Friday, August 29, 2014

God's Ways are NOT Thwarted by Our Ways: Redemption is Extended

Scripture: Ezekiel 17:22-24
Thus says the Lord God, “I will also take a sprig from the lofty top of the cedar and set it out; I will pluck from the topmost of its young twigs a tender one and I will plant it on a high and lofty mountain. On the high mountain of Israel I will plant it, that it may bring forth boughs and bear fruit and become a stately cedar. And birds of every kind will nest under it; they will nest in the shade of its branches. All the trees of the field will know that I am the Lord; I bring down the high tree, exalt the low tree, dry up the green tree and make the dry tree flourish. I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will perform it.”
Insights: In today’s verses you will notice they are not actually in the parable.  These verses are found at the end of the explanation portion of the passage.  I mention them at this point because in these verses we find God’s redemptive hand in the midst of His judgment.  In these verses we see the true heart of our Lord and Savior.  God does not punish us because He is a capricious god, but in order to draw us back to Him.  Every thing the Lord does is for reconciliation.  The Lord is letting us know that He always has those who will respond favorably to His promptings and drawings.  It is my prayer that all people will hear and recognize the Lord’s redemptive work and respond favorably to Him.  The Scripture tells us to respond to the Lord today while salvation may still be found.  The Lord is drawing on us, let us respond favorably to Him.  May God bless you for your humble response to His grace.
1.  In what ways is the Lord extending His grace and redemption to you right now?
2.  Is there any good reason you can think of that would prevent you from receiving the Lord’s grace of redemption?

Prayer: Father, Your love constantly overwhelms me.  Thank You for your redemption which You extend to the world.  May we all respond favorably to Your grace.  Amen.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

God's Ways are NOT Thwarted by Our Ways: Judgment is Carried Out

Scripture: Ezekiel 17:6-8
Say, ‘Thus says the Lord God, “Will it thrive? Will he not pull up its roots and cut off its fruit, so that it withers—so that all its sprouting leaves wither? And neither by great strength nor by many people can it be raised from its roots again. Behold, though it is planted, will it thrive? Will it not completely wither as soon as the east wind strikes it—wither on the beds where it grew?”’”
Insights: In today’s verses we find the Lord’s judgment on king Zedekiah for his rebellion against the Lord’s will.  Remember, the Lord is the One who sent Babylon to come and pass judgment against Judah.  King Zedekiah, however, courted Egypt to partner with him against Babylon.  King Zedekiah did not realize, or better stated, refused to believe he was not rebellion against Babylon, but the Lord and His will.  As a result, the Lord sends Babylon back to remove king Zedekiah from his position.  Beloved, there are times in our lives in which we think we know better than the Lord.  When we choose to believe we know better than the Lord, we are setting ourselves up for discipline from the Lord.  It is a lot easier if we skip this step and just follow after the Lord and His ways.  I promise you, your life will be much richer and happier if you choose the Lord and His ways.
1.  Are you currently experiencing the discipline of the Lord in your life?
2.  How long are you willing to bear up under the discipline of the Lord before you repent and submit to the Lord’s ways?

Prayer: Father, I know my ways are not going to thwart Your judgments.  Help me, Lord, to not attempt to fight against You and Your will.  Let me walk in your grace.  Amen.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Our Ways are Foolish compared to God's Ways

