Archive for September, 2013

1“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. 2In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”
John 14:1-3 (NIV)

During the Passover meal, Jesus said some very disturbing things. He was going to be betrayed. He was going away and the disciples could not go with him. His disciples would deny him. I can’t imagine what was going through the disciples minds. In his next words, Jesus reassures them.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled.” Jesus says. “Trust in God; trust also in me.” There is so much in those words. First, Jesus is reassuring them. He is calming what must undoubtedly be their increasing anxiety. He reminds them that they do trust in God and they can also trust in Jesus. But I like the first sentence because it is a definitive statement – “DO NOT LET your hearts be troubled” (emphasis mine).

Don’t go there. Instead, choose faith. If Jesus has given this command, it means we have a choice. I can choose worry or I can choose faith.

I read a bumper sticker once that said “worry is a terrible waste of an imagination.” How true! When we are worrying, it’s because we’re choosing to imagine all the bad things that can happen. And when we allow ourselves to go down those roads of imagination, we are making a choice not to trust God. We are making a choice to believe that satan will win.

Is God trustworthy? Of course He is. How do we know that?

We know because He’s proven it. God loves us so much, he sent Jesus to pay the price for our sins so that we could spend eternity with Him (John 3:16).

Scripture says that God has give us everything we need for life and Godliness (2 Peter 1:3). It doesn’t say some things, it says EVERYTHING.

So, DO NOT LET your hearts be troubled, friends. Trust in God; trust also in Jesus.

You know, trust comes from the heart – it doesn’t come from the head. It comes from the heart. Get to know God’s heart, don’t just learn things about Him.

“In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.”

This translation says “many rooms.” The King James translation says “many mansions.” Jesus isn’t preparing a shack in the slums for us. It’s not a motel room somewhere. It’s a mansion. But the kind of house isn’t the important part. What’s important is the second part of the verse and the verse that follows.

I am going there to prepare a place for you Jesus said. Jesus Himself is building the house. And it is a house made just for you. It is being custom built for you by the One who knows you better than you know yourself.

“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

I love this verse. If He goes to prepare a place for us – well, He just said that He was going to do just that, so we can trust that He is – so if (when) He does, He will come back and take me to be with Him. Hallelujah! He has promised to return for me – and not just to return, but to return to take me to be with Him. And my very favorite part of the verse is the last phrase – so that we might also be where He is.

The New Living Translation translates the last half of the verse like this: “so that you will always be with me where I am.” Do you hear Jesus’ longing for us to be with Him? He is our bridegroom and He longs for His bride to be with Him. God the Father will fulfill the longing of His Son. A day will come when Jesus returns specifically to take His bride to their wedding.

I can’t wait. But while I do, I do so knowing that He longs for that day as much or more than I do. And He’s the One who is Faithful and True. And He’s the One who both commands and reassures us to not let our hearts be troubled. Trust in God. Trust also in Jesus.

I choose to trust. And when worries come, I will say in the words of Jesus, “Get behind me, satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” (Matthew 16:23, NIV) And I’ll follow it up with “My Jesus loves me beyond measure and He is building a mansion for me. When the time is right, He’s returning to take me to be with him. Forever. So be gone satan. I want no part of you.”

I choose to trust. How about you?

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Resting at the River's Edge Logo 2013Resting at the River's Edge Logo 2013

October – the month of beautiful trees, a briskness in the air, bonfires and the annoying start of Christmas items in stores! It’s also the month for reading the books of Jeremiah, James, 1 and 2 Peter and Luke.  Throw in 2 Kings if you’re reading the additional readings. And the encroaching coolness outside makes it a great time to curl up and read.

If you’ve fallen behind and are looking for a good place to jump back into the readings, this month is perfect. Start on September 30th and you’ll join us at the start of Ecclesiastes and James. From here, the readings provide a great build up to Christmas. The New Testament readings will put you in a perfect place to enjoy the holiness of the upcoming season.

The following buttons will open PDFs of the September/October bookmark or all bookmarks. After the file has opened, you can print it or save it to your hard drive from your browser’s file menu.

Click here for the Sept/Oct 2013 recommended reading bookmark. Click here to download all bookmarks for 2013.

The October Reading Schedule also appears at the end of this blog.

Enjoy your reading! We’d love to hear what God speaks to your heart.  Email me, leave a message on our Apprehending Grace Facebook page, or post a comment at the end of any blog.

