the Call

Ezekiel Saw the Wheel, ca. 1944-1945

Ezekiel Saw the Wheel, ca. 1944-1945 (Photo credit: americanartmuseum)

 

“Stand up, son of man,” said the voice. “I want to speak with you.” The Spirit came into me as he spoke, and he set me on my feet. I listened carefully to his words. “Son of man,” he said, “I am sending you to the nation of Israel, a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me. They and their ancestors have been rebelling against me to this very day. They are a stubborn and hard-hearted people. But I am sending you to say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says!’ And whether they listen or refuse to listen—for remember, they are rebels—at least they will know they have had a prophet among them.”
Ezekiel 2:1-5 (New Living Translation)

There is a big message in this small text…

When God asks something of us, He gives us the means to do it!

Our callings are not to show God – or anyone else, for that matter – how well we can come through for God, but to show others how well God can come through in us.

Ezekiel is asked to stand up, but God doesn’t wait for him to gather up the strength to do it on his own. Instead, God puts His Spirit into Ezekiel and that Spirit puts him on his feet!

As God speaks words of calling/sending/purpose over you and me, His Spirit inside of us is already equipping us to follow through! He is the momentum and energy needed for us to start down the dusty road of ministry, and He will be the One to keep us going when the going gets rough (and believe me, the going is going to get rough).

What this short text says to us is this:

God’s call on my life isn’t about me – it’s all about God.

God’s  STRENGTH.

God’s  PLAN.

God’s  POWER.

God’s call on the lives of His people doesn’t require us to be anything other than fully human. Our flaws, our weaknesses, even what we might call our failures, somehow become irrelevant when we are filled with His Spirit and set on our feet to answer His call.

In this prophecy and call on Ezekiel’s life, the phrase ‘son of man’ or ‘mortal’ is used 95 times. According to Wesley’s Notes, this was done intentionally to keep Ezekiel humble. After all, he was standing in the presence of the glory of God, experiencing fantastic revelations connected to the work God was preparing him to do. If that had been me, I admit that I could easily have been thinking – WOW! I must be pretty special for God to choose me to experience this!

But Ezekiel wasn’t chosen by God for this great calling because he was superhuman or something awfully special. Ezekiel wasn’t chosen by God in spite of his humanity; he was usable because of it.

And his success, according to God, wouldn’t be measured by whether or not Ezekiel got the Israelites to listen to him and change their ways, but simply by letting them know that a prophet had been there, among them.

And what is a prophet? Someone who is so filled with the Spirit of God that when he opens his mouth, God speaks. And when she reaches out to help others, God’s touch is felt.

Let’s go and be prophets today!

EXPOSED! Baring All for the Glory of God

Bare feet running

Image via Wikipedia

How far are you willing to go with God? Where do you draw the line when it comes to doing things His way? At what point do you dig your heels in and refuse to take one more step down the path of His choosing?

Before you answer, I think you’ll want to hear this story.

Tucked into the pages of Isaiah in the Old Testament are a few verses that demonstrate just how far God might ask YOU to go in response to His call on your life…

Isaiah was a prophet of God. His role was often to communicate the truths of God to the Israelite people, and much of what Isaiah ended up sharing wasn’t “good news.” Rather, God used Isaiah’s voice among the people to issue warnings to them about their choices as individuals and as a nation. Probably not a popular guy, Isaiah likely spoke to less than receptive audiences as God strategically placed him among those who needed to hear what He had to say.

You know how that goes, though, don’t you? How easily we tune out the voices that push us beyond our comfort zones. How quickly we turn and walk away from those whose message is not what we really wanted to hear today. How powerfully our personal filter systems work to edit out the words that we aren’t ready to hear, tying the hands of the prophets among us.

God isn’t surprised by our lack of interest. HIS hands are NEVER tied!

Finding in Isaiah a boundless spirit of obedience, God made a STATEMENT WITHOUT WORDS that demanded the attention of Israel. God told Isaiah to:

“ ‘Go, take off your clothes and sandals,’ and Isaiah did it, going about naked and barefoot…” (Isaiah chapter 20)

For THREE YEARS! ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! As a sign of events to come, God used His creative license to capture the attention of His people by exposing the prophet Isaiah to the ELEMENTS of CRITICISM and MOCKERY – not to mention discomfort and embarrassment – for years.

God knew that there were some who would never listen to WORDS, so He gave them an illustration to look at instead.

I have to think that Isaiah was NOT the kind of guy who took the wearing of clothing lightly, making this experience one that HAD to be initiated by God (though I’m sure there were some who just shook their heads, thinking he had gone overboard with the “God stuff”).

