Sunday 31 March 2019

Standing in the Gap

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Today's focal image is one which some of us may have come across before. It is of a person standing in the gap, which has opened up in the protective wall of Israel. Their role is one of offering protection and help, especially where it is needed in the 'gap.'

30 “I looked for someone who might rebuild the wall of righteousness that guards the land. I searched for someone to stand in the gap in the wall so I wouldn’t have to destroy the land, but I found no one. 31 So now I will pour out my fury on them, consuming them with the fire of my anger. I will heap on their heads the full penalty for all their sins. I, the Sovereign Lord, have spoken!” - Ezekiel 22

If we take this image a little further and reflect on this in s symbolic way, what would you say represent the 'gaps' in our communities today? And then, what would the 'gaps' be in our churches, families and friendship circles? What strikes me as being very sad is that God couldn't find anyone willing to stand in the gap, which then led to damaging consequences for the entire community.

Reflection: If we are called by God to walk alongside others and to offer help, how can we effectively do this? What will standing in the gap mean for you today?

Living in Grace

Saturday 30 March 2019

A Sword - Ezekiel

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A sword is a powerful weapon in the hands of a mighty warrior. It can be used to defend a family from the threat of an enemy, as well as be used to go on the attack in battle. We don't use swords much anymore, but we still understand the damage they can do.

The image of the sword runs strongly through Ezekiel 21 and unfortunately it doesn't look like the Israelites will be spared from God's anger. If you are into counting the number of times a word is used in a passage, then you will see that Ezekiel uses it a lot - 14 times in this one chapter alone. The message is clear - God is not happy with Israel's unfaithfulness and he asks Ezekiel to use the image of the SWORD to make his point loud and clear.

There is however a glimmer of hope in v.27 that ties in with our Lenten theme and draws our attention to the Messiah. Ezekiel says:

I will surely destroy the kingdom.
And it will not be restored until the one appears
    who has the right to judge it.
Then I will hand it over to him.

The reason I find this to be 'hopeful' is because, even though pain and punishment will be dished out, there will also be healing and restoration. Both of these promises are fulfilled in the life of Jesus Christ. And so this is the invitation we are waiting for - to turn to Christ and to trust our brokenness and failures to him, because he has already born our punishment for us.

Living in Grace

Thursday 28 March 2019

Holding back - Ezekiel 20

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When we read through the Scriptures there are usually a few words or verses that grab our attention. I have come to find that usually these words/phrases are things that speak to me in the situation I find myself. The message from these verses speaks into my life and teaches me something more about our God.

Today's chapter from Ezekiel (20) contained a usual amount of judgement and challenging words for the wayward Israelites, but there were 2 words that left an impression on me. They are the words 'held back.'

14 But again I held back in order to protect the honour of my name before the nations who had seen my power in bringing Israel out of Egypt. (The same phrase is repeated in verse 17.)

It tells us that even though God was bleak with his children, he was still in full control of his power and emotions. God was willing to 'hold back' his wrath and punishment, because of his great love for the people. It is true that they were the ones who turned their backs on God - they were unfaithful and disobedient, so God had every right to feel rejected, but he restrained himself in order to give them another chance.

Lent is a wonderful time to be mindful of our own sin and the generous love of God. The Lord could justifiably dish out some punishment to us, but God HOLDS BACK, in order that we may come back to him.

Ezekiel 20:44 - You will know that I am the Lord, O people of Israel, when I have honoured my name by treating you mercifully in spite of your wickedness. I, the Sovereign Lord, have spoken!”

Living in Grace

Wednesday 27 March 2019

A lioness and her cubs

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Can there be a more powerful illustration than a protective lioness looking after her two cubs? It certainly got my attention as I started reading chapter 19 of Ezekiel's book.

“What is your mother?
    A lioness among lions!
She lay down among the young lions
    and reared her cubs.

He was a master at using word pictures and illustrations to get people to listen to his words. As I read these words, I was thinking of a lioness walking through the veld, followed closely by her young cubs - the image is firmly rooted in my mind!

The sad reality is that the 2 cubs in Ezekiel's vision represent 2 of Judah's kings - more than likely Jehoahaz and Zedekiah. The lioness is symbolic of the nation of Judah - the caring mother (v.2).

