Posts Tagged ‘Ministry’

The Long Haul

I wanted to first thank God for providing the wonderful opportunity to speak at The Patient Experience Summit hosted by The Cleveland Clinic last week.  It was an amazing event in so many ways.  It did throw us back a week on our look at Daniel as a Hupomone man but we will pick it today.  Click here if you want to go back and read the first post in this series.

What are the characteristics of someone who stays in it for the long haul with God?  Specifically what can we see in Daniel’s life that contributed to the fact that he outlasted kings and empires?  The first thing that we are going to look at is hope.  Even though the word is never used in the text of Daniel, his hope in God shine’s through.  Consider this prayer of thanks after God revealed Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in chapter 2:

20Daniel said, “Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever, For wisdom and power belong to Him. 21 “It is He who changes the times and the epochs ; He removes kings and establishes kings ; He gives wisdom to wise men And knowledge to men of understanding.  “It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things ; He knows what is in the darkness, And the light dwells with Him.  “To You, O God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise, For You have given me wisdom and power ; Even now You have made known to me what we requested of You, For You have made known to us the king’s matter.”

Daniel makes it clear to Nebuchadnezzar who is the revealer of mysteries, not Daniel, but God.  “However there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will take place in the latter days.” Daniel 2:28  This must have seemed very strange to the king who was used to all of his wise men, magicians and sorcerers trumpeting their own skills of wisdom and divination.  Here was a young man who gave all the credit to his God.  Daniel not only held God as his personal hope, he proclaimed God to be the hope of all men.  Daniel stood with Peter in his faith and hope.  “…but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.”  1 Peter 3:15  Daniel’s gentleness and reverence in the proclamation of his hope is perhaps without parallel in Scripture.  There is no sense of derision or haughtiness in any of his dealings with his pagan bosses.  He is a great example to us in all of our dealings with both our fellow believers and those who have not found Jesus as their Lord and Savior.    Consider Daniel’s plea with Nebuchadnezzar to change his ways, “Therefore, O king, may my advice be pleasing to you:  break away now from your sins by doing righteousness and from your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor, in case there may be a prolonging of your prosperity.”  Daniel 4:27  The fact that the king did not accept Daniel’s plea is irrelevant to Daniel’s faith.  Daniel acted on the hope that was within him.  The seed of truth planted, God acts and in the end the king proclaims, “Now I Nebuchadnezzar, praise, exalt and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are true and His ways just, and He is able to humble those who walk in pride” Daniel 4:37

It is with this hope that Daniel walked bravely into the lion’s den.  It is a hope that he shared with his friends who walked bravely into the furnace.  It is a hope manifested both in the miraculous and the mundane.  It is a hope that does not rely on events or circumstances, “If it be so, our god whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king.  But eve if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”  Daniel 3:17-18.  Paul held this hope even as he walked a path that he knew led to death, “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come.  I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day;” 2 Timothy 4:6-8

Paul walked the Hupomone path to martyrdom, giving his life.  Daniel also walked the Hupomone path giving his life for the hope that he held in God.  In human terms they had very different ends but before God each of them lived the life of perseverance that He seeks for all who call on His name.

 

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So, here I sit, pondering bravery.  What does it truly mean to be brave?  I have greatly enjoyed reading every devotional from those who have shared.  As I read them, I say all too often, “yep, me too.”  There always seems to be a little nugget I take away.  Morning after morning, I sit here, listening to my children clicking away on their computers while they work on school.  I listen to my mom busily cleaning.  I listen to the giggles of Nisa Faith and her daddy playing, and I ask myself once again, “What does it mean to be brave?  Who are my heroes of faith?”  Each day has been a different answer, and a different way their actions were brave.  But when I look at each one, one thing I see they have in common.  They are human.  Yep, that’s it.  They are imperfect humans.  [Well, I can do that, correctly? :)]
Today, I think of Beth Moore.  If you have never heard or read her story about the hairbrush, it truly is one you should Google. (I will also post it in the FB BGB group).  It is an amazing act of bravery.  But what I love the most about the story is how incredibly human she was in it.  I think so often, we raise people up much higher than they should be.  Many times, I have felt people do that to me.  We look up to them and he/she seems to have it all together.  Wanna know something?  No one truly has it all together.  We are all walking a road.  No one walks their roads perfectly.  None, but Jesus.