Blessings, Friends!
Sandy

The recommended reading schedule for October is below.

Resting at the River's Edge October 2013 Recommended Reading Schedule

Here’s how the Resting at the River’s Edge reading schedules are organized:

  • The first two columns of the schedule allow you to read through the Old Testament once and the New Testament twice over a two-year period. You will typically read about three chapters a day if you follow this reading plan.
  • The “Additional Readings” column put you on a plan to read through the entire Bible in one year. You will read between four and five chapters a day if you follow this plan.

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Living God's HeartLiving Gods Heart
In our last blog in the Living God’s Heart series, we looked at how very generous God is to us while we are here on earth. We focused on 2 Peter 1:3 –

By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. (NLT)

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness. (NLT)
2 Peter 1:3a (NLT)

There’s more to that verse and we’ll look at it in a future blog, but today I want to look more at the generous nature of our God.

He has given us everything we need to live lives that honor and glorify Him while we are here on this earth. What a gift!

But He didn’t stop giving there. His giving is not just for this life, but for all eternity.

Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.
Romans 5:2 (NLT)

Literally, God has brought us to “where we now stand” – He has given us the undeserved privilege of living in His presence, of receiving everything we need to live godly lives, of receiving His kingdom here on earth. “And” we will one day share in God’s glory.

There is not a word or series of words large and grand enough to convey the depths, the heights and the breadths of God’s giving. He will share His glory with us for all eternity. And we’ve done nothing to earn or deserve. It is an undeserved privilege for those who love the Lord.

God doesn’t hoard anything – not His love, not His Kingdom, and not His glory.

When we’re living God’s heart, our lives reflect His generous nature. When we’re living God’s heart we’re:

  • Giving to those that don’t deserve it.
  • Giving above and beyond.
  • Taking pleasure or joy in giving.

The Sacrifice of Giving
It would seem that there is no question that giving is a sacrifice. When I give, I must give up something. Even so, it is a sacrifice that reflects God’s heart. Hebrews tells us that it is a sacrifice that pleases Him:

And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God.
Hebrews 13:16 (NLT)

Giving is a joyful sacrifice – one that brings joy to the Father, joy to the giver and joy to the one who receives.

In this way, giving is truly not a sacrifice – it brings us joy. It might be seen more appropriately as a trade – I will trade this thing that I am giving away for the joy I will receive! How wonderful for God to consider that a sacrifice! How wonderful that He rewards that sacrifice:

Give generously to the poor, not grudgingly, for the LORD your God will bless you in everything you do.
Deuteronomy 15:10 (NLT)

The Old Testament teaches that when we give generously and God will bless everything you do.

Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.
Luke 6:38 (NLT)

Jesus taught us that when we give generously, we will receive generously.

God’s very nature is to give generously. He gives for this life and for the life to come, going so far as to giving us the privilege of sharing in His glory! Whew! Honestly, I can’t imagine that.

I can’t imagine it, but I trust it! So I choose to give generously in this life. Sacrificially…because I know that any sacrificial giving – no, all sacrificial giving – is simply a downpayment on the joy I will bring to the Father, the recipient of my gifts, my family and myself.

Give and it will be given to you.

Give and you will receive.

Live God’s heart in your world today.

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It started with a Christian novel written by Charles Sheldon. In His Steps was subtitled “What Would Jesus Do?” It’s a good book and worth reading. The question became popular in Christian circles in the 1990s. It’s not a bad question, but I think it’s time to move past it to an even better question:

“Jesus, what would You do?”

You see, one is a mental exercise. The other invites relationship. Asking “what would Jesus do?” begins a process of me evaluating the situation and what Scripture says about how I should act in that situation. Asking “Jesus, what would You do?” pauses for fellowship with the One who holds the world together, loves us enough to pay the penalty for our sins, and longs for us to be with Him. It invites prayer – a conversation with Jesus.

The mental exercise is good. And there’s nothing wrong with bringing our minds into our faith – God created our minds and He wants us to use them. But He also created us for fellowship with Him and wants us to build that relationship.

The next time you’re faced with a decision, don’t ask “What would Jesus do?” Instead, turn to Jesus and ask “Lord, what would You do?” After all, wisdom comes from God.