Interestingly, his illustration changes completely in v.10, where suddenly Ezekiel no long pictures Judah as a lioness, but rather as a vine that will be uprooted by the enemy. Everything will be lost and so the funeral song must be sung.

Using this chapter in our Lenten journey is important for us as Christians, because it reminds us of the death of Christ. Everything seemed lost on Good Friday - all hope was gone and Jesus was dead. However, this is not where God wanted to story to stop. It moves through the pain of the Cross, to the silence of death and then, ultimately, to the celebration of the Resurrection.

Thought: Don't skip past the 'funeral' songs in Ezekiel, nor the trials in your life. As Christ-followers, we REMEMBER that our story doesn't end here - there is always another chapter to be unveiled.

Living in Grace

Getting our attention - Ezekiel 18

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We could easily jump to the conclusion that God is quite mean and nasty, especially when we read through chapter after chapter of the harsh words in Ezekiel. However, it is important to remember the context of Ezekiel's words and the underlying heart of God. In v.32 we see that the Lord makes it clear that his tough words are not intended to harm, but rather to get Israel's attention. God desperately wants them to turn from their evil ways and to come back to him.
30 “Therefore, I will judge each of you, O people of Israel, according to your actions, says the Sovereign Lord. Repent, and turn from your sins. Don’t let them destroy you! 31 Put all your rebellion behind you, and find yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O people of Israel? 32 I don’t want you to die, says the Sovereign Lord. Turn back and live!

It always reminds me of how many parents struggle in disciplining their kids. We want the best for our kids, but when we see them making bad decisions or turning down wrong paths, we somehow don't know what to do. Yet, if we left them to their own devices, without offering any correction, I feel that would be an "unloving" thing to do. The Lord sees his reprimand as being a loving call to repentance.

What does God usually have to do to get your attention?

Living in Grace

Tuesday 26 March 2019

Story of 2 Eagles - Ezekiel 17

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The beginning of Ezekiel 17 reads more like a story from one of Aesop's fables - it tells the story of 2 eagles, which represent Israel's relationship with both Egypt and Babylon. In the end, God will punish Israel for betraying a promise they made with the Babylonians, which may seem strange at first but when you read through the verses you will understand why. God is angry for their choice to swear allegiance to one kingdom and then to go back on their word. God doesn't people who are fickle and full of deceit. 

Thankfully the chapter ends on a more positive note (again), with God offering a remarkable promise to the Israelites. You will note a clear similarity with the words of Ezekiel and the words of Jesus in Matthew 13:31

22 “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will take a branch from the top of a tall cedar, and I will plant it on the top of Israel’s highest mountain. 23 It will become a majestic cedar, sending forth its branches and producing seed. Birds of every sort will nest in it, finding shelter in the shade of its branches. 24 And all the trees will know that it is I, the Lord, who cuts the tall tree down and makes the short tree grow tall. It is I who makes the green tree wither and gives the dead tree new life. I, the Lord, have spoken, and I will do what I said!” (Ezekiel 17)

What does this passage say to you today? 
When you read Ezekiel's words in light of the life of Jesus, what do you make of the 'MAJESTIC CEDAR' mentioned in verse 23?

Living in Grace

Monday 25 March 2019

Yet - a powerful 3 letter word (Ezekiel 16)

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If you can manage to work your way through Ezekiel 16 you will eventually come to a truly hopeful word in verse 60. That word contains just three letters and is the word YET. This short word contains all the mercy, forgiveness and grace of God. Despite how betrayed God feels, he reveals his deep love for Israel when he offers them redemption and a chance to be restored again.

60 Yet I will remember the covenant I made with you when you were young, and I will establish an everlasting covenant with you. 61 Then you will remember with shame all the evil you have done. I will make your sisters, Samaria and Sodom, to be your daughters, even though they are not part of our covenant. 62 And I will reaffirm my covenant with you, and you will know that I am the Lord. 63 You will remember your sins and cover your mouth in silent shame when I forgive you of all that you have done. I, the Sovereign Lord, have spoken!” - Ezekiel 16

As we take the opportunity to reflect on our own short comings and sins, this Lenten season, I invite you to receive the gift of 'YET.'
I deserve punishment, YET Jesus loves me more than I deserve.
I keep messing up, YET God is sanctifying me through his grace.
I stumble and fall, YET the Holy Spirit gives me the strength to carry on.

