient writings as saying something new to us today, but as we do that I think it’s important for us to be aware of the fact that we may be reading new things into the texts. There is nothing new about this, we have added to the scriptures and yes even taken away from them throughout the history of the church and I’m sure we will continue doing it as long as we exist.  Furthermore I don’t see anything wrong with reading new meanings into old texts, as long as we recognize the fact that our attachments and understanding are our own and not necessarily everyone else’s.

I’ll try to give you an example of what I’m saying.  A pastor of mine once went fishing and got a terrible sunburn on the top of his head.  It was causing him great pain and  as he was reading his daily scripture and suffering he came across John 9:1-7 Where Jesus heals a blind man by spitting on the ground and making clay and anointing his eyes with it.  When he read that, he decided that God was speaking to him and telling him to do likewise for his sunburned head.  He went outside, spit on the ground and made mud which he put on his sunburn, this helped the sunburn and eased the pain.

Now there is absolutely nothing wrong with this and I’m glad that my pastor was able to find relief by applying this scripture in a new way.  The point though is that just because he found new meaning and God spoke to him in a specific way through a scriptural story, doesn’t mean that we should all go outside and spit in the dirt and put the mud on all our wounds.  Not unless God is speaking to your heart about it now.  🙂 The scriptures are definitely alive and meaningful, but they are also supernaturally used by God to speak to us in specific ways for our own circumstances.  Just because I understand them in my own way doesn’t mean you have to understand them in the same way, and just because you understand them differently than I do doesn’t have to mean that you’re wrong and I’m right.  Although you probably are and I probably am. (just kidding)

Prayer: Father,

Help me to look within the scriptures and receive the messages you are giving to me through them.  Help me to apply the teachings to my life in a way that is pleasing and acceptable in your sight.  Forgive me when I fail to interpret the scriptures as I should and when I try harder than I should to impose my own interpretations on other people who have different understandings.

Love Michael

Worship In Heaven

Scripture: Revelation 4: 

11 "You are worthy, our Lord and God,
       to receive glory and honor and power,
       for you created all things,
       and by your will they were created
       and have their being."

Ezekiel 8,9,10,11; Revelation 4 – Passage Lookup – Today’s New International Version – BibleGateway.com

Observation: Heaven is a place of worship.

Application:  The words above are from the twenty-four elders around the throne of God in John’s vision of Heaven.  This is the place where we all want to be, it’s our goal, the finish of our race, and the prize for the good fight.  The object of our worship is the center of this place, and all there are constantly proclaiming His glory. 

If worship is the center of Heaven shouldn’t it also be the center of our church services?  It seems to me that worship is something we rush through without feeling and without heart, we do a set number of songs that we are familiar with and then move on right on schedule so that our services don’t run too long. I know I’m not talking about every church when I say this, and even in the churches where it applies I’m not talking about every person in those congregations.  But I’ve seen so many congregations that have lost the heart of worship, and when that goes, the rest suffers. 

Worship should be the heart of our service.  Worship is why we should come, and the goal in everything we do should be bringing glory to God through our worship, through our singing, through our praising, through our testimony, through the preaching and the teaching and the studying and the Sunday School.  We need to worship in Spirit and in Truth, for this is what The Father desires.

Prayer:  God of Glory,

Let me worship you in the fullness of my heart with every breath I take and every word I speak.  With my thoughts let me lift you on high, and with my actions let me glorify your name.  Forgive me when I fail to worship you as fully as I should and strengthen my soul so that I may bring you my heart and my life as I should, for it belongs to you.

Love Michael

He’s Standing At The Door

 Scripture: Revelation 3:

20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with them, and they with me.

Ezekiel 4,5,6,7; Revelation 3 – Passage Lookup – Today’s New International Version – BibleGateway.com

Observation:  The door on which Jesus knocks leads to our hearts, and He desires us to open our hearts and allow love in.

Application: One cool fall morning Charlie woke up to find an envelope laying on the front porch of his house.  He opened it up and read a short letter inside.

Dear Charlie,

I’m going to be in town today, and I’d like to see you. I’ll come by later.

Love Jesus.

Charlie was not all that religious, he attended church from time to time, he prayed a little and read the Bible once or twice a year but he was no spiritual superstar, he wondered if this was some kind of joke, “Why would Jesus want to come see me?” he thought.  He pondered the possibilities of this for a while then decided that if  it was real he should be prepared and make a nice meal for Jesus.  If it wasn’t real, he would just eat the meal himself and that would be that.  He went to his cupboards and realized that he didn’t have enough groceries. He would have to make a trip to the store and buy some food.

