Saturday, April 25, 2015

A Conversation With God

Lord, do you see what the wicked have done?
They deny You are God. They deny Your great love.
They deny that You came, and deny that You died;
But, worst of all Lord they deny You're alive.
They deny You're alive!

Tell me, my child, are you better than they?
Have you gone in my name my truth to proclaim?
Have you stood in the gap when no one would pray?
It is so hard to tell; do you live what I say?
Do you live what I say?

            How often do we as Christians look down in judgment on the actions of those we view as “the wicked”, not realizing or caring that it is only through the grace of God that we are any different in our actions than they? I have often wondered how anyone could do some of the awful things I have seen on the evening news or read about in the morning paper. This generation is not as gracious, loving and kind as I would expect. We are not growing in the grace of God. Do you ever ask yourself, "How has society gotten into this condition?"

            I do not want to pass myself off as an expert in psychology or philosophy but a small part of the answer can be seen through an understanding of our human nature. Perhaps it can be illustrated best from a Biblical example. I see a reflection of the society of Israel during the time of Ezekiel in our society today. In his day, as in ours, people knew about God, they even practiced to some degree the religion of their fathers, but they did not have a pure faith. And, I must say, in our day we do not have a pure faith. A pure faith is one that seeks the holiness of God, not through outward appearances, but through an inward changing of the heart. Listen to what God instructed Ezekiel to tell his generation, and see if you can also recognize the need for this message in our society.

"The people of the land have used oppression, and exercised robbery, and have vexed the poor and needy: yea, they have oppressed the stranger wrongfully. And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none." — Ezekiel 22:29-30 (KJV)

            We see the effects of evil today, as I am sure they have been seen throughout history. Evil is a very insidious problem. I do not wish to get into all the effects or discuss every possible manifestation of evil here because I’m sure anyone reading this is able to cite their own examples. If we get caught up in the discussion about evil, we take our focus away from the cure. The cure to the problem of evil is Christ, and the question becomes a personal one. “What will my response be to the evil of this age?”

            Dr. William Williams, Professor of Theology, during my years as a student at Southern California College, now Vanguard University, instilled in me the understanding that one measure of an educated person is the ability to ask the right question. To answer the right question, in this case, “What will our individual responses be to the evil of this age?” we should remember those great men of faith and power from scripture. Every prophet who ever spoke the Word of the Lord spent time alone with God to receive His message. They were called to a place of personal relationship. If it is our desire to experience the power of God, and to see Him answer our prayers as He answered the prayers of the prophets of old, we must be willing to act in faith believing what God has already spoken. This can only be done as we individually realize that God is still looking for someone to stand in the gap. I don't think we will be held blameless in our generation unless we seek God and speak His Word to society. As God called Ezekiel, He is calling us today.

"Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me. When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.”— Ezekiel 3:17-19 (KJV)

            Every day we make a choice to use the tools we have been given as master builders or use those same tools as instruments of destruction. Again, it is not my desire to come off as a know-it-all or to speak out of turn on any issues we are faced with today. The plain truth is that I am not any different than you. We are God's watchmen. We all have feet of clay. The strength is not our own; it comes from the Word on which we stand. Are we going to abandon our posts, or are we going to answer God's call? A hammer in the hands of a skilled carpenter can build a beautiful house. That same hammer in untrained angry hands can be a tool of great destruction and tear down that beautiful house. I can only answer for myself. As for me, I will seek to do all that the Lord commands.

            God Himself has issued to each of us a call to minister. We answer the call within the context of our lives and become part of the “Family of God”.  Within His family there is a great deal of diversity. Our modes of worship differ; our modes of baptism and other holy ordinances differ; and our interpretations of the sacred text certainly differ, but even with our differences we serve the same Lord. If we are going to please God, in the hope of becoming a master builder, in these the last of the “Last Days”, we must find the true meaning and application of the term "Family of God”.

“But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” — John 1:12-13 (KJV)

            I am not talking about allowing any number of unholy things in the name of spirituality. The Church as a collective body needs to stand on what common ground it can find in Christ, and allow the Holy Spirit to interpret Scripture through Scripture. This is not the time to point fingers or place blame. It is time to get serious before the Lord, seek His direction, and answer His call. Each of us must use our gifts, talents, and abilities to serve God. Scripture clearly teaches us we should do whatever our hands find to do.

“Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.” — Ecclesiastes 9:10 (KJV)

            Join me — seek the Lord. He promises to revive, restore and renew us as we commit to His cause.

“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” — 2 Chronicles 7:14 (KJV)

            Redemption is closer now than it has ever been before, but we must keep our eyes on the goal. As the people of God we are subject to both individual and corporate responsibilities. Corporately we face the weight of a fitting and proper response to evil in the world, but it is our individual choices that will fuel and inform our corporate response. Every church body needs a mission statement and clearly defined scope of ministry. Without the two components, mission and scope, no church is able to measure its effectiveness in ministry.  If we accept that truth, we should be compelled to take it to its fullest measure and apply the need for a mission statement and scope of ministry to our individual lives.

            Writing a mission statement for my life has called for serious soul searching and dedicated Bible study. Accountability partners have been a necessity, and the process has not worked without complete honesty. The driving questions for me have been: Who has God revealed Himself to be through Scripture? What gifts, talents and interests exist within me that can be employed serving God? How can my accountability partners and I accurately measure effectiveness in ministry? What is the definition of MINISTRY for my life? Even now as I am discerning my next step in a life of ministry, a very perplexing question has arisen: When is the right time to jump off the cliff and go completely without a parachute?

 “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, …” — Ephesians 4:1 (KJV)

            Each of us is distinctively designed to fulfill needs within the community and body of Christ. Begin to see your vocation as an honored place of ministry within that body — not just the job that supports your physical and financial wellbeing. See the world around you as souls in need of grace, forgiveness, and love — not “the wicked” deserving judgment and condemnation. Answering the call to ministry is not a matter of changing professions. It is a matter of living your convictions.

“For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” — John 3:17 (KJV)

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