Reflection: What does God's YET mean for you today?

Living in Grace

Friday 22 March 2019

Wood from a vine - Ezekiel 15

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Oh my goodness, Ezekiel is not letting up at all today. Chapter 15 is only 8 verses long, but it is packed with hard words and a strong message for those who are unfaithful to the Lord. He records this message in the form of a parable, which is quite similar to the way Jesus spoke to people in his time.

A Parable about a Vine

The Lord spoke to me. “Mortal man,” he said, “how does a vine compare with a tree? What good is a branch of a grapevine compared with the trees of the forest? Can you use it to make anything? Can you even make a peg out of it to hang things on? It is only good for building a fire. And when the ends are burned up and the middle is charred, can you make anything out of it? It was useless even before it was burned. Now that the fire has burned it and charred it, it is even more useless.”
Now this is what the Sovereign Lord is saying: “Just as a vine is taken from the forest and burned, so I will take the people who live in Jerusalem and will punish them. They have escaped one fire, but now fire will burn them up. When I punish them, you will know that I am the Lord. They have been unfaithful to me, and so I will make the country a wilderness.” The Sovereign Lord has spoken.

As I read through this I thought of Jesus' parable about the vine and the branches. Jesus' parable seems to be a little more uplifting although the message is still the same. We need to stay connected to God (the Vine) in order to ensure that we are growing and producing fruit. In an interesting aside, these following words of John are also recorded in a chapter 15:

“I am the real vine, and my Father is the gardener. He breaks off every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and he prunes every branch that does bear fruit, so that it will be clean and bear more fruit. You have been made clean already by the teaching I have given you. Remain united to me, and I will remain united to you. A branch cannot bear fruit by itself; it can do so only if it remains in the vine. In the same way you cannot bear fruit unless you remain in me." - John 15

What does this mean for you today?

Living in Grace


Thursday 21 March 2019

Nothing without cause - Ezekiel 14

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Today's scripture passage is another 'heavy' one, so I warn you to have a cup of good coffee before you start reading. If you aren't awake after the coffee, then you will certainly be FULLY awake when you have read Ezekiel's prophecy. I encourage you to read through the chapter when you have time, but the part I was interested in today comes at the end of the chapter. It reads as follows:
22 Yet there will be some survivors—sons and daughters who will be brought out of it. They will come to you, and when you see their conduct and their actions, you will be consoled regarding the disaster I have brought on Jerusalem—every disaster I have brought on it. 23 You will be consoled when you see their conduct and their actions, for you will know that I have done nothing in it without cause, declares the Sovereign Lord.”

I found it interesting that in two places, Ezekiel mentions that we will be consoled by what we see. I guess it is not because we will take delight in what we see, but rather we will understand why it happened. It will seem justifiable and therefore, I guess we will be okay with the course of action God needed to take. Some consolation in the midst of the pain?!

The other phrase that strikes me is found in v.23 - "you will know that I have done nothing in it without cause" - we need to remember that there is always a 'cause' or 'purpose' behind God's actions. God doesn't do anything for the sake of getting attention or just to be otherwise - there is always a cause.

Voltaire - "nothing can exist without a cause." 

Reflection: Everything God does, or allows to happen, is with a definite cause - even the Cross! 

Living in Grace

Wednesday 20 March 2019

Tearing down instead of building up - Ezekiel 13

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There is something about our modern generation that seems to love 'breaking people down' instead of lifting them up. I don't know if it is because social media is such a quick way of passing on a critique of something, but it certainly can aid people in tearing things down (or in destroying the reputation of others).

In today's reading, Ezekiel speaks of how the false prophets had a way of breaking down and not helping to REBUILD the nation.

They have done nothing to repair the breaks in the walls around the nation. They have not helped it to stand firm in battle on the day of the Lord. Instead, they have told lies and made false predictions. They say, ‘This message is from the Lord,’ even though the Lord never sent them. And yet they expect him to fulfil their prophecies! Can your visions be anything but false if you claim, ‘This message is from the Lord,’ when I have not even spoken to you? (Ezekiel 13)

The challenge for us during Lent is this: 

In what way do I 'break down' instead of lifting up?
Am I prone to stand and watch or am I willing to help repair and rebuild the works of God?