He put on his jacket, got in his car and went to the local grocery store to buy enough supplies  to make a nice meal and then headed back to cook for Jesus.  As he left the store he saw a man on the corner holding a sign that said “Family in Need, no food, please Help.”  Charlie had spent all of his money on the groceries but his heart was breaking as he thought of this man and his family in need.  He understood very well how it could happen in such an economic time as this. He realized that the food he bought to prepare a fine meal for him and Jesus would be just enough to feed this family for the day, and decided that Jesus would understand if he told Him that all he had was bologna sandwiches when he came by.

He got out of his car, walked over to the man and handed him the bag of groceries and said “I’m sorry that your family is in suffering, take these and feed them tonight.”  “Thank you so much sir,” the man said, “and God Bless you!”  As the man took the bag, Charlie noticed that he was wearing a short sleeve shirt that was tattered and torn, and he was shivering.  “Here why don’t you take this jacket, my car is warm and I have another one at home” he told the man.  Tears welled up in the mans eyes as Charlie handed him the jacket, and he wasn’t even able to speak.

Charlie got back in the car and headed home, “This Jesus letter is just some prank someone is pulling on me anyway” he thought.  As he drove toward home his cell phone rang.  It was the wife of one of his long time friends “Jeff and I got in an argument and we were yelling at each other, one of our neighbors heard us and called the police.  They came and took him to jail and they won’t let him out unless a property owner signs the bond.  You’re the only friend we have that owns a house, would you please go get him out of jail?  The argument was my fault and I never wanted this to happen.”  Charlie had worked hard for his house and this was a big favor to ask, but he loved his friend and decided he would go and help him.  He went to the police station and signed the bond and took his friend back to his apartment.  By now it was late in the afternoon and Charlie headed back home.

When he was walking back up on his front porch he noticed another letter in the same kind of envelope as the first he had found that morning.  He opened it and read,

Dear Charlie,

Thank you for the wonderful visit, and for opening the door when I knocked.

Love Jesus

Charlie was dumbfounded.  He hadn’t seen Jesus, he had been out all day and what did Jesus mean about a wonderful visit?  He walked inside and went to lay the letter on the coffee table beside the one from earlier and he noticed his Bible laying open on the table and he looked at the spot where someone had marked a big star beside the verses.

Matthew 25:40 (The Message)

37-40"Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’

This story has been told many times before, I’m not sure where it originated and this is just my version of it.  I guess I strayed a little from my selection of scripture in Revelation – but I think that both of these compliment each other wonderfully.  Jesus stands at the door of our heart – we let him in by loving one another and ministering to those who are in need.  I hope you have a wonderful day, and that somewhere along the way, you’ll get the opportunity to see Jesus!

Prayer: Abba Father,

Help me to reach out to those in need with whatever I have.  Grant me the compassion and love that you desire to see within me and when you knock on the door of my heart, let me always open up to you.

Love Michael

Reluctant Prophets

Scripture: Ezekiel 3:

12 Then the Spirit lifted me up, and I heard behind me a loud rumbling sound as the glory of the LORD rose from the place where it was standing. [a] 13 It was the sound of the wings of the living creatures brushing against each other and the sound of the wheels beside them, a loud rumbling sound. 14 The Spirit then lifted me up and took me away, and I went in bitterness and in the anger of my spirit, with the strong hand of the LORD on me. 15 I came to the exiles who lived at Tel Aviv near the Kebar River. And there, where they were living, I sat among them for seven days—deeply distressed.

Ezekiel 1,2,3; Revelation 2 – Passage Lookup – Today’s New International Version – BibleGateway.com

Observation:  Ministry and proclaiming God’s word to people is often difficult and many times we can be reluctant to answer the call.

Application:  Ezekiel had a tough ministry no doubt.  He was to prophecy to a people who were in exile, taken into captivity by foreigners and who felt that God had abandoned them.  God had to literally lift him up and put him where He wanted him to be, and like a child being led by the ear he was angry, and reluctant to obey.

The message that God lays on the hearts of teachers, prophets, pastors, and lay people is often not the message that those who it’s intended for want to hear.  It’s not always an easy job.  I admit that there have been times when I was given a message that I was reluctant to share because I knew it would not be received well. I want to be liked, I am always more interested in building up than breaking down.  But there are times when a breaking down must first occur before the building can begin.

