Category: Ezekiel (Page 2 of 4)

Turn and Live

“Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the sovereign Lord. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?” ~Ezekiel 18:23

JesusHealsInCrowdThe Bible tells us God wants all men and women to be saved and to come to a knowledge of his truth. And our God doesn’t just make that change possible, he makes it his top priority. He’s so committed to your change, he gave up everything to come here in person to show us what it looks like.

The sinful woman at the Pharisee’s house where Jesus is eating is a prostitute. She’s a woman of ill reputation. Exchanging sex for money. Maybe she had terrible parents. Maybe her husband died. Maybe at the time she saw no other way. She’ll be a sinner her whole life, right? Nobody will give her another chance. She’s a hooker! But she comes to Jesus. She kisses the Christ and anoints him in a selfless, dependent act of true repentance. And Jesus says to her, “Your sins are forgiven. Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.” And she leaves that dinner party a changed woman. The Son of God has given her life. Christ Jesus changed her.

JesusHealsBleedingWomanThe man on the side of the road was born blind. Blind since birth. Really bad luck. He’s going to be a beggar his whole life. It’s awful. He’s blind! Jesus’ disciples ask, “Why is this guy blind? Somebody sinned here. Was it him or his parents?” And Jesus says, “Nobody sinned. This happened so the work of God can be displayed in his life.” And Jesus heals him. Jesus gave the man his sight. The man says, “This is from God!” Jesus changed him. He gave him life.

As soon as they submit, as soon as they let go, as soon as they come to Jesus and give their baggage to the Lord, God in Christ changes them. He changes everybody.

The naked demon-possessed guy. No name. No clothes. No home. No family. No community. No nothing. Satan had taken from this guy everything it means to be made in the image of God. He’s been conditioned by his village to believe he’s destined to live among the dead. But he comes to Jesus. And he’s changed. He’s wearing clothes. He’s in his right mind. He’s got a home. He has a family, a community. And he’s got a mission.

JesusHuggingZacchaeus was a selfish, crooked tax collector, hated by the people of God and an outsider in his own town. But Jesus calls him and now he’s giving half of everything he owns to the poor. He’s repaying the people he stole from four times the amount he took and he’s being called a son of Abraham by the promised Messiah. He’s changed.

The Samaritan woman was the town sleaze. Now after an encounter with Jesus she’s the town evangelist. She’s changed! Saul was the Church’s biggest enemy, the killer of Christians. But just a little talk with Jesus and Paul is the greatest writer and preacher and church planter in history. He’s changed! The Philippian jailer was beating Silas. Now he’s washing Silas’ wounds and cooking him dinner. He’s changed!

“Am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?” ~Ezekiel 18:23

If you’re an alcoholic. If you’re a mean-spirited person and your overly negative and critical because that’s the way your dad was. If you’re addicted to pornography and you have been for almost 20 years.

You can change. Jesus says, “I am the bread of life. Come to me and you’ll never be hungry again.”

If you’re arrogant or selfish because everybody in your line of work has to be that way. If you’re an adulterer. If you use illegal drugs. If you’ve tried to quit six dozen times but you keep sliding right back in and there’s nothing you can do about it.

You can change. Jesus says, “Come to me. Come to me and drink living water.”

If you’re a liar and you’ve always been a liar. If you’re divisive. If you’re a racist because that’s the way things were back then and that’s the way you were raised. If you’re a cheater. If you’re a thief. If you’re abusive, physically or verbally. If your life is not what you planned it to be.

You can change. Jesus says, “Whoever comes to me, I will never drive away.”

You can change.

But it’s not going to be an intellectual deal. You’re not going to change because of rational arguments and logic. You’re going to have to experience it. It’s going to take an encounter with the crucified and risen Son of God. You’re going to have to turn to the One who died for you, you’re going to have to submit to the One who calls you. You’re going to have to give yourself fully to him. Let his holiness transform your conscience. Let his truth nourish your mind. Let his beauty purify your imagination. Let his eternal purpose shape your will. Let his limitless love melt your heart.

“Rid yourself of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die? I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!” ~Ezekiel 18:31-32



The Hope of Change

JesusInvitesDon’t tell God you can’t change. Don’t tell anybody you can’t change. Don’t believe it about yourself: that you can’t change.

“The fathers eat sour grapes and the children’s teeth are set on edge.” ~Ezekiel 18:2

God’s people are going through a really tough time. Most of Judah had already fallen to the Babylonians and a lot of the people had been captured and scattered throughout Babylon. Jerusalem was under siege and things were getting worse. And they blamed everything that was happening on their parents. Things are really bad and there’s nothing I can do about it.

