Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Ezekiel 38

Ezk 38:2 "Son of man, set your face toward Gog, of the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him" (ESV)

This chapter records a prophecy of a future war against Israel. Hordes of armed soldiers will attack, but God has other plans. He is against this army. He will supernaturally intervene. This chapter is about real armies, real war and a real earthquake, but it is also a reminder of a larger truth. God is bigger than the most intimidating circumstances and enemies.

We face conflict, difficulty and insurmountable odds every day. Some days the difficulties seem hard, but doable. Other days, they are way beyond us. They are called insurmountable for a reason. We can see no way out, no deliverance and no relief. But God...

In my experience God rarely works the same way twice, but he is always faithful. We have faced unmanageable debt or expenses several times throughout our lives. One time the debt was forgiven. One time God somehow enabled us to faithfully make small payments until it was whittled away. One time God motivated someone to give us a large gift. Another time he provided additional income from a side job that we did not expect. He rarely works the same way twice, but he is always faithful.

Whatever we are facing, even if we are feeling like the peaceful, unwalled cities being attacked by hordes of angry soldiers, as described in this chapter, we can trust that God is faithful. He is bigger than any threat or obstacle we face. We may not know what his solution will be. We do not want to presume upon him to bring the solution we have decided is best. But, we can trust him.

Father , forgive me for the many times I live in the fretting uncertainty of unbelief. Today may I walk in faith trusting that you are bigger then my problems.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Ezekiel 37

Ezk 37:3 And he said to me, " Son of man, can these bones live?" And I answered, "O Lord God, you know." (ESV)

In this chapter one impossible thing happens and one impossible thing is promised. Ezekiel watches as a battlefield covered with dry bones take on flesh and live again. In a vision Ezekiel sees God do the impossible. Then God promises the impossible. Judah and Israel will be reunited at a single, flourishing nation. That hasn't been true since Solomon. In fact, at the time Ezekiel is hearing this promise it doesn't seem likely that even a small part of Judah will ever "flourish" again. But with God the impossible is possible.

What impossible thing is God calling you to do? Reach an unreachable neighbor with the gospel? Face an impossible grief or loss? Heal an impossible rift in a relationship? Survive an impossible financial setback? God has not necessarily promised that the pain will go away, the neighbor will suddenly change, or money will suddenly flow your way. What he has promised is that he will never allow us to be tempted beyond what we are able to bear.

1 Corinthians 10:13 ESV

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

The impossible is possible with Christ, but the verses surrounding 1 Corinthians 10:13 are interesting. Verse 12 warns against pride. Verse 14 warns against idolatry. There is a whole sermon in those three verses, but for today it is enough to remember that in devoted humility there is the assurance that with God we can ride out the storm and he will provide the way of escape at just the right time.

Father, thank you for your grace, mercy and faithfulness. You are the god of the impossible, and in that I find hope. May I walk in humble, devoted dependence on you.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Friday, April 26, 2013

Ezekiel 36

Ezk 36:22 "Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. (ESV)

We are too often concerned about what people think of us. Do they like us? Do they respect us? Do they recognize what a genius we are, or how funny we are, or how creative, or whatever characteristic we think it is that makes us unique and significant?

God created us and all that exists for his good pleasure and glory out of his own power and creativity. Whenever we seek glory for ourselves rather than for God we are like a child walking into an art museum demanding that we get credit for the masterpieces that surround us. We are like an art curator who is more interested in receiving glory for collecting and displaying art than in recognizing the genius of the art and the artists themselves. We are claiming glory that is not ours while belittling the one to whom all glory is due.

In this chapter of Ezekiel God promises to restore Israel. He will not restore her because she deserves it. In fact, she does not. He will not restore her so that people think well of her and praise her. He will restore her because in her sin she has placed a blemish, a black mark on the reputation of God. He will restore her, in spite of her sin, for the sake of his glory.

Why do we do what we do? Why do we say the things we say? Is it for the purpose of making ourselves look good, or so that the world will see God through us in all his glory? That is the purpose for which we live, but in our own personal insecurities I fear that we often forget why we are here.

Father, today may I be more concerned for your reputation than for mine.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Ezekiel 35

Ezk 35:11
11 therefore, as I live, declares the Lord God, I will deal with you according to the anger and envy that you showed because of your hatred against them. And I will make myself known among them, when I judge you.

Anger and envy. Earlier in the chapter God scolded Edom for their "perpetual enmity." It reminds me of the passage in Ephesians 4 that says, " Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil." We often feel that our anger is justified. What we neglect to understand is that anger, if held on to, defiles us and gives the enemy an "opportunity" in our lives.