Popularity is nice but if I fail to share the messages that God wants His people to hear, then I myself am responsible for their failure to do what God wants them to do.  This is what God told Ezekiel, 20 "Again, when the righteous turn from their righteousness and do evil, and I put a stumbling block before them, they will die. Since you did not warn them, they will die for their sins. The righteous things they did will not be remembered, and I will hold you accountable for their blood.

Look at us today, have we become too haughty and self righteous?  Have we abandoned the calling to seek and save the lost?  It’s time for people of faith to come back to that calling and reach out in new ways that people will respond to.  We are not to set ourselves up in polished temples and praise our own goodness while the world around us waists away.  People of God – do not forget who you are, and what you are called to do.  The message you are given may not be an easy one, and it may not be well received by all who hear it but it IS your calling to share it.

Prayer:  God of my calling,

Help me to share the messages you give me with those who you have sent me to.  Let me not fear rejection or stumble because of my pride.  Keep me on the path that you have set before me and help me to accomplish Your will by sharing the truth of your love and grace through Jesus Your Son.

Amen.

Lesson From A Grand Daddy Long Legs

Scripture:Psalms 143:

4 So my spirit grows faint within me;
       my heart within me is dismayed.

5 I remember the days of long ago;
       I meditate on all your works
       and consider what your hands have done.

6 I spread out my hands to you;
       I thirst for you like a parched land.

7 Answer me quickly, LORD;
       my spirit fails.
       Do not hide your face from me
       or I will be like those who go down to the pit.

Jeremiah 52; Revelation 1; Psalms 143,144 – Passage Lookup – Today’s New International Version – BibleGateway.com

Observation:  The struggle for life is our life.

Application: God often speaks in very subtle ways, we can easily miss what He is trying to say to us but His wisdom is evident in every part of creation if we are attentive. I know it may seem silly, but this morning I was taught a lesson by watching a Grand Daddy Long Legs as he struggled along on the front porch.  After I finished reading the scripture, I reached down for my drink and saw him about a foot away from my cup, his legs were curled up and he wasn’t moving and I thought “There is a dead Grand Daddy Long Legs” but then he moved.  He struggled up and pulled himself along with great effort, it was obvious to me that this little bug was dying. 

Normally this kind of thing wouldn’t capture my attention so much, but for the next twenty minutes or so I sat and watched him, he would move a little bit then his legs would curl up and he would be still, several times I thought “Now he’s dead” but after a few minutes of stillness he would again struggle and move a little more.  As I watched him I couldn’t help but to be reminded of Jesus’ words Luke 12:6 (MSG) "What’s the price of two or three pet canaries? Some loose change, right? But God never overlooks a single one.” And I thought, God is watching this little fellow right now.  So I figured, there must be something here for me to see, something to learn, this is not a coincidence that I am here at this time and so is this tiny creature who’s nearing the end of his life. He slowly made his way to the edge of the porch with great efforts and finally fell off into the grass below where I could no longer see him. It must have been a great relief to find the earth again.  I imagine that he didn’t live long after that, but I bet that when he died he was at peace because he was back on the natural earth.

Then I turn back to the scripture and say “Ok God, what was that about?”  Then I notice the verses above as if I hadn’t just read them, they stood out to me in a new way.  I see David struggling against his enemies, calling on God to help and doing the best he can to stay alive and fulfill the purpose which The Father raised him up to.  He’s weary, he’s tired, he’s in need.  And God sees him there.  God knows what is happening in David’s life and He cares for him.  God did not overlook David, God did not overlook the Grand Daddy Long Legs on the porch this morning, God has not overlooked me and the struggles I face, and He will not overlook you.  We may face many difficulties in life, but the greatest struggles are where we live the most, learn the most, love the most, and need God the most. 

Prayer:  God of ALL things (including Grand Daddy Long Legs),

Thank you for watching over me during my difficult times, and thank you for allowing me the joyous happy times in my life as well.  All good things come from you, and all things that I think are bad are still within your control and you are there to carry me through them all.  When my struggles in this life are over, grant me the relief of entering joyously into your eternal presence.    I love you!

Michael

He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands

Scripture: Jeremiah 51:

15 "He made the earth by his power;
       he founded the world by his wisdom
       and stretched out the heavens by his understanding.