Scripture: Ezekiel 17:6-8
Then it sprouted and became a low, spreading vine with its branches turned toward him, but its roots remained under it. So it became a vine and yielded shoots and sent out branches. “But there was another great eagle with great wings and much plumage; and behold, this vine bent its roots toward him and sent out its branches toward him from the beds where it was planted, that he might water it. It was planted in good soil beside abundant waters, that it might yield branches and bear fruit and become a splendid vine.”’
Insights: In today’s verses of the parable we see a second eagle come on the scene and this vine reach out to it and try to make a place for it to nest.  This second eagle represents the nation of Egypt.  This vine represents king Zedekiah.  What has taken place is Zedekiah has been given his reign from king Nebechudnezzar and instead of recognizing that this was all a part of God’s plan and His ways, Zedekiah attempts to change the situation.  He sends a delegation down to Egypt to seek a relationship with them and have them help him revolt against king Nebechudnezzar.  King Zedekiah also stops send his tribute to the man who put him in power.  Beloved, we are often times just like Zedekiah.  We are facing a situation and we don’t like how it looks or feels.  Instead of turning our face toward the Lord, we attempt to solve our problem all on our own.  We chase after everything the world tells us is the answer and I promise you it will always end in disaster.  Tomorrow we are going to learn the specifics to king Zedekiah’s choice to court Egypt and to rebel against Babylon.  Until then, let me encourage you to run to Jesus and not to solving your problem in your own power.  I want you to also think about one last thought regarding our suffering.  How long do we have to go through suffering for the suffering to be too long?  In other words, how long did Israel have to remain slaves to Egypt before it was too long?  How long did Joseph have to remain a slave and a prisoner before it was too long?  How long did Jeremiah have to remain in a pit before it was too long?  How long did Abraham have to wait for a son before it was too long?  We do not think with eternity in mind and the sooner we do, the better we are able to coupe with the difficulties in which we suffer.  Trust in the Lord always, His plans are just.
1.  Are you attempting to solve your problems your way?
2.  Have you come to realize the futility of such an adventure against the Lord and His ways?

Prayer: Father, forgive me and be gracious to me I pray when I choose to walk my own path for a time.  Let me sense Your Spirit’s calling on my heart and let me quickly return to You.  Amen.

Monday, August 25, 2014

God's Ways are Higher than Our Ways

Scripture: Ezekiel 17:1-5
Now the word of the Lord came to me saying, “Son of man, propound a riddle and speak a parable to the house of Israel, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord God, “A great eagle with great wings, long pinions and a full plumage of many colors came to Lebanon and took away the top of the cedar. He plucked off the topmost of its young twigs and brought it to a land of merchants; he set it in a city of traders. He also took some of the seed of the land and planted it in fertile soil. He placed it beside abundant waters; he set it like a willow.
Insights: This passage this week is a parable.  In today’s verses we see the eagle, which is Babylon, come and take a sprig and plant it beside waters.  The sprig is king Zedekiah of Judah.  Now the point I made in regards to this parable was that God’s ways are higher than our ways.  Judah thought they were at the top of their economic and social game when Babylon had invaded them.  They could not understand why the Lord had allowed this to happen.  Another prophet says of God’s word that God was going to do something in their day that if He had told them, they would not have believed.  That thing God did was to allow an evil and wicked kingdom, like the Babylonians, to take Judah into captivity.  None of this made sense to them.  Beloved, there are times in which we go through things that we don’t understand why God has allowed it to occur.  In those moments, we must come to accept the reality that God knows exactly what He is doing and He knows what is truly best for us to be shaped and molded into the image of Christ Jesus.  Trust the Lord and His plan.
1.  Are you currently facing a trail or difficulty that does not make sense to you?
2.  Have you begun to question whether God’s ways are right?

Prayer: Father, I know Your ways are always right and just, but sometimes I doubt and struggle in this world.  Lord, help turn my heart to You and to trust in Your amazing grace.  Amen.

