Known in the Reconstruction

Ezekiel 39:25-40:4

“Now I will restore the fortunes of Jacob and have mercy on the whole house of Israel, and I will be jealous for my holy name…. And I will not hide my face anymore from them, when I pour out my Spirit upon the house of Israel.”

Origins and Being Known

I like when God says “now” with something positive attached to it. I like it because often in my own life, when I have thought where I am right “now” my default opinion on the matter is dissatisfaction. I blame my name.

James (finding its root in Jacob) means grasp the heel of or to supplant, supersede or replace

Louis- (from Ludvig) means famous in battle

and Passaro (closest similar word is Portugese) means bird.

I have lived like a bird flying, trying to take its place famously in the battle of life and thus far I would say I have knocked it out of the park!……ing spot.

It’s okay to laugh at that. We could cry together, but I’ll be honest, chances are if you’re one of the 8 people who read this blog, you’re a friend, empathetic to the plight of finding your identity and purpose in the world, or are a content, beautiful soul of a person who reads this because I am your friend ,and occasionally, you find a nugget of encouragement.

If you found this here post by accident, yay! What does your name mean? This post might be good; keep reading, it’s too early to tell.

Back to Ezekiel, God the Father has this house, and in it was the nation of Israel. In 2017, God’s house consists of His children, those who put their faith in Christ. His promise is for mercy, that his household will forget their former shame. God is made fully known to the household.

Me

I, at 29 years of age, recognize my desperate need to know God in this fullness, otherwise I’m not leaving this parking spot. My parking spot looks probably much different from yours.

Birds travel “south” or instinctively migrate in the winter. They move every 6 months or so and then park in an area, build a nest and then move again. Birds fly, they live in the clouds, the trees, the lofty places.

They poop on your car because they know there is nothing you can do about it. They fly out of silos right by your face and before you know what hit you they are gone. Birds flight, and rarely fight, which is why my name is such a mess.

My last name is the animal in flight, my middle name describes a person who is famous in the fight or battle. My first name is grasping or seeks to take the place of and is a symbol of struggle for more. I’m a walking contradistinction, a similar concept caught between 2 attributes.

When I begin to fight for what I want, I grasp too tightly; I am terrified to let go, and if in the process I hurt someone I immediately pull away like a child touching a hot stove. If I hurt someone else I simultaneously feel that hurt and mistake it for hurting myself. It’s the empathy in me.

When I walk away or move away, I so badly want to maintain the relationships I cherish and fight for people preserving them in my memory. This is why it is so hard for me to look at bad circumstances, move on and let go of the people who I might need to let go of for the sake of all involved. I’m usually holding onto those memories for far too long. Along with the memory, the pain, along with the pain, the constant uncertainty of forgiveness as a reality.

I was born to be in the battle, even if I wasn’t the best, I wanted to be in the game. I so greatly want to share my story and hear the stories of those around me. I’ve wanted to take people into the sky and see what I see while simultaneously searching for food with others while on the ground.

How do I Build on God and self?

But the confusion persists in the fact that I was a week late. Literally,  had to be induced as a baby. I didn’t want to come out. I didn’t grasp anyone’s heel. I’ve never replaced someone. I’ve never ousted someone because of my trickery to get ahead. But I’ve played the victim card. I’ve benched myself. And I’ve gotten better at trying to fight battles with my words, except with my mom.

Why? Because at this stage of the game, as hard as it is to admit, compelling people with my words, though I love to write, love to talk, love to sing, my words and expression only have power if they are grounded in a vibrant relationship with Jesus. His word is where the power is.

I have never allowed my character to catch up with my words. Depending on what you think of how I use my words, you get the idea of how much character still needs to be developed. But this development, this building on a foundation with God always comes with a plan. God knows the end, who we are becoming, what He is doing in us.

This is why the next 6 chapters in Ezekiel are so fascinating. This book ends with a reconstruction plan. But prior to the plan Ezekiel meets the architect. The architect has the appearance of bronze holding a linen cord and a measuring reed and reveals to Ezekiel the plan.

This moment is a transitional moment for Ezekiel. After 39 chapters, the focus shifts from judgment and reconciliation to the blueprint for what the household of God begins to do for God. Now that the people are promised restoration, they are given purpose in their relationship.

This is the season I am in. Remembering the promise of my restoration, given a purpose, and now to quiet myself enough to receive more of my identity as restored, so I can enter into the battle well.