 

I shared in my last blog about my struggle with fear.  Paralyzing fear at times that robbed me of peace.  As I read my own words, something hit me… flashes of brave moments throughout my life came pouring through.  Girls, I think it is time to stop getting hung up by our human moments.  We need to start looking through God glasses and start accepting what He says we are. So many of us can go through this long list of how we are not brave,  but being brave doesn’t mean we don’t have fear.  We are brave while being afraid and doing “it” anyway.

 

Last February, I had gone through one of my most difficult rounds of chemo.  I was extremely sick, truly wondering if I would live to see another day. Would my husband ever kiss my forehead? Would I have another deep talk with my teenagers? Would I be here to kiss the hurt away for my preteen? Would my newborn baby have me as her mother?  I remember lying in bed, crying out in my heart for God to help me.  I thought about Jesus calming the sea in Mark: “A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”  He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.” Mark 4:37-39

 

I begged God to calm my sea… then I remembered another story… much like this one only with a twist: Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them:“Take courage! It is I.  Don’t be afraid.” “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down.” Matthew 14:22-32

 

Did you see it? Jesus called Peter out of the boat with the waves crashing around him. Jesus did not calm the sea first. When they climbed back into the boat; that is when the wind died down.  Jesus touched my heart saying I am the God who will calm your sea, but I am also the God who will have you step out in your storm.  This was a moment that Jesus encouraged my heart to be brave.  He may calm your storm or He may call you out of the boat with the waves crashing around you, but regardless, He is always there to catch you.

 

Allana Guidry: Urban Missionary at The Lewis House in Toledo, Ohio. Attends Compelled Church.  Three Passions:  Teaching children praise dance, Teen Outreach and sharing the Truth about God’s love for us with all who will listen.  (Facebook)

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This is our first Newsletter since the closing of The Lewis House.  Below is a link to the PDF version with live links for donations and contacts.

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Change is a part of the Christian walk.  Some change is sudden and some change comes slowly.  Last Friday our whole world changed but our hearts did not.  As The Lewis House website is no more I wanted to post this here.  The Lewis House is gone, a sudden death, and our lives have been turned upside down since this was recorded but our heart of ministry continues unchanged, building the Kingdom of God one relationship at a time…

 

 

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“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever”

Hebrews 13:8

 

The fancy word for today’s topic is “Immutability”.  That is the last time you will see it in this post.  However the bible tells us that in a world of change biblical perseverance calls for a unique constancy from Christ Followers.  God declares his own character when he tells Moses that “I am that I am”.  This Hebrew word, which became the very name of God to Israel, declares His eternal constancy.  It is here that we find one of the prime qualities of biblical perseverance for the believer.

29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren ; Romans 8:29

It is only by this miraculous transformation process and the submission of our will to His will that we begin our journey to biblical perseverance.  So then do we  live in the same place, do the same things, never change what we eat or do for the rest of our live?  Clearly not.  We do not even have that kind of control on the circumstances of our lives.  Change is introduced to our existence every day, every hour and every minute of our lives here on earth.  This is where we see that biblical perseverance is a spiritual gift not a physical effort.  It cannot be faked or practiced by human effort.  It is manifested in the lives of those who serve and have a personal relationship with God.

Consider Daniel.

3 Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, the chief of his officials, to bring in some of the sons of Israel, including some of the royal family and of the nobles,…6 Now among them from the sons of Judah were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. 7 Then the commander of the officials assigned new names to them; and to Daniel he assigned the name Belteshazzar, to Hananiah Shadrach, to Mishael Meshach and to Azariah Abed-nego. Daniel 1:3,6

Talk about change.  As a young man Daniel was ripped from his home, dragged half way across the known world and even had his name taken away.  This Babylonian tactic was specifically designed to destroy perseverance.  Do not be deceived the Enemy is out to destroy your perseverance.  He wants you to come out from under the covering of Christ where he can have a clear and open shot at you.  The Babylonians did everything they could to shake Daniel’s identity as a child of God. But what happened.