Friday, August 22, 2014

All Ministry is at Times Fearful

Scripture: Ezekiel 2:6-7
And you, son of man, neither fear them nor fear their words, though thistles and thorns are with you and you sit on scorpions; neither fear their words nor be dismayed at their presence, for they are a rebellious house. But you shall speak My words to them whether they listen or not, for they are rebellious.
Insights: The final point this week is all ministry is at times fearful.  There is no command the Lord gives more than fear not.  Throughout all of the Old and New Testaments the Lord is constantly having to tell His children to not be afraid.  It is, therefore, very reasonable and accurate to say that at times in ministry it is fearful.  Three times in today’s verses Ezekiel is told not to fear.  I think it is pretty clear that Ezekiel was a little bit nervous about his assignment the Lord had just commissioned him to do.  The issue is not the fear.  Rather the issue is what are you going to do with that fear.  Are you one who will allow the fear to paralyze you?  Are you one that will turn that fear over to the Lord and be honest with Him and let Him know of your fears?  Or are you the great pretender and you act to the world as if everything is okay, but down deep you are full of ulcers because of your great fear that is eating you up from the inside out?  Beloved, we as Christ-followers need to learn how to turn our fears over to the Lord.  To allow Him to take those fears away and to empower us through His Spirit to accomplish His tasks as He sees fit.  It is not always easy, but it is always worth walking through our briars, thorns and scorpions for the Lord’s glory.  My prayer is you will this day allow the Lord to overcome your fears.
1.  Are you currently facing an assignment from the Lord that is causing you to fear?
2.  Have you taken your fears to the Lord?

Prayer: Father, in all honesty I often times get scared in the ministry.  In fact almost every time a share the gospel one on one I get scared.  You, however, Lord have never left me nor forsaken me.  You have always empowered me by Your Spirit and compelled me to walk in obedience.  I have not always chosen to walk faithfully with You, but when I have, it has always been rewarding and well worth all my personal anxiety.  Amen.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

All Ministry is Surrounded with a Choice

Scripture: Ezekiel 2:5
As for them, whether they listen or not—for they are a rebellious house—they will know that a prophet has been among them.
Insights: The fourth point this week is all ministry is surrounded by a choice.  Notice that phrase in today’s verse, “whether they listen or not.”  In that phrase there is the implication of choice.  In other words, these people have the choice to listen to Ezekiel’s message or they have the choice to reject his message.  The choice is before them.  The same is true for us as well.  Even down to our salvation, we have a choice.  We either will choose to receive Jesus as Savior and Lord or we will reject Him and spend eternity in the Lake of Fire separated from His love.  The same is true regarding ministry.  We will either choose obedience and walk with the Father in the areas He commands or we will rebel and walk outside of His will for our lives.  His love for us, however, always extends a choice.  Beloved, if the Lord is telling you to share the gospel with someone, you have the choice of obedience or disobedience.  Let me tell you from personal experience, obedience to the Lord is always better.
1.  Have you chosen to receive Jesus as your Lord and Savior?
2.  If you have, have you chosen to follow Him in regards to the ministry He has assigned to you?

Prayer: Father, it is my hearts desire to choose You.  I am so grateful You have given us each free will and the choice to choose You or reject You.  May my life reflect obedience to You and a desire to grow in Your grace.  May my choices bring You honor and glory.  Amen.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

All Ministry is Fought Against by Satan

Scripture: Ezekiel 2:3-4
Then He said to me, “Son of man, I am sending you to the sons of Israel, to a rebellious people who have rebelled against Me; they and their fathers have transgressed against Me to this very day. I am sending you to them who are stubborn and obstinate children, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God.’
Insights: The third point this week is all ministry is fought by Satan.  Now you may be reading today’s verses and saying to yourself, “I don't see Satan mentioned anywhere in these verses.”  You would be correct in a technical sense, but let me ask you a question.  Who do you think wants the people to be rebellious, revolting, obstinate and stubborn?  Do you think the Lord God wants this for His people?  The answer is a resounding, “NO!”  The advisory, the devil, is the one who wants to fight against the things of the Lord and to influence people to be this way toward the Lord.  It is important for us as Christ-followers to keep this third truth in mind when we are doing ministry.  There are days in which Satan is more volatile than others.  There are days he does not even seem to bother us as he is setting us up for his next onslaught.  No matter what tactic Satan uses always remember this reality: Satan in inconsequential in comparison to the Lord God.  God will allow Satan to attack us in order to mold and shape us into men and women who are completely dependent upon Him.  We ought not be surprised by these attacks.  If, however, you are anything like I am, then no matter how much head knowledge I have on this subject, I still get surprised by Satan and his fury against me.  Beloved, follow my words and not my example on this one.  Resist the devil and run to the Lord.  Let Him, the Holy One, strengthen and empower you in this battle against Satan.  The Lord God is your only chance for victory in each of these fights.