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Living God's HeartLiving Gods Heart

Being conformed to the image of Christ means thinking as He thinks and acting as He acts. In the previous blog, we learned that it God “has been pleased to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32, NIV) In the New Living Translation, it’s worded just a little differently:

“…it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom.”
Luke 12:32 (NLT)

It brings God joy to give. And I’m thinking the more He gives, the more joy it brings. After all, He’s not just giving us an enjoyable evening or basic provisions. He gives abundantly. He gives us the kingdom. He gives us salvation. He gives us “everything we need for living a Godly life.” (2 Peter 1:3, NLT) That’s over-the-top giving.

He’s given us the Holy Spirit. He’s given us gifts to use in fulfilling the calling that He’s given us – the purpose He’s given us for our lives.

All this and heaven, too.

He’s given us a family (Psalm 68:6). He’s given us freedom from condemnation (Romans 8:1). He gives us the power to be transformed (Romans 12:1). He’s given us His love. Whew! That’s the most precious gift. That the God who created the universe has given me His love, His heart.

All this and heaven, too.

Why? Because “it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom.”

Does giving bring you joy? It will if you allow it, because you are made in the image of God. You carry His DNA, and His DNA derives joy from giving.

But sometimes it’s a joy that you have to learn because in our sinful nature, it is counter-intuitive to us. In our sinful nature, I think I will have more joy if I get more stuff. But God has never hoarded His stuff. He lavishes it upon us. In our sinful nature, I think I will have more joy if I am more powerful. But God has never hoarded His power – He gives us free will – the absolute antithesis of hoarding power. He also has given us power and authority beyond our ability to comprehend and often beyond our ability to use wisely. Still, He trusts us with it.

So we have to learn to give. We have to write that first check or give away that favorite possession. We learn to experience joy through the joy of the recipient. And when that isn’t expressed, we learn that God is smiling at our generosity. Scripture says that “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7) and “will bless you in everything you do” when you give generously to the poor (Deuteronomy 15:1).

God gives to us when we give to others. Let’s look at the 2 Corinthians passage:

7You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” 8And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.
2 Corinthians 9:7-8 (NLT)

God will generously provide all our needs – so much that we will have plenty left over to share with others. Which sounds to me like viciously wonderful cycle – we give generously which pleases God and he then generously provides for our needs so that we have plenty left over so we can give generously so He can bless generously so we can…

But check out the verse in the NIV:

7Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.
2 Corinthians 9:7-8 (NIV)

I LOVE verse 8. It’s actually our company’s verse. “And God is ABLE to make ALL GRACE abound to you, so that in ALL things, at ALL times, having ALL that you need, you will abound in every good work.” (Emphasis mine, of course.)

God gives all we need – not just physically, but also emotionally, relationally, and spiritually – He is able to make ALL GRACE ABOUND to you so that you have ALL that you need. And when will he do it? ALL the time. Why? So that we can be successful – abounding in every good work.

God’s heart is to give.

When we live from God’s heart, we also give. We give our time, our talent, our money and possessions and our heart.

Who are you giving to today? My new sister-in-law told me that she doesn’t ever go to bed without doing something nice for someone. If she hasn’t done something nice by bedtime, she goes to the local store to find someone in need. Perhaps it’s just helping someone reach something. Perhaps it’s helping someone pay their bill. Perhaps it’s providing an encouragement to someone who just needs to know that someone cares. There are lots of ways to give.

Do you think she always feels like it? I doubt that she does. But she’s learned the joy of giving. She’s learned that it changes who we are from the inside out. And it brings God joy.

Who are you giving to today? Challenge yourself to give above and beyond joyfully.

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by Guest Blogger Vicar Karen Ressel

Introduction (by Sandy)
My last two blogs were about (1) listening to God’s voice and (2) speaking life into the dry bones of our lives. I realize that the last message may be a bit unusual for some of you. Applying the prophetic message God gave Ezekiel for the people of Israel to our lives may seem like I’m taking Scripture out of its time and hammering it into 2013. What I actually did was take the principles from the prophetic word, trusted that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and applied those principles to my life today. God told Ezekiel to speak life into the dry bones that represented the nation of Israel. I heard the Holy Spirit whisper that we can listen for God’s voice and then speak His life-giving Words into the dry areas of our lives.

I recently read a sermon that reassured me that God wants to speak life into our lives. It is the perfect blog to follow my short series on listening for God’s voice and speaking His word into our lives.

