Sunday, January 06, 2008

What God Wants in Black and White

Ezekiel 33: 10-11
10 "Son of man, say to the house of Israel, '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, O house of Israel?'

I don't know how to hear God's voice. I am so lacking in self-confidence that I even question it when it's crystal clear. When God offers me a blessing, I feel inclined to acknowledge Him out loud, to tell Him that I am honoured and delighted to receive something from Him, that if He'd be patient with me I would strive to reach a point of worthiness so I might accept His grace with clear conscience. That doesn't just stem from the humbling existence I've led since I accepted Christ, that is how I've been for as long as I can remember.

Notice how many times I referred to myself there?

In the last church service of 2007, Pastor AJ put out the question: Do you ever sit in God's presence for the sole reason of getting to know the person of Jesus Christ? It's great that God offers blessings to believers, but I how often do you simply bask in His radiance? If you remove salvation, peace, and all other forms of grace, how many of us would approach God and just simply want to know Him? Honestly, that notion perplexed me. For the longest time, I've felt like life is a crucible, like we're put into a situation of forced decision, like we need to choose life or death and only the fool would choose to die. But wouldn't it be great to die and leave our corpses and just be free souls to do as we please and wander the universe at our own leisure? In 1999, I discovered God for myself, through experience. But with every blessing, with every bit of truth comes responsibility. I realized that I couldn't live a life that would exploit my fellow man, that I had to be a "good person". If you read the surrounding verses in Ezekiel 33, as well as the surrounding chapters, God refers mostly to human practice. He talks about the actions the Israelites take. That is such a minute part of the story, though.

Idol worship--God detests it. Not because people are bowing to wooden idols, but because they are placing faith into empty sources. Hope, faith, and love: the greatest virtues in existence. How many of us consider this disclaimer, though: if you misplace them, they will rock your foundation and absolutely destroy you. If you bow you head to something empty, you make a declaration in front of everyone that you have placed your faith in it. There's no question that as Christians we are living representatives of Christianity, but that doesn't mean we're good ones. As such, when we place faith in something empty, like the Israelites did for generations, inciting God's wrath, it profanes God's name in front of the nations and all watching eyes. But that is just half the story, as I said.

Ezekiel 33: 1-6
1 The word of the LORD came to me: 2 "Son of man, speak to your countrymen and say to them: 'When I bring the sword against a land, and the people of the land choose one of their men and make him their watchman, 3 and he sees the sword coming against the land and blows the trumpet to warn the people, 4 then if anyone hears the trumpet but does not take warning and the sword comes and takes his life, his blood will be on his own head. 5 Since he heard the sound of the trumpet but did not take warning, his blood will be on his own head. If he had taken warning, he would have saved himself. 6 But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet to warn the people and the sword comes and takes the life of one of them, that man will be taken away because of his sin, but I will hold the watchman accountable for his blood.'

What, pray tell, is the difference between wickedness and blood? Both are held shoulder to shoulder, according to the scriptures. I believe that this is the difference between what a man does with his hands and what a man feels in his heart. In other words, I can give up vices and impurities, all of which are snares, but I can still fall into the pit. God doesn't just look at what we demonstrate to other people or how we treat other people, but He searches our hearts and weighs our intentions. If Satan digs his talons and pricks his thorns into my side, and I remove them through God's grace but then hide my wounds from God's eyes, like a cat who runs off to die in the shade, I am no better for having removed those thorns. If, on the other hand, I trust in God to heal me, and permit Him to heal me, I WILL be healed. There is no problem or challenge in existence that God can't fix with His will. He doesn't need to so much as nod or snap His fingers; God is of limitless strength and can reduce kingdoms to ashes or build kingdoms from ashes. Earlier this week, someone asked me where the proof was. History is the proof. All prophecies through God's representatives have come true. They were uttered before the respective events and were manifest in pristine proficiency. Satan has a word for that: coincidence.

You know what? God tests us all, especially once we know Him. But God does not inflict pain on the faithful. Most of the things we struggle with--addictions, weaknesses, etc.--are not from God. But God does have a role in them; He wants to heal them for us. He stitched us all a certain way that we might express things in our unique perspective and thus all come together like the most complicated movie plot that was ever written. We perform acts that seem elementary to us that can profoundly impact the lives of everyone who is touched by the people we touch. It's an exponential domino effect that can spread across the whole world before we could decide what to have for dinner. And the truth for me, my truth, is that I have been so twisted and polluted over the course of my life that I have reached a point where I'm fearful of being healed. It's wrong, but I find myself grounded by the things I don't let go of. It's as if I'm clinging to a branch that is attached to a tree that will sink with me into quicksand, but in terms of my relational clinging to the tree, I feel safe. The fact remains that everything in the physical realm is not just destructable, but it will destruct. Our souls are the only thing we'll ever have, and yet so many of us place all our stock in the natural world. Man alive, am I ranting here, but I believe every syllable of it.

God, I ask you, in front of everyone who reads this, to remove all the internal mechanisms that have been placed in me to distort my vision. Not the way I see the world reflected but the very way I approach it. Let me release my knuckle-white grip on everything I thought was real and fully embrace Your salvation. Let me stop trying to move mountains that step aside at Your command. Let me stop trying to destroy myself for a world that would not only destroy me but will itself be destroyed for its wickedness. Don't give me daily peace and comfort but eternal rest in knowing that I have eyes but can't see the future. LORD, you see all that was, is, and will be, and You can choose things for me that I don't understand that will pay eternal dividends. Not because I need a reward for knowing, but because knowing you is itself a reward. Perhaps that still is selfish, but I sure as life believe that anyone who knows you without an ulterior motive will only know peace anyway. But, God, if I do nothing else for you in my time on this planet, let me know You so that I might convey your true nature: You are not some puppetmaster who relishes in the struggles of His lambs; you are a shepherd who genuinely cares for all His sheep. Your embrace is never exhausted; you always have room for another hungry lamb that thrives on the glory of Your being.

Satan doesn't want me to fall by the sword. He doesn't want me to die of famine or illness. He wants me to implode. He wants me to recede so far into myself that I can never serve You, O LORD. Today I openly acknowledged that. I am not healed yet, but I am a willing party in it. It's just such a lambasting experience to know that I don't need to simply mend my ways but that my very essence, my very way of being is self-destructive. Worst of all, I've known it for ages. Knowing is not enough.

There is no greater suicide, no greater anguish than to destroy that which can't be grasped. There is no greater pain than the dissection of that which can't be sundered: the spirit. It is the slowest and most painful death of all, and I was an inch away from it when you intervened in October, LORD. Perhaps some thought it dramatic when I said that 2007 was the year that would have destroyed. It was, and it almost did. And I knew it. And knowing is not enough.

Set yourselves free, everyone. Not with your eyes or hands or minds but with your hearts.


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