1.  Has the enemy assaulted your ministry in resent days?
2.  Are you allowing his evil tactics to hinder you from being obedient to the Lord?

Prayer: Father, I know the Satan hates You, me and Your redemptive plan to save humanity.  I know as a result of his diabolical hatred that he fights and attempts to destroy Your works.  Help me Lord to run to You and give me the courage to resist the devil.  O’ Lord, I truly do not want to be found as a rebellious individual against You.  Amen.

All Ministry is Empowered by the Holy Spirit

Scripture: Ezekiel 2:2
As He spoke to me the Spirit entered me and set me on my feet; and I heard Him speaking to me.
Insights: The second point this week is all ministry is empowered by the Holy Spirit.  Notice that Ezekiel was not able to stand up when he Lord commanded him until the Spirit of God entered him and set him on his feet.  Whenever God speaks with us it is overwhelming.  Think about it for just a moment—the Creator of the universe comes to you, a mere human, and shares His heart with you.  That thought alone overwhelms me.  I am grateful for the Lord’s love, patience and understanding as He deal with me and my slow ways.  In regards to the Spirit’s empowerment think about the disciples for a moment.  These guys were fleeing for their very lives at Jesus’ arrest, but forty days after Jesus’ resurrection the Holy Spirit came to permanently dwell within them.  These men are no longer the same after this encounter.  They are bold, powerful, and unafraid.  They speak before kings and rulers and do not denounce Christ Jesus.  These are the same men, but the Holy Spirit in them changed them forever.  This same Spirit changes us as well if we will let Him.  My prayer is you will humble yourself before the Lord and let Him work in and through you by His Spirit’s promptings.  May your surrender bring Him glory.

1.  Are you presently feeling the power of the Holy Spirit enabling you to do the work the Lord has commissioned you to do?
2.  In what ways are you able to testify to the Holy Spirit’s empowerment in your life?

Prayer: Father, thank You for filling me with Your Spirit.  It is only through you that I am able to accomplish anything in this world.  Help me to never strive to complete a task in my own power and strength.  Mold me into Your image and encourage me through Your convicting presence to always be dependent upon You.  Amen.

All Ministry is Initiated by God

Scripture: Ezekiel 2:1
Then He said to me, “Son of man, stand on your feet that I may speak with you!”

Insights: This week we are going to look at five truths about all ministries.  We are going to use Ezekiel’s call to ministry as our template for our understanding  of these truths.  The first truth we find about all ministries is that the Lord initiates the work.  Notice in today’s verse that it is God who starts the conversation with Ezekiel.  In other words, Ezekiel did not wake up one morning and say to himself, “Self, today is the day you are going to be a prophet for the Lord.  Now get up and get dressed and start saying, ‘Thus says the Lord!’”  God initiated the call.  This truth is in regards to everything the Lord God does.  Even at the level of salvation.  What does Jesus say about those who come to Him?  He says none come to Him unless the Father first draws them (John 6:44).  Beloved, I would challenge you to humble yourself and slow down.  Slow down from the hectic pass of our world and listen for the Lord to speak to you.  When He does, follow Ezekiel’s example and stand up and speak with the Lord.  Tomorrow we will look at the second truth found in all ministries from this passage.

1.  What ministry is the Lord initiating in your life?
2.  Have you come to realize the Lord’s initiation is always outside of your comfort zone?

Prayer: Father, thank You for allowing me to partner with You in ministry.  You always are at work and You initiate every activity that brings Your name glory.  May I be sensitive to Your promptings and join You in the work You have for me to do.  Amen.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

We Feel Jubilated

Scripture: Jeremiah 20:13
Sing to the Lord, praise the Lord!
For He has delivered the soul of the needy one
From the hand of evildoers.

