Saturday, September 21, 2013

Man, Eagle, Lion, and Ox

Four words jumped off the page this week as I read Ezekiel Chapter 1: Man, Eagle, Lion, and Ox. These were the four faces of the creatures that Ezekiel saw guarding the glory of God in a vision that he had. They were powered by and moved with the spirit. While this passage holds so much more than this, I have wondered why these four words sunk so deep for me. I immediately imagined that the characteristics of these creatures are those that God has chosen for me as an ambassador for Him. I began to research these faces today and stand amazed and convinced that this is what God desires of me.

Oxen. They are used for hard labor. They are typically used in pairs. They are trained to respond to their master's verbal and even gesture commands. Although they are not as fast as horses, they are stronger, move slower, and their pulling style is steadier. Hard working oxen wear their feet down, so they need to be properly shooed. The training process begins at a young age, and as they grow older, their yolk gets bigger and the load they pull becomes heavier. They have been and are the preferred choice for agricultural work, especially tilling and planting the ground and for harvesting.

Lions. They are social and live in groups. They hunt their prey and have strong jaws and teeth to devour their food. They have powerful legs and are known for running fast! They are BOLD. They are fierce and their roar commands respect, submission, and authority. "They shall go after the Lord, he will roar like a lion; when he roars, his children shall come trembling from the west." - Hosea 11:10.

Eagles. My favorite of all. They are amazing birds! Six character traits of eagles stand out. 1. They have fine sight. They can see another eagle flying from 50 miles away. Their eyes are designed for long distant vision and for clarity. 2. They are fearless. They will never surrender to the strength of their prey. 3. They are tenacious. While other birds seek shelter in the storm, an eagle takes advantage of it as it uses the wind to soar high above the storm. 4. They are high fliers. (this amazes me!) They can fly up to 10,000 feet in the air. I have sky dived from this altitude and it took us at least 20 min to reach this height by plane. No other bird can fly this high. 5. They nurture their young. Although they are known to be aggressive, ferocious birds, they are proven to be the most gentle and attentive of all birds to their young. 6. They possess vitality. (this one amazed me more than anything!) They become frail around 30 years old. Rather than succumbing to their lack of strength, they retreat to a mountaintop to rejuvenate. Over a period of about 5 months, they knock off parts of their body ... their beak, their talons, etc. and in time grow new parts, regrowth, which in turn allows the bird another 30+ years to live. AMAZING!

Man. Men and Women. They are created in the image of God. Genesis 1:27 "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them." Because we are created in the image of God we possess his traits. We are loving, caring, become angry, we are social, personal, spiritual, intellectual, hard working....and so forth.

 The creatures had each of these faces, yet appeared to Ezekiel as men. I believe that God wants us to be as each of these creatures. He has clothed us with these qualities. He has created in us the ability to hear and obey his commands. He asks us to prepare the soil, plant the seeds of his salvation, and to gather the harvest. This is not easy work, and the older we get, the harder the work. We need to be slow and steady workers for him, capable of carrying heavy loads.
He wants us to be quick, bold, and strong as a lion. He wants us to hear his roar and to come to him when he calls. He has given us a "pride" to dwell in.....his people, chosen to work together for his good purpose of testifying to the gospel.
He wants us to "hope in the Lord, renew our strength, and soar on wings as eagles, running and not growing weary, walking without being faint." (Isaiah 40:31) We are to be fearless, never quitting, keeping a clear vision of what lies ahead. We are to nurture our children and gently teach them to fly. We are not made to fear the storms, but rather to rise above the challenges of life and use them to soar higher! We are to fly high and free. We are to climb the mountains and allow him to restore us unto him to gain strength to carry on!
As men and women, created by God and for God, we are to claim our foundation in Him. He wants us to live in such a way of being children of the King! Not orphans, but Children with a Father!! Secured in His love each day. Romans 8:15 "for you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry 'Abba, Father."
I am challenged to claim these attributes. Knowing that this insight is such a small thread in the  tapestry He is creating!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Being a sign of God's Faithfulness

Last Sunday's sermon at my home church in Pennsylvania couldn't have come at a better time for me. It was short and simple but held a powerful message about life. There were two main points, the first one of living our lives in search of the signs of God's faithfulness, and the second of being the sign of God's faithfulness. He quoted several different people on the identification of a "Christian" being found through the answers of the poor. Who would the poor say served Christ?

I have pondered this through the week to follow as I also had conversations regarding serving the poor and caring for the orphan. I wondered how I have served the poor? How have I been a sign of God's faithfulness? What if I am not able to be or do things that I admire about other's faithfulness? I admire the ones who have taken the orphan into their home, the ones who feed the homeless, and shelter the needy. I have come to realize that not everyone is able to do each thing. Although I may wish I had the ability to do one thing, God may want me to do something else.

Who are the poor? Are they limited to the absence of physical possessions? Are they hungry, homeless, parent less? Yes, but are they more? Are they the poor of spirit as well? They may have riches beyond compare, yet lack the riches found in Christ. Maybe they have also the riches in Christ, but have found themselves in the darkest valleys, the driest deserts...the places that seem so far from God. As I ponder the concept of "poor", I realize that my mission field just got so much bigger. God has given each person a different talent or maybe several talents. He wants us to use them to minister to the different kinds of poor.

A talent. Now there is another word I have come to think about. I have always read the parable of the talents believing that the talents referred to wealth. The land owner gave each of the three servants different amounts. To one, he gave 10, another 5, and the other 1. When the ruler returned the servants with 10 and 5 had doubled theirs, the one with only 1 talent had hidden the talent out of fear. The first two were rewarded for making the most of what they were given, but the servant with one talent lost even the talent he had and it was given to the first. These talents, I am learning through my own life, are not just those of wealth. They are also talents of pain and suffering. I have been given this talent. It is up to me to either bury it, or to use it to benefit others. Maybe God is calling me to reach the poor of spirit.

It is so hard to believe that a year has passed.  A year ago, I was asked to speak at a women's retreat in the Pocono mountains. I accepted the invitation knowing that God would provide for me as he always has. That retreat is now two weeks away, and God continues to impress the women who attend into my heart. I have been praying for them as I have trusted God to provide the words that he wants them to hear. I know that He will be faithful. I know this because of the many signs of His faithfulness that he has given to me. It is my prayer that God will now use me as a sign of his faithfulness to someone else.