God’s Heart is to Give You the Kingdom (Believe It, Speak It into Your Life)
by Guest Blogger Vicar Karen Ressel

“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.”
Luke 12:32(NIV)

The first phrase in our key verse is not meant as a command – “DO NOT be afraid.” Rather, it’s meant as an assurance, “Do not be afraid…” As an assurance, it’s spoken gently and with compassion. These are the words of Jesus.

Why should we not be afraid? Because Jesus tells us that it is “God’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” It is God’s gracious decision. It is God’s gracious action to show you divine favor.

Folks, this is the promise that God makes to each one of us. The promise that is manifested in the sending of Jesus Christ, fully human and fully divine, to live among us! Christ is the enfleshed divine promise. We are the unsuspecting benefactors of God’s grace! Pure promise! Pure, divine, beyond our understanding grace!

The Greek word translated here as “pleasure” is the same word that appears earlier in Luke’s gospel when Jesus is baptized (21:22). Remember the voice from heaven? “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” We aren’t talking about any kind of human understanding of pleasure; we are talking about divine favor.

It is God’s intention, plan, and delight to give you the kingdom! I want you to focus on the Godly reality that it is God’s desire to give you all good things. Say it out loud –“It is God’s good pleasure to give me the kingdom!” One more time: “It is God’s good pleasure to give me the kingdom!”

Perhaps you find yourself thinking, “Easy for you to say Vicar, I can’t” or “sounds good, but.” I understand. But before anything like it starts to squeeze into your mind I want you to say to yourself, “It is God’s good pleasure to give me the kingdom!”

I know that our lives are filled with demands, some big, some small. The demand to accumulate things in exchange for a false sense of security, like the rich man who felt a need to build bigger barns. The demand to prove our worth, day in and day out.

I think the root these things is fear. The climate of fear permeates our lives through the media and in our conversations. Advertisers prey on our fear in hopes of selling us something to make the fear go away. Fear of not having what we need to live, food, clothing, shelter; fear of violence, from domestic abuse to terrorism and everything in between; fear of not measuring up to the demands of our culture, are we beautiful enough? Handsome enough? Are we smart enough to compete in the job market?

The climate of fear chokes us; it makes us clench our fists and hold onto what is ours at all costs. We become isolated. It breeds a feeling of scarcity.

God’s reality is that He wants us to have…and enjoy…and share abundant life. Our human perception of that Godly reality becomes corrupted by sin. Abundant life becomes measured by our things, by our status, by how much power we are able to exert over other people.

When fear is absent from our lives and we can grasp God’s reality, we may actually be able to imagine treasures beyond self-driven determination … self-assessed success … and self-obsessed security.

Being ready for Jesus’ second coming is less about any actual time and place…Being ready for Jesus’ second coming is about imagining Jesus’ activity in the world.

Today I want to ask you to imagine, imagine what it would be like to live your life without worry…or anxiety…or distraction. If worry or anxiety, or distraction comes into mind, I want you to shift your focus, shift it to Jesus words; “It is God’s good pleasure to give me the kingdom!” With that thought as our foundation we are able to live from that Godly reality of abundant life rather than
from the fear that blocks us from trusting God’s promise.

God wants us to live free from worry…to keep our priorities straight…not to be consumed by greed, or love of those things that don’t bring real happiness, those things that don’t bring us life. God wants us to have and enjoy and share the abundant life that comes from authentic community and right relationship with God and each other. Did you catch that? God wants us to have…and enjoy…and share abundant life.

What if every morning, before your feet hit the floor, you said to yourself, “It is God’s good pleasure to give me the kingdom!” How might that change the way that you approach your day? Our response to God’s gift of an authentically abundant life is to live a life shaped by trust in God’s gracious provision. When we live from the reality of God’s promise, we become free to share the promise with others, and to participate in God’s mission here on earth, without fear and anxiety.

Jesus creates faith by announcing a promise, “It is God’s good pleasure to give me the kingdom!” Promises create a shared expectation about the future and bind together the giver and receiver of the promise in that shared anticipation. Promises create relationship…Promises create hope…Promises create faith; faith that frees us to be generous; faith that enables us to leave anxiety behind; faith that creates in us confidence about a future secured, NOT by human endeavor or achievement, but by God alone.