Living in Grace

Tuesday 19 March 2019

A New Proverb - Ezekiel 12

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Wise sayings and proverbs have helped people, for many centuries, understand all different aspects of life. They teach us how to love, to discern, to speak and to act. Sometimes these sayings are so old that we wonder if they are still true and relevant for our time.

This is what strikes me about Ezekiel 12 today - the relevancy of the old sayings. There had been a popular proverb, in circulation for generations, that went like this:
"Time passes, making a liar of every prophet" (v.22). 

Basically it implied that words and predictions of Prophets never came true - certainly not in a short space of time. Jeremiah was instructed by the Lord to change this proverb and to give the Israelites a new proverb to reflect on. It goes like this:

"The time has come for every prophecy to be fulfilled." (v.23)
And this is exactly what happened. The strange actions that God asked Jeremiah to enact (read Ezekiel 12:1-20), concerning the future and especially King Zedekiah, came true barely 6 years later. Sure, six years may seem like a long time to wait, but it shows us that God's word prevails and we should we careful to doubt it.

Jesus is the fulfilment of the promised Messiah - he was a long time in coming to the world, but He came!If you are waiting on a promise from the Lord, please don't lose hope and patience. God will follow through on his word.

Living in Grace

Monday 18 March 2019

Heart Surgery - Lent 11

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We needed to visit the new Christiaan Barnard hospital the other day and it is such a lovely modern hospital. As you walk through the passages and go to the various wards you notice a number of interesting displays, photos and paintings, all remembering the first heart transplant done by Chris Barnard in 1967. 

As we read Ezekiel 11 today, we find ourselves coming across this lovely promise from the Lord. He offers the sinful Israelites a chance at redemption and a new beginning. The graphic image of 'removing our hearts of stone' and placing a new heart within us, is such a wonderful gift. May these words inspire and challenge us today.
19 I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. 20 Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God. 21 But as for those whose hearts are devoted to their vile images and detestable idols, I will bring down on their own heads what they have done, declares the Sovereign Lord.”

Ezekiel gives us this wonderful chance to receive this gift from the Lord, but also adds in the strong challenge in verse 21, which sadly needs to be in his message as some people are just simply 'hard of hearing'.  

Are you needing a new heart today? Is your Lent journey allowing you to replace your heart of stone, with a heart of flesh?

Living in Grace

Sunday 17 March 2019

Unmistakable - Ezekiel 10

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Ezekiel 10:3-5 - The cherubim were standing at the south end of the Temple when the man went in, and the cloud of glory filled the inner courtyard. Then the glory of the Lord rose up from above the cherubim and went over to the entrance of the Temple. The Temple was filled with this cloud of glory, and the courtyard glowed brightly with the glory of the Lord. The moving wings of the cherubim sounded like the voice of God Almighty and could be heard even in the outer courtyard.

As we read through Ezekiel's remarkable vision in today's chapter, I am amazed at how tangible God's presence was. It is almost "UNMISTAKABLE" that God is present in the Temple. Whether it was through the cloud, the bright glow or the moving wings, Ezekiel KNEW that God was close at hand. 

After a few days of very negative words from Ezekiel it is a lovely to sense a shift in this book. He shows us an image of God who wants to make himself known to his people. Let us remember this as we move along towards Easter. God is real and God's presence can be experienced. 

Acts 6:8 -  Stephen, brimming with God’s grace and energy, was doing wonderful things among the people, unmistakable signs that God was among them. (MSG)

Living in Grace

Friday 15 March 2019

Testing my motives - Lent reflection

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Reflecting on this passage from Ezekiel 9, Max Lucado writes:

“Idols come in attractive packages today. You can identify them when they keep you from worship, consume your tithe, or become what you are most proud of.”

I feel that these words summarise the overall attitude of the Israelites before God allowed them to be taken into exile. They had become proud, arrogant and self-reliant. They felt they didn’t need God anymore and so this ultimately became their idol. Idolatry is not always linked in with a statue of a pseudo god, but it can be as discreet as ‘worshipping oneself.’