Anger is often connected with envy. In our own personal insecurities and perceived insignificance we envy others. Unfulfilled envy then moves us to frustration and anger. In the midst of that vicious and destructive cycle we neglect to recognize that often those we envy are no happier nor more fulfilled than we are. We fail to recognize that having the life, circumstances, expertise or stuff that belongs to another can never bring us happiness nor fulfillment.

Happiness and personal fulfillment in life are never found externally and the pursuit of them through external means only results in more envy and anger. Joy is rarely something one finds by pursuing it. Usually we are surprised by it when we stop focusing on ourselves.

Father, forgive me for the anger and envy that so often characterize my life. Today may I rest in you, serving rather than envying, loving rather that hating. May my life reflect Jesus to those around me.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Ezekiel 34

Ezk 34:1-2
The word of the Lord came to me: "Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord God: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep?

As believers, disciples of Jesus, we have been taught that we should respect those in authority over us. That is true, but we must be careful not to make that the overarching principle of life that frames all other commands. Ezekiel 34 is a message of condemnation by God against two groups of people. He condemns the "shepherds" of the people and he condemns the fat sheep that keep the less healthy sheep from good food and water.

Because "pastor" means "shepherd" it is sometimes difficult for us to read this passage accurately. When God condemns the shepherds of the people he is not talking about pastors, although that application is certainly valid. He is talking about the spiritual and the political leaders of the day. Throughout the Old Testament from David on, the weight of influence on the people of God lies squarely on the shoulders of the King.

This passage, then, applies as much to politicians as it does to pastors. It applies as much to parents and employers as to preachers and teachers. The grievous truth is that some pastors, some teachers, some politicians and some parents lead out of narcissistic self-ambition and self-concern rather that out of genuine concern for those under their care. This is wrong and this is what has garnered the judgement of God in this chapter.

Unfortunately selfishness does not contain itself to leadership. Half of this chapter is about the selfishness of the sheep. It is one thing to enjoy what God has blessed us with. There is certainly nothing wrong with that. It is another thing entirely to build and maintain wealth and personal comfort on the backs of the less fortunate. Because we build a cultural screen around ourselves so that we do not see the oppression that occurs makes us no less liable.

The bottom line in this chapter is that those in positions of power and privilege have a responsibility to reach out and minister to those less fortunate. As such, we must never justify or ignore abuse of power and privilege. That is easy to see when we are the ones being abused. Is is far less obvious when we are the abusers.

Father, give me eyes to see myself as you see me. Give me a broken heart over my own abuse of power and privilege. Let the love of Christ be seen in me.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Monday, April 8, 2013

Ezekiel 32

Ezk 32:2
2 " Son of man, raise a lamentation over Pharaoh king of Egypt and say to him:
"You consider yourself a lion of the nations,
but you are like a dragon in the seas;
you burst forth in your rivers,
trouble the waters with your feet,
and foul their rivers.

Sin and pride have the incredible ability to blind us to the most obvious truth. Egypt stands thinking of herself as a lion, a king among nations. God sees her as a dragon muddying and fouling the life giving waters of the Nile. We wonder how criminals can live with their violence, how abusers can justify their behaviour, how someone who is guilty can look you in the eye and say, "I am innocent." The truth is, sin blinds as well as it binds.

Sin causes us to think we see clearly when we are actually just making more muddy water. We feel secure, significant and justified living in our little mud hole, never realizing that God is offering clean water. We think that we have found happiness, never realizing that we are "wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked" (Rev 3:17) Sin blinds and sin binds. Sin promises freedom and delivers slavery every time.

Father, lift the blinders of sin in my life today. If there is any sin in my life that I am justifying, excusing or ignoring, please  open my eyes to see it today. May I be quick to humble myself before you, agree with you about my sin and find true freedom in your forgiveness and truth.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Ezekiel 31

Ezk 31:10-11
10 "Therefore thus says the Lord God: Because it towered high and set its top among the clouds, and its heart was proud of its height, 11 I will give it into the hand of a mighty one of the nations. He shall surely deal with it as its wickedness deserves. I have cast it out.

We have often heart that pride goes before a fall, which is based on Proverbs 16:18,  "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall." Why does pride go before destruction? Is there something about pride that is itself destructive, or is something else going on here? It may be that pride itself is destructive, at least in some cases, but I think there is something more significant going on.

In the verses quoted above Assyria was proud, "Because it towered high and set its top among the clouds, and its heart was proud of its height." Yet where did it's "height" come from? The scriptures teach us that rulers are put in place by God. An individual is proud of their physical beauty, but where did their bone structure, stature, etc. come from? Did not God form that individual in the womb? A business leader is proud of their accomplishments, but where did their ability come from? Did not God design them and orchestrate even the opportunities they had to accomplish what they did?

