August 12 – 5 – Softened Hearts

Read Ezekiel 11:19

“How many times do I have to tell you?”

These are the words of an exasperated mother or father which you may have spoken or heard on occasion. They may not be the exact words of God, but the sentiment seems similar as we read the book of Ezekiel in the Old Testament. The Israelites, God’s chosen people, had developed a pattern of behavior over the generations where they would live in accordance with His law for a while, then fall away from it little by little until they were living in complete sin. It is not so different from society today. We are influenced and distracted by social media, news outlets, and rogue priorities which drag us away from God’s best for our lives.

I was recently speaking with a young mother who was sharing her concern about sending her young daughter to preschool. She was concerned about her daughter picking up bad behaviors from fellow classmates. Up until this point, the little girl’s mother had kept her daughter sheltered from bad influences and felt pretty confident that she was raising her daughter in a Christ-centered world. She was doing a good job of focusing her daughter on what was important and right. How could she think of releasing her precious child into a classroom where children would break the rules, talk back, and not share appropriately? These may seem minor, but they are huge to a young mother who has committed to doing her best to raise the next generation to honor God.

This scenario made me think of how we approach life in the “real” world. As adults, we should be steering clear of dishonorable behaviors and habits that pull us away from God’s best. So how do we get back on track?

We ask God for softened hearts.

In Ezekiel, we find God conversing with Ezekiel about how bad things were getting. God chose Ezekiel to be His messenger, telling him,

“I will give them singleness of heart and put a new spirit within them. I will take away their hearts of stone and give them tender hearts instead . . .”

A softened heart is one that is willing to submit to God’s way and involves surrendering a hard-heart which gets distracted by things that pull us away from God. A hard-hearted person thinks their way is better than God’s and that no change is needed.  A softened heart is willing to recognize our flaws and make changes. When our hearts are softened, we are teachable and willing to try again to live up to God’s standard. We have a “singleness of mind” – a focus on God’s desires for each of us.

So, although we may not be able to shelter ourselves or the next generation from a society that has lost sight of godliness, we can respond with a softened heart. We can own our mistakes and make changes to get back on track.  How can we teach the next generation to respond with a soft heart?

Do you have a soft heart? Are you willing to make changes to get back on track with God when you tend to wander? Think of the people you influence each day –your kids, your co-workers, your spouse, your neighbors. Pray for them to have a soft heart.  Trust God who is in the business of changing the hearts of man.

Tammy Finney

April 9 – Life from Death

Read Ezekiel 37:1-14

Those were discouraging days for the nation of Israel. Due to their own rebellion, God brought judgment upon them. He used a godless nation and king (Jeremiah 25) as His rod of correction. Under King Nebuchadnezzar, Babylon invaded Jerusalem, destroyed the temple and city, and carted Jews off into exile. As a result, the background of Ezekiel 37 reflects people who were distant from God and now also distant from their homeland.

In all likelihood, you, too, can point to times when God felt far away. The situations and circumstances of your life may have seemed virtually hopeless. Perhaps you felt alienated and exiled from the blessing of God. It was a spiritual desert.

Welcome to the valley!

That’s where God took Ezekiel. As he looked across the valley, lifeless bones littered the ground. The bones were indicative of countless Israelites who were spiritually (and some physically) dead. As a nation, it must have seemed as if there was no future…no hope. And this visual of dry bones probably only confirmed that. But, in the back of Ezekiel’s mind, he knew that all things were possible with God. When asked if the bones could live, his response was very cautious. He replied, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know” (v. 3).

What followed was a description of the miraculous. God caused the bones to rattle. He added tendons, flesh, and skin. Then, the Spirit of God brought new life. All of that pointed to the restoration that God brought to the nation years later…and it points to the resurrection of believing Jews in years to come.

God is able to bring life from death. He can do that in your situation as well. He can give hope in the midst of your hopelessness. He can breathe new life into what seems to be lifeless. Be careful, though. There are no guarantees that He always will do that. There must be for all of us a worshipful and even expectant recognition of what He can do. At the same time, there must be a humble acceptance of what He chooses to do.

In the end, if you are a Jesus follower, you can count on a future resurrection that will cause your once temporal body to be raised as a glorious one. He will bring life from death!

Steve Kern

 

January 5 – Good angel gone bad!

Read Ezekiel 28:11-19

As I write this, the world is punctuated with national and international tension.  What will happen in, around, and through the nations in the Middle East?  Will terrorists attack again?  Where?  Why does everything feel like it’s out of control?

But international power struggles and threats are nothing new.  As Ezekiel wrote these words in the 6th century b.c., Israel found itself at odds with Tyre.  But, in this case, there was more at play than an earthly king gone bad.  I believe these verses give us insight into what it was (or who it was) that powered the king.  Like a puppet, the king of Tyre was being used by another force.  This powerful being was one who…

  • Was created by God (v. 15)
  • Had been perfect and blameless (vv. 12, 15)
  • Was present in the Garden of Eden (v. 13)
  • Had been an anointed guardian cherub (v. 14)
  • Enjoyed a privileged position on the holy mountain of God (v. 14)

Ezekiel is speaking of an angelic being that was like a precious gem to God.

But this good angel went bad.  Wickedness was found in him (v. 15).  He became proud.  Isaiah 14 seems to give us more insight on what happened.  This angelic “morning star,” you see, aspired to the very position of God.  He wanted to become like The Almighty.

God, however, is unwilling to share His position with anything or anyone else.  Consequently, the Lord expelled this angel and his band of angelic followers (now referred to as demons) from his privileged position among the angels.  We experience the results of that yet today.  These fallen angels place themselves in opposition to God’s plan in individuals and in the world.