Ezekiel’s vision continues to jar at our senses, but we must remember that there are images that God gave to him, so that he could communicate a message to the people. I feel we shouldn’t get to bogged down on the definitive meaning of each one, as it can be a little confusing. However, we need to take note of the overriding message that comes through – God is heart-broken that we have turned our backs on Him and he is going to respond as a jilted lover – with anger. 

“Oh, Lord God! Will you destroy everyone left alive in Israel when you turn loose your anger on Jerusalem?” – Ezekiel 9:8

Prayer: Lord, help me to test my motives so that I may walk in your ways. 

Living in Grace

Wednesday 13 March 2019

What happens in Vegas ...

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There is a classic line that starts by suggesting: "What happens in Vegas...
...stays in Vegas."
It implies that what we get up to away from home should not be spoken of - in other words, we are given license to behave as we like, as long as the stories don't get back to our loved ones, friends and colleagues. However, the truth invariably comes out and we are left with some serious explaining to do. 

In a similar picture today, Ezekiel is taken on a journey by the Spirit and shown what the elders of Israel are getting up to in "Vegas". As we get to verse 12 we reach the moment of truth:

He said to me, “Son of man, have you seen what the elders of Israel are doing in the darkness, each at the shrine of his own idol? They say, ‘The Lord does not see us; the Lord has forsaken the land.’”

The Elders believed that God wasn't watching what they were getting up to behind closed doors, but God had taken notice.  God was heart-broken that they had forsaken his ways and had taken up new idols. This is one of the strong reasons why God allowed his people to go through their time of testing and to be refined in exile. It was to see how much they really wanted to be part of God's family and to open the doors for them to return.

Reflection: Are there times in our lives where we think God is not there for us and are we then tempted to turn to other 'idols'? 

Living in Grace


Tuesday 12 March 2019

The right measure - Lent 7

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Our friend Ezekiel is really giving the people of God a huge wake up call with his messages, isn't he? Chapter 7 continues along this very harsh and depressing route, but I managed to find some interesting verses towards the end of today's chapter. Ezekiel speaks:

Calamity upon calamity will come,
    and rumour upon rumour.
They will go searching for a vision from the prophet,
    priestly instruction in the law will cease,
    the counsel of the elders will come to an end. (v.26)

What immediately came to mind is how sad it must have been that God withdrew his presence and 'voice' from his people. It seems a hard thing to do, but the people were not listening in any case, so God silenced the prophets, withheld inspiration from the priests and stopped the counsel of the elders. The people were left to their own means, which is what they had in effect chosen for themselves.

This leads us to reflect on how blessed we are to live in places where we are able to read the Word out in public meetings, worship services and small groups. There are some places in the world, where there is still massive persecution for anyone who claims to be a Christian. 
So let us give thanks for this privilege today.
27 The king will mourn,
    the prince will be clothed with despair,
    and the hands of the people of the land will tremble.
I will deal with them according to their conduct,
    and by their own standards I will judge them.

“‘Then they will know that I am the Lord.’”

This last verse of today's chapter sounds a lot like Jesus' words in the Gospel of Matthew, where he challenged his disciples about judging other people.

"Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

Lent is a time of reflection and honest appraisal of who we are in the light of Christ. Let us be wary of judging others, as the measure we use will be used to judge us too.

Living in Grace

Monday 11 March 2019

Talking to the Mountains - A Lent journey through Ezekiel

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As we start reading through Ezekiel 6 we may be confused as to why Ezekiel starts speaking to the mountains. Perhaps we are justified in thinking that he has lost his marbles, or maybe he has just hasn't had his morning coffee as yet. However, it is not as weird as we may think. Here is why...

...The mountains around Jerusalem were known to be places of pagan worship. Many a god was represented by an image and then placed in a shrine somewhere on the mountains. So, when Ezekiel is instructed to turn towards the mountains and prophesy, he is actually speaking to ALL the other gods and graven images. See if it now makes sense to you:

The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, set your face against the mountains of Israel; prophesy against them and say: ‘You mountains of Israel, hear the word of the Sovereign Lord. This is what the Sovereign Lord says to the mountains and hills, to the ravines and valleys: I am about to bring a sword against you, and I will destroy your high places.

