Monthly Archives: August 2013

August 31

Ezekiel 44-46

There was nothing casual about worship in the Old Testament. As I read more of Ezekiel’s vision I am struck by the lengths to which the priests were to go to ready themselves for doing their jobs.

Now I don’t want this to be an excuse for me to stand on a soap box and rant about worship styles (although I do have strong convictions). And I really don’t think this portion of scripture is evidence that women should wear skirts and men suits and ties when they go to church.

To be consistent with my belief that the flesh and blood, brick and mortar examples we read in the Old Testament parallel the spiritual truths we hold true after the cross, I have to ask myself what God would say to his church in 2013 through Ezekiel’s vision.

Is God convicting me about my own casual approach to worship? How much time do I spend preparing myself for entering his house and hearing what he wants to say to me through his servant? I’m not talking about the time spent in front of the mirror, although I don’t apologize for wanting to present a respectful appearance.

I’m talking about the time I spend on my knees, confessing sin, preparing my heart. When I walk through those doors tomorrow I want to walk in there with a clear purpose, focus, with a circumcised heart, ready and eager to worship a holy God and learn what he wants me to know.

I can’t go to church with sin in my life and expect God to speak to me or accept my worship. So, tomorrow when I am putting on clean clothes and brushing mascara on my eyes, I want to be sure my heart is prepared, too. 

The Old Testament priests took time and effort to get ready to go into their worship services. Let that be a lesson for me, too.

Dear God, tomorrow is the day many of us will go to a gathering of believers to worship you. May we go with sins confessed, hearts that are yours, and an eagerness to hear what you would say to each of us. May our time spent within the walls of our churches draw us closer to you and strengthen us to do the work you have for us to do. I pray for your servants – pastors and teachers. May they share your Word in truth. Bless their times of preparation and speak to our hearts through them. Thank you for the privilege we still have in the United States to gather publicly. May our worship be pleasing to you.

August 30

Ezekiel 40:28-43:27

God inspired Ezekiel to record minute details about the temple he saw in his vision. Every brick was measured, every corner, every board and door are listed here. Why?

It may seem over-simplified but as I read today the thought occurred to me that in the New Testament we are called God’s temple. And God impressed on my heart that as careful as he was to show how invested he was in every detail of Ezekiel’s temple, he is even more invested in the temple known as Connie.

Every hair on my head, ever cell in my body is known to him, is cared for by him, and loved by him, too.

I understand that the temple is where God resides on this earth. It was a building in the Old Testament. It’s in the hearts of believers since the cross. 

So I loved reading about God entering the temple in chapter 43. Read it and picture yourself the moment you accepted Jesus as your Savior. God’s voice like the roar of rushing water. His radiant glory. He enters your heart and lifts you into the inner court. His glory fills you.

Now we don’t have to rely on a priest to enter the throne room on our behalf. We approach that throne on Jesus’ shoulders.

How awesome it is to know that the Holy God of Creation lives in me!

August 29

Ezekiel 32:1-33:20, 40:1-27

Our responsibility as Christians is to warn unbelievers about the danger ahead. God calls us “watchmen”. 

A watchman stands guard, alert and prepared. When he sees the enemy approaching he shouts his warning, blows his trumpet. Danger! Danger!

What the townspeople do with that warning is up to them. But the watchman will not be held accountable as long as he is faithful to warn, even if they don’t listen.

There is danger ahead for those who don’t now Jesus as their Savior. Hell is real. We might, on occasion, think someone deserves to go to hell. Maybe they have wronged us. Or committed a horrible crime. Or live blatant ungodly lives. There are evil people in this world.

But you know what God thinks about those people? 33:11 says “…As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from  your evil ways!…”

Whether it’s a government official who favors legislation against Bible standards, a cult leader, an abusive parent or a neighborhood drug pusher – God want them all to come to him through Jesus. Christ died for every one of them. And, in reality, no one deserves hell more than me. I am a sinner myself, saved by grace.