And maybe we do similar things. My life hasn’t turned out the way I planned. My finances. My marriage. My sins. My life is a mess, it’s always been this way, and it’s always going to be this way. Some of us live in chronic crisis. When we have a personality crisis, we blame our parents. When we have a behavior crisis, we blame our family. When we have a marriage crisis, we blame our spouse. When we have a sin crisis, we blame the culture, the government, the boss. We’ll blame others for where we are and who we are and use that as an excuse for not doing anything about it. And God speaks through his servant Ezekiel and takes away all the excuses.

“‘As surely as I live,’ declares the Sovereign Lord, ‘you will no longer quote this proverb in Israel. For every living soul belongs to me, the father as well as the son — both alike belong to me. The soul who sins is the one who will die.'”  ~Ezekiel 18:3-4

God says categorically this saying is not true. Both parent and child belong to the Lord. Everybody belongs to the Lord. And God is not only sovereign over all things, he’s also a just judge. He doesn’t punish people for sins they don’t commit. He goes on to explain that a person is judged by what they do and how they behave on their own. It’s not tied to the people who’ve gone before.

“The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous man will be credited to him, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against him.” ~Ezekiel 18:20

God takes away all the excuses. And he calls for a change.

“If a wicked man turns away from all the sins he has committed and keeps all my decrees and does what is just and right, he will surely live; he will not die. None of the offenses he has committed will be remembered against him. Because of the righteous things he has done, he will live.” ~Ezekiel 18:21-22

I love the Ephesians 2 passage that says you used to be one thing but now you’re another thing entirely. You used to be an enemy of God. Guided by the growling desires of your stomach. Living by the principles of the world. But you’re not that anymore! By the Spirit of God through Christ Jesus, you’re not that anymore! You were rescued. You were saved. God changed you!

1 Corinthians 6 is just as good. Wicked. Sexually immoral. Idolaters. Thieves. Greedy. Drunkards. Slanderers. Swindlers. That’s what some of you were. But you’re not anymore. You were washed. You were justified. You were sanctified. God changed you!

Scripture says if you give yourself to God, he’ll change you. God changes people. God reaches down in power and love and grace and in miraculous ways he changes hearts and minds and lives. He re-creates people. He re-images worldviews and dispositions. He re-routes eternal souls.

God takes away all our excuses. But notice God doesn’t take away all our excuses just so we can be crushed under the full impact of the requirements of his holy law. He takes away all the excuses so we will turn to him and live. So we will submit and change.

“‘Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked?’ declares the sovereign Lord. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?'” ~Ezekiel 18:23

When people turn to God and live, when people submit to God and live, God is pleased. This is what makes him happy. The Bible says God wants all men and women to be saved and to come to a knowledge of his truth. And our God doesn’t just make this change possible, he makes it his top priority. He’s so committed to your change, he gave up everything to come here in person to show us what it looks like.

“”Rid yourselves of all the offense you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone,’ declares the sovereign Lord. ‘Repent and live!'” ~Ezekiel 18:31-32

You can change. Not because you have the power to change, but because God has the power to change you. I will GIVE you a new heart, he says. I will GIVE you a new spirit. You can change. Not because you can live right if you try really hard, but because of God’s lavish grace and forgiveness. He gives you the grace to change.





This week we’ve been considering together Act Three of the Story of God: Covenant – The Promised Kingdom. Instead of trying to write about and discuss Genesis 12 through Malachi 4, I’ve tried to identify four things I believe God is doing with the covenant he made to Abraham in Genesis 12 and in the ways he works with and through the covenant in the rest of the Old Testament. God is showing us four things, he’s communicating these four things to us. My suggestion is to identify these four things in every Old Testament story you read. Look for these things. It’ll help you better understand what God is doing when he makes and keeps his promises.

We’ve looked at Revelation, Presence, and Partnership. Today, let’s consider God’s Faithfulness.

We can know for certain a couple of things by reading the Old Testament and by just experiencing life. We know for sure that Satan has not lost interest in people since his big win in the Garden of Eden in Act One. He keeps coming at us. We also know that our God never, ever, stops in his love and care for the people and the world he created. The devil keeps trying and God keeps saving. We know this. Throughout Act Three, we see Israel chasing after pagan idols and God forever restoring them to their right ways. We Israel rebel against God, we see wickedness in Israel’s priests and kings, we see sin. And we see God relentlessly bringing them back. Our God will not be stopped.

In the covenant, God says, “I will bless you if you live right” and “I will take care of you if you obey my commands.” If not, well, then God makes other arrangements to bless his people. He finds other ways to save them.

“I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. You will live in the land I gave your forefathers; you will be my people, and I will be your God.” ~Ezekiel 36:25-28

If your heart is hard, I’ll give you a new one. If your mind is corrupted, I’ll create in you a new one. Over and over again  in Act Three, God proves that he will do whatever it takes to live with his people and be their God. Whatever it takes. Because it’s his covenant. His promise. His Word. And he won’t let it be broken.