Known By Any Means

Ezekiel 38-39:24

                I know Mad Max is a couple of years old at this point, but the prophetic word against Gog and Magog in these chapters remind me of a post-apocalyptic world. This group of desert nations joins together to overtake unwalled defenseless villages. But God brings these evil nations together to prove His holiness and to come to the defense of Israel. So, he makes the earth shake and summons a sword. The desolation of evil makes God known.

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In Mad Max, the evil class pursues evil and exploitation while the exploited are trying to find freedom. Though there were casualties among the good, the evil are drawn into the wilderness to die in epic battle scenes. God is likewise doing this in the heart of evil nations. A desire lurks within them to exploit and torment God’s people so he lures them out to strike them with fire to make them food for birds and other animals.

It is an eternal characteristic of God that He delights in mercy more than judgment, but in this instance, God is known in His judgment. Much like the end of this age, God will be known for his righteous judgment. Judgment isn’t a popular theological perspective usually, but it is reality, and I would argue it is also good. Judgment is for those that refuse to respond and receive mercy because outside the mercy of God, nothing is left. To reject it is to choose nothingness. And nothingness is basically nonexistence.

Some would argue that non-existence can be equated to eternal torment. It could just be that the dissolving of the soul of mankind just takes a very long time. Perhaps our popular pictures of hell are depicting the process of a soul that was created for eternal pleasure in God, disintegrating into its rebellion as it suffers non-existence.

In chapter 39:9, the cities of Israel burn weapons in fire for 7 years. It will become unnecessary for them to cut down trees in the forest because the weapons will be their fuel for the fire. God takes that which was created to destroy others and burns it up.

When it comes to the individuals that make up Gog and Magog, their bodies are scattered in a valley. A certain group of men in Israel are set apart to travel through the valley to bury bodies to cleanse the land. It’s intriguing to me that chapter 37 is about raising dead bones to life in a valley which is followed by a chapter where another nations bones are buried in a different valley. The first instance is God revealing His glory by resurrecting life in His people. In the second instance God reveals His glory by burying those who reject Him.

As chapter 39 and the main portion of prophecy in Ezekiel nears its end, the message that God desires to be known, understood and loved by any means necessary has been driven home to the nation of Israel and to Ezekiel himself. However, the final 9 chapters, the book of Ezekiel takes an interesting turn. It becomes a map to future glory and the new temple. It becomes a blue print for reconstructing the kingdom.

Sticks and Bones Make Living Stones

Exodus 37

                Dry bones rattle and snap together with a tendon, then cover in flesh. Dust forms skin and waits for life-giving breath. When the life comes, there stands an army. Two sticks with names etched in them are held in hand.  Together they represent a nation.

What holds you and I together is the breath given us by God and kept in us by His mercy. What holds you and I together is the Spirit he gives us, to unify a diverse people. When His Spirit is poured out and fills the people of His Kingdom, we stand as a holy nation, a royal priesthood, even the army of God.

The Dry Bones

Dry bones and sticks that have fallen to the ground are in a category of dead things. Dry bones have been dead a very long time and assuming the stick fell from an already dead tree, the stick likewise is in a category that could be classified as “very dead.”

There are things, let’s call them dreams, within each of us that might be dead, or they might be dying, they also might be alive, but there are also things within us that are very dead. Very dead things are things that I would suggest have no hope left in them; they have been written off and buried, relegated to the realm of forgotten impossibilities.

This realm is the valley of dry bones. No one wants to go to that creepy place. I mean think about how creepy or uncomfortable it can be when you talk to someone you care about and they want to discuss with you something that they plan to do, but you are 100% convinced they will not do what they are describing to you, or they will try it but you know it’s not going to work out.  You might even tell them, “Bro, Sis don’t do this, it’s not going to work,” or you might get real honest and say, “you know you do this a lot, you plan something and you don’t follow through or you give up and what you are left with is usually nothing to show for it.”

Those conversations are difficult, they are sad, they are honest. They are usually grounded in reality and find consistency with the normal ebb and flow of life. Some people fail and don’t follow through a lot or most of the time. Those people need our/my mercy and grace. If and when it is me, I need my own mercy and grace though it is limited; I need your mercy and grace and I need God’s.

But those conversations and those situations that are a guaranteed failure lie in the same realm in which the Valley of Dry Bones exists. And this is the reason why this valley is a place that is often frequented alone. In Ezekiel 37, Ezekiel is in the valley alone and God asks him if the bones can live and Ezekiel replies, “You alone know the answer to that.”