16 When he thunders, the waters in the heavens roar;
       he makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth.
       He sends lightning with the rain
       and brings out the wind from his storehouses.

Jeremiah 50,51; 3 John – Passage Lookup – Today’s New International Version – BibleGateway.com

Observation:  God commands all things and all peoples in the purpose of accomplishing His will.

Application: This chapter is a long prophecy of the coming destruction of Babylon.  Jeremiah had warned Israel of the coming captivity in Babylon that they must endure because of their disobedience and irreverence to the LORD, and the prophecies had come true.  Jerusalem had fallen into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar, many had been carried away and some were left behind.  Now it is time for God to restore His people and bring the captives home, Babylon’s time had come. Although Babylon was not a nation that respected God, he had given them victory over His people, but their victory was short lived because the restoration of Israel was part of God’s purpose all along.

This scripture gives me a lesson today in that even though God may allow turmoil and troubles to come into our lives, I know that He will not forsake us.  We may have lessons that we need to learn from the calamities we face and although God will allow us to suffer for a little while, once his purpose in the suffering is accomplished (we turn back to Him, we learn to forgive, we grow spiritually in the direction He desires) He is quick to restore His people.

The whole world belongs to God, and everything and everyone in it are subject to His desires.  Even the parts of life that we can not control, and the parts that hurt us are used by God to bring us into a closer walk with Him.  I can understand why James said “Count it all Joy when you fall into diverse temptations.” James 1:2-4 Just because God allows us to face hardships doesn’t mean that He has abandoned us, it only means that He is moving us forward somehow, we may not understand it but God knows what He’s doing.  He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands. 

Prayer: God of The Whole World,

Thank you for being in control of all things and for being involved in every situation I face in my life.  Grant me the serenity of knowing that there is nothing you are unaware of nor anything that you can not control.

Love Michael

Commanded To Love

 Scripture: 2 John 1:

5 … I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another. 6 And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.

BibleGateway.com – Passage Lookup: Jeremiah 37,38,39; Psalms 79; 2 John

Observation: The only way to be obedient to God is to walk in love.

Application: I’ve heard people say that preaching about love and acceptance is all “fluffy feel good” stuff meant to lull people into carelessness and disobedience.  I disagree, love and acceptance is more than fluff, it is a command that we as Christians are given.  If we fail to make love our most prominent goal, our largest ministry, our greatest outreach then we are not being obedient even if we were to follow every other command found in the scriptures. 

Love should encompass everything we do.  I have spent my entire ministry in the rural churches of TN and I can tell you, many churches are in trouble.  Many of the rural churches are failing.  It’s not because people are not concerned with spiritual things anymore, and it’s not because there are not enough people who aren’t already going to another church somewhere, it’s because the average person who is not going to church ,even though many of them believe in God, does not see the church of today as a place where they can be loved.  The people outside of the church, (*you know, the ones we are supposed to be ministering to*) most often see us as judgmental and exclusive, they see us as people who think we are better than others and they don’t care to be a part of our group because they don’t want to be like that themselves.

How do we change the public opinion of the church and turn things around again?  We walk in love.  I like the way John puts it here – walk is an action, it’s a verb, and so is love.  We may say we love the lost, we may say we have a burden for them, but what are we actually doing about it?  Are we reaching out as best we can or are we hoping someone else will do it for us?  People are not going to beat down the doors of the church because we have a revival or a singing or a dinner.  They will come only when we truly start walking in love by reaching out to them in a personal way.

Many times people use the phrase “when I found Jesus” or “when I turned back to God” I’m sure I’ve said those things myself, but they are not really accurate, I didn’t find Jesus, HE found ME.  I didn’t go to God, God came after ME.  It has to be the same with the church – we have to meet those we seek to minister to where they live and before they will ever listen to the good news we have to preach, they have to trust us and see that we love them by our actions of love toward them.  And then once people respond, we have to be willing to allow imperfect people among us so that God can deal with them as He does with us, one day at a time. And during that time we have to keep loving them.

It’s more than fluffy feel good stuff – it’s a command.  Walk in love!

Prayer: God of love,

Thank you for loving me before I loved you.  Thank you for finding me though I was lost in a pit of self despair.  Thank you for showing me that you cared for me even when I didn’t care for myself.  Help me now to do the same for others who need you.

Love Michael