I am thanking God for grace. And I want to be a faithful watchman who does her job and warns unsaved people about the danger ahead. It’s serious business. If I don’t warn them the Bible says I will be held accountable for their blood. 

Dear God, who is it that needs to hear a warning today? Let me be sensitive to your leading and may I be faithful. Help us Christians to not be ashamed of the Gospel because it really does have the power to save. May we allow you to speak through us and may lost souls recognize the danger ahead and accept your grace. May your watchmen do our jobs today.

August 28

Ezekiel 37-39

Trying to fit prophesy in material boxes can be exhausting and confusing. Do prophesies such as what we read today concern the piece of dirt we know as Israel? Is God speaking about the flesh and blood descendants of Jacob when he refers to Israel and Judah? Will King David, long dead when Ezekiel penned these words, come back to life and physically rule on a throne forever? 

I’m one who is cautious about dividing verses and placing them in either the material or the spiritual columns as I read. So, because I don’t believe old David is going to show up in the flesh, and I don’t see God establishing his eternal residence in the Middle East, I look for the spiritual truths these and other prophesies reveal.

The repeated theme is the bottom line here. The events of life (which no doubt include wars, famine, times of blessing and times of drought) all happen for one reason only.

Check out the following verses: Ezekiel 37:6,13,28; 38:16,23; 39:6,7,13,21,22,23,27,28. They all tell us these things happen to reveal our Holy God to the world. We spend so much time trying to figure out the events we just might be missing the message.

God wants us to know that nothing happens in this life by accident. Everything that occurs in your life and mine today happens for one reason – to reveal Christ to and through us.

If the prophesy is talking about war it might be talking about that struggle you are having with sin. If it’s talking about famine it might be referring to the hunger you have in your heart to know God. Drought? How is your fellowship going with your Savior? Harvest? Are you leading people to Jesus?

We live in a material world. We have flesh and blood aches and pains, challenges, blessings. But we also live in a very spiritual world. And that’s the world that will last for eternity. Everything else will pass away.

Lord, may we remember that everything that happens to us in this short life time is about you. It’s about you revealing yourself to each of us as a Holy God and a personal Savior. It’s about you revealing yourself to others through us when we allow you to shine through the circumstances of life. I pray that we would not lose focus, that we would keep our eyes on Jesus, and trust you to do your perfect work in and through us. Once again, Lord, I pray that you would find us faithful so that you can be glorified.

August 27

Ezekiel 34-36

When Jesus talked about the sheep in Matthew 18, the people no doubt recalled what Ezekiel had written so many years before. They knew sheep referred to them and assured them that God would take care of them.

I’ve heard it said sheep are dumb animals that don’t have the sense enough to stay in safety. Once they recognize their shepherd’s voice, they follow it even if it leads them over a cliff. A former pastor once said we were to follow Christ like that, and I guess I see where he was going. We need to trust God completely, even if we don’t understand where he’s leading us.

Anyway – today as I read I was reminded that sheep were very important to the people in Bible times. They were a source of income, they provided food and clothing, and the choicest of them became sacrifices for sin.

It’s not that God chose the dumbest animal on the farm to use for an example of his people. He chose the most important animal to show where we stand in creation. 

Ezekiel and Jesus show us that God considers each one of the sheep (you and me) precious. He will go to any length to protect and nurture the weakest, to keep the strongest in the fold, and he’ll hunt us down if we stray.

I like being a sheep. I like knowing my Shepherd has my back. I don’t want to follow him blindly, but I want to follow him trusting him because he can be trusted. I want to know my Shepherd’s voice so that when the wolf comes calling I’ll know the difference and stay close to my Protector. 

My Dear Shepherd, thank you for loving your sheep. Thank you for caring for us, for protecting us, feeding us, leading us. May we listen when you call, obey when you command, and may we not stray. Hold on to your people, Lord, so the nations will recognize you are God and there is no better place to be than by your side.

