August 2012


Prayer Focus: Mexico

Bible Reading: Ezekiel 13-16

Scripture

“‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will deal with you as you deserve, because you have despised my oath by breaking the covenant. Yet I will remember the covenant I made with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish an everlasting covenant with you. Then you will remember your ways and be ashamed when you receive your sisters, both those who are older than you and those who are younger. I will give them to you as daughters, but not on the basis of my covenant with you. So I will establish my covenant with you, and you will know that I am the Lord. Then, when I make atonement for you for all you have done, you will remember and be ashamed and never again open your mouth because of your humiliation, declares the Sovereign Lord.'”  (Ezekiel 16:59-63)

Observation

Today’s reading has four chapters long of God telling the people the shape and form of his wrath.  What he will do, when he will do it, and how many will survive.  At the end of it, in Chapter Sixteen, God says:

“Yet I will remember the covenant I made with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish an everlasting covenant with you.”

So much promise packed into this one sentence.  I wish that he’d unpacked it better for them, especially on the heels of all doom he was pronouncing.  In fact, it’s pretty easy to skim over it, while you are still emotionally throbbing from the terrible things coming.

But I don’t want you to miss it.  Let’s slow it down.

Application

The application for us is contained in that second part of the verse, “and I will establish an everlasting covenant with you.”  There are many places we can go in scripture to explain this covenant.  One of my favorite is here in Ephesians 2:22.  “And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”  I couldn’t possibly say it any clearer.

Prayer

Father God, you worked through time and circumstances to reveal your nature to us.  You labored over a faithless nation, and remained faithful in order to show us who you are, and how much you love us.

Prayer Focus: Mexico

Bible Reading: Ezekiel 9-12

Scripture:

8” You have feared a sword; so I will bring a sword upon you,” the Lord God declares. 12 Thus you will know that I am the Lord; for you have not walked in My statutes nor have you executed My ordinances, but have acted according to the ordinances of the nations around you.’”  (Ezek 11:8, 12)

Observation:

Here we have God, through Ezekiel, addressing Israel’s remnant. They thought that because they had not been carried off into exile that perhaps they were better than those that had been taken. I can imagine the leaders that were left getting together and saying, “Maybe if we keep a low profile and blend in, they’ll just forget about us and leave us alone.” They were afraid, and rightly so, but it seems as if they were afraid of the wrong things. They weren’t focused on getting right with God; instead they were more worried about the conquering nation. In the end, the very thing they were afraid of was going to be the end of them because they did not walk in obedience. Instead, they behaved just like everyone else instead of the people that God had commanded them to be.

Application:

Last I checked, no conquering army was going to pick me up and move me to the other side of the country, but I have had days when I felt like I had a target on my back. Those moments when all I want to do is hide in my office or go back to bed and start the whole day over. Days when I think, if I just keep a low profile and my mouth shut, things will be fine. The challenge is that God doesn’t call us to be silent, though there are times when we should be still and know that He is God. He calls us to be witnesses. Every time I’m presented with an opportunity to share Christ or mention His name and don’t take it, I wonder – is it fear? Did the moment come and go before I was even aware of it? Why? Where was my focus? What was I thinking about that kept me from recognizing the chance to make a difference? Israel had one task really – be different – follow Me – and they missed it repeatedly. Ultimately, it caught up to them and impacted generations.

Prayer:

Lord, we love You and desire to follow You with all our hearts. We know You don’t give up on us. Help us to not be so afraid of those around us and how they might react or perceive us that we neglect to walk in Your ways. May Your desires be ours, Your ways our ways, so that we will be obedient and walk with You, step by step, moment by moment, every day. In our weakness, Lord, give us strength. For Your Glory and the building of Your Kingdom, Amen.

Prayer Focus: Mexico

Bible Reading: Ezekiel 5-8

Scripture

In the sixth year, in the sixth month on the fifth day, while I was sitting in my house and the elders of Judah were sitting before me, the hand of the Sovereign LORD came upon me there. I looked, and I saw a figure like that of a man. From what appeared to be his waist down he was like fire, and from there up his appearance was as bright as glowing metal. He stretched out what looked like a hand and took me by the hair of my head. The Spirit lifted me up between earth and heaven and in visions of God he took me to Jerusalem, to the entrance to the north gate of the inner court, where the idol that provokes to jealousy stood. And there before me was the glory of the God of Israel, as in the vision I had seen in the plain. (Ezekiel 8:1-4)

Observation

God works in mysterious ways! As Cliff noted yesterday, Ezekiel found himself in some unusual circumstances. In this text, we see the Spirit lifting him between earth and heaven and in visions of God taken to Jerusalem. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction! Almighty God can and does do what He wants, when He wants, with whom He wants to accomplish His plans and purposes. In particular, prophets lived exciting lives, at times!

Application

Today, there are many who would gladly provide us with, uh, substances to help us astral project and experience visions and “trips.” Following God does not require potions to be exciting! His commands are challenging and are an effective cure for boredom! Experience tells me that the more committed we are to Him, the more radical the experiences. We may not be transported to another place, but it will be an unforgettable adventure.

Prayer

LORD, I’m glad You are not boring! While there are dry parts of the Scriptures, the Bible is certainly not boring. It would require all of today’s modern technology to even begin to make a movie based upon it…and more. I confess that I don’t understand all of the Bible—especially some of the more bizarre parts—but I’m grateful that you love me, know my name, and want a relationship with me. Thank You for surprises. Thank You for working in unexpected ways. Thank You for drawing us close to Yourself through trials, miracles, and other circumstances. Thank You for being so real and alive and active in our lives. Give us eyes to see and ears to hear what You are doing right now on our planet. Thank You for inviting us on Your mission. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Prayer Focus: Mauritius, Mayotte

Bible Reading: Ezekiel 1-4

Scripture

20 “If righteous people turn away from their righteous behavior and ignore the obstacles I put in their way, they will die. And if you do not warn them, they will die in their sins. None of their righteous acts will be remembered, and I will hold you responsible for their deaths.

