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  • Stopping making yourself bigger

    Today’s Reading: Ezekiel 27:1-28:26 (additional reading: Psalm 111:1-10 & Proverbs 27:15-16 )

    How could such a gifted and trusted being as Lucifer (whose very name means ‘light bearer’ or ‘son of the morning’) cause the first church split and take a third of the congregation with him? The Bible says that he was ‘the perfection of wisdom and beauty’ (Ezekiel 28 verse 12). His clothing was ‘adorned with every precious stone’ (v13), and God said, ‘I ordained and anointed you as the mighty angelic guardian’ (v14). So what went wrong?

    Lucifer might have been wonderful, but he let it go to his head. He began to believe his own hype, as we might say today. He was amazing, beautiful, and great… but he wasn’t divine. Twice the Bible says that God created him (verses 13, 15); Lucifer may have been part of God’s wondrous creation, but he was not – and never could be – God. He did not exist before all else; he didn’t have the power to create incredible things – people, animals, plants, mountains, and seas – from nothing. Lucifer was subject to God’s rule and authority, just like anyone else.

    In this passage, Ezekiel underlines time and again how pride went to Lucifer’s head. ‘Your heart was filled with pride,’ writes Ezekiel, ‘because of all your beauty. You corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendour. So I threw you to the earth’ (v17).

    It’s a stunning and shocking lesson for us all. Even in the place where you might think no sin could possibly be found, Lucifer began to nurture a sense of pride and self-centeredness. He took a long, hard look at himself in the mirror, and liked what he saw a little too much. He became captivated with his own ego, and he ‘lifted himself up with pride’.

    CS Lewis once observed, ‘the surest way to spoil a pleasure is to start examining your satisfaction.’ We must guard against that. Take worship, for example. It can always help us to focus on God, as it captivates our consciousness and we look outward and upward instead of inward. We can only do things in God’s strength and Spirit; but If we take our eyes off God and focus on our own gifts, we can become so self-conscious that we end up self-obsessed. Consequently, we become self-obsessed, we push God to the side and put ourselves on centre stage. As we’ve seen with Lucifer, it’s the original sin against God. Not keeping God in His rightful place.

    Reflection

    Have you pushed God aside?

    Do you think more of yourself than you ought?

    Prayer

    Father, Thank You that You alone are God. Help us to keep focusing on You and Your glory. Help us not to allow anything to cloud our vision on You. In Jesus’ name, Amen

  • 12 hours of difference

    Today’s Reading: Ezekiel 24:1-26:21 (additional reading: Psalm 110:1-7 & Proverbs 27:14 )

    Ezekiel’s life was completely changed and his home emptied and wrecked within twelve hours. In the morning he is out proclaiming the Word of God which has been laid upon his heart. A terrific message declaring the hour of Jerusalem’s judgement. He had likely gone out with a heavy heart to deliver his message; and his wife, feeling what it meant to him, must have accompanied him to the door and had spoken such words of comfort and encouragement as even a strong prophet needs.

    After he did what he was commanded and the message was delivered, he turns to his home again and to her who is the desire of his eyes, his homemaker, his help and comrade; and there it is compressed into a single tine, a tragedy of sorrow. “I spoke to the people in the morning, and at even my wife died,”

    What a difference a few hours can make! For Ezekiel it was around 12, for others it’s a visit to the hospital, the unexpected bill, a note from a loved one, a quick trip to the shop which ending in a fatal car accident. It’s takes just seconds for your life to be shaken and turned upside down.

    It is clear that even in Old Testament times God did not shield His chosen servants from the sorrows and sufferings that were a common lot of mankind. Christianity is not an insurance against loss, sickness, or death. The promise even of old time was not, “Thou shall be kept from fire and flood,” but “when you pass through the waters I will be with thee, and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee.”

    Ezekiel does not question God, yet the people that he has preached to do. His faith could not be conquered even by sorrow. He was to be a “sign” to the people. It is a costly process, that of being qualified to be a comforter of the broken-hearted and an encourager to others. Yet you can be sure, that the hard experiences which God leads us into, is for a purpose and we are to be witnesses at all times, not just when things are going the way we want.