8 But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the king’s choice food or with the wine which he drank ; so he sought permission from the commander of the officials that he might not defile himself.  Daniel 1:8

In the midst of all of this change Daniel did not change.  It is important to note that Daniel remained under Jesus Christ in every aspect of his behavior.  This brings us to another important aspect of biblical perseverance.  It expresses at all times the character of God.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control ; against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. 26 Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.  Galatians 5:22-26

Biblical perseverance is never rude or arrogant.  Perseverance that does not fall in line with His Word is not biblical and is not godly.  When we truly walk in biblical perseverance we are like a lighthouse in the storm.  We go on to read:

9 Now God granted Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the commander of the officials,…17 As for these four youths, God gave them knowledge and intelligence in every branch of literature and wisdom ; Daniel even understood all kinds of visions and dreams  Daniel 1:9, 17

But let there be no mistake.  Satan HATES biblical perseverance and he believes that he can destroy it.  Daniel continued to face opposition throughout his lifetime.  Many other saints both biblical and historical persevered to martyrdom.  Regardless of the physical outcome the Spiritual truth remains the same and the lighthouse of faithfulness shines in the darkness.

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Faith Gun

We recently played a family game called “Snake Oil”.  The premise is pretty simple.  You have a hand of 6 cards and you need to combine 2 of them to create a product which you the “sell” to the player who is “it” and has a particular profile based on the buyer’s card.  My now second youngest daughter (yes I typed youngest first) needed to sell a product to a soldier and this is what she came up with, The Faith Gun.  She pitched it as a weapon which always hit the target you were aiming at as long as you believed.  Well as comments from my children often do, it got me to thinking about this product and its application to our lives as Christians.

“For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.”  (2 Corinthians 10:4)

Paul consistently describes the Christian life in military terms.  We are in a battle and the enemy is powerful.  “Be if sober spirit, be on the alert.   Your adversary the Devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”  (1 Peter 5:8 ) However God does not leave us un-equipped and unprepared for this battle.  The key is that we need to avail ourselves of the training and weapons at our disposal.  So let me introduce you to the Faith Gun.

1.  The Faith Gun becomes instantly available to every born again Christian when they place their belief, trust and obedience in Jesus.

Our spiritual arsenal becomes instantly available when we receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit as a result of our decision to become a follower of Jesus Christ.

 In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation – having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who isgiven as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.   (Ephesians 1:13-14)

2.  Proper use of the Faith Gun requires submission and training.

There is only one training manual for the Faith Gun, The Bible.  However there are many resources that God places in our lives as we develop maturity and skill as Soldiers of Christ.

” It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers,to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up  until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature,attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.  From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”  (Ephesians 4:11-16)

“Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you–guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us” (1 Timothy 1:14)

It is up to us to take advantage of all of the training resources that God provides, measuring each one by the Manual.  This of course requires that we know the Manual, read, study it, make it a part of our lives. As we do this in submission to the Holy Spirit and living in the presence of God the Faith Gun becomes an extension of our lives.  Snipers will tell you that becoming “One with the Gun” is a vital part of hitting difficult targets.  It is even more true in our Relationship with God.

Faith Gun2

3.  To be effective the Faith Gun not only hits the target, it chooses the target.

Unlike weapons of human manufacture, the Faith Gun not only allows the Soldier of Christ to hit the target, it chooses the target to hit.  This is perhaps one of the most difficult concepts for us to swallow.  It violates our need for control.  It violates our need for direction.  Yes the world teaches that we need to be “one with the gun” so that we can accurately control and direct it.  God teaches that we need to be “one with the gun” so that it can control and direct us.  It is when we do this that God reveals the wisdom of the world to be foolishness. “For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” (1 Corinthians 1:19)  As we become more mature in our handling of the Faith Gun this is of even greater importance.  One of Satan’s favorite tricks is to provide a target rich environment.  One might think that the more targets their are the easier they are to hit but for the undisciplined this far from true.  I am reminded of a hunting expedition that I was on in the hills of Pennsylvania.  I came upon a single doe standing broadside to me at about 30 yards.  I carefully aimed and brought her down with one shot.  At that moment I realized that I had walked into a whole group lying in the brush as they stood and froze for a moment.  After easily taking the first doe I tried to take another unloading the rifle in a target rich environment of 12-15 deer, and didn’t hit anything.  In our target rich environment allowing the Holy Spirit complete control is crucial in order to accurately strike the targets that God has directed us to.

