Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Ezekiel, Part 4

We have been looking at Ezekiel, and in the last blog regarding this subject, we began to explore the significance of the four faces of the living creatures. Today I’d like to delve into this topic even further.

We observe characteristics in the four faces that we should see exemplified in our own lives.

The first one we’ll look at is the ox. The ox is a hard-working animal and never complains! Oxen do not run free and go wherever they want to go. They always are seen with a yoke around their neck. Now, most folks don’t like the yoke! And, if that’s you, well, then you’re not going to like serving Jesus! He said, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

A yoke is worn around the neck, and it keeps you walking in unison with the one beside you and in a straight direction. We need the yoke! Oftentimes we rebel against it, and we act like a bunch of wild stallions that still need to be broken.

Jesus told us that His yoke is easy and the load is light, but we don’t believe Him; therefore, we don’t want the yoke placed upon us. True to the nature of an ox, we, too, need to have a yoke.

The symbolism of an ox also signifies that there is a time for plowing and a time for planting. Additionally, whatever it is that we are called to do, we should do it cheerfully as unto the Lord without complaining because the ox never complains as he seems to enjoy hard work!

Something else about oxen is that they were routinely used as a sacrifice. They were laid on the altar and burned as a pleasing offering to God.

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1).

Okay, now we’ll look at the face of the lion. When you consider the lion, what do you think about? If you’re like most people, “king of the jungle” probably comes to mind. He’s the most feared and revered in the animal kingdom! Lions are bold and courageous; they don’t back down! God says that the unrighteous run when no one is pursuing, but the righteous are as bold as a lion. To “be bold," means to be courageous. Courage is not the absence of fear; it is the ability to overcome your fear. Don’t ever let the enemy see you sweat!

Throughout the Epistles, we read the prayer requests of Paul, and I think he prayed for boldness more than anything else. “Pray for us that we might be bold. Pray for us that we might have boldness of speech. Pray for us that when we’re facing death we’ll be bold.” The Church has been neutered in many respects!

It’s time for us to be bold once again: to rise up, not in arrogance, but in confidence. Not in ourselves, but in the greater One who is in us. God has called us to be like the lion.

Then we see the eagle. Psalm 103 speaks of being renewed in strength like that of the eagle. I’ve preached many sermons on eagles; they fly higher than any other bird. They are the most honored and respected of all flying animals. They’ve been spotted over 10,000 feet in the air, and they can spy a field mouse over a mile away! They descend from the sky to the earth upwards of a hundred miles an hour. Eagles are our national symbol!

“But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31).

God says that we are to soar higher. He’s calling us to go higher than we’ve ever soared before! Yes, even to “boldly go where no man has gone before.” I love that! Come on, you are not too old to do something new, so stop it!!! If you don’t do it now, when are you going to do it?  You’d better do it while you can, because perhaps the day will come when you can’t, and then you will have wished that you had!

Do it! Just do it! Take a bold step of faith! Dare to fly high! What are you afraid of? One thing about eagles, they don’t flap their wings. The little tweety birds, that’s what they do, but not the eagle. Eagles soar. They get up there where those thermal currents are, and they just ride the wind.

Eagles, they are such graceful, powerful, and magnificent birds! They’re so awesome to watch as they soar. They don’t stress nor strain, and when the storm blows, they just lift up their heads and say, “Come on wind, come on rain, I’m the mighty eagle, and I’ll just fly high above it, straight through it, or right around it. I was born to fly!”

You were born to fly! You were born to be bold like the lion. You were born to work like the ox.

Finally, there’s the man. We must never forget that we are men (when I state “men” in this context, I’m referring to mankind which includes women). Man is the highest of all of God’s creation. Only man was created in His image and likeness.

You were created to fly higher than the eagle, have the courage of the lion, and the strength of an ox! Lest we forget, we are the crown of creation! When God created man, He said, “It is finished; that’s it!” We are God’s masterpiece . . . the cherry on the sundae! Do you understand that?

At the same time, we are men and have limitations. We are not God; we are simply:

*   Made in His image and His likeness
*   Filled with His glory
*   Carriers of His power
*   Walk in His authority and power
*   Represent Him as stewards over the earth

Let me close with one final Scripture, Psalm 8. This is a very familiar Psalm; however, people only read half of it and stop there. So take a moment and read the whole thing.