Today we often refer to him as “Satan” and his comrades as “demons.”  The Scriptures refer to him with a number of different titles and names such as “the devil,” “Lucifer,” “the dragon,” “the god of this world,” “the tempter,” “the accuser of the saints,” “Belial,” and “Beelzebul.”  Whatever his title, he opposes God and seeks influence in people and nations.

That is a good reason to pray!

sbk

January 1– God’s Eternal Covenant of Peace

Read Ezekiel 37

In Ezekiel 37 we have a vivid picture of God’s plan for Israel depicted through what God showed the prophet Ezekiel.  We are told that the dead dry bones Ezekiel saw on the valley floor were the whole house of Israel, but they are cut off, dead, and without hope.  At God’s direction Ezekiel prophesied to the bones and they reassembled in an amazing miracle and became a living army once again.  We know that in the end all people will be resurrected once again, however the bible tells us that some will be resurrected to eternal life while others to ultimate death.  The fact that these bones returned to life, while miraculous, does not offer much hope since we are unaware of their eternal standing before God.

Next, Ezekiel is told to join two halves of two sticks together before the people.  One half represented Judah, and the other half represented Joseph.  God said that his servant David would rule over the united Israel.  David however at the time of this book’s writing was already dead.  So God was not referring to David himself but David’s descendant…Jesus.  Then in verses 26-27 God said “I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant. I will establish them and increase their numbers, and I will put my sanctuary among them forever.  My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people.”

Jesus ultimately will be the fulfillment of God’s covenant.  He will be the one who will establish  the peace which will allow the dry bones to live eternally in unity with the Father.  Jesus himself spoke of this covenant in Matt 26:28 when he said “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”  Only Jesus can make dry bones live again, only Jesus can through His Spirit bring spiritual renewal to our dried out souls, and only Jesus  could purchase the peace with God that we now may enjoy when we trust in Him.

The lesson of the dry bones is that ultimate peace may only be found in Jesus.

ejt

November 15: Good Angel Gone Bad

Read Ezekiel 28:11-19

As I write this, the world is punctuated with national and international tension.  What will happen in, around, and through the nations in the Middle East?  Will ISIS attack again?  Where?  Why is Russia doing what it is doing?

But international power struggles and threats are nothing new.  As Ezekiel wrote these words in the 6th century b.c., Israel found itself at odds with Tyre.  But, in this case, there was more at play than an earthly king gone bad.  I believe these verses give us insight into what it was (or who it was) that powered the king.  Like a puppet, the king of Tyre was being used by another force.  This powerful being was one who…

  • Was created by God (v. 15)
  • Had been perfect and blameless (vv. 12, 15)
  • Was present in the Garden of Eden (v. 13)
  • Had been an anointed guardian cherub (v. 14)
  • Enjoyed a privileged position on the holy mountain of God (v. 14)

Ezekiel is speaking of an angelic being that was like a precious gem to God.

But this good angel went bad.  Wickedness was found in him (v. 15).  He became proud.  Isaiah 14 seems to give us more insight on what happened.  This angelic “morning star,” you see, aspired to the very position of God.  He wanted to become like The Almighty.

God, however, is unwilling to share His position with anything or anyone else.  Consequently, the Lord expelled this angel and his band of angelic followers (now referred to as demons) from his privileged position among the angels.  We experience the results of that yet today.  These fallen angels place themselves in opposition to God’s plan in individuals and in the world.

Today we often refer to him as “Satan” and his comrades as “demons.”  The Scriptures refer to him with a number of different titles and names such as “the devil,” “Lucifer,” “the dragon,” “the god of this world,” “the tempter,” “the accuser of the saints,” “Belial,” and “Beelzebul.”  Whatever his title, he opposes God and seeks influence in people and nations.

That is a good reason to pray!

sbk

April 28: Shepherds . . . Self-Seeking or Sacrificing?

Read Ezekiel 34:1-31

The flock of God had been scattered from their promised pasture. God’s people, the Israelites had been conquered. Many of them had been carried off as exiles from their land given them by God. They were taken to Babylon, the home of a pagan people.

But the sheep didn’t just change pasture fields to Babylon because an enemy wolf had herded them off. They had wandered there (v. 6), straying from the God of heaven. We sheep are like that, you know. We are prone to wander and go our own way (Is. 53:6a). With the help of the Spirit of God, each of us must self-shepherd. The Holy Spirit equips us to self-lead so as to curb and reign in our propensity to wander (Gal. 5:16-26).

And as the sheep of Israel wandered, the self-seeking shepherds did nothing to rescue them. The nation’s kings and spiritual leaders treated the people harshly. They neither cared for the weak nor went in search of the wandering. These shepherds cared only for themselves. Leaders must guard against that tendency to feed only themselves, to fuel only their own passions, and to fatten their own bottom line.

But God promised to shepherd His people (v. 11). In fact, He would send an offspring of David (v. 23; 2 Samuel 7:16). He would look after the flock. He would rescue and gather them. He would tend them, bind up the injured, and strengthen the weak. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, will do all of this for the lost sheep of Israel.

But our Good Shepherd also does this today with those who follow Him. Though we may wander, He wants to turn us back to Himself. Though earthly leaders may fail us, He never will.

“Gentle Shepherd come and lead us, For we need you to help us find our way

Gentle Shepherd come and feed us, For we need your strength from day to day

There’s no other we can turn to, Who can help us face another day

Gentle Shepherd come and lead us, For we need to you to help us find our way”

sbk