4.  The Faith Gun selects its own ammunition, perfect in every way to impact the target.

The Faith Gun only come in one caliber, LOVE.  It is within in that caliber that God provides many types of ammunition.  Choosing the correct type of ammunition for the intended target is far beyond our ability.  How sad it is when we actually allow the Faith Gun to choose the target but then go off half cocked loading our own choice of ammunition.  We have many “reasons” for doing this, “I am good at this”, “I know what is needed”, “All the books say…”.  Volumes have been written, preached, rewritten and re-preached on this subject so I am not going to try to tackle all the different types of ammunition available.  I will give some general guidelines.

*Under no circumstances will God call you to use ammunition that is incompatible with the caliber of our Faith Gun.  “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.”  (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)  I could appropriately quote this chapter in its entirety as a guide to the ammunition appropriate for our Faith Gun, but you know what go ahead and read it for yourself.  The results of using incompatible ammo can be devastating.  When we try to slip ammunition containing hate, greed, jealousy, disdain, selfishness or fear into our Faith Gun the resulting explosion can scar us and those around us in horrible ways.

*It would be wonderful if God would always give us clear miraculous guidance in the appropriate ammunition for every situation.  I know that pastors in particular wish that this was true.  It is in these cases that unity with Scripture becomes all important.  In order to achieve this you have to KNOW the Word of God.  This involves reading it. (Hmmm…is sarcasm an appropriate ammunition…Paul used it so….).  In these cases I would suggest that utilizing the ammunition that best expresses the intent of the caliber is the best choice.  The Bible is a remarkable document.  When you measure situations against the whole of Scripture the Holy Spirit will often make clear what the best ammunition is to achieve God’s intent.

5.  Ultimately the Faith Gun operates to and for the Glory of God.

This point dove tails with the idea that the Faith Gun chooses its target.  We often desire and I have even heard it preached that the Faith Gun is here for our protection and comfort.  Scripture is clear that as Soldiers of Christ we operate for the will and Glory of the Father.  We operate in suffering, in poverty, in wealth, in comfort, in every possible human condition for the Glory of God

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Detour Ahead!  How I have dreaded that sign. Fortunately with today’s smartphone and GPS technology it does not carry the same fear factor that it did when I was younger.  In fact today with a little bit of effort we are able to avoid detours altogether and if we do get stuck in one with a few simple screen touches we no longer have to rely on the often sparsely placed detour signs and can map out our new path to our destination.  However we have not managed a technology that will predict and map out alternative routes to our goals when we hit those life detours that take us away from path of life that we have planned.

1de·tour

noun \ˈdē-ˌtu̇r also di-ˈtu̇r\

: the act of going or traveling to a place along a way that is different from the usual or planned way

: a road, highway, etc., that you travel on when the usual way of traveling cannot be used

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/detour

I have been struggling with this topic for some time now.  I originally thought I would be talk about heavenly detours.  How God diverts our path for his purpose and we just have to kind of ride along.  That is certainly how I felt about this latest chapter in my life.  As I looked at the scene pictured about today (Wednesday October 2, 2013), I realized how different my life was just 9 months ago.  January 2nd Nisa Faith had just joined our family after a 10 year Odyssey of losses, tears and suffering.  Allana was feeling a little ill but we were certain a quick trip to the OB, some antibiotics and we would be good to go.  Ready to run that path that seemed to be so obviously stretched out ahead of us, a Spring and Summer of ministry at The Lewis House, working with Compelled, CityLight and our other partners to spread the Love of God.  What a difference 3 days can make.  3 short days and I would be on perhaps the greatest detour of my life, or would I.  God has been really battering me on this subject, because I truly have felt like this was exactly that, a detour.  When in reality it is right on course but instead of my course, or Allana’s course or TLH’s course, it IS GOD’s course.  When we view these events in our lives as detours, we detract from God’s omniscient role as master planner of everything.  I want to step lightly here because I am not writing doctrine on God’s sovereignty nor am I suggesting that God gave this horrible disorder to Allana, or anyone else.  I think that perhaps my concept of our situation whether thought out or not was of God looking down and saying, ” Oh shoot!  Allana has Leukemia, well I guess I can use that for My Glory ’til we can get things back on course.”  There we go, just a heavenly detour and I am so tempted to detour here into writing the very doctrinal statement that I said was not my intent.  Thank God for the delete button.  However what I have found is that God does not take detours.  Allana and I are not on some end around that will eventually get us back on the path that God has for us.  We are on the path that he has carefully laid out for us.