Insights: There is one last emotional state I wish to share with you from Jeremiah’s experiences this week.  Jeremiah also felt jubilant as he worshipped the Lord.  Notice the extremes of Jeremiah’s emotions this week.  He started off feeling abandoned because he felt that the Lord had lied to him. He then concludes with praise and adoration to this very same God because he understands God is his only hope and help.  Beloved, we also need to get to this point in our walk with the Lord.  We ought to always be ready to praise the Lord.  Our hearts ought to be anxious to sing praise to the Lord.  It is vital for us to recognize that our souls have been delivered from death and hell only through Jesus Christ.  This reality alone ought to bring about a feeling of jubilation and exaltation to our Savior and Lord.  I encourage you to hold nothing back this coming Sunday in your corporate worship experience.  Worship the Lord with all you have and bring Him praise.

1.  Has the Lord’s involvement in your emotional well being brought you to the point of jubilant praise?
2.  Is your praise a contagious and inspiring display of worship?

Prayer: Father, You are the only One worthy of praise.  You alone transform my life to that of jubilant exaltation of You and Your greatness.  May you receive my praise and may it honor You.  Amen.

We Feel Encouraged

Scripture: Jeremiah 20:11-12
But the Lord is with me like a dread champion;
Therefore my persecutors will stumble and not prevail.
They will be utterly ashamed, because they have failed,
With an everlasting disgrace that will not be forgotten.
Yet, O Lord of hosts, You who test the righteous,
Who see the mind and the heart;
Let me see Your vengeance on them;
For to You I have set forth my cause.

Insights: Jeremiah, as we have seen throughout the week, has gone through a lot of emotions.  In today’s verses we see the Lord sweeping in as a dread champion who supports, defends and encourages Jeremiah’s heart.  Notice the last line of verse twelve informs us that Jeremiah’s total defense is found in the Lord.  He takes his case to the Lord because he knows the Lord is his champion.  We have the same dread champion that Jeremiah had if we have received Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.  He has amazing and unbelievable ways of encouraging our hearts.  He knows exactly what we need when we need it.  Beloved, one of our biggest challenges is believing what God has said to us.  Let me encourage you to hold fast the Lord’s promises in your life.  He will never leave you nor forsake you.  He will always be there to hear your cries and petitions.  Run to Him and let Him truly be your dread champion.

1.  In what ways has the Lord encouraged your heart recently?
2.  How might you be able to encourage others?

Prayer: Father, thank You for encouraging me.  Your words are truly a comfort to me.  Lord, allow the changes You produce in me to be an encouragement to others for Your glory.  Amen.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

We Feel Attacked

Scripture: Jeremiah 20:10
For I have heard the whispering of many,
“Terror on every side!
Denounce him; yes, let us denounce him!”
All my trusted friends,
Watching for my fall, say:
“Perhaps he will be deceived, so that we may prevail against him
And take our revenge on him.”

Insights: If you truly have received Jesus as your Lord and Savior, then you will walk in obedience to Him.  If you are walking in obedience to Him, then this world is not going to understand you.  Because the world does not understand you, it will attack you.  The degree of the assault may vary, but the attack will occur.  Jeremiah lost all of his trusted friends because of his loyalty and faith to God.  We in America are very blessed to have as many freedoms as we do have, but those days are quickly diminishing and I wonder how prepared the church is for such attacks from a pagan world.  The key to such assaults is to run to Jesus.  This movement toward Jesus does not mean the attacks will stop.  This movement toward Jesus does not mean He will rescue you from this earthly torment.  Rather, what it does mean is He will never leave you nor forsake you.  He will walk this journey with you and provide you with the strength and determination to remain faithful to your Lord and Savior.

1.  What attacks from the enemy have you recently experienced?
2.  Did you run to Jesus to be the defender of your faith during these assaults?

Prayer: Father, thank You for allowing me to run to You when I am attacked and wronged.  Grant me the ability to forgive those who have hurt me and help me to show and reflect Your love and mercy to them.  Amen.