In the reading from Genesis today, Abram is told that he will have descendants as abundant as the stars. This is a promise to Abram of a future reality, which then shapes his present reality. Abram’s response to God is to live into that promise. The promise and the possibility of the promise are held together in the midst of impossibility. Really, think about that, can you count the stars? It is impossible. And yet Abram doesn’t question, or examine the promise, he acknowledges it and then…he…lives…into it.

It is like that with the kingdom of God too. The kingdom is here, but at the same time it seems impossible. Can the kingdom of God really exist here and now? The promise is about a future reality. The promise of God to give us the kingdom, all good things, is a future reality, which shapes our present reality. Because of Christ’s life, ministry, death, and resurrection we understand God’s kingdom to be with us in this present time. Christ has already reconciled us with God.

Jesus’ words, “do not be afraid,” are grounded in God’s faithfulness, a faithfulness that extends to the entirety of God’s creation. Can we respond to God’s promise and live into it? That is really the question to ask ourselves this morning. Can we believe the impossible promise for no other reason than God is a faithful promise-keeper? Can we trust our lives to God and just live into God’s promise like Abram did?

It will require us to change our perception. When you wake up in the morning, say “It is God’s good pleasure to give me the kingdom!” Before you close your eyes at night, say “It is God’s good pleasure to give me the kingdom!” And during the day, when you are feeling those fears, anxieties, or distractions creep into your consciousness, say to yourself, “It is God’s good pleasure to give me the kingdom!”

Living without fear and knowing the source of your treasure—that is your God-given identity, your Godly-worth—makes it possible to be prepared. It is a part of the pattern of discipleship; it is part of participating in God’s kingdom here and now. God wants to give us the kingdom and all good things…not eventually but right now, right here.

God promised Abram descendants as abundant as the stars, an authentically abundant life. Abram heard that promise. Abram believed and trusted God. Abram lived into God’s promise.

This morning you heard God’s promise, to you, for an authentically abundant life. Trust and believe that promise, and you will find yourself living into an authentically abundant life.

After all, it is God’s desire for you to have…and enjoy…and share an authentically abundant life.

Thanks be to God!

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The message of yesterday’s blog was that in order to be obedient to the Lord, we must first hear what he says, and to properly hear him, we have to be listening. We want to be able to say like Peter said “Lord, because you say so, I will do it” (Luke 5:5). When Peter responded, Jesus turned a night of fishing with no catch into a morning of one last dropping of his nets and a boat overflowing with fish.

Ezekiel responded much as Peter did when He heard God’s instructions – instructions that were crazier than those He gave to Daniel. The results were crazier, too. And the whole story, although far removed from our lives, has application to it. God explained to Ezekiel that the prophecy was meant for the people of Israel, but I think we can look at the whole of it and apply it metaphorically to our lives. We can take the principles from it and apply them to each of our lives.

So let’s go to Ezekiel 37 and read about Ezekiel’s experience in a valley filled with dry bones. God grabbed me in the first verse!

The LORD took hold of me, and I was carried away by the Spirit of the LORD to a valley filled with bones.
Ezekiel 37:1 (NLT)

I have a question for you – Are there dry bones in your life?

One of the commentaries I read about this passage described the scene this way: Ezekiel was taken “to a valley filled with many bleached bones, scattered on the ground, the skeletons of corpses long ago decomposed and devoured by carrion-eating birds and animals.” Are there areas of your life like that? I have some. Some dreams that have been waiting to be fulfilled for a long time. Some areas that I’ve neglected for so long that they are decomposing. Perhaps some relationships or disciplines that in the busyness of life I’ve left scattered on the ground in my haste to do the next thing on my list. The longer I’m away from the discipline, the more it dies and I die with it. It might be your prayer life or Bible reading or the practice of giving thanks or praising God. Are there areas of your life that feel brittle and wasted or wasting away?

“The LORD took hold of me…”

This first phrase got my attention. “The Lord took hold of me.” You are probably more accustomed to reading it in the NIV or King James Version, where it is translated “The hand of the Lord was upon me.” While both translations mean the same thing, the New Living Translation connotatively seems radically different. When I hear or read “The hand of the Lord was upon me” I think of my Father resting His hand on my shoulder and leading me somewhere. The phrase “The Lord took hold of me” implies that I have no choice, that He’s grabbing me by the collar or with both hands and forcibly taking me somewhere. And that’s truer to the meaning of the verse. The word translated “hand” in the NIV means hand, but it means “a hand with power” – which is consistent with the rest of the verse that talks about being carried away by the Spirit, Ruach, of the Lord.