“O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is Your name in all the earth, who have set Your glory above the heavens! 2 Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have ordained strength, because of Your enemies, that You may silence the enemy and the avenger. 3 When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained, 4 what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him?”

Now, that’s a question, right? Is it? Is that followed by a question mark in your Bible? The Psalmist David is asking, “What is man that you are mindful of him and the son of man that you visit him?” Then it goes on to say, “You’ve made him a little lower than the angels,” which really should be translated as “Elohim,” “and you have crowned him (man) with glory and honor!”

You, my friend, have been crowned with glory and honor! I know you don’t always feel like it. I know you don’t always think like it. I know you don’t always act like it or even talk like it! But the Word of God says that you have been crowned with glory and honor.  The Scripture states, “You have made him,” ‘him’ who? Is that you and me? “You have made him (you and me) to have dominion over the works of Your hands. You have put all things (is that past tense? Yes!) “all sheep and oxen—even the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea that pass through the paths of the sea. Oh Lord, our Lord, how excellent is Your name in all the earth.”

You have been made to exercise dominion. Another way to phrase that would be, “You have been placed here to manage God’s affairs on earth.” He doesn’t place you here empty-handed. He gives you what you need in order to fulfill the calling. He crowns you with glory and honor; He fills you with His power and Spirit and says, “Go in My authority.” Even the wind and the sea will obey you if you will speak to them and act with faith!

Jesus is in the boat! Wake Him up! After He has calmed the storm, don’t think it strange if He turns to you and says, “Where is your faith? Oh ye of little faith, how long do I have to be with you? Do you really think My heavenly Father is going to let this boat go down with Me in it?” Come on, somebody! What were they thinking? Did they really believe that they were all going to die?

I have a lesson for you. Keep Jesus in the boat, and then you don’t have to worry about the boat sinking! Keep Him in the boat! You don’t want to go fishing without Jesus. I’ve been out there and believe me . . . you want Him with you!

God has called you and I to represent Him on the earth. We are to work like the ox, to be bold and courageous like the lion, and to soar as the eagle soars. We need to understand that we are men. We are not God, but He has crowned us with glory and honor, and it is time to walk in it.

Grace and peace,

Monday, September 1, 2014

Change A Life!

This little blog is not being written in typical fashion. Many of you are aware that I took up running some time back and have been staying the course quite faithfully. I truly enjoy making my way through the quaint town of Sosua during the morning hours as it offers many wonderful experiences.

One day a few months ago, I was going past a young Haitian girl who sells bananas as a street vendor. As we looked at each other, I asked her for a banana and told her that I had no money with me. She gave me the fruit as I continued on my way. Later, I went to look for her with cash in hand.

We have had several similar encounters since that day. The little girl is thirteen-years-old and has a beautiful and captivating smile every time I see her. Her name is Aline, and she sells fruit with her mother so they can make a couple of dollars per day in order to eat.

Recently, I found out that Aline had not started school because she did not have money for clothes and supplies. I have since met her mother, and Vickie and I were able to provide funds to get this child back into school before she became too accustomed to street life in Sosua. The truth is, Vickie and I have begun watching to see how many children are running the streets or trying to make a buck while others are in school. The number is quite astonishing, particularly among the Haitian population.

As a result, we have begun a limited campaign to help these vulnerable kids get off the streets and receive some level of education. If we do nothing, it is very likely many of them will turn to prostitution, drugs, and a very degraded sort of lifestyle.

Now . . . this is where you can get involved. We were able to purchase a uniform, shoes, backpack, and supplies for about $50.00. This is NOT a monthly commitment, nor is it a monthly sponsorship program. This is a one-time donation to help kids learn to read, write, and learn for the current school year.

For only $50.00, you can fund a child for an entire academic year! We will make sure that materials are purchased and that the kids get enrolled. By the way, not one penny will be used for any other purpose. We are not asking you to support us or Gospel Team Outreach with this opportunity. This is all about helping the kids get into school and off the streets of Sosua.

If you cannot afford $50.00 all at one time, please send what you can. If you can give more, of course, that would be wonderful as well. Please make checks payable to GTO and mail to "Gospel Team Outreach, PO Box 25355, Fayetteville, NC 28314" and indicate “KIDS” on the memo line. You may also donate online at: http://gospelteamoutreach.com/secure-donations/.

Thank you so much for your kind act of love and compassion!

Grace and peace,