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Ezekiel, Paul, and Hard Foreheads.

My lectionary readings today have me in Ezekiel 2, and Romans 1. Oy.

It seems clear that interest in God is declining in the Western world. This, of course, saddens me, because there is nothing but blessing to be found in coming to the Father through Christ, and being filled with the Holy Spirit. God is nothing but good, and living our lives in re-connection with this good God is, well, fantastic. The church is called to proclaim this opportunity to the world. But the world doesn’t receive it. Instead, they often lash back at the church, calling us ignorant, superstitious, killjoys, and even evil.

Why are people so bent against a revelation from God that is such good news? This still surprises me.

It shouldn’t.

ezeThe word of the Lord has come to Ezekiel in chapter 1. After falling on his face before a heavenly vision of the glory of God, Ezekiel is lifted to his feet in chapter 2, and commissioned to proclaim God’s truths to the house of Israel. “The descendants are impudent and stubborn…whether they hear or refuse to hear, they will know that a prophet has been among them…the house of Israel will not be willing to listen to you, for they are not willing to listen to me; because all the house of Israel have a hard forehead and stubborn heart.” After this warning, it should be no surprise that the people will reject the revealed truths of God.

The Apostle Paul teaches in Romans 1 that man can know, honor and thank God, but instead “they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened…they became fools…they exchanged the truth about God for a lie.” Therefore, “God gave them up” to their lusts, and to debased thinking.

Since Eve passed the fruit to Adam, our world has been broken and bent. There is still glory to be seen everywhere you look. There is still godliness being experienced in the lives of those who believe. But, apart from God’s activity of grace, the brokenness remains imbedded in the “hard foreheads” and “stubborn hearts” of our race.

forehIn short – we’re called to proclaim the good news of God in Christ. But we should have no expectation that people will buy it. Quite the opposite – it should not only not surprise us when we’re mocked and rejected…it should actually boost our faith in the Word of God, which promises this very result.

That’s hard duty. But, as God tells Ezekiel, Behold, I have made your face as hard as their faces, and your forehead as hard as their foreheads. Like emery harder than flint have I made your forehead. Fear them not, nor be dismayed at their looks.”

A hard-headed gospel for a hard-headed world. That’s our call. Let’s roll.

 
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Posted by on January 8, 2015 in Discipleship

 

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Our Love-Hate Relationship With Our Family Prophets

Stoning

The Apostle Paul said, “Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy…the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort.” Then again, Jesus said, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” 

Is it appropriate to make this correlation: That prophetic words…

a) are the most important gifts for the church,

b) are intended to take people from where they are to where they could be (e.g., change their lives), and

c) will be rejected by the family they intend to serve?

As I go spelunking into the caverns of church history, I have begun to notice an all-too-common theme. There are many men and women who seem to have had uniquely clear vision in their day to see their condition, and a path to its improvement. With 20-20 historical hindsight, we honor these people. But most, in their day, faced stern resistance, rejection, and even extermination.

The sad thing? So many of these simply wanted the best for the church. They died for having a grander vision of what the church family could be than the rest of them could see.

Luther preachingI’ve come to find out in my short time here on the planet this less-than-profound truth: People want to enjoy themselves. That goes for my church family, too. In our age and place, with so many church options to choose from, most will pick a place that they likeOf course. Why would you pick a place you don’t like?

The church, though, is not designed to cater to our wants. It is, by definition, a place of discipleship, therefore discipline. As the author of Hebrews says, “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all … God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:7-8, 10-11). When Jesus commanded the Apostles to make “disciples” of all nations (Matthew 28:19), he was charging them baptize people into communities of discipline all over the world. Melding these passages together, Jesus was calling these men to broadcast a call to a life of painful hardship that will train you to become righteous, holy, peaceful and good. Anything less is illegitimate.

Prophets – those gifted by God to see truth, and boldly proclaim it in the church family – are on the front lines of this disciplined life. Like that really hard teacher in high school, or the over-the-top aerobics instructor, or that drill sergeant from your military days, the prophet is the one who calls you out of your present, and into your future. As the contemporary adage says, “No pain, no gain.” When we look back on these disciplinarians, some – especially those who rejected their leadership – might see them as obnoxious. But many of us are now grateful for the vision that they had for our lives, and their persistent drive to see us change. Those who endured bear the fruit, and are thankful.

Cranmer

Despite this whatever belated appreciation we can muster, it is a spiritual axiom that those with prophetic giftings will face rejection from the very family they are trying to serve. They are also indispensable to the life of the family. Paul tells us be especially ardent in seeking this gift … but really, who wants it?

Most all of our most famous aunts and uncles of the faith faced bitter rejection at the hands of the churches they served. Like their leader, they also become “the stone the builders rejected.” Paul. Athanasius. Benedict. Wycliffe. Hus. More. Luther. Hubmaier. Cranmer. Edwards. And a cavalcade of saints in local churches from our modern world. We may not say it … we may not even realize it! … but we’re eternally thankful for your faithfulness.

-eo

 

 

 
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Posted by on October 5, 2013 in church, leadership, Uncategorized

 

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