Friday, November 23, 2012

I'm afraid to be unique.

Ezekiel was called uniquely in the midst of the exiles. He was told not to be afraid of people’s words because their words would grow hard and cold, ugly and hateful. They would not understand this man who spoke for the Lord. They would ostracize him as much as they could while they had no power.

So often those without power want to take a stand against someone, and the only thing they can do is use their words. Yet words can be dangerous and hurtful things. “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Far from the truth, but we teach this to young children, or they teach it to themselves, hoping that the pain won’t stay long.

Usually it does.

I find it interesting how often people want to say we are all uniquely made to unique callings. I find it interesting because nine times out of ten we want people to be just like us. You see, if we disagree then someone must be wrong. How can we look at the same thing and walk away with such different opinions and perspectives? Could it be you missed something? Could it be I imagined something? Well, those accusations will surely fly.

I just finished reading a biography of Bonhoeffer. It was difficult to find a decent review of the book to link to at my main blog. So many people want to put Bonhoeffer in their camp. Whether you label yourself liberal, conservative, or what was once described as those labels, they can’t allow this genius of a man to be placed in the other camp. I finally found one review that seemed somewhat balanced.

I was actually surprised certain groups wanted to claim him at all. As I read his story I realized what an individual he was. He encouraged those who did not agree with him, and would not try to talk anyone into his choices. He was a Christian who worked towards the assassination of Hitler, and was willing to do it himself if so called upon. Not many in these days and times that I know would have stood with him then. But now, as I said, everyone wants to claim him.

The thing I learned most poignantly from reading the book and the reviews was no one wants you to be an individual, but everyone wants the individual on their side. Ironic, I thought.

My beliefs have stretched the entire length of the rainbow through my 43 years. I have leaned liberal, I have worked to be conservative, I have stayed quiet, and I have argued loudly. I have clung to the group, and walked away rebelliously. Where I am now is quite a mixture of beliefs and attitudes, but I really don’t worry about them so much.

I have learned that it’s nice to hear from “the other camp” every once in a while. They only want to be heard like we do. They only want to be acknowledged, like we do. Sometimes they might make you think. And I’m coming to believe there is room for more than one opinion or perspective on a matter.

Unfortunately I have been witness and party to how we can chew up and spit out those who don’t agree with us, so for the most part I keep my opinions and perspectives to myself these days. After all, one camp is not how I want to be defined. I’m just Stacey.

I challenge you: next time you come across someone who is called in a way very different from you, don’t shut the door. Allow God to call each of you in your own unique ways for your own unique lives. You never know, they may be an Ezekiel or Bonhoeffer and one day you may wish you knew them.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The fear of the response

Ezekiel 2:6
And you son of man, do not be afraid of them or their words.
Do not be afraid, though briers and thorns are all around you and you live among scorpions.
Do not be afraid of what they say or terrified by them, though they are a rebellious house.

Ezekiel found himself amongst the exiles, being one himself. As he is called to be a prophet he is warned that it will be no easy task. The group he is talking to is rebellious. The group he is talking to will not like what he has to say. The group he is talking to is sinful and hard hearted. But God has called him to speak anyway, so that they will know a prophet had been among them.

Some things we are called to are easy. Some things we are called to seem hopeless. We want to see results, we want to hear what good our work is, we want to know how God used our works, but sometimes life is not this way. So it is with Ezekiel. He is to “not rebel like that rebellious house” he is a part of, even though the people to whom he was sent were “obstinate and stubborn.” Have you ever felt this way about something you knew you were to do?

God calls us to do things sometimes which will not result in an earth shattering knowledge for anyone. He calls us to do things which may seemingly make no difference. He calls us to shout in the desert when we see no one who will listen. If we go into a situation thinking we know what the ending will be we go into it with our own expectations. God knows the results. We need to trust him with those. All we need to worry about is obeying rather than being stubborn and obstinate ourselves.

Sometimes the only thing we have to fear is what people would say. This is apparently what Ezekiel faced. Most times we feel so silly for fearing this, but God does not belittle Ezekiel for his fear. Instead he tells him not to be afraid three times. The fear that grabs our heart, regardless of what it is the fear of, can stop us in our tracks. God simply doesn’t want us to fear. He wants us to trust Him.

Question 1: Have you been called to do something you haven’t done yet because you feel it is fruitless? How we define results is not necessarily how God defines them. Is it time to trust him with how others respond to you, and only worry about how you are responding to him?

Question 2: No matter what you are fearful of God wants you to know it’s okay. He is there for you, and He wants you to trust Him. Whatever is holding you back from responding to God in obedience are you able to let it go and hold on to him instead?