One of my favourite Psalms is 121 and this song of David paints a similar picture to the one in Ezekiel 6. If you get a chance read it here.

So the message for us this Lenten period could be something like this:

i. Have we turned to other "things" for our source of help and strength?
ii. How long will it take before we realise that God doesn't enjoy his children being "unfaithful"?
iii. What will it take for us to turn back to Christ?

Living in Grace

Sunday 10 March 2019

Gulp - where is the Good News in that!

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I can't lie to you; I was a little depressed after reading Ezekiel chapter 5. I was wondering how I would find any good news in the midst of these verses - they all seemed so harsh and judgemental. Anyway, after doing a little back round reading, I zoomed in on verse 3 and realised there was something hopeful in this short verse.

However, let me not get ahead of myself. In this chapter Ezekiel is given an instruction by the Lord to divide his hair into 3 parts (see below). Using an accurate measure he is to place a third of his hair in various places, revealing God's precise judgement in each place.

"Son of dust, take a sharp sword and use it as a barber’s razor to shave your head and beard; use balances to weigh the hair into three equal parts. Place a third of it at the centre of your map of Jerusalem. After your siege, burn it there. Scatter another third across your map and slash at it with a knife. Scatter the last third to the wind, for I will chase my people with the sword. 

However, Ezekiel is given another message as part of this instruction:
Keep just a bit of the hair and tie it up in your robe;

It may make no sense to us living in the 21st Century, but this is were the Good News is found. By placing a small bit of hair into his robe, Ezekiel is showing how God will "protect" and "keep" His remnant safe during the days of judgement. So God wants to save those who have remained loyal to him and who have not turned away from his laws. 

As one Bible commentator remarks: “The few hairs which he was to take in his skirts, was intended to represent those few Jews that should be left in the land under Gedaliah, after the taking of the city."

Challenge: How do we remain loyal to Christ even when others are falling by the wayside? Can we stay committed to Jesus even when the going gets tough?

Have a blessed week.
Living in Grace

Saturday 9 March 2019

When God doesn't make sense - Lent with Ezekiel

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God gave Ezekiel some pretty weird instructions in chapter 4. God was wanting him to use symbolism to demonstrate what was about to happen to the nation. It couldn't have made much sense to Ezekiel and it certainly seems quite strange to me. Just have a quick read of part of this chapter:

 “Now lie on your left side and place the sins of Israel on yourself. You are to bear their sins for the number of days you lie there on your side. I am requiring you to bear Israel’s sins for 390 days—one day for each year of their sin. After that, turn over and lie on your right side for 40 days—one day for each year of Judah’s sin." - Ezekiel 4:4-6

So Ezekiel had to lie on his left side for 390 days and his right side for 40 days. That is a lot of discomfort for the poor priest. I am not sure I would last more than 1 day, let alone 430 in total. Yet the remarkable thing about this incident is how Ezekiel obeys the Lords instructions even when they don't make sense to him.

The question is then put to us - how willing are we to obey the Lord's direction even when it doesn't make much sense to us? Do we only walk in obedience if we 'LIKE' God's suggestions, or are we willing to trust in God's high purpose and plans?

As we cast an eye into Holy Week, we think of how the disciples reacted to the news that the 'Son of Man must die and then be raised on the third day.' It made no sense to them whatsoever, yet in the end they saw the unfolding of God's plan.

Thought: Are you willing to trust in the wisdom of God's plans, even if you can't understand them completely?

Living in Grace

Friday 8 March 2019

The Watchman - Ezekiel 3

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When a person is given the task of being a "watchman" (or watch-person to be gender sensitive), their job is incredibly important. If they fall asleep at their station or fail to sound the alarm, then the lives of thousands of other people lie in the balance.

In chapter 3, Ezekiel is given the huge responsibility of being the spiritual watchman for God's people. Even though God doubts whether his rebellious people will listen to the warnings, God still wants Ezekiel to pass on the message - perhaps one or two will turn from their evil ways.

