Saturday, April 20, 2013, 8:38 a.m. – the Lord Jesus woke me with the song “Above All” playing in my mind. Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening. I read Ezekiel 37 (NIV): http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ezekiel%2037&version=NIV Shepherds & Sheep In Ezekiel 34 we are given a vivid picture of shepherds (leaders) and sheep (followers), certainly as applied throughout history, but in particular leading up to the final days on this earth before the return of Jesus Christ. The leaders of the people, both politically and religiously, though not all, care only for themselves. They may give off an appearance of caring for the people, but even that is self-serving. They do not strengthen the spiritually weak or heal the sin-sick soul or bind up those injured by sin’s deceitfulness. They also do not offer this type of healing and restoration on a physical or emotional level, either, though some do. They do not bring back those who have strayed because of sin’s deceitfulness or because of rejection and mistreatment. They do not search for the spiritually lost or those who, again, have been ostracized by the church due to rejection and persecution. In fact, many of these leaders are guilty of pushing people away who do not fit their man-created molds. They can even be harsh and brutal in their treatment of those who do not fit their persona or the “targeted audience” of those they want in their churches (or country). So, the people are scattered because of lack of a shepherd. And, when they are scattered, they become food for all the “wild animals.” This scattering can be physical, or it can be philosophical, emotional or spiritual. In other words, the people are lacking the true leadership they need and that God intends, and so they easily fall prey to all kinds of winds of doctrines, to the deception and lies of men, and/or to discouragement and feelings of abandonment. They are scattered by denomination, by race, by culture, by “targeted audience,” through rejection and persecution, through apathy of leaders, and through lack of true Biblical leadership. And, this makes them vulnerable to the enemy’s attacks against their minds and hearts. When people feel abandoned by those who are supposed to love, nurture and protect them, they may fall prey to discouragement and hopelessness and they may even give up on life and/or on God, etc., and fall by the wayside. Yet, others may find great strength in the Lord during such times of persecution and abandonment, and this may even be used of God in their lives to strengthen their faith and resolve to follow Jesus Christ wherever he leads them. Though, perhaps, still ostracized from much of the body of Christ, they will resolutely determine to live holy lives pleasing to God even to the death. One of the most serious areas in which I see this lack of shepherding taking place within today’s church is how the leaders are spiritually abandoning the people through following man-made religion, teachings, philosophies and marketing schemes for how to build big churches, instead of teaching the word of God in all its truth and following the Biblical role model for church. They entertain the people rather than confront them with sin in their lives. They dilute the true gospel of Jesus Christ to make it less offensive so that more people will “accept” Christ and will come to their churches. They say “peace, peace” when there is no peace, and they put Band-Aids over serious sin. They teach we don’t have to turn from our sin and we don’t have to obey Christ and his commands to be saved, yet scripture refutes this all over the place. Where is salvation if we don’t turn from our sin? Where is freedom if we continue in willful sin, thinking we have our ticket into heaven and so we’re safe? Ezekiel 34 is an indictment against such leaders. Yet, God has a plan. Judgment is coming, and in that judgment God will remove these wicked, self-serving, idolatrous and spiritually adulterous leaders from their positions of authority and rule over the people so that they can no longer feed only themselves and take advantage of others. God/Jesus Christ will rescue his flock (Amen!) from these idolatrous and self-serving leaders who would lead God’s people astray. He will search for his sheep. He will bring back the strays. He will look after his sheep and he will pasture his sheep. He will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, and he will shepherd his flock with justice. Yet, he will also judge his sheep, and he will also judge who are his true sheep and who are not. He will judge those who trampled his sanctuary, i.e. the body of Christ, and who diluted the gospel of Jesus Christ for their own purposes and advantage. He will judge those sheep who take advantage of those weaker than themselves and who mistreat their brothers and sisters in Christ. He will judge those who have turned away his true sheep due to prejudice, misunderstanding, abuse, apathy, neglect, and/or rejection and persecution. And, Jesus Christ will be our only shepherd. Then, when Jesus Christ returns for his bride, we will live in safety with no one to make us afraid. Amen! Dry Bones In Ezekiel 37, Ezekiel was given a vision from the Lord. He saw a great many dry bones in the middle of a valley. A valley can be a physical gorge or it can be a low-period in our lives; a time of tribulation and hardship. The dry bones are symbolic of spiritual deadness, yet they represent the “whole house of Israel,” i.e. the church, I believe. In the letters to the seven churches in the book of Revelation, five of the seven churches had something against them, and they all had