Dear Father
We let so many things sneak into our hearts
The fears which are so small grow so large
Help us to have faith in you Help us to remember you are for us
Help us to walk in the path you have set down for us
Thank you for being with us as we go

Monday, November 19, 2012

Ezekiel's Fear

Ezekiel was taken to Babylon in King Nebuchadnezzar’s second deportation of Jerusalemites. Here he is called to be a prophet and minister to those he is in the midst of. We have seen several prophets and people called and comforted that God is in charge. Ezekiel is no exception to the rule. He tells his story of being called in the first two chapters of his book, and here is just a portion.

ezekiel 2 6

He has called me to be a prophet, to be a man of God. I am part of these people who He sends me to. They will remind me. They will remind me I am not any different than they are. How will I get them to hear Your word, Oh God, when they will look at the blood which connects us together? How will they hear anything said? Oh that they could have seen this vision, and felt Your spirit, and heard Your very word. What will they say as I share what I have heard?

And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them or their words.

Oh Lord, let my confidence be in You. Help me to walk in the path you have called me to. Guide my steps and my path so that it is clear. Lord, will you incline their hearts? Will you open their eyes and ears so they may see and listen?

Do not be afraid, though briers and thorns are all around you and you live among scorpions.

You have set me on this path. You have given words to say. You have called me to be Your man. Lord, despite the hardships, and with those who will be against me, help me have courage and your strength to move me forward each day. Open my mouth and speak. Open my eyes and let me see. Open my ears and let me hear.

Do not be afraid of what they say or terrified by them, though they are a rebellious house.

Oh Lord, I am a son of man looking for reward, gain, and approval. Help me seek those from you alone. As I do as you have called, remind me I am your servant. Their response is not my responsibility. Obeying your calling is all I am responsible for. You, Mighty God, are true and good. Keep my eyes on you as you lead me on this path.

Ezekiel 2:6

And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them or their words. Do not be afraid, though briers and thorns are all around you and you live among scorpions. Do not be afraid of what they say or terrified by them, though they are a rebellious house. (NIV) 
But don't be afraid of them, son of man, and don't be afraid of anything they say. Don't be afraid when living among them is like stepping on thorns or finding scorpions in your bed. Don't be afraid of their mean words or their hard looks. They're a bunch of rebels. Your job is to speak to them. Whether they listen is not your concern. They're hardened rebels. (The Message)  
And you, son of man, neither fear them nor fear their words, though thistles and thorns are with you and you sit on scorpions; neither fear their words nor be dismayed at their presence, for they are a rebellious house. (NAS)

Reformation Study Bible: The prophets report such experiences not so much as autobiography but because their admission to the divine council was the basis for their claim to prophetic authority.
 - briers, thorns, scorpions: metaphors referring to those who are going to persecute Ezekiel for bringing and unpopular message from God.

Matthew Henry: Those that will do any thing to purpose in the service of God must not be afraid of the face of man, for the fear of man will bring a snare, which will be very entangling to us in the word of God.
- Thorns and briers are the fruit of sin and the curse.

Asbury Bible Commentary: By referring to Ezekiel as "son of man" God clearly indicated his sovereignty, not only over Ezekiel but over all humanity. Here was no room for a buddy type relationship with God as is so common in Christian circles today.
- God calls and sends not because it is easy or because he promises success, but because there is a message to share, a job to be done.

John Wesley's notes: words - accusations, threats, or whatever else a malicious heart can suggest to the tongue
 - briars - which usually run up amond thorns, are a very fit emblem of the forwardness and keenness of sinners against God and his prophet.
 - scorpions - malicious, revengeful men. They that will do anything to purpose in the service of God must not fear the faces of men.

Clarke's commentary: They will maltreat thee for thy message; but let not the apprehension of this induce thee to suppress it. Though they be rebels, fear them not; I will sustain and preserve thee.

Larry Richards: What Ezekiel had to face was simply harsh and hostile words. Angry words, yes. Ridiculing words, yes. But just words. It's like this in our day. ... God didn't ridicule Ezekiel's fears, and He doesn't ridicule ours. He simply told the prophet, whose society was far more hardened than our own, "do not be afraid..." And then God reminded Ezekiel of the obligation which was his because of his own personal experience with the Lord. Ezekiel lived during the time of Jeremiah and Daniel. Ezekiel went to Babylon as a captive during Nebuchadnezzar's second deportation of Jerusalemites in 597BC. Ezekiel ministered "in the midst" of the Jewish exiles who had settled at Tel-abib beside the Chebar River.