Tuesday, July 26, 2016

WHY BRING IT ON YOURSELF?



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In Christ, Mark
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
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The scriptures. May God bless the reading of His holy word.

The word of the Lord came to me:

“Son of man, will you judge her? Will you judge this city of bloodshed? Then confront her with all her detestable practices and say: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: You city that brings on herself doom by shedding blood in her midst and defiles herself by making idols, you have become guilty because of the blood you have shed and have become defiled by the idols you have made. You have brought your days to a close, and the end of your years has come. Therefore I will make you an object of scorn to the nations and a laughingstock to all the countries. Those who are near and those who are far away will mock you, you infamous city, full of turmoil.’”

Ezekiel 22:1-5

This ends today’s reading from God's holy word. Thanks be to God.

As Chapter 22 of the Book of Ezekiel opens, we find the Lord calling on His prophet to judge the Israelites in Jerusalem and confront them about their sinful worshiping of pagan gods and idols, acts that included bloodshed through the sacrifices committed unto those gods and idols, acts that the Lord labeled “detestable practices.” Look again at these words from the Lord to Ezekiel:

“Son of man, will you judge her? Will you judge this city of bloodshed? Then confront her with all her detestable practices and say: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: You city that brings on herself doom by shedding blood in her midst and defiles herself by making idols, you have become guilty because of the blood you have shed and have become defiled by the idols you have made. You have brought your days to a close, and the end of your years has come. Therefore I will make you an object of scorn to the nations and a laughingstock to all the countries. Those who are near and those who are far away will mock you, you infamous city, full of turmoil.’”  Ezekiel 22:1-5

Did you catch the central theme within these five verses?

It is pretty clear. For the Israelites brought the Lord’s consequences on themselves.

Indeed, the people of Jerusalem had no one to blame but themselves for the punishment they were soon to receive, punishment that included a halt to life as they had known it as their city and nation would be attacked and left in ruins. And as the people were carried away from their demolished homeland into seventy years of exile by the Babylonians, the once revered nation and city, viewed as holy and under God’s favor, would become an “object of scorn to the nations” and a “laughingstock to all the countries.” The Israelites would be mocked by those far and near as other lands reveled in their sudden misfortune.

Fortunately for the people of God, their Lord was a Lord of mercy and grace because their hardship, although very harsh, would not last forever. The Lord had promised to free His people from captivity after they had served their penalty period and as we know through biblical history, the Lord kept His promise as He does all the promises He makes. The Persians came on the scene, defeating the Babylonians and taking over their empire before providing the Israelites an opportunity to return to their homeland to rebuild their homes, their lives, and their relationship with God. Those who opted to return did just that and you can read all about that return in the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah.

But back to our scripture passage and how it applies to our lives today.

For if we really step back and take a look at our lives, most of us can see that we have been just like the Old Testament Israelites of Ezekiel’s day. We have often ended up victims of our own poor choices and the subsequent sins we committed, experiencing consequences born from those actions. Sometimes, like we see with the people of God in Judah and Jerusalem, the penalty for our misplaced judgment can last a long time, maybe even as long as the seventy years they had to endure. That’s a long time to have to live in difficulty but trust me, it happens.

This truth leads me to two questions we all need to consider:

Why bring this on ourselves?

and

Wouldn’t it be much easier to just live fully in obedience to God?

These questions should be ones we should ask before we make decisions that lead us down the road of transgression but more often than not, we get ourselves into tough circumstances and then wish we had better considered our options after the fact.

Still, there is some good news for those mired in the negative results of their poor choices. For the same God that made the way for His people to be free from captivity in Babylon has taken this to a whole new level and made the way for any of us to be set free from sin forever. In fact, we won’t only be set free from sin but also sickness, hardship, heartbreak, pain, grief, or anything else we might find ourselves struggling with in this life.

There’s just one thing we need to do to experience this freedom in our lives.