He gives Noah the rainbow covenant and Noah immediately gets drunk and exposes himself. Yet God’s promise goes on. He gives Israel the Sinai covenant and the people immediately build a golden calf. Yet God’s covenant remains intact. He gives David the royal covenant the king after God’s own heart immediately grabs his neighbor’s wife and breaks half the ten commandments in one weekend. Yet God’s promise remains. God keeps finding other ways. He keeps making other arrangements. His covenant will never be broken.

Your job is to believe it. Believe it. Abraham believed and God credited it to him as righteousness. If you believe God’s Word, if you trust him that he’s going to save you and that he will not be stopped in fulfilling his promises to you and to the whole world, he’ll consider that as faith. And he’ll give you credit. He’ll apply a righteousness to you, a holiness, that you don’t have and you can never receive any other way.

“The promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring — not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of all… He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed — the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.

Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations… He did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.” ~Romans 4:16-21

If God has promised you life: life in Christ, life in the Spirit of God, a life of bearing Kingdom fruit — if he’s promised you life in his body, the Church — and if he’s ratified those promises by the blood of his own Son, Jesus the Christ, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world, do you believe it?





“I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.” ~Genesis 17:7

We’re going to be together. We’re going to live together, just like in the garden in the very beginning. God says we’re going to occupy the same places together just like in Act One. The covenant is about God being visibly, physically present with his people.

When he delivers them from Egypt, God leads them from a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Scripture tells us neither pillar “left its place in front of the people.”

And then God brings his people to a mountain in the middle of the desert and he tells them the details of the covenant. God is right there, physically and visibly on the mountain. There’s smoke and fire, thunder and lightning. The people are trembling with fear.

“They offered burnt offerings and sacrificed young bulls as fellowship offerings to the LORD. Moses took half of the blood and put it in bowls, and the other half he sprinkled on the altar. Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people. They responded, ‘We will do everything the LORD has said; we will obey.’

Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, ‘This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.’

Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up and saw the God of Israel. Under his feet was something like a pavement made of sapphire, clear as the sky itself. But God did not raise his hand against these leaders of the Israelites; they saw God, and they ate and drank.” ~Exodus 24:5-11

God uses the blood of the covenant, the blood of the sacrifice, to cleanse his people so they can sit down together and share a meal. They saw God and they ate and drank. The blood made them righteous. Because of the blood, God considered them holy, so they could be right there in his face-to-face presence. Eating together! With God! It’s remarkable! But that kind of proximity, that kind of physical relationship and presence, is what God and the humans had in the garden in Act One. And that’s what God is working to restore with his covenant.

God longs to physically live with his people. So, next, he tells them to build him a tent.

“Then I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God. They will know that I am the LORD their God who brought them out of Egypt so that I might dwell among them.” ~Exodus 29:45-46

“I will put my dwelling place among you… I will walk among you and be your God and you will be my people.” ~Leviticus 26:11-12

This is the promise, this is the language through the rest of the Old Testament. I will live with you; you will be my people and I will be your God. At the tabernacle. At the temple. Five times in Ezekiel. Five times in Jeremiah. Three times in Zechariah. God gives us his covenant so we can live together with him in his presence.



Knowledge is Yummy

If knowledge is understanding what God is doing, then one of the primary ways we receive this knowledge is through the written Word, the Scriptures. And, according to the Bible itself, that kind of knowledge is delicious.

“How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” ~Psalm 119:103

I think the Message translates this, “The Word of the Lord is better than the hot sauce at Abuelo’s!”

So, what do the words of God taste like? Have you ever eaten the Word?

“When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight.” ~Jeremiah 15:16

What happens when you eat something? It becomes a part of you. You assimilate it. “You are what you eat” is exactly right. And we know this. If a nursing mother eats fajitas for lunch with jalapenos and pico de gallo and onions and hot sauce, she’s going to be up all night — not because she’s sick, but because her baby is sick! The fajitas have become a part of the mom and so impact what she is delivering to others. You are what you eat. I look in the mirror and I can see the Whataburgers and the cheese tots and potato chips. They’ve become a part of me. The biggest part! Jeremiah says, “When your words came, I ate them. I digested them. I assimilated them. I made them a part of me.”

“‘Eat this scroll I am giving you and fill your stomach with it.’ So I ate it, and it tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth.” ~Ezekiel 3:3

Ezekiel is being called into God’s service. Speak for me to Israel, God says. Tell them my plans. Tell them what I’m doing. Teach my people. Be an example to my people. Here, eat this scroll. My holy will, eat it. Make it a part of you. Be one with it. Fill your belly. Take it all in.