    Reflection

    How is your witness for God during hard times

    Prayer

    Father, Thank You for helping us in the hardest of times. Thank You that You are our comfort. Help us to keep on You and to glorify You in the most difficult of moments. In Jesus’ name, Amen

  • Becoming like those around you

    Today’s Reading: Ezekiel 23:1-49 (additional reading: Psalm 109:1-31 & Proverbs 27:13)

    There has never been a period in history where we as sinful people were worthy of God’s Love. The bible says this in the book of Romans chapter 5:8 “ But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”. Our Great and Wonderful Father was merciful and gracious to them and to us by paying the ultimate price for our redemption.

    The mother in this chapter is Israel. The two daughters are the principal cities of Israel – Samaria [The Northern Kingdom] and Jerusalem [The Southern Kingdom]. Here God took care of them and made sure they were separate from the World. However, although God went to every length to keep them separate from blending into the world’s kingdom, the Israelites started to assimilate into the world’s ways. They began to participate in the pagan culture, which included accepting pagan religious practices. By joining in these religious experiences the Jews not only fell into slavery but into degradation.

    The name Oholah means ‘Her own tent.’ The Northern Kingdom started their own form of religious worship. The other sister listed in chapter 23 of Ezekiel was Oholiah, which means ‘My tent is in her’. Israel or the Northern Kingdom gave tribute to the Assyrians.

    Think with me for a second regarding God’s love and long-suffering. Throughout its existence, Israel has never had a long period of pure love for its God. Starting in its conception as a nation while in Egypt, through God’s guidance in the Wilderness, and finally upon entering and living in our Wonderful Lord’s Promised Land, the people had consistently preferred to worship the pagan gods of the other nations.

    Now stop and evaluate for yourselves. Do your own inventory. Where are you now in your walk with our Holy God? Was there any time in the past that you enjoyed the life of peace and joy? 

    The Israelites as mentioned, had consistently turned to idolatry. Let us get this clear. It isn’t just all about little carved figurines. It is anything that keeps God out of first place in your lives. Idolatry can sneak into our lives as other people, jobs, education, sex, hobbies, or sports.

    Reflection

    Have you allowed idols to take God’s place in your life?

    Prayer

    Father, Thank You for your love and patience with us. Thank You for forgiving us when we allow things to take Your place. Help us to be careful how we live and to Love you above all else. In Jesus’ name, Amen

  • Cleaning the scum

    Today’s ReadingEzekiel 24:1-26:21 (additional reading: Psalm 110:1-7 & Proverbs 27:14 )

    God told Ezekiel to take some specific steps and live out a parable in front of the city of Jerusalem. 1) Get a pot. 2) Fill it with water. 3) Gather the choice cuts of meat from the choice of the flock. 4)­Burn the bones under the pot. 5) Bring it to a boiling point. 6) Pile wood under the pot. 7) Dump the meat and broth out. 8) Put it back on the fire and burn the scum out of it.

    God was showing to Jerusalem that their only hope of cleansing was through the fires of judgement. The fire of judgement has the ability to burn away everything that displeases God.

    The picture is painted by God but the activity is being carried out by Ezekiel. Everything is to be thrown into the pot. The common fire of judgement would come to all classes. Jerusalem is the pot and the walls would not protect them. The heat came through the walls. Nothing on earth would protect them from the divine wrath of God. Jerusalem is imprisoned in their boiling pot with no escape. Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians are the intense fire that will cleanse them.

    Imagine that preacher on that day, working at that boiling pot, all the while crying out a message of doom to Jerusalem. Not a very popular message. Amidst all of this boiling, there is a point that God makes. It is a scummy pot. The Hebrew word here is chelaw. Its proper meaning would be that of a disease or could even be expressed as rust that was in the pot.

    Whatever word that the prophet was getting at, whether disease, scum, or rust, the fact of the matter is that God saw that the rebellious house had an impurity about it that He would not let escape His wrath. Scum is like a corrosive agent that bites into the pot like an acid. Scum reveals the inferior character of the pot. Scum attaches itself to the walls of the iron pot (It could not do so to gold or silver, which are superior to iron). Scum presents when temptation is given into quickly. It reveals an inferior base metal in the soul. Scum corrupts the very substance of the soul.  Scum breaks down the integrity of the soul.  Scum will wear away the resistance of the soul and scum will destroy the beauty of the soul.