We simply need to place our faith, hope, and trust in Jesus, God’s only Son who has already paid the price we deserved for our sinfulness. You see, as Christians we might be corrected by God in life but we will not be condemned. The scriptures assure us of this (Romans 8:1). Instead, we will be saved, ushered into a life free from all the difficulties of this world, a life spent with God and Jesus forever.  

Have you made the way to experience this kind of freedom in your life?

If not, then you are placing yourselves in the crosshairs of God’s judgment and destruction, leaving me with just one question:

Why bring that on yourself?

Amen

In Christ,

Mark

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Monday, July 25, 2016

YOUR TURN!



Can I pray for you in any way? Send any prayer requests to OurChristianWalk@aol.com.

In Christ, Mark
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
** Follow The Christian Walk on Twitter @ThChristianWalk
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The scriptures. May God bless the reading of His holy word.

“And you, son of man, prophesy and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says about the Ammonites and their insults:’”

“A sword, a sword, drawn for the slaughter, polished to consume and to flash like lightning! Despite false visions concerning you and lying divinations about you, it will be laid on the necks of the wicked who are to be slain, whose day has come, whose time of punishment has reached its climax.”

“Let the sword return to its sheath. In the place where you were created, in the land of your ancestry, I will judge you. I will pour out my wrath on you and breathe out my fiery anger against you; I will deliver you into the hands of brutal men, men skilled in destruction. You will be fuel for the fire, your blood will be shed in your land, you will be remembered no more; for I the Lord have spoken.”

Ezekiel 21:28-32

This ends today’s reading from God's holy word. Thanks be to God.

You may recall from the scripture passage in yesterday’s devotion that the Lord had His prophet Ezekiel map out a path for the Babylonians under King Nebuchadnezzar to follow. At one juncture, there would be a fork in that path, one way leading to Ammon and the other to Judah.

What way would Nebuchadnezzar direct his people to go?

Well, after casting lots with arrows, consulting his idols, and examining sheep livers, the Babylonian king went to Judah and carried out an attack that would result in the nation and its holy city of Jerusalem left in ruins and the Israelites hauled off into a seventy-year captivity.

Consider what the Ammonites must have been feeling. I’m sure they took great pleasure in watching their rivals being completely decimated and annihilated by the Babylonians, probably grateful that they weren’t the ones. They probably believed they had dodged a big judgment bullet but as we find in the closing verses of Ezekiel 21, they hadn’t. They just had to wait their turn. Look again at our scriptures for today:

“And you, son of man, prophesy and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says about the Ammonites and their insults:’”

“A sword, a sword, drawn for the slaughter, polished to consume and to flash like lightning! Despite false visions concerning you and lying divinations about you, it will be laid on the necks of the wicked who are to be slain, whose day has come, whose time of punishment has reached its climax.”

“Let the sword return to its sheath. In the place where you were created, in the land of your ancestry, I will judge you. I will pour out my wrath on you and breathe out my fiery anger against you; I will deliver you into the hands of brutal men, men skilled in destruction. You will be fuel for the fire, your blood will be shed in your land, you will be remembered no more; for I the Lord have spoken.”  Ezekiel 21:28-32

Clearly, Ammon’s time had come for after God had dealt with Judah and Jerusalem, He wasted little time to let the Ammonites know that their turn had come. The sword of the Lord (aka the Babylonian forces), fresh off its use on the Israelites, was now ready to strike the people of Ammon who would end up in a place where they would be remembered no more. It wasn’t that the sins of Ammon were overlooked or even more severe than the sins of the Israelites. It’s just that God handles matters in His own time and in His own prescribed way.  

And this leads me to this day and the way we sometimes choose to view the world around us, particularly when it comes to matters of evil. Perhaps we assume the position of the Ammonites and look on with satisfaction when we see other nations we consider wicked facing hardship or difficulty, adopting an attitude that believes they are simply getting what they deserve. But we usually do this without considering whether God will direct His attention toward us, seeking to seek to deal with our nation’s sins next while saying in essence, “Your turn!”