August 26

Ezekiel 27:1-28:26, 33:21-33

Some people think being a Christian ought to guarantee health, wealth, and happiness. And in a sense, they are right. God created Adam and Eve who enjoyed all that and more in the Garden of Eden. But when sin entered the picture, things changed. Forever.

Jerusalem was in ruins. And Ezekiel tells us the Jews were questioning God. Shouldn’t they, as descendants of Abraham, “possess the land”? 

God, through Ezekiel in chapter 33 reminds them that as long as sin exists, as long as they disobey God’s commands, they will not possess the land. 

He goes on to say God is not impressed with their worship. They listen to the Word but don’t put it into practice. They express devotion but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain. 

Ezekiel says you might as well go to a concert and enjoy the music, admire the talented musicians, and be thrilled by the performance for all the good it does to hear God’s Word and not be moved to action. The result is the same. You leave the venue unchanged.

God would remind us today that we cannot enjoy the things God created us to have – joy, fellowship with our holy God, peace, strength, hope – as long as sin exists in our lives. 

The question is: what are you going to do about it? Did you go to church yesterday and hear the Truth proclaimed from the pulpit? Did you allow God to speak to you today when you read his Word? Have you felt him nudge you toward talking to your neighbor or co-worker about the Lord? Have you felt conviction over a sin you’ve committed?

Hearing is the first step. But it’s not the only step. We need to get out there and obey, allowing God’s Word to change us from the inside so we can live for him in the day to day.

Remember, you can’t possess the land, you can’t have that sweet fellowship with the Lord if you have sin in your heart.

Material health and wealth aren’t the focus here. What is important is your heart’s condition in light of Scripture. I pray that you will allow God to defeat sin in your life as you confess and repent. Then you will possess the “land” he has in store for you.

And there is a great view from there!

August 25

Jeremiah 30-31; Ezekiel 26

God is talking about making a new covenant with Israel. He tells them in the past they were punished for the sins of their parents and grandparents. “The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge”. One day, God says, if you eat sour grapes you will be the one who puckers up. Everyone will die for their own sin.

In the Old Testament, prophets were continually reminding generation after generation the many sins committed in the past. So it must have come as quite a shock when Jeremiah said God, in his new covenant, would forgive their wickedness and remember their sins no more.

We who live after the cross have a clearer picture of this new covenant. Jesus taught us about sin and repentance, responsibility and choice. And when he tells us he throws our sins into the deepest sea or removes them as far as the east is from the west, when he says he’ll remember them no more – he means it.

I know there are many who believe, because Scripture tells us we will be held accountable for our thoughts and actions on judgment day, there will be a big screen TV playing blue-ray videos of our lives for everyone to see. I know in my heart that won’t happen to me.

You know why? God tells me when I repent of sin he marks the account paid by the Blood of the Lamb. He tosses that sin into the sea and will remember it NO MORE.

So here’s what I see happening. I stand before the throne and look my Holy God in the eye. He says – give me an account of your life, Connie. And before I can utter a word, Jesus steps up beside me and says, “Account paid, Dad.”

Me, standing there remembering my sins, the times I failed God, dishonored him, threw his Word right in his face. Me, remembering the times I could have and should have done more to further his kingdom. God, opening his arms for me and welcoming me home dressed in Jesus’ righteousness.

So does that mean I can live my life any way I want and I’ll get a free pass? Not at all. Every sin I commit comes with a price tag. Every one. If I want Jesus to stand up for me in that day I need to be sure I’m wearing his righteousness. I need to repent, be holy and set apart, I need to be obedient to God’s Word. I need to recognize sin and accept the forgiveness that is mine when I ask him to forgive me.

I’m so thankful God forgives and forgets. But I don’t want to forget. While I’m on this earth I want to remember my failures so I don’t repeat them. I want to remind myself the lengths to which Jesus had to go to wash me clean. I want to live my life out of gratitude, humbly aware that I am a sinner saved by grace. 