    The emphasis of this passage is that the pot wearied and exhausted men in their efforts to cleanse it. The only way the rust and impurity could be removed was through the fire. All of their efforts are nothing more than self-righteousness which always comes up empty. 

    Reflection

    What scum has God been burning away from your life?

    Prayer

    Father, thank you for cleansing our lives and remove things which weaken us and make us dirty. Help us to embrace your cleansing. In Jesus’ name, Amen

  • Let your emotions out

    Today’s ReadingEzekiel 20:1-49 (additional reading: Psalm 107:1-43 & Proverbs 27:11 )

    Apparently, if you look at the Hebrew Bible you will note that chapter 20 ends with verse 44. Verses 45 through 49 fits in better with chapter 21. In chapter 20, we have witnessed a historic review of the nation of Israel from its conception by God to the present situation of Judgment which chapter 21 will get into.

    The prophet Ezekiel understood clearly what the people thought about him They thought in one way that he truly was receiving messages from God, but many thought of him as some kind of joker. It is tough to be a representative of God. We can say that if you have a problem with my message from God then take it up with Him. Don’t shoot the messenger. However, it does still cause you to sometimes feel overwhelmed with the criticism. In part the elders did not want to be rebuked. Ezekiel was God’s mouthpiece but the rebuke was from Him. Yet the leaders only saw the man before them speaking harsh words to them and they left off all correct thinking in realizing Almighty God was addressing them.

    We read that God giving Ezekiel not only the directions of what to say, but He is also giving Ezekiel permission to respond to these fellow Israelites the heartache that was on his heart.  Ezekiel understood the horror that would come on his people – men, women, and children. We have all seen on the history channel scenes from WWII where the Nazis brutally treated the Jewish people. It is so awful it is hard to watch. This gives us a taste of what Ezekiel personally experienced.

    God instructed Ezekiel to let out his emotions – ‘to sigh’ – to express his broken heart. The ‘smiting on the thigh’ is an extended display of grief and emotional meltdown.  If you were here sitting and observing God’s Prophet, how would you react? Can you associate with the way He was feeling? What emotions are you hiding inside? Who do you have around you that you can support?

    Reflection

    • Are you afraid or ashamed to display your emotion?
    • Are you emotional about the things of God?

    Prayer

    Father, Thank You for calling us to share Your message with people. Help us to care from the bottom of our hearts and to display this care in the way we speak and act. In Jesus’ name, Amen

  • Now is the time to change

    Today’s ReadingEzekiel 18:1-19:14 (additional reading: Psalm 106:32-48 & Proverbs 27:10)

    Towards the end of the nineteenth century, Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel awoke one morning to read his own obituary in the local newspaper: “Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, who died yesterday, devised a way for more people to be killed in a war than ever before, and he died a very rich man.”

    But, actually, it was Alfred’s older brother who had died; a newspaper reporter had made a mistake. But the account had a profound effect on Nobel. So he decided he wanted to be known for something other than developing the means to kill people efficiently and for amassing a fortune in the process. So he initiated the Nobel Prize, the award for scientists and writers who foster peace. Nobel said, “Every man ought to have the chance to correct his eulogy in midstream and write a new one.”

    God gives us the chance to do what is right! Ezekiel 18:21-23 says “But if a wicked man turns away from all the sins he has committed and keeps all my decrees and does what is just and right, he will surely live; he will not die. None of the offences he has committed will be remembered against him. Because of the righteous things he has done, he will live. Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign Lord. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?”

    This teaches that if we turn away from our sins, then God will forgive us and He will remember our sins no more. Isn’t that wonderful! God wants us to continue to change our lives. But not only does God want us to change our external characteristics, He wants us to change our hearts because it is the heart that truly matters to Him. Our hearts are to ask God for help by going to him in prayer because God is the one who can truly change our hearts. We must also turn away from sin and confess our sins to Him. Are there any changes that you need to make before you appear before God? Today you have the chance.

    Reflection

    What would you change given the chance?

    Prayer

    Father, Thank You for changing us from the inside out. Help us to see those things in our lives we need to change and be responsive to Your prompting. In Jesus’ name, Amen

  • Starts off small

    Today’s Reading: Ezekiel 16:42-17:24 (additional reading: Psalm 106:13-31 & Proverbs 27:7-9)

    This past weekend in the UK was bonfire night and if you live here many of you would have watched fireworks, and if you weren’t watching them, then you probably heard them. Fireworks were invented in China during the first thousand years after Christ, Chinese scientists discovered gunpowder and thereafter fireworks. Chinese kings were given fireworks as a form of tribute. Today, Chinese people still set off fireworks to express their happiness and to invite good luck into their lives.