Jeremiah 1:4-5

4 Now the word of the LORD came to me saying, 5 “Beforeformed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

No detours for God’s consecrated, God’s appointed, God’s anointed.  There is a point in every Born Again Believer’s life that he or she makes a choice to change direction.  However this is not a detour because not only the route changes, the destination changes.  The Believer is no longer on a pathway to eternal separation from God, to hell, but has turned to a path leading to the mind of Christ.  There is an intentional, continual seeking of God’s presence.  It harks more the etymological root of the word than our current usage.

French détour, from Old French destor, from destorner to divert, from des- de- + torner to turn —

First Known Use: 1738
To turn from, this is the very heart of repentance and salvation.  There is one major difference when we submit ourselves to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ there is not just a temporary course change.  There is a change of destination, and I don’t just mean heaven.  Every man has in his mind a course and destination.  What the destination will be is determined by our core values.  Some pursue riches.  Some pursue power.  Some pursue pure evil.  Some pursue the greatest good.  Honestly some pursue nothing at all, seeking to have no destination at all but simply seeing life as riding out each circumstance to the best of their ability only to find that this is in itself pursuing a course to a destination.  When one comes into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ all of  that changes.  “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  Romans 8:28  Suddenly we are on a new course.  It is not one of our own creation but one that God set into motion before the world was created.  This is the confusion.  We conceive of where God has us headed and when things don’t turn out we see it as a detour.  This brings frustration just the same way that an unexpected detour on the road unsettles us.  However when we give God the glory he is do, this evaporates.  “In his heart a man plans his course but the Lord determines his steps.” Psalms 16:9  It is the assumption that God has it all under control that allows to continually apply His word to our situation. “I have considered my ways and have turned my steps to your statutes.”   Psalm 119:59.  It is in this place that God affirms us even in the midst of the storm.

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I just went back and read my Christmas Eve post on Nisa.  This is a quote from that post:

We have a mighty heavenly Father who cares for us in ways that I cannot begin to fathom.  He loves us in a way that is so far beyond my understanding that I only touch the edges of what AGAPE really means!

Several weeks ago while in prayer God gave me the name Nisa Faith.  Indeed she is a miracle of faith, not the simple faith of a single prayer or even the cry for healing but the faith of a 9 year journey.  She represents to us the faith of Abraham as he led his entire family to Canaan.  She represents the faith of Joseph as he waited in slavery, in prison for God to act.  She is even now, yet in the womb that miracle, an incredible act of God.

I did not know how real it was going to have to become in just a few short day.  I did not know that the flu symptoms that my beautiful wife was having were not the flu at all.  10 days later Allana was in the hospital in a battle for her life with a deadly disease known by its acronym ALL chromosome positive; Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia Philadelphia Chromosome positive.   Allana’s CaringBridge site follows the details of our experience.  Throughout this time we have had ups and downs.  I have faced the prospect of losing her and I have faced the deep pain of watching her suffer in ways that I could not even have imagined.  Yet the statement that I made 8 days after Nisa’s birth remains the truest thing in my life:

We have a mighty heavenly Father who cares for us in ways that  I cannot begin to fathom.  He loves us in a way that is so far beyond my understanding that I only touch the edges of what AGAPE really means!

I truly believe that it is this core belief that has opened up our lives for the miraculous interventions that have followed us throughout this experience. It is when we tie our relationship with God to our circumstances that trouble occurs.  If we accept that when bad things happen God somehow has diminished his love for us then our spiritual life will be a roller coaster of highs and lows, undermining our ability to grow spiritually.  The core statement then becomes:

We have a mighty heavenly Father who cares for us when life is good.  He loves us when I understand and can grasp the good things that he gives us.

I have recently been reading Ezekiel.  My heart broke for him as I read the simple verse in the middle of chapter 24. 

 “Son of man, with one blow I am about to take away from you the delight of your eyes. Yet do not lament or weep or shed any tears.”

It is with that statement that God informs Ezekiel that his wife is going to die.  We are not given any of the back story or the circumstances, just that as a part of his office as prophet of God, as a part of his calling to serve the almighty, as a part of her calling to serve Him, his beloved wife was going to die.  Two things we need to understand here.