"But when I speak to you, I will open your mouth and you shall say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says.’ Whoever will listen let them listen, and whoever will refuse let them refuse; for they are a rebellious people." - v.27

This got me thinking about how much responsibility we need to take in "convincing" people to turn to Christ. There is definitely a part we must play - we need to sound the call; to be the spiritual watchmen. However, there is also a sense in which we need to leave the choice up to them. Some may ignore this invitation to follow Christ, but others could turn to Jesus. 

I find that the seasons of Easter and Christmas are always good moments to 'spread the message' of God's love and grace. While we have opportunities let us stand on the walls and send the call to those who need to hear of God's love and forgiveness.

Living in Grace

Thursday 7 March 2019

Hard hearted - Lent reflections with Ezekiel

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When Ezekiel received his call from God (Ezekiel 2), it was backed up with some clear instruction and very strong advice. God knew that his people had become very rebellious (the term 'rebellion' is mentioned 6 times), and that they were a "stubborn and hard-hearted people", but he still wanted them to hear the message.

I find it interesting that God said to Ezekiel - "You must give them my messages whether they listen or not" (v.7). Despite his deep frustration, God still wanted to give them a chance. It shows me the extent of his love for the people, and ultimately for us. Even if we don't listen to God today, he loves us enough to keep sending messages to us. It is God's longing that we would turn to him and be restored. 

Paul presents a question for us to think about:

"Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?" - Romans 2:4

Prayer focus:
Lord teach me to listen to your voice and not to harden my heart. Thank you for your patience with me - may your kindness change my heart, so that I may glorify you. Amen. 

Living in Grace

Wednesday 6 March 2019

Lent insights from Ezekiel

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The name Ezekiel means "God strengthens" or "The Lord is strong." It is this simple message that is the golden thread that runs through all the visions, imagery and proclamations of the 48 chapters of Ezekiel's book.

Each year I choose a book of the Bible to reflect on as part of my Lenten experience and this year I have felt drawn to Ezekiel. I don't fully know why as yet, but I intend to stick with him for the next 7 weeks and see what God has in store for me. If you are at a loose end for something to guide your prayers, thoughts and study, then I invite you to join me in thise process. You are most welcome.

In chapter one, Ezekiel shares the amazing vision God had given to him and it is from this vision that he unpacks his message for the Israelites living in Babylonian exile. What is most intriguing is that just when Ezekiel was preparing to become a priest (when you turned 30, you could become a priest - remember Jesus started his ministry when he was about 30?) he was taken captive and sent to a camp near the Kebar river, in Babylon (Ezekiel 1:1).

There is a message of hope hidden in this whole experience for Ezekiel. Although they had been taken away from their home - both their physical and spiritual homes - God was still very near to them. As we read in the 3rd verse, God's hand was upon him, even while they were in exile.

If you feel far away from 'home' today, may you remember that God is still there with you and may your hold onto the truth that 'God Strengthens' us when we need it most. When I am weak, God is still strong (to paraphrase Paul).

May your Lent journey be one of renewal, deep reflection, strength and hope.

"When I was thirty years of age, I was living with the exiles on the Kebar River. On the fifth day of the fourth month, the sky opened up and I saw visions of God. 2-3 (It was the fifth day of the month in the fifth year of the exile of King Jehoiachin that God’s Word came to Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, on the banks of the Kebar River in the country of Babylon. God’s hand came upon him that day.) - Ezekiel 1:1-3 (Message)

Living in Grace

P.S. I am asked almost every year as to the meaning of Ash Wednesday, so if you would like to know more about why it's important for us to mark this occasion, please read this.

Tuesday 5 March 2019

Insights from Saint Bernard

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Saint Bernard, who lived in the twelfth century, used to often to say to the monks in his care:
"However early they might wake and rise for prayer in their chapel on a cold mid-winter morning or even in the dead of night, they would always find God awake before them, waiting for them-nay, it was he who had awakened them to seek his face."

As I got up before sunrise this morning to go for my run, I thought about this quote. God had not been sleeping while I was asleep, but rather he was already awake and present with me long before I had fully opened my eyes. David spoke about this in Psalm 121:3-5

 He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand.

May the knowledge of God's constant 'alertness'  fill you with hope and peace today.

Living in Grace

P.S. - don't forget that the 6th March 2019 is Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of our 40 days of preparation for Easter. Lent is a special time to draw near to Christ.