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God gives a message that requires Ezekiel to speak formation and life into the bones, into very dead things. But it’s not a message that is spoken to any old dead thing, it is the dead thing that God wants to be alive and well and thriving, and sometimes that is not the dead thing that we want to come back to life. Sometimes it is a dead thing we have no recollection of ever wanting.

 

The Two Sticks

People carve into wood to memorialize things whether they be names or romances. And some people see them and think, “oh, that’s sweet,” and other people think “that’s so dumb”. I think it’s silly; even if you frequently visit that carving, it’s still silly. The second half of this chapter, Ezekiel holds two sticks together. It is one of the simplest and in some ways lamest prophetic acts of any prophet. I don’t know why anyone would even care about someone holding two sticks in their hand.

But that’s also the point of the prophecy.  Unity should be simple. Bringing people together is only hard because of sin, not because of the intrinsic benefits of diversity. To be closed off from diversity is rooted in idolatry. We make a god of that which looks the most like us. Deconstructed, we might say we are making a god of our self. The thread that is woven throughout Scripture is one of every nation knowing and worshiping God. He alone is worshiped by a diverse people in every nation.

The Living Stones

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1 Peter 2:5 gives us a New Testament rendition of what God is doing in chapter 37. Living stones, built together, offering ourselves to God and trusting in Him to be able to live out dream filled lives that make Jesus famous. The only way this happens is through the God that resurrects the dead.

Jesus, come resurrect the very dead among and within us.

This Land Was Made for Who and Me?

Ezekiel 36

ThisLandIsYourLandLyricByWoodyGuthrie_CREDITIf anyone could claim rights to an entire nation, it would be God. Other than God, when humanity claims rights to lands and borders, it seems both intentional and arbitrary. When a group of people are excluded from a land, there usually is a reason. Whether that reason can be validated is subjective, and now more than ever is a cause for disagreement.

In Ezekiel 36, God personifies the land and mountains of Israel by suggesting the land suffers from a lack of people and fruitful production. So, God promises the return of His people, multiplication and reminds the prophet Ezekiel of what caused the Israelites to be displaced from their land in the first place: immorality.

Immorality ruins a person, immorality ruins a family, immorality ruins a neighborhood, a town, a city, a country, a world. And the immorality of the Israelites was noticed by the surrounding nations because the surrounding nations said of them, “These are the people of the Lord, and yet they had to go out of this land.” Bad decisions can lead us to lose something valuable and can lead us to lose something that values us. A tarnished reputation needs to be corrected.

Fortunately for Israel, God took an active interest for the sake of His own namesake in restoring His people. For every human institution and internal levity, God’s cleansing and restoration is required because human attempts at cleansing lands are notoriously violent and lacking any semblance of love and joy. This is why in verse 26 God offers to do a transplant, specifically a heart transplant.

The promise of a new heart and a new spirit from God himself is an offer I realistically should not turn down. To have a hardened heart removed sounds like a dream come true. To have a heart that beats for and by God to obey and walk in love sounds irresistible. But God’s promise in this book continues with a promise of possession and safety and cleanness and abundance and renewal of a good reputation. God promises to fill all things so God might be known.

God does this because He is keenly aware that people call out to God in distress but know God through His kindness and goodness. To try to know God in his “badness” is impossible because it is not a part of His character.

And sometimes or seemingly oft-times God does His good work through relocation. He seemingly picks us up and moves us as He gives us a new heart. God does this to prove He can bless us anywhere. Even more, He can cultivate trust in us anywhere. Real blessing comes in the form of resolute trust. If I can fully trust the God as a good Father, I can trust He has my best in mind.beautiful-farm-wallpaper-2.jpg

Which is why from:

Hamilton-Pennington (June 2011)

Pennington-North Brunswick (May 2012)

North Brunswick-New Milford (August 2012)

New Milford-Harford (October 2012)

Harford-Clarks Summit (January 2013)

Clarks Summit-Scranton (August 2013)

Scranton-Pennington Farm (May 2015)

Pennington Farm- Pennington House (February 2016)

Pennington House-Princeton Nightmare (October 2016)

Princeton Nightmare-Princeton Relief (November 2016)

Princeton Relief-? (June 2017)

I can move again and see God just might be up to something. I’m hoping, more than a move, for a newer heart, one that shines inside, one that is willing to let Him be known outside, one that is made for Him, praise for others, and is content within itself. It is my greatest hope, in a year that is forming me in both gentleness and genuine joy. I want a heart that makes me a happy follower of Jesus. I was made for it and you were too.