1.  Ezekiel was not told by God to just ignore the death of his wife and not to mourn for her.  The culture of the day and even through to today in many cultures in the region, called for very loud and public mourning.  We know that in Jesus day wealthy families would hire professional mourners to make the process as loud and public as possible.  It was this public and plastic mourning that God called Ezekiel to ignore.  “17 Groan quietly; do not mourn for the dead. Keep your turban fastened and your sandals on your feet; do not cover the lower part of your face or eat the customary food [of mourners].”   This was extraordinary behavior for a recognized public figure.  God calls us as His elect to extraordinary behavior but he does not expect us to be wooden soldiers.  This mourning would be between God and Ezekiel.  And while the text does not explicitly say so, I believe that the phrase, The Word of the Lord came to me… is an indication of the miraculous intervention of the Holy Spirit.  Dabar is the Hebrew equivalent of Logos.  I am not going to jump into a word or phrase study here but I want to make the point that God did not leave Ezekiel hanging.  Ezekiel did not have the benefit of the indwelling Holy Spirit that we as New Testament believers enjoyed (He does note that the Holy Spirit entered him at one point and helped him to stand (Ezekiel 2:2).  Still “The Word of the Lord” was with him.  Ezekiel’s continued obedience and interactions with God’s people are a testament to his continued faith in God’s love for him.

2.  Ezekiel’s experience was not in vain.  When the Spirit of God moves things happen!  We may not understand or see the full scope of what God is doing but he calls His people to extraordinary behavior in extraordinary circumstances for His glory and to extend the purposes of His love for all mankind.

19 The people said to me, “Will you not tell us what these things that you are doing mean for us?” 

When God’s people do the extraordinary within the context of the extraordinary people notice.  And honestly what we do within the context of the ordinary often appears extraordinary to those who do not have a relationship with God.  We are not often told the impact of the words spoken by the Old Testament prophets.  I have to believe that while the national fate was sealed by the word of God individuals were impacted by the message and turned their faith to Him even as everything around them fell apart.

3.  It is in our relationship with God that the extraordinary occurs not out of ourselves.  It was the Holy Spirit through Ezekiel who defied the cultural norms to bring God’s message to the people of Israel. ” …for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” 2 Peter 1:21  Ezekiel’s response to this catastrophic even in his life is a direct response to the Holy Spirit.  I can assure you that his heart was breaking even as he rejoiced at the work of God being done in and through his life.  Some day I believe we will be able to talk to the individuals impacted by the ministry of Ezekiel even as the nation fell apart and  fell into exile.

Whatever circumstances one faces the opportunity for the extraordinary exists for all of the followers of Jesus who have the Holy Spirit as an integral part of their lives.  It is interesting that the less that we attempt to be extraordinary and only seek to be obedient, the more extraordinary things God accomplishes through us.

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Wow I have not been here in too long.  As you can imagine other things have been keeping me busy.  This will be redundant for many of you but I wanted to add this wonderful Guestbook post from our CaringBridge site.  It is a great reminder that we have a Living God who walks on water in the worst of storms!  Our Spirits rejoice even as our flesh weeps.  God is moving and we are excited to see the results when the storm is stilled.

A big thank you to Karen for allowing me to share this in a more public way.

 

June 27, 2013 6:50pm

Hi Sam and Allana,

I am so sorry, my last entry got deleted except for the first line.  You don’t know me but I went to Israel on a Missions trip with your sister Beth in 1983.  I have had no contact with her since then until she befriended me on facebook yesterday. I went to her wall and saw your caringbridge link there, and while working all night, read the entire thing.  I have no words except to tell you how much my flesh aches for you and all you are going through, and yet my spirit rejoices at how God is moving in you and through you to reach others in so many ways.  I have been faltering in my faith over these past few years and just really struggling…trying to “figure out” who God really is and what Christianity is all about.  As I read the words in your entries, God took ahold of my heart in a way that I haven’t experienced for a long time.  I wish I had a better way to express it to you….but adequate words escape me.  Thank you for your faith, your love for Him, your humaness, and your willingness to share this hard, hard journey He has you on.  I will be praying continually….May you continue to feel His presence and peace during this difficult time.

Karen Bobalik

Here is the link to our CaringBridge site for any who may not have it.

http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/allanaguidry/journal

 

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