    Today in the Word of God, the prophet Ezekiel talks about something similar to fireworks, and here is the comparison. With fireworks, it’s always amazing to me that one of those little rockets could give off so much light and so much noise. One little rocket – it doesn’t seem like much as it sits in the box – there doesn’t seem to be much to it. But wait and see, when it’s lit off, it lights up the night sky and gives off a boom that you can hear for miles.

    God describes himself as a gardener planting a tree. He plants a small shoot onto a high mountain. God finishes his work, brushes off his hands, and walks away. It doesn’t look like much – just a small green stalk sitting by itself on top of a high mountain. Not very impressive. Ezekiel talks about something that seems small and insignificant. But wait and see – it becomes something much greater than you would ever expect. But what God is talking about here is Christ and the Christian church. When Jesus was born, he didn’t look like much – a tiny baby born to a poor Middle Eastern family. And as Jesus carried out his ministry, he didn’t look like much. Sometimes he would perform a miracle, but most of the time he talked about things that people didn’t care about – he talked about repentance and faith and the life to come. And when Jesus died on the cross, he didn’t look like much – very unimpressive, as he died between two common criminals on a Friday afternoon. His early followers didn’t look like much either – a group of uneducated fishermen who didn’t fit in with the rest of society. One needs to wait and see.

    God plants that stalk, and it doesn’t look like much as it sits on top of a high mountain. But you must wait and see – eventually, it becomes the greatest, most amazing tree in all the world.

    The secret to seeing God’s greatness is focusing on things you cannot see, and focusing on the future. God does things that seem small in our eyes, to begin with. But the things that God does turn out to be the greatest, most amazing things we could ever imagine.

    Reflection

    How has God grown you and your ministry?

    Prayer

    Father, Thank You that You are the perfect gardener. Thank You that You give the growth. Help us not to look down on the day of small things but to praise You for what is and what is to come. In Jesus’ name, Amen

  • When abandoned, God says LIVE

    Today’s Reading: Ezekiel 14:12-16:41 (additional reading: Psalm 106:1-12 & Proverbs 27:4-6)

    In chapter 15 Ezekiel has used a parable about a useless vine, which bears no fruit and is too twisted to build with, to inform the people of their current worthlessness to God and the coming judgment. The people do not believe him because they think that simply being the chosen people will spare them from God’s judgement. The reality as they are about to learn is so different. Being born into the Israelite nation was not sufficient – just as being born into a Christian family is not sufficient for salvation. So we come to chapter 16 and in this chapter, Ezekiel does two things. First, he points out the ‘The Glory of God’s Grace’ and secondly ‘The disgrace of Israel.’

    The picture painted in chapter 16 isn’t beautiful but it a picture of something Unclean, Unloved, Uncared for, Unclothed, Unclaimed and Uncontrollable. That is the picture painted here by Ezekiel of this child. Unclean – The child has never been washed but remains in the state in which it was born. Here is the picture of us in our sinful state – unclean (Rom. 3:23, Is. 64:6)

    Unloved/Uncared for – this child has not even had its umbilical cord cut. (Psalm 142:2 ‘No man cared for my soul.’) Unclothed – this little one is left naked before a hostile world. Again we see ourselves here – we are clothed and think we hide our shame, our guilt and our sin – we do it very well from other people but the reality this morning is that before God each of us is naked and exposed.

    Yet when we get to verses 6 – 9 we find a wonderful picture of the wonderful compassion which God has for people. In these verses, God is pictured as one walking past who stoops down and rescues this child from a certain death. In these verses, we see what Christ has done for everyone who has placed their faith and trust in him. He came to us. Ezekiel says that the Lord sees the helpless and hopeless situation and reaches down into the midst of all the mess and rescues. The Lord speaks but one word ‘Live’. Death was a certainty but his voice speaks life and brings life. Doesn’t matter how much mess you might have in your life or how certain failure looks God can speak life into it.

    Reflection

    How has God scooped down and picked you up from a hopeless situation?