Pride goes before a fall because pride is idolatry. It is making idols of ourselves. It is robbing God of his glory and taking credit for his blessings. This is nothing new. The temptation in the Garden of Eden was, "You can be like God." That is the essence of pride, and that is why God will not let us get away with taking credit for what he has done.

Father, forgive me for the times I have taken credit for that which was truly only a gift from you. Today may I walk in humility and gratitude.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Friday, April 5, 2013

Ezekiel 30

Ezk 30:26
And I will scatter the Egyptians among the nations and disperse them throughout the countries. Then they will know that I am the Lord."

Not everything turns out the way we would like it. Pain doesn't always go away. Broken relationships don't usually heal quickly. Cancer often doesn't just disappear. Sometimes God answers those prayers immediately. Often he does not. And that makes us wonder why.

Perhaps the answer, or at least part of the answer, is found in two truths. First, we look at the immediate while God looks at eternity. Is it possible that immediate relief would not be best in the long run? Just listen to Joni Erickson-Tada's life story and you cannot help but understand that God's ways are not our ways.

Second, perhaps our purposes are not God's purposes. Our purpose almost always revolves around the desire for immediate relief from pain. Whether we are talking about the emotional pain of broken relationships, the physical pain of disease, or some other kind of pain, we want relief. God's plans and purposes are higher. Ultimately he wants us in relationship with him. He wants us to "know that I am Lord."  He wants us to be all that he created us to be.

His ways are not our ways. His thoughts are not our thoughts. His purposes are not our purposes.  Which leaves us with the question: Do we choose immediate relief, or God's eternal purpose? As we are taught in Hebrews 12:11, "For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it." (ESV)

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Ezekiel 29

Ezk 29:9
9 and the land of Egypt shall be a desolation and a waste. Then they will know that I am the Lord.
"Because you said, 'The Nile is mine, and I made it,'

In Ezekiel 29 God warns of the fall of Egypt. There are three reasons given for Egypt's fall. First is their self sufficient pride claiming for themselves what belongs to God. Second is their untrustworthy failure to protect Israel when it looked to Egypt for help. Third is the fact that Israel had looked to Egypt for help when she should have been looking to God. For these three reasons Egypt will fall. The primary theme beneath this chapter is that the thing we look to for help will fail us. Israel pointlessly looked to Egypt for help against Babylon. Rather than providing protection, Egypt herself will fall to Babylon. Egypt looked to the Nile for provision and protection. Egypt's fall is described as all the provisions of the Nile being laid out in the desert to be eaten by animals and birds.

When we look to anything but God to provide for us what only God can provide we risk the loss of everything. That is the essence of idolatry. Just as Egypt served as Israel's hope, but failed to provide her protection, so the very thing upon which Egypt relies will fail her. God will not share his glory with another. He will faithfully remove our "gods" until he is our only hope.  Father forgive me for how often I look to things, stuff or people to provide for me what only you can provide.  Today may I rest in you alone.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Monday, April 1, 2013

Ezekiel 28

Ezk 28:26
26 And they shall dwell securely in it, and they shall build houses and plant vineyards. They shall dwell securely, when I execute judgments upon all their neighbors who have treated them with contempt. Then they will know that I am the Lord their God."

In this chapter God sends a word of judgment against the Prince of Tyre, the King of Tyre, and the people of Sidon. Tyre and Sidon are secure sea ports to the northwest of Israel. They have the capacity to be great allies of Israel or threatening enemies. At least part of the description of the King of Tyre is usually considered a description of Satan. The words of judgment sent against these people and individuals have one thing in common: Pride. God says of the Prince of Tyre, "Because your heart was proud..." He says of the King of Tyre, "Your heart was proud because of your beauty." He calls the citizens of Sidon, "neighbors who treated them (i.e. Israel) with contempt."

Everybody avoids a "know-it-all." People are quickly irritated by one who "Toots his own horn."  Even in celebrities we quickly come to dislike those who think they are "something" and want everybody to know. Those who demand special treatment are not making friends. Proverbs 15:25 says, "The LORD tears down the house of the proud..." Jeremiah 13:15 says, "do not be proud for the Lord has spoken." James 4:6 reminds us that, "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble."

Proud independence gives us the illusion of greatness, but in God's economy humble dependence is the way to true greatness. Father, forgive me for the many times I have taken credit for that which was only by your grace. Today may I walk in humble dependence, and may your glory shine through me.

By His grace,
Rick Weinert

Reflections on Psalms 77-78

Psalms 77:7 (ESV) [7] “Will the Lord spurn forever, and never again be favorable?   The first nine verses of this psalm express abso...