So the first thing I heard the Holy Spirit asking me was “Have you allowed the Lord to take hold of you? Or are you resisting Him? Are you yielding only a little when He wants to take hold of you and take you places you couldn’t go on your own?” Lord, I’m listening…how can I obey?

Have you allowed the Lord to take hold of you? That’s the first thing God is asking you today. He is encouraging us to yield to His power. He is encouraging us to yield to His Spirit’s working. Ezekiel would not have had the experiencing of speaking to the dry bones if he hadn’t allowed the Lord to take hold of him and take him to the valley of dry bones.

One of the things I like about this passage is the interaction between Ezekiel and the Lord. Ezekiel doesn’t have a clue what’s going on. He’s just been forcibly taken and gently placed in a valley filled with bones. Imagine his confusion. Let’s read more about the valley:

1The LORD took hold of me, and I was carried away by the Spirit of the LORD to a valley filled with bones. 2He led me all around among the bones that covered the valley floor. They were scattered everywhere across the ground and were completely dried out.
Ezekiel 37:1-2 (NLT)

Basically the Lord led Ezekiel on a tour through the dry bones. They walked among the dry bones. The bones were all around him.

I think we often avoid those valleys of dry bones in our lives – the valleys of decay and brokenness – because they were created by some kind of devastation. The valley of dry bones is a place of death. Something horrible happened to create that valley. Lord, I don’t want to go back there. Don’t take hold of me and take me there!

But if we listen to the Lord, the panic or depression that can take hold of us in the valley is held at bay as He speaks. When God takes us to the valley of decay and brokenness – it’s not to cause us more pain. It’s to bring us back to life. So let Him take hold of you and lead you to the dry places. Then listen.

It’s interesting that when God spoke, it was in the form of a question.

Then he asked me, “Son of man, can these bones become living people again?”
Ezekiel 37:3a (NLT)

God often asks us a question simply to open our mind to possibilities. “Sandy, can this dream live again?” “Sandy, can this relationship be repaired?” “Sandy, can this spiritual discipline that has been long forgotten come back to life?” “Sandy, can our relationship be restored – returned to what it once was?” Maybe that’s where you are – feeling alienated from God. It’s a painful place to be. And maybe you’re feeling like you’re doing everything you can and still you’re far from God. “Can this relationship come alive again?”

“O Sovereign LORD,” I replied, “you alone know the answer to that.”
Ezekiel 37:b (NLT)

Ezekiel answers God’s question honestly. I don’t know. Only You know, Lord. I have no power to change the situation. But You do. Can this dream come alive again? I don’t know. Can this relationship be repaired? I don’t know. Hidden in Ezekiel’s answer is a question – the same question God asked him – can these bones come alive again?

So God answers his question:

Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to these bones and say, …
Ezekiel 37:4a (NLT)

God says – “You, Ezekiel, you speak to the bones. Speak a prophetic message.” The word “prophecy” means “speak by inspiration of God” – Listen to hear what God has to say, then speak it!

4Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to these bones and say, ‘Dry bones, LISTEN to the word of the LORD! 5This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Look! I am going to put breath into you and make you live again! 6I will put flesh and muscles on you and cover you with skin. I will put breath into you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the LORD.’”
Ezekiel 37:4-6 (NLT)

God goes on – “Speak to these bones. Call the dry bones to attention even though they are dead.” What is Ezekiel to say to the bones – “Listen up!” The word translated “listen” also means “obey” – What did Peter say? “Because you say so, I will do it.” (Luke 5:5)

Broken dreams, LISTEN to the word of the Lord. Dead relationship…LISTEN to the word of the Lord.

“Dry bones, listen for the voice of God! The sovereign God says…”

Who says? The Sovereign God – Adonai Jehovah – the self-existing God who controls all things – Listen to what He says!

“The sovereign Lord says “I.am.going.to.put.breath.into.you.and.make.you.live.again!”

Read that passage again. “The sovereign Lord says “I.am.going.to.put.breath.into.you.and.make.you.live.again!”

God says we’re to speak to the dry bones in our lives: “Look! I am going to put breath into you and make you live again!” Do you believe He can do it?