With this, ask yourselves this: IS it soon to be our turn? Could the Lord rewrite the words of this scripture passage with the only change being the substitution of your nation’s name in place of the Ammonites?

It very well could happen but it also doesn’t have to be that way. For any nation could (and should) change course by rallying its people to individually and collectively acknowledge their spiritual failings before the Lord, repenting of their sins, and then committing themselves to the cause of His righteousness, obediently following His word, will, and way by choosing to live as Jesus did.

If a nation would do that, then the Lord has already spoken these words from earlier in the Old Testament, words that contain hope, encouragement, and promise for any country and its peoples:

If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14

Amen

In Christ,

Mark

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Sunday, July 24, 2016

UNTIL A TRUE KING COMES



Can I pray for you in any way? Send any prayer requests to OurChristianWalk@aol.com.

In Christ, Mark
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
** Follow The Christian Walk on Twitter @ThChristianWalk
** Like posts and send friend requests to the author of The Christian Walk, Mark Cummings on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/mark.cummings.733?ref=tn_tnmn
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The scriptures. May God bless the reading of His holy word.

The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, mark out two roads for the sword of the king of Babylon to take, both starting from the same country. Make a signpost where the road branches off to the city. Mark out one road for the sword to come against Rabbah of the Ammonites and another against Judah and fortified Jerusalem. For the king of Babylon will stop at the fork in the road, at the junction of the two roads, to seek an omen: He will cast lots with arrows, he will consult his idols, he will examine the liver.”

“Into his right hand will come the lot for Jerusalem, where he is to set up battering rams, to give the command to slaughter, to sound the battle cry, to set battering rams against the gates, to build a ramp and to erect siege works. It will seem like a false omen to those who have sworn allegiance to him, but he will remind them of their guilt and take them captive.”

“Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: ‘Because you people have brought to mind your guilt by your open rebellion, revealing your sins in all that you do—because you have done this, you will be taken captive.’”

“You profane and wicked prince of Israel, whose day has come, whose time of punishment has reached its climax, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: ‘Take off the turban, remove the crown. It will not be as it was: The lowly will be exalted and the exalted will be brought low. A ruin! A ruin! I will make it a ruin! The crown will not be restored until He to whom it rightfully belongs shall come; to him I will give it.’”

Ezekiel 21:18-27

This ends today’s reading from God's holy word. Thanks be to God.

What happens when the Lord gets fed up with earthly leaders, rulers with worldly authority who choose to turn away from God and lead their people into sin?

In today’s devotion, drawn from the 21st chapter of Ezekiel, we find the answer as God took action on Old Testament nations who chose to oppose Him, including the Israelites of Judah. Look again at today’s scripture passage:

The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, mark out two roads for the sword of the king of Babylon to take, both starting from the same country. Make a signpost where the road branches off to the city. Mark out one road for the sword to come against Rabbah of the Ammonites and another against Judah and fortified Jerusalem. For the king of Babylon will stop at the fork in the road, at the junction of the two roads, to seek an omen: He will cast lots with arrows, he will consult his idols, he will examine the liver.”

“Into his right hand will come the lot for Jerusalem, where he is to set up battering rams, to give the command to slaughter, to sound the battle cry, to set battering rams against the gates, to build a ramp and to erect siege works. It will seem like a false omen to those who have sworn allegiance to him, but he will remind them of their guilt and take them captive.”

“Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: ‘Because you people have brought to mind your guilt by your open rebellion, revealing your sins in all that you do—because you have done this, you will be taken captive.’”

“You profane and wicked prince of Israel, whose day has come, whose time of punishment has reached its climax, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: ‘Take off the turban, remove the crown. It will not be as it was: The lowly will be exalted and the exalted will be brought low. A ruin! A ruin! I will make it a ruin! The crown will not be restored until He to whom it rightfully belongs shall come; to him I will give it.’”  Ezekiel 21:18-27

Note we’re way down the road, literally and figuratively, in regard of God sending judgment on the nations. They had willingly and willfully chosen to worship pagan gods and idols, despite God’s commands to do otherwise and His warnings to stop what He labeled “detestable practices”, and so God took action to address their blatant disobedience and disrespect.