We Feel Convicted

Scripture: Jeremiah 20:9
But if I say, “I will not remember Him
Or speak anymore in His name,”
Then in my heart it becomes like a burning fire
Shut up in my bones;
And I am weary of holding it in,
And I cannot endure it.

Insights: The first word is a powerful three letter word, “BUT!”  In other words, Jeremiah had felt as if God had abandoned him and the commission he had been given was too hard.  When you come to today’s verse, however, you see Jeremiah say, “But.”  God began to convict his heart and he came to the realization that if he did not speak and obey the Lord’s commands that it would kill him from the inside out.  Beloved, we all experience conviction in our lives if we are a child of the King.  Let me caution you, however, if you are being told by the Lord to do something, then you had better do it.  if you do not, you will experience the same kind of conviction that Jeremiah felt and it he thought he would die.  Now please do not misconstrue my words.  God is not some capricious god in heaven who sits there and waits for opportunities to cause pain and suffering on his children for their every act of disobedience.  God’s convicting presence is always restorative in nature.  He desires to have the best possible relationship with Jeremiah and He knows the best ways for this to occur is through obedience.  The Lord, therefore, places such an intense burden on him that he could not help but speak for Him.  May the Lord receive glory, praise and honor as a result of our obedience to His commission and conviction in our lives.

1.  Are you presently feeling the Lord’s conviction in your life?
2.  How are you going to respond to His presence and love?

Prayer: Father, thank You for convicting my heart.  Thank You that You never abandon me and for always drawing on my heart to return to You.  Your compassion and love are overwhelming.  May I never take for granted Your grace. Amen.

Monday, August 11, 2014

We Feel Abandoned

Scripture: Jeremiah 20:7-8
O Lord, You have deceived me and I was deceived;
You have overcome me and prevailed.
I have become a laughingstock all day long;
Everyone mocks me.
For each time I speak, I cry aloud;
I proclaim violence and destruction,
Because for me the word of the Lord has resulted
In reproach and derision all day long.

Insights: I incorrectly titled yesterday’s sermon The Emotional Cycle of God’s Pilgrims.  It ought to have been titled Some of the Emotions of God’s Pilgrims.  The reason is because the emotions we are going to look at this week are not dependent upon the preceding emotion.  Nor are all of the emotions that are mentioned this week the complete list of emotions we might experience.  These are just a handful of them.  In today’s verses we find out that Jeremiah felt abandoned by God.  He actually felt as if God had lied to him regarding his ministry and purpose.  The reason he felt this way was because the work was harder than he had anticipated.  Jeremiah is known as the weeping prophet because he wept for the people and also because he wept for himself and all of his difficult experiences.  No one wants to be made fun of or ridiculed and that is exactly what Jeremiah was experiencing.  In these moments of deep depression he felt as if God had left him alone in the midst of his pain.  We today may not be experiencing exactly what Jeremiah did, but many of us have experienced a time in which the Lord was silent and it felt as if He had abandoned us.  Satan uses our emotions against us a lot.  The truth of the Scripture is that God has never left us or abandoned us.  He is always with His own and He is their defender and fortress.  Beloved, even Jesus, in His humanity, felt as if God had abandoned Him when He cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me.”  We know, however, from the very Psalm Jesus was quoting that the Lord had not abandoned Him because we are told in that very same Psalm, “I will tell of Your name to my brethren; In the midst of the assembly I will praise You.  You who fear the Lord, praise Him; All you descendants of Jacob, glorify Him,
And stand in awe of Him, all you descendants of Israel.  For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; Nor has He hidden His face from him; But when he cried to Him for help, He heard (22:22-24).”  The point being, Beloved, is God does not abandoned His children, no matter what we feel.

1.  Have you ever experienced a time in which you felt abandoned by the Lord?
2.  Have you come to realize that the Lord has not abandoned you; rather, it only feels that way?

Prayer: Father, thank You for never leaving me or forsaking me.  You are always with me no matter what I feel.  Help me to not allow my emotions to dictate my actions and decisions.  Amen.