Well, in case you doubt that it will be a full and beautiful life, let me be more clear God says – “I will put flesh and muscles on you and cover you with skin. I will put breath into you and you will come to life.”

You know, there’s life and then there’s life. There’s life and then there’s life abundant. Life abundant isn’t just life made alive, it is life adorned – with flesh and muscles and skin! It’s life with the breath of God inside us. It is knowing that He is the Lord. That’s God’s promise.

Let’s step back for a second. Who again was he making this promise to? The decimated Israelites who were nothing more than dead, dry, brittle bones because of their own disobedience! So you know what? I may have messed up big time and that’s why my dreams are unfulfilled or that’s why my relationship with God has gone stale or that’s why my relationship with my husband is distant or cold. But God…But God…offers grace and through that grace and His sovereign power, he offers life.

Scripture says that faith comes by hearing. In this passage, life comes by hearing – listening to the word of God and speaking it as He instructs. Faith and life are inseparable. They cannot be divorced from one another! God says “listen, speak and live…”

Let’s see what Ezekiel does:

So I spoke this message, just as he told me.
Ezekiel 37:7a (NLT)

Like Peter, Ezekiel is saying “Because you said so, I will do it!”

7bSuddenly as I spoke, there was a rattling noise all across the valley. The bones of each body came together and attached themselves as complete skeletons. 8Then as I watched, muscles and flesh formed over the bones. Then skin formed to cover their bodies, but they still had no breath in them.
Ezekiel 37:7b-8 (NLT)

And an amazing thing happened! God was true to His word! He caused the bones of each body to come together and attach themselves as complete skeletons.

Mr. T on the old television show The A Team? “I love it when a good plan comes together!” I love it when God is true to His Word.

As Ezekiel watched, God did what He said He would do….almost. He got all the way through putting skin on the bodies, but still they had no breath. What God did was amazing, miraculous. But it wasn’t finished. So He gave Ezekiel another task:

9Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to the winds, son of man.
Ezekiel 37:9a (NLT)

Remember, we said that the word “prophecy” means “speak by inspiration of God” – Listen to hear what God has to say, then speak it!

9Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to the winds, son of man. Speak a prophetic message and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Come, O breath, from the four winds! Breathe into these dead bodies so they may live again.’”

10So I spoke the message as he commanded me, and breath came into their bodies. They all came to life and stood up on their feet—a great army.
Ezekiel 37:9-10 (NLT)

God gives Ezekiel a second assignment required to finish the task.

Too often we watch and are so amazed at what God has done that we are satisfied with a partial fulfillment of God’s promise. We’re satisfied with a partial healing or a partial restoration. “Then skin formed over them but they still had no breath in them.” Don’t settle for half of what God has promised. Yes, half of what He promised is amazing, but it’s only half. It’s not the glass that’s half full, it’s our life that’s half full. Don’t settle.

Speak again. Call on the Lord. Don’t settle for half healing. 

I’ve been watching our plants grow. They grow fast and I love it. Then they bud. Then they produce fruit. I mean, the process is amazing. But if we stop watering and nurturing at any point in the process, the plant dies. Words of prophecy are the watering and nurturing that our bones, our souls, need. So, we listen for His voice…and we speak as He commands.

Let’s finish the passage.

11Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones represent the people of Israel. They are saying, ‘We have become old, dry bones—all hope is gone. Our nation is finished.’ 12Therefore, prophesy to them and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: O my people, I will open your graves of exile and cause you to rise again. Then I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13When this happens, O my people, you will know that I am the LORD. 14I will put my Spirit in you, and you will live again and return home to your own land. Then you will know that I, the LORD, have spoken, and I have done what I said. Yes, the LORD has spoken!’”
11zekiel 37:11-14 (NLT)

That brings us back to our first question: Are there dry bones in your life? Let God “take hold of you,” have control, “carry you away by the Spirit.” Don’t give God just a little control, let Him carry you away. Yes, even to the place of the dry bones – because sometimes we have to visit those dark places to let God heal them. If we don’t give Him all the pieces, He can’t make us whole.

There is a line in the Christafari song in yesterday’s blog that I didn’t really hear until I listened to the song for about the tenth time. It’s during the extended “reggae speak” portion and they say “With God’s all seeing eyes you will see clearly that your day to day life it is just prophecy; to be fulfilled by God Almighty.”