From our study of the Old Testament, we know God sent the Babylonians forces under the rule of King Nebuchadnezzar to carry out His judgment and as we see in our verses for today, those forces would come to a place where they could take one of two judgment roads, roads marked out by God’s prophet, Ezekiel. Going in one direction would lead them to execute God’s punishment on the Ammonites while the other would take them against Judah and its fortified city of Jerusalem.

Which path would Nebuchadnezzar take?

Well, God’s word tells us he would stop at the fork in the road and “seek an omen”, casting lots with arrows, consulting his idols, and even examining sheep livers to determine which way he should go. God assures the readers of His word that the lot would fall toward Jerusalem and Judah where the Babylonians forces would “set battering rams against the gates”, “give the command to slaughter”, “sound the battle cry”, “build a ramp”, and “erect siege works”, all in advance of attacking the city and plundering it of its value before leaving it in smoldering ruins.

Of interest, the Israelites were in an absolute state of denial. They refused to believe that any assault on them could be successful because they truly believed they could sin against God openly and still have His protection. It couldn’t be a more foolish assumption.

For indeed God did bring judgment on His people. If they wanted to rebel against Him openly and reveal their sinful wickedness in everything they did, then God would remove His blessing and favor from them which included taking them away from the holy land He had brought them into.

But note God didn’t stop there because He had some harsh words for Judah’s leadership.

You’ll recall that a point was reached in the history of God’s people where they wanted kings instead of judges who were leaders appointed by God Himself. And so God allowed His people to have kings, most of which chose to rule in sin and encourage their people to live likewise. Thus instead of leading the Israelites to a close, intimate relationship with God, a majority of the kings led them down the road to judgment where, as we have seen in today’s passage, they finally met up with conquering Babylonians forces, forces who would have their way with the Israelites as their Assyrian counterparts did with the northern kingdom of Israel.

So what did God have to say to the Israelite leaders?

Let’s go back to the scriptures:

“You profane and wicked prince of Israel, whose day has come, whose time of punishment has reached its climax, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: ‘Take off the turban, remove the crown. It will not be as it was: The lowly will be exalted and the exalted will be brought low. A ruin! A ruin! I will make it a ruin! The crown will not be restored until He to whom it rightfully belongs shall come; to him I will give it.’”

Essentially, the rule of kings was over. Something had to change and so God removed the crown of royalty from the leaders of His people. God was destroying all that was and leaving it in ruins, refusing to restore the crown until the One which it rightfully belonged to came.

Who was God talking about? Who was coming that would be an authority God could trust with the crown of leadership for His people?

The prophet Isaiah had already given the Israelites a snapshot of which this would be when He prophesied the following:

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his  government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.

The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this. Isaiah 9:6-7

After the attacks of the Assyrians and then the Babylonians, Israel and Judah were left destroyed and desolate, as lifeless as the faith of the Israelites who once lived there. Only one leader would be able to breathe new life into God’s people by showing them the true way to live and the way of righteousness that God desired. Of course, that leader would be Jesus, the man who would be known as the King of kings and Lord of lords, the One who would be the true King that God spoke of.

Today, Jesus still rules over all, given authority over heaven and earth by God the Father (Matthew 28:18). Anyone who thinks they are not subject to Him, will soon find themselves disempowered and removed from reign, like the deposed kings of Israel and Judah and countless leaders after them who chose to reject and oppose God.

Amen

In Christ,

Mark

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Saturday, July 23, 2016

WHEN GOD IS AGAINST US (PART 4)



Can I pray for you in any way? Send any prayer requests to OurChristianWalk@aol.com.

In Christ, Mark
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
** Follow The Christian Walk on Twitter @ThChristianWalk
** Like posts and send friend requests to the author of The Christian Walk, Mark Cummings on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/mark.cummings.733?ref=tn_tnmn
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The scriptures. May God bless the reading of His holy word.