something for them except one – Laodicea. These five were described in these terms: 1. They had forsaken their first love (Jesus Christ), 2. They had those among them who were spiritually idolatrous and who were leading the people astray to false gods, 3. They tolerated false teachers and false teaching (a diluted gospel, for instance), 4. They were tolerant of immorality (pornography is a huge one in today’s church), 5. They had a reputation of being alive, but they were dead, and 6. They were lukewarm (apathetic), neither on fire for Christ nor terribly opposed to him. In other words, a large majority of today’s church, in particular here in America, is just like these dry bones scattered everywhere without the life of the Spirit within them. The bones are scattered for lack of a shepherd (see Ez. 34). They are dry because they have become prey for all the “wild animals,” i.e. they are under the leadership of those who feed only themselves, who are not confronting sin, who are not dealing with serious sin issues within the church, and who are diluting the gospel and are entertaining the world. And, so the church has become just like the world to where it is barely distinguishable between the world and the church anymore. Christians behave and speak just like the world. Few are out preaching the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ to the people of all nations, i.e. that we must deny ourselves, die daily to sin and self, and follow Jesus Christ in obedience (see Luke 9:23-25). Social Christianity has replaced genuine revival of the soul. So, the church is dry and is scattered and is ineffective overall in its witness for Jesus Christ and for the true gospel of Christ which has the power to save people from their sins. A Vast Army Ezekiel was to prophesy to the bones, and when he did, the bones came together and flesh appeared on them, but there was no breath in them. So he prophesied to the breath, and breath entered the bones and they came to life. They stood up on their feet, and they were a vast army. If you read Isaiah, you will get the picture that the church in the last days is idolatrous, spiritually adulterous, rebellious or apathetic (like Laodicea), and unrepentant. So, God sends forth his messages warning of judgment (just like in these letters in Revelation to the churches), and calling the people of God (the church) to repent or face the consequences. They do not heed his warnings, they refuse to listen to his words and to his messengers, and they continue in their idolatrous and adulterous ways. So, God must do as he said he would do, and he will send his divine judgment against his idolatrous people. The result, though, will be that the church is revived, they go forth as an army throughout the world preaching the gospel, and people from all nations flock to the gospel, to the cross of Christ and to salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, all to the glory of God. Amen! I believe that is what this prophesy of Ezekiel is about, too. God will send judgment as a way of delivering his children out of the grasp of those idolatrous leaders of Ezekiel 34. Then, he will regather his sheep (the bringing of the bones together) so that we are all one body like we are supposed to be, he will give them hearts of flesh (pliable and teachable) instead of hearts of stone, he will breathe the breath of the Spirit of God in them in spiritual renewal (revival), and then they will go forth as a mighty army of God in sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ so that many people from all nations will be saved. They will be under one shepherd, Jesus Christ, and they will no longer be a divided people. “They will no longer defile themselves with their idols and vile images or with any of their offenses, for I will save them from all their sinful backsliding, and I will cleanse them,” says the Lord. “They will be my people, and I will be their God.” Then, they will obey Christ’s commands. Then, when Jesus Christ returns for his bride, he will gather us all together and he will live among us, i.e. Jesus Christ will be our sanctuary among us forever (see Rev. 21:22-27). If you identified with either these neglectful, idolatrous and self-serving leaders, or with the sheep who are trampling Christ’s sanctuary, his body, with false teaching and mistreatment of other sheep, or if you identified with these dry and lifeless bones in need of revival and renewed life of the Spirit within them, then I pray today that you will get before God in prayer, seeking his face, and that you will turn from your sins and choose that from this day forward you will walk in humble obedience to Christ and to his commands, and that you will be part of that mighty army going forth with the truth of the gospel so that people of all nations will flock to Jesus Christ, the cross, the gospel and to salvation of their souls. Oh, to Be Like Thee, Blessed Redeemer / Thomas O. Chisholm / W. J. Kirkpatrick Oh, to be like Thee! blessèd Redeemer, This is my constant longing and prayer; Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures, Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear. Oh, to be like Thee! full of compassion, Loving, forgiving, tender and kind, Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting, Seeking the wandering sinner to find. O to be like Thee! lowly in spirit, Holy and harmless, patient and brave; Meekly enduring cruel reproaches, Willing to suffer others to save. Oh, to be like Thee! Oh, to be like Thee, Blessèd Redeemer, pure as Thou art; Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness; Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.