The doorbell rang. Of course! Right when I’m in the middle of something!
I went to the door, looked through the stained glass, and knew immediately who it was. I could tell by the mid-length floral dresses. It was the Jehovah’s Witnesses–again.
I opened the door and they began their regular and rehearsed routine. But I cut right to the chase. “Thank you very much, but I don’t need information from anyone who denies that Jesus Christ is truly God.” They had the look in their eyes like they knew they were in for an up-hill battle.
The two ladies at the door couldn’t answer many of my points from Scripture about Jesus being true God and our true Savior who gives eternal life in heaven to all who believe (not just 144,000). They needed to bring in the cavalry for reinforcements.
I shared more truths from Scripture, but they simply wouldn’t listen. Finally, I made one last-ditch effort to wake them from spiritual slumber. They needed a huge wakeup call from the full force of God’s Law.
I smiled and calmly stated, “My name is Phil. I want you to remember that. I want you to remember so that on the Last Day when Jesus comes and you find out you were wrong, you will know that at least one person tried to tell you and warn you.”
Recently I have been writing about a particular topic–homosexuality. In a broader spectrum I have actually been writing about unrepentant sin of every kind–sinning against God without care, sorrow, or regret. The last two days these posts have been a hotbed of discussion and opinions. One of the more common things I have heard from people is this:
“It’s none of your business.”
“It’s none of your business what other people do. It’s none of your business what people do in the privacy of their own homes. It’s none of your business because it doesn’t affect you.”
But don’t get me wrong, I haven’t only heard this from people living the homosexual lifestyle or in favor of homosexuality. I hear this from the church prospect whose living situation isn’t pleasing to the Lord. I hear this from prescription pill addict who won’t admit he has a problem and is in danger of going to prison. I hear this all the time from many, many people. They all say the same thing:
“It’s none of your business.”
But listen to what the Lord said to the prophet Ezekiel 33:7-11:
7 “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. 8 When I say to the wicked, ‘You wicked person, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak out to dissuade them from their ways, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood. 9 But if you do warn the wicked person to turn from their ways and they do not do so, they will die for their sin, though you yourself will be saved.
10 “Son of man, say to the Israelites, ‘This is what you are saying: “Our offenses and sins weigh us down, and we are wasting away because of them. How then can we live?”’ 11 Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live.Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, people of Israel?’
It was Ezekiel’s job, his commission, his mission, and his ministry to be a watchman for the people of Israel. Just as a city watchman would stand on the city walls and warn of impending danger, so Ezekiel’s job was to warn the people of Israel about the danger of their sins.
Amazingly, the Lord even told Ezekiel that if Israel did not repent of their sins and Ezekiel had not warned them, then he would share in the guilt and responsibility of their sins!
Ezekiel was to be a mouthpiece for the Lord. Why? Because the Lord does not desire that people go to hell. The Lord wants people to turn from their sin and evil ways, to repent, to be forgiven, and to be in heaven. That’s what the Lord wants, and that’s what the Lord wants us to tell others.
Imagine you are at the Grand Canyon. What a beautiful sight! But suddenly, to your horror, you see a blind person walking around the rim of the canyon. The person is using a cane, so he has some awareness of the danger. But he chooses to walk in danger anyways.
It gets worse! Terribly worse!
You see that blind person walking toward the edge. Slowly but surely he nears that edge. Then, sadly, he even walks off and falls to his peril.
You stood by and watched the whole thing take place. But you didn’t say anything. Why? Because it was “none of your business.”
Was it really loving of you to “mind your own business”? Would you not say that though that blind person brought on his own death, you also shared in culpability because you said nothing?
That’s exactly what God told Ezekiel, and that’s exactly what God tells his people today. We are his watchmen. It is absolutely, completely, definitely our business what other people do because it our job, our commission, our mission, and our ministry to speak the Word of God to others.
No, we are not to stand in judgment of others. That’s for God to do. No, we are not to look down our noses at others as if we have never sinned and we are so much better. That’s neither realistic nor loving.
But rather we are supposed to be God’s watchmen carefully, clearly, and lovingly proclaiming the truth. Listen to the apostle Peter:
15 Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. (1 Peter 3:15-16)
God wants us to be prepared to speak his truth, to be his mouthpiece, to be his watchmen. Yet–so importantly–he tells us to do so with gentleness and respect. It is in love for the eternal salvation of those living in sin that we proclaim God’s message: “Turn! Turn from your evil ways!” (After we preach the message to ourselves first!)
Many have told me before, “It’s none of your business.” Well actually, yes it is. God has charged me as both Christian and pastor to be a watchman and to proclaim his truth with gentleness, respect, and love.
And besides, I care! I do not want to see people walk off the edge of the cliff!
So, fellow Christians, stand your watch. Care. Love. Proclaim God’s truth.
It is your business.
The Festival of Pentecost
The Lord Declares: You Will Live!
Text: Ezekiel 37:1-14
The foot bone connected to the leg bone, the leg bone connected to the knee bone, the knee bone connected to the thigh bone, the thigh bone connected to the back bone, the back bone connected to the neck bone, the neck bone connected to the head bone, Oh, hear the word of the Lord!
Ezekiel cried, “Dem dry bones!” Ezekiel cried, “Dem dry bones!” Ezekiel cried, “Dem dry bones!” Oh, hear the word of the Lord.