“I took the scroll from the angel’s hand and ate it. It tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth.” ~Revelation 10:10

The apostle John is on the island of Patmos on the Lord’s Day when he sees the giant angel. As the angel begins to speak, John begins taking notes. It’s just like something we would do, right? He wants to get it all down. Information. Content. I want to get this right. And the angel says, “No, don’t write it down. Eat it!”

The words of Scripture are written by the Holy Spirit in a way to get inside us. They’re intended to become a part of us. We don’t learn Scripture. We don’t use the Bible. We eat it. We ingest it. We take it into our lives in such a way that it metabolizes into acts of love, cups of cold water, hospital and prison visits, casseroles and cakes, groceries delivered, comfort and encouragement and evangelism and justice all done in the knowledge of God.

Isaiah says when the Kingdom is finally perfected, when God’s holy will has all been finally fulfilled, there will be righteousness and justice and peace because “the whole world will be full of the knowledge of the Lord” (Isaiah 11:9). The knowledge of God changes us. It changes the world. It changes everything.

When’s the last time you opened up to Deuteronomy or Joshua or Mark or Philippians and your mouth started to water? Do you ever eat the Word? Not for information, but for transformation!


It’s a business, that’s all it is. I’ve been convinced for more than 20 years now, the NFL and all its teams are only entities in a vast entertainment enterprise. And I’m as fine with that as I am with the reality of gravity: I know it and I don’t argue about it. Watching a Cowboys game is the same thing as watching a movie. Yes, it’s thousands of times better in a million different ways, but it’s much more like watching a great movie than it is like watching a regional group with all of your same passions and loyalties, your interests and values, compete against another group from somewhere else that represents that region’s people and culture. Yeah, you have a desire for one particular team to defeat the other, but you don’t root so hard as to be ridiculous, right? It’s a TV show! Grown men and women who are affected much more during and after a Cowboys game than they are during and after McFarland USA or Shark Tank seem a bit out of touch to me.

I’m not sure what I would do if I were DeMarco Murray. The NFL’s leading rusher and total yards from scrimmage leader last year is officially now this afternoon signing a free agent contract with the Eagles. I totally understand more money. I get Murray wanting the league-wide respect that apparently comes with the long-term lucrative deal.

But, he’s going from running the ball 25 times per game behind arguably the best and youngest offensive line in the NFL to a place where LeSean McCoy carried only 19 times per game behind a mostly shaky offensive front. Murray will wind up with 90 fewer carries next year behind an inferior line. He won’t get nearly as many opportunities in Chip Kelly’s spread offense — those guys are throwing the ball as soon as they step off the bus. And, besides all that, Murray’s going to have to pay a state income tax up there. Plus, it’s cold in Philadelphia. And the people aren’t nearly as nice as they are down here (mainly because they’re so cold). Is all of that really going to be worth it or is this a really short-sighted move?

Of course, I have no way to know what Jerry Wayne is offering to pay Murray. It may be insulting.

But the first plot line has been written today in the story of the Cowboys 2015 season in the NFC East. We’re off to an entertaining start.



God Will Not Be Stopped

“I will search for the lost and bring back the strays.” ~Ezekiel 34:16

Our God will go to whatever lengths are necessary, he’ll do whatever it takes, he will not ever give up on saving his people. Even when we resist, he keeps pursuing. Even when we rebel, he keeps forgiving. Even when we run away, he keeps chasing.

“Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it?” ~Luke 15:4, 8

Our merciful Father used the power of a violent storm and the weak witness of a runaway prophet to save the pagan sailors in Jonah 1. He created and commanded the great fish to rescue his rebellious servant in Jonah 2. And in Jonah 3, our faithful God put five Hebrew words into the hearts of a wicked people and turned an entire nation upside down for him.

“‘I take no pleasure in the death of anyone,’ declares the Sovereign Lord. ‘Repent and live!'” ~Ezekiel 18:32

Our God is on a mission to save the world and he wants us to participate. Either way — whether we join him in that mission or not — our God will not be stopped. He’ll find the young professional in that tiny house in Bogota, Columbia; and he’ll send a group from Amarillo, Texas all the way down there to do it. He’ll save the impoverished orphan girls in Kenya; and he’ll use a bunch of ladies in a sewing room at Central to make it happen. God will save ten thousand people in India; and he’ll use a broken preacher on a TV show to do it. God will rescue the dying and lost in Brazil and Guatemala & Ukraine; and he’ll use your garage sale earnings and your Starbucks money to accomplish it. Our God is on the trail to save and he will not be stopped.

He’s tracking you, too. He’s chasing you. You feel it. You know it. He’s on to you and he won’t let go. Our God is that relentless hound of heaven that C. S. Lewis writes about.

May we adopt that same mindset. May we see the world as our Father sees the world. And may we allow nothing — absolutely nothing! — to get in our way of seeking and saving the lost.



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