Let’s be completely honest… The lives of faith that we lead today are pretty darn safe compared to the risks Isaiah took to be obedient in the work that God prepared for him to do. You might argue that Isaiah was a PROPHET, after all, and that the work of a prophet isn’t for everyone (and of course, you would be correct).

But until our small lives are exposed for what they REALLY ARE, how can we hope to display the glory of our risen Savior as HE REALLY IS?

Standing naked and barefoot in front of ANYONE is the surest way to bring us down to size; to humble us; to tell it like it really is. Only then, when others can clearly see that we aren’t “all that,” can we begin to represent the One who IS “all that” and THEN SOME!

The good news here is that God doesn’t make a habit of leading His people into obedience through the physical act of undressing (huge sigh of relief!), but He DOES lead His people into obedience in ways that will stretch us, challenge us and cause at least some discomfort inside of us.

If we aren’t being led by God to expose our humanity in ways that illuminate His divinity, I think we have to ask ourselves whether we’re being led by God at all.

There’s an old Amy Grant song that says:

“When the world begins to see you change, don’t expect them to applaud.  Just keep your eyes on Him and tell yourself, “I’ve become the work of God.” (I Have Decided)

God may be leading you down a path of humility and risk that, to the watching world, may look a lot like insanity. But you will be in very good company there, whether God chooses to make you an open book or a comic book.

Either way, it’s out of your handsyou’ve become the work of GOD.

God IS ‘The Plan’ (a PINK Tuesday post)

god

Image by the|G|™ via Flickr

They were gathered along shore and night was falling. The water pounded past the rocks at flood-stage pace, though their hearts pounding in their chests at the prospect of tomorrow was keen competition for the river. Thousands of men, women and children waited and some tried to sleep, if their anxious hearts would let them. What lay ahead for this tribe of desert-weary travelers was a mystery, save for the God who had brought them to this place.

Israel learned that their God often prompts action without there being any human plans in place (and with no guarantee that everything will come together as it should). As Richard Foster and Julia Roller write in “A Year With God: Living Out the Spiritual Disciplines”:

“The water was only parted once they had acted in faith and followed God. They could not count on any plans, because God gave them none. He only gave them himself. God was the plan.”

God was the plan when He rescued Israel from slavery in Egypt, and God was the plan when He held back the waters of the Jordan for His people to cross over into the land He had promised them. No marching orders were given. No map or what-to-expect pep talk were shared. No itinerary. No five-year plan.

There was only God.

In this new year, ‘our choice is either to trust our plans with all our heart or trust our God.’ (Foster & Roller)

That’s it.

Trust my plans, or trust my God.

Which is it going to be?

Some of us (including me) have been inclined more than once to make promises and plans and resolutions in January, fully intending to change the trajectory of our lives and maybe even clean up our act a bit in the new year. We know how long those promises are kept. We are experienced in failing ourselves, no matter how great the plan sounds on New Years Day. Even when we trust our plans with all of our hearts, we get burned (or eventually, we just burn out).

Because even if we stand a chance at controlling what we ourselves do, we are powerless to get everyone else to cooperate with our great plan.

Age is a great teacher, however, and I find myself captivated by words spoken to a frightened Israel by God’s friend, Moses, in Exodus chapter 14:

Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the LORD will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today you shall never see again. The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.

They did.

God parted the sea.

They crossed it safely.

Their enemies did not.

And freedom was found on the other side.

You are facing the unknown as you open the calendar to 2012. Some of us don’t know how long we’ll be able to keep the house. Some of us are pretty sure that the family we celebrated Christmas with last week will be smaller when we celebrate next year. Some of us have jobs that are iffy, bills that are piling up, and health concerns that threaten to take over our lives in the year ahead. Even the best-case-scenario among us is a big, fat question mark in this tumultuous economy that does not discriminate as victims are chosen. Yet in every situation and every circumstance, we have a choice.

Trust my plans, or trust my God.

Which is it going to be?

If Israel “had insisted that, before they left Egypt, scouts sent in advance report back that the route was clear, the Red Sea parted and waiting… They would have remained slaves.” (Foster & Roller)

And if you insist that, before moving into 2012, confirmation of your plans as “right” or “in God’s will” be provided before you make your move, well, you too will remain a slave to the illusion of control.

Freedom waits for us, my friends! This is GOOD NEWS! Stand firm and SEE the deliverance that the LORD will accomplish for you this year! He will FIGHT for you, and you need only be still. And wait. And watch.

Trust your God. And be set free.