You’ve probably heard this popular children’s song before. Maybe you knew the anatomical lyrics before (The foot bone connected to the leg bone, etc.), but did you know the refrain and what the song is about? This old African-American spiritual is actually about the Old Testament lesson today, Ezekiel and the Valley of Dry Bones.
Many people have heard the song and some have heard about the story, but few understand it. Today we take a look at this incredible real-life story and hear an even more incredible declaration from the Lord: You Will Live. Read the rest of this entry
Text: Ezekiel 37:1-14
When Jesus was on this earth he often taught in stories. Stories have a way of making abstract ideas concrete in our minds. I could spend all day telling you the facts of the kingdom of heaven, how it is perfect and precious and loving but those terms will always remain abstract to a certain degree. Now if I say that the kingdom of heaven is like finding a buried treasure, if I begin to embellish that story by adding the details of the excitement felt when the treasure is first found, the lengths to which the finder will go to make the treasure legally his, then that story about the precious nature of heaven begins to resonate with people of differing ages, IQ’s and socioeconomic classes. Go ahead and read through the Bible, God has always had a knack for telling a good story. God’s stories are told for more than just entertainment, they are teaching stories. His stories are lessons for all people of all times, lessons that teach the real history of his loving plan to make this world whole again.
Read Ezekiel and you will read what I think are some of the most fascinating stories in the Old Testament. Ezekiel got to see some amazing things while he carried out his work as a prophet of the Living God and he recorded them so that we too could see and learn from the story of his life. The story from Ezekiel 37 is just one of those amazing stories; a valley of bones comes to life. Ezekiel watches as the inevitable effects of decay on a dead human body are reversed.
What’s the point of this God-given story? Right now we are dead in sin. Soon enough, because of our sin, we will all be dead in the ground. God promises that just as he took that valley of bones and put them back together, “I will put my Spirit in you and you will live.” At your conversion God sent his Spirit to put tendons, flesh and the breath of life on your dead spiritual bones. We are alive because of the love of God. We are spiritually alive and though our bodies may die God will make us whole on the last day and bring us to heaven.
A pretty cool story with a pretty cool application… In God we are made alive!
Prayer: Heavenly Father our sins have guaranteed that we will die, our bodies will decay and our souls ought to perish forever but your love has brought about a different end for us. Forgive us when we forget your tremendous love show to us in Jesus. Send your Holy Spirit into our hearts that we may be comforted in hope of the eternal heaven that awaits us. We will not remain in the grave but will spend all eternity proclaiming what you have done for us. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
Devotion Text: Ezekiel 34:11-16, 23-24
What does a king look like?
The fairytale notion of a king is well-ingrained in our minds from a young age. Kings are handsome and married to beautiful queens. They are strong like King Arthur who slayed dragons and conquered many lands. Kings are wise, powerful and wealthy. Kings command knights and armies.
Here, Ezekiel paints a very different picture of our Heavenly King. Ezekiel compares our Heavenly King to a shepherd.
Shepherds were outcasts in society, doing an important but dirty job. They were simple men, who owned little more than their staff and the cloak on their backs.
Ezekiel shows here that, as different as the two concepts are, the best kind of king is also a shepherd.
It seems weird to us, but the picture would have been treasured by the people of Israel. Ezekiel uses the name David here, not only because the Christ would come from the line of David, but also because David himself was also a shepherd king. David grew up in the fields and knew both the lowliness of the pastures and the grandeur of the palace. His father owned the sheep he tended and his brothers would inherit them.
Our Heavenly King, Jesus, set aside the riches of Heaven for a life of human poverty. He set aside all power to take on our weakness. He could have chose to be only our king, ruling with all power for all time, but he knew that
As our great shepherd king, Jesus is gathering us to himself to be our king for all eternity. The riches he set aside will be ours. The power he set aside he will share with us.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, as you reign over all as King of kings, continue also to shepherd us tenderly and closely as your dear sheep. Amen.
Devotion Text: Ezekiel 37:15-28
I just want to go home!
The little preschooler cries on her first day of school. Mom has always read her stories and played games with her, lovingly made her lunch and laid her down for her nap. Today is different. Today was fun–meeting lots of new friends, playing with great new toys and that teacher sure is nice–but now she’s tired and this is all so strange. She doesn’t want to be here, doesn’t want to eat here, doesn’t want to sleep here. She wants to be home.
God’s people knew that longing all too well. Once enslaved in Egypt, the Israelites fought to regain their homeland. Years later, it would be lost again–overrun by Assyrians and Babylonians. God’s people, once living in a land of milk and honey, would be deported to live as foreigners and slaves. They knew what it was like to long for home.
The prophet Ezekiel, living in Babylon, had a message for God’s people.
We are going home.
His message, like the rest of scripture, is still relevant today. See, Ezekiel wasn’t speaking only of a return to Israel when he spoke these words. His message from God was of an everlasting covenant, a covenant that extends to you and I through faith. God is going to gather his people from exile, fold them close to his breast, and hold them for all eternity.
So, this world is filled with a strange feeling for believers. Like that preschooler, we can see the little blessings that God has granted us here–the fun we have with friends and family, the material blessings. However, all of those blessings pale in comparison to the joys of heaven our home and God our loving Father.
Prayer: Lord, I want to go home. Help me see the blessings and temptations of this world as only temporary, which pale in comparison to the joys you have promised me. Free me from the shackles of worldly materialism and let me use my time and possessions here only in ways that will please you. Come quickly Lord Jesus, Amen.