    Prayer

    Father, Thank You for rescuing us for our hopeless state. Thank You that even while we were ugly and full of sin, You loved us and sent Jesus to save us. In Jesus’ name, Amen

  • Selling out

    Today’s Reading: Ezekiel 12:1-14:11 (additional reading: Psalm 105:37-45 & Proverbs 27:3)

    Ezekiel 13:18-21 talks about an exchange taking place that should never take place. It’s talking about selling into the world way of living a successful life, rather than trusting in God’s ways. What we read is that the things which were suppose to bring victory and more fullness to life, end up being a trap and making us captive.

    All reasonable people sell disposable things, but when a man decides to sell an indispensable item, it means that spiritual madness has crept in. Today, many lives are on sale. People are selling out God’s way for the worlds way. A better job which was supposed to bring financial freedom now means long hours, stress and no time with your family. A loan which was supposed to help you out this month, now means that you’re struggling to pay the bills every month to meet the repayments. Those drugs which some offered you a way to relax, now means that you’re addicted.

    Jesus says, “What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul. With what can a man make an exchange for his soul? Nothing.

    The great news for us is in Ezekiel 13:20-21 Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am against your magic charms with which you ensnare people like birds and I will tear them from your arms; I will set free the people that you ensnare like birds. 21 I will tear off your veils and save my people from your hands, and they will no longer fall prey to your power. Then you will know that I am the LORD.

    It doesn’t matter what trap we might have fallen in to, God says “I will save my people / I will set them free”. If your caught up in something or have sold yourself out in some area, personal life, family life or business – Call out to God! Start living His ways and He will bring your freedom.

    Reflection

    How you sold out in some area?

    Prayer

    Father, Thank You for rescuing us from the traps of this world. Thank You for showing us a better way to live. Help us to live by Your ways. In Jesus’ name, Amen 

  • Hearts of Stone

    Today’s Reading: Ezekiel 10:1-11:25 (additional reading:  Psalm 105:16-36 & Proverbs 27:1-2)

    Having a stone heart usually is not a good thing. Cher did have a line in a song that said: “don’t you wish sometimes you had a heart made of stone?” Yet having a heart made of stone is not exactly something we should long for. We see that in the book of Ezekiel the prophet was calling the exiled people of Israel back to the living God. He spoke of their hearts that had been turned to stone.

    The heart we are talking about is not the organ of the heart, but the heart or centre of our being The Bible teaches plainly that while our physical health is important, yet even more important is our spiritual hearts. It really matters what is inside of us. It goes beyond the things that we do, God is concerned about what we think and how we think.

    In the movie Godfather III, mafia chief Michael Corleone meets with Cardinal Lamberto, reporting to the Cardinal that executives from the Vatican bank and even an Archbishop, have been involved in a massive case of fraud. After hearing this news Cardinal Lamberto moves to a fountain, withdraws a stone and says: Look at this stone. It has been lying in the water for a very long time, but the water has not penetrated it.” He breaks the stone in two, shows the inside to Don Michael and continues, “Look. Perfectly dry. The same thing has happened to men in Europe. For centuries they have been surrounded by Christianity, but Christ has not penetrated. Christ doesn’t breathe within them.”

    Before our lives can change Christ has to penetrate through more than just your mind. A lot of people acknowledge the reality of God and the fact that Jesus is Lord, but it doesn’t always move from a head knowledge into the heart. Jesus needs to penetrate into the hearts of those who make up His church, that starts with us and our own hearts.

    Sometimes we are like the potato picked up by a little girl who said, “Look, Mammy, this potato is so big and nice, isn’t it?” Then the mother peeled it and cut it in half. How surprised was the little girl when she saw it all black and hollow in the middle. So often we can be like that. Outwardly we look great, we look like we are growing, we look healthy because they have all the outward signs of being a good Christian, just like that potato had all the signs of being a good edible potato. Inwardly though many are rotten and hollow, and need Christ to take over inside them to make them clean. Jesus is the cure for a rotten inside.  Jesus is the one who can take control of our hearts.

    Reflection

    Are you more concerned with your outward appearance than your inner health?

    Prayer

    Father, Thank You for giving us a new heart. Thank You for saving us and changing us to become more like Jesus. Help us to be changed from the inside out. In Jesus’ name, Amen.