21 But if you warn righteous people not to sin and they listen to you and do not sin, they will live, and you will have saved yourself, too.”

Ezekiel 3:20-21 NLT

Observation

Five years into the Babylonia captivity Ezekiel has a vision of the four living creatures that appear again in John’s vision in the book of Revelation.  He’s told to tell the people of Israel to repent.  He’s also told they might not listen.  Then he has to build a model of Jerusalem under siege and lie on his side and stare at it for 390 days.  Then turn over to the other side for 40 days.  All the while he can only eat bread that has been cooked over a fire of dung.  At least he was allowed to drink clean water.

All this was to show Israel their sin.

Application

I think I would have been asking, “Why me?”  Why does Ezekiel have to go through all this because of Israel’s sins?  And why does it have to be so gross?

Ezekiel is like Isaac.  The Lord told Abraham to sacrifice his son.  Just before Abraham brought down the knife the Lord said to stop.  At first it’s a strange scene until you realize that God did go through with the sacrifice of His son, Jesus.  In the same way, Ezekiel is sitting in for Israel for their sin.  Like Isaac, Ezekiel is not a perfect sacrifice, so this whole procedure won’t save Israel, it will just reveal that they need saving.

And the sad thing is they still won’t realize it.  They still have another 65 years of exile to get through.

Prayer

Lord, the prophets of old had it rough.  Today a lot of people call themselves prophets and they make good money doing it.  They often drive fancy cars and live in big houses, but the prophets like Ezekiel had to eat bread cooked over dung and lie on their side for 100’s of days eating rationed food.  It makes me think that we don’t understand what it means anymore to be a prophet, or to suffer for your name.  I don’t want to suffer, I’m not asking for that, but I pray that we will always consider what it means to be your people and never lose sight of you, Jesus.  Amen.

Prayer Focus: Mauritania

Bible Reading: Lamentations 3:37-5:22

Scripture

You, O LORD, reign forever; your throne endures from generation to generation. (Lamentations 5:19)

Observation

In the midst of tremendous suffering and judgment, there is clear acknowledgment that our God reigns…and will forever.

Application

In financial investing, one disclaimer is always included: past performance is no guarantee of future earnings. With God, He never changes. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. From generation to generation He remains wise, all-powerful, ever-present, all-knowing, and filled with love and compassion along with justice. It is great to know that the promises in the Bible and the descriptions of His character remain forever.

Prayer

LORD, I love You! I’m so glad that in an ever-changing world, You are the one constant, even more sure and certain than death and taxes! I praise You for Your faithfulness, from generation to generation. Thank You for loving me and my generation. Bless future generations with faith, hope and love. Rule and reign in my life, in my generation, and the next. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Prayer Focus:  Malta, Martinique

Bible Reading:   Lamentations 1:1-3:36

Scripture – 

Observation –

Application –

Prayer –

Prayer Focus: Mali

Bible Reading: Jeremiah 51, Psalm 137

Scripture:

By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept
when we remembered Zion.  (Psalm 137:1)

Observation:

The Israelites were captives of Babylon.  Exiled, some served in chains, some in forced labor, some in poverty at the edges.  God was not some tame idol they could carve from wood and and sit on a shelf.  He was a living being, who loved, got angry, fought protectively for them, was jealous.  He demanded that they follow HIM, not use him to serve themselves.  There was a bond, vows between them that neither party could dissolve.

Now that they’d hit their Rock Bottom, the people turned to one another in a unity of heritage.  After so long of a split, they had a common foe.  And they turned to God.

In this verse above the Babylonians commanded that the musicians, conscripted to service, play their harps and sing songs about Zion.  They contemptuously rubbed their noses in their captivity and worked at breaking their spirits.

This served only to unite them even more.  It caused them to remember their vows.  It reawakened in them the hope of a deliverer.

Application:

I know what it’s like to have all the supports knocked out from under you.  I know what it’s like to feel alone and treated with contempt.  Though my experience is nothing compared to what the Isrealites went through, I am aware of the rock-bottom feeling when you realize all the things you’d counted on fall away.

And maybe that’s the point.

God pulled them down to that rock bottom place to prove to them that they were chasing the wrong things.  The New Testament has a parable about a foolish man who built his house on the sand, and how it didn’t survive the storms.  As a nation, the people needed to build their house on the rock.  In the thing that can’t be knocked out from under them.

Most of us don’t realize what kind of ground we’ve built our foundations on.  Maybe it’s a faith built from what our parents gave us or from what was handy or near by.  The storms come (and they always do) and they reveal what we cling to.

I don’t often look directly into the audience of those who read this blog.  It feels safer to point the lens at myself, and work at a transparent growth.  But today I am asking you directly what you cling to.  What is your foundation built on?  If you find yourself at rock bottom, my heart aches for your circumstances.  It’s not a comfortable place to be.  But like the people of long ago in our reading, they found that when they were at rock bottom, they could be assured  that that ground would not shift and turn on them.  They remembered, the verse says.

Prayer:

Lord, I ask you to stand watch here at this blog, to speak directly to the people who stumble in and read.  You know their circumstances, what they cling to, and where their foundations are built.  For those who are at their rock bottom, Lord I ask that you show them that there is deliverance.  I pray that you increase their hope, and draw them unto yourself, like a mother does her child.  Rock bottom is the best place to meet you.  It’s the best place to start over.  Amen.

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