Sinners Pews

"He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me." (Matthew 10:40)

Last in, first out

It hurts to be misunderstood. It hurts deeply when those who are expected to take you in with open arms instead give you a cold shoulder. It hurts even more when you endeavor to follow Christ in your own life and know His peace and presence and purpose, and then those to whom He's sent you, don't see you as He does. His statement is manifold but with reference to our brothers and sisters in Him, the ones who look at you and wonder (or don't even look at you at all), it looks as if Jesus is saying that if they don't accept you, they won't be entering in to a fuller communion with Him. His blessing and presence may well be blunted if they choose not to see you as a gift. This pattern repeats itself throughout the Bible.

"But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house. And He could there do no mighty work, save that he laid his hands upon a few sick folk, and healed them. And He marvelled because of their unbelief. And He went round about the villages, teaching." (Mark 6:4-6)

Sometimes, the hardest people to reach are the ones in your own church. The ones who go about their day and their week, blissfully ignorant of the God that you know and bring with you on Sunday. When Jesus "came into His own country" again (Mark 6:1), those who grew up with Him had no idea where He got His stuff. They were incredulous at His "wisdom" and "mighty works" (6:2). So much so, I'd wager this is the beginning of the attitude that crescendoed in the lynchmob mentality that hunted Jesus down in Gethsemane and had Him crucified.

"Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me." (Matthew 17:17)

Jesus says that if someone receives you, they receive Him and also His Father. If you know you represent God, know that He and Jesus are your audience. They are the Ones that see your heart and know your motives. If you struggle in the face of impolite conduct, gossip and an irrational (read: loveless) coolness in your church or any of your circles, know that that's what God wants to warm up and burn out--through you. It happened with the prophet Ezekiel.

"And He said unto me, Son of