Your life – the life God wants you to lead – is waiting for you to prophecy it so God Almighty can fulfill it.

“Speak a prophetic message to these bones” God told Ezekiel. Speak a prophetic message to the broken, dead bones, so that they might live! Listen up, broken dead bones – The Sovereign Lord wants to impart life to you.

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Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”
Luke 5:5 (NIV)

That was a key verse in our Pastor’s message a few weeks ago. At least it was the key verse for me. I was struck by the phrase “Because the Lord says so, I will do it.” Doesn’t matter if I want to or not. Doesn’t matter if it’s morning and I’ve worked all night and I’m exhausted…or in my case, it’s evening and I’ve worked all day and I’m exhausted. Doesn’t matter if I’m discouraged because I’ve worked all day and haven’t made any money.

“Because the Lord says so, I will do it.”

Those were the situations Peter was in when he spoke those words. Peter, the professional fisherman, had fished all night – and he hadn’t caught anything. Jesus, this carpenter, came along and suggested he throw out his nets again. Peter could have had many responses, not the least of which was offense that this carpenter had the audacity to tell him how to do what he’d been doing all his life. But he doesn’t take that attitude. He calls Jesus “Master.” Then he explains the obvious (because he’s not sitting there cleaning fish, he’s sitting there repairing his nets) – that he worked all night and didn’t catch any fish. Put yourself in Peter’s sandals – he’s tired, he’s frustrated and he’s not getting paid for anything he did last night. Still, his attitude is respectful, humble and obedient. “Because you say so, I will do it.”

Are you ready to be obedient when you hear God’s voice? I sure want to be. I know I have a predisposition toward it – my spirit and heart want to say “yes!” For me the challenge is more likely to be hearing God’s voice than saying “yes.” Because I can get caught up in what I’m doing and forget to listen. In order for me to be able to say as Peter did “Because you say so, Lord…” I have to listen – I have to hear God’s voice.

A few days after our pastor preached about Peter’s obedience, Phil and I were listening to Pandora in our office. As we were working, this reggae song came on and a couple of minutes into it, I began to understand the words. The key phrase was “Listening for your voice!”

Take a listen to Christafari’s song Listening. I’ve included the lyrics after the song.

 

 

LISTENING by Christafari (I Kings 19: 11-12)
Lyrics from elyrics (modified by listening to the song)

So it seems sometimes that I grow weary (Isa. 40: 29)
and that the world around will overtake me.
And all the things I pray just seem to float away
as I stand alone and dream of you.

Listening – For your light to shine the way through the darkest night (II Cor. 4: 6).
Listening – For comfort and love to feel all right (Ps. 119: 50-52, 76)

Chorus: So I’m listening for Your voice to softly call my name.
I’m listening for Your voice to help me on my way.
Yes I am listening for Your voice I long to hear You say
“My child I’ve come and here I’ll stay.”

It is the still small voice the man listens for,
sometimes He shouts more time He whispers.
(2X)

For there are times in life I feel quite empty,
and there are times when nothing will prevent me
from striving day to day trying
to find a way to a love I can only find in You, ya you.

Listening – In moments, when I find it hard to hear you.
Listening – I find the solution in your Word.

Chorus

I want you to listen the tear from my eye well shines and glistens.
God’s Word is sweet as honey and it heals as medicine (Ps. 119: 103, 107: 20)
It soothes my soul what the pastor says to do (Heb. 13: 17)
[He also speaks] Through your brothers and sisters and the mind of Christ in you. (I Cor. 2: 16)
So I want you to listen and to listen cleanly.
With God’s all seeing eyes you will see clearly
that your day to day life it is just prophecy; to be fulfilled by God Almighty. (Deut. 30: 20)

Chorus

~~~~~~

Somehow I think the voice Christafari’s listening for sounds a whole lot different from the voice I’m listening for! But it’s the same God. Each of us hears God’s voice differently, but the key is listening. Because sometimes He SHOUTS, but more time he whispers. So we have to be actively listening. Being aware that He wants to speak and listening for His voice.

And then when we hear His voice, saying as Peter did “because You say so, I will do it.”

Ezekiel responded much as Peter did when He heard God’s instructions. In Ezekiel’s case, God gave him some pretty wild instructions. But because it was God who said so, Zek obeyed. Tomorrow we’ll look at Ezekiel listening to God’s voice and speaking it into reality. Stay tuned.

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