“So then, son of man, prophesy and strike your hands together. Let the sword strike twice, even three times. It is a sword for slaughter—a sword for great slaughter, closing in on them from every side. So that hearts may melt with fear and the fallen be many, I have stationed the sword for slaughter at all their gates. Look! It is forged to strike like lightning, it is grasped for slaughter. Slash to the right, you sword, then to the left, wherever your blade is turned. I too will strike My hands together, and My wrath will subside. I the Lord have spoken.”

Ezekiel 21:14-17

This ends today’s reading from God's holy word. Thanks be to God.

Have you ever sung these words from the song, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”:

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword;
His truth is marching on.

Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
His truth is marching on.

The imagery is one of the Lord being the great warrior of His people, the One who is wielding His terrible swift sword against the enemies of His people and indeed, this was how the people of Israel had seen their God, as their mighty Conqueror who delivered them from the hands of their enemies.

Well, God indeed was a mighty Conqueror and Warrior. He had no rival and no one could stand in opposition to Him, hoping for victory. He was for His people but that arrangement hinged on one very important condition: the Israelites had to remain faithful to Him and obedient to His word and will and way, something we know they failed miserably in doing. And so after choosing to practice idolatry in plain sight of God, opting for sinfully disrespecting and disregarding His commands, the people found themselves in a place where no one should ever want to be. They found themselves facing God’s terrible swift sword, as evidenced by the following words He spoke to them:

“I am against you.”

The battle cry of God had turned on them further reinforced as we look again at our scripture passage for today, the foundation for the final devotion in this four part series:

“So then, son of man, prophesy and strike your hands together. Let the sword strike twice, even three times. It is a sword for slaughter—a sword for great slaughter, closing in on them from every side. So that hearts may melt with fear and the fallen be many, I have stationed the sword for slaughter at all their gates. Look! It is forged to strike like lightning, it is grasped for slaughter. Slash to the right, you sword, then to the left, wherever your blade is turned. I too will strike My hands together, and My wrath will subside. I the Lord have spoken.”  Ezekiel 21:14-17

Note here how God is in absolute control of the actions He takes on His people. He can strike His hands together and bring fatal judgment on His enemies but He also can opt to strike His hands together and pull back His wrath, causing His punishment to subside. He can bring slaughter on anyone who opposes Him but He also can bring redemption and mercy.

We see these truths play out in the lives of the Old Testament Israelites of Ezekiel’s day. For in response to their infidelity and adulterous worship practices, God did draw out His sword of wrath and send harsh judgment in the way of the Babylonians who attacked and annihilated Judah and its prized, holy city of Jerusalem. Led by King Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian forces left the entire territory in ruins before hauling off all Israelites who survived the onslaught into a seventy-year captivity, the imposed penalty for their idolatry and abandonment of God, the God who turned against them just as they had turned against Him.

But we know this judgment would not last forever. The Israelites would not spend a day less than the seventy years God sentenced them to but afterwards, the Lord did choose to have His wrath subside and give His people a chance to return home to Judah and Jerusalem where they could rebuild their homes, their lives, and their relationship with God. The Old Testament books of Ezra and Nehemiah are outstanding sources to read about the second chance opportunity God gave His people and how they made good on that opportunity.

In the end translation as we turn to today, we can either place ourselves in a position where we deserve God’s sword of wrath for our choice to sin against Him or the blessing of His favor for remaining obedient and faithful to Him.  

God can go either way and will do what He needs to do to make us the people He wants us to be. Let’s do ourselves a favor, learn from the mistakes of the Old Testament Israelites, and never stray from living a life fully guided by God’s righteousness, a life we can easily put in place by living like Jesus, God’s only Son, did.

Come to think of it, isn’t that what we’re supposed to be doing as Christians anyways?

Amen

In Christ,

Mark

PS: Feel free to leave a comment and please share this with anyone you feel might be blessed by it.

Send any prayer requests to OurChristianWalk@aol.com