Holy God, I know there will be an eternity free from the memories of the sins I’ve committed, compliments of a crucified Jesus. But until that day, Lord let me remember. Let me use those memories to make me want to serve you better, love you more, and run from the temptations that lure me into sin. And thank you, God, for your selective memory. I love you.

August 24

Jeremiah 43:1-44:30; Psalms 71, 116

Psalm 116 is a psalm of hope and filled with praise. The writer reminds us that “The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion” (vs 5). It goes on to say God protects and gives rest, that he answers prayers and gets us through tough times. 

And how can we repay God for all he does for us? Verses 12-14 tell us God wants us to obey him, to live lives that honor him.

But then in verse 15 the psalmist throws in a verse that seems kind of random to me. “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” It’s really the only verse in this psalm that talks about death.

I know this verse has been used at funerals and is a comfort to those of us who grieve over the home-going of a believer. But because it seems so out of place here I wonder if the psalmist isn’t talking about another kind of death.

Jesus used the example of a seed that dies before it can grow. Paul said he was crucified with Christ, yet he lives. Dying to self is a theme repeated often in the New Testament. And I wonder if this isn’t what the psalmist is talking about, too.

He goes on to say, “O Lord, truly I am your servant”. 

Just a thought. And a reminder that this life isn’t about me. It’s about God. May I give up control, die to self,  and allow God to have his way in my life. Then I can say with the psalmist:

“Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.” (vs 7)

August 23

Lamentations 5:1-22; 2 Kings 25:22-26; Jeremiah 40:1-42:22

As I read this morning I found myself wondering what it was about the poor people that even the King of Babylon wasn’t interested in. He had captured Jerusalem and took prisoners. But according to Jeremiah 40:7 he left the men, women, and children who were the poorest in the land.

These people were advised to serve the King of Babylon and things would go well with them. But the King obviously didn’t consider them a threat.

So I find myself asking – does my enemy consider me a threat? Or does Satan leave me be because he’s not concerned about my testimony?

I may call myself a Christian but do I go days or weeks without reading God’s Word and am rarely convicted when I do? Do I attend church most Sundays, but have learned the art of dozing with my eyes open? Is Satan worried about my prayer life? Does he tremble at the thought of me reaching out to my neighbor who doesn’t know Christ?

This might sound strange – but I don’t want to be left out. I want Satan to fear me and throw me his best shot. Because if he does, he’ll be defeated by God himself who lives in me.

Didn’t Paul count it all joy to represent God in the midst of trials? Didn’t Jesus ask us to take up our cross and follow him? Hasn’t God proven over and over that we are more than conquerors through him?

God, forgive me when I drift so far away from you that even Satan ignores me. I’m not asking for heartache or problems in my life. But I am asking that my relationship will be so strong, so vital, that Satan will be threatened by it. Then, when heartaches or problems come my way, you and I will be able to handle them so you can be glorified. Go with me into battle today, Lord. May your purpose be accomplished in me.

August 22

Lamentation 3-4

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father.
There is no shadow of turning with Thee.
Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not.
As Thou hast been Thou forever will be.

Great is Thy faithfulness. Great is Thy faithfulness.
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hands have provided.
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.

Who doesn’t love that old hymn? If you get the chance, why don’t you look it up and read all the verses sometime? The language is dated, but the truth is for today.

The writer of Lamentations kind of sang this hymn in the midst of his sorrow. He looked around and saw the devastation and suffering, he felt the sting of God’s correction.

But in 3:22-24 he states that God is good and God is all he needs. There is hope in these words and if you continue to read you will see even more hope.

God doesn’t like to see his children suffer. In verses 40-42 the writer gets to the heart of it. The truth is, Israel sinned and is experiencing the consequences. Repent, the writer says. Return to the Lord.

If you are experiencing the consequences of sin in your life I would say the same to you. Repent. Return to the Lord. You will receive so much more than you ever imagined:

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth.
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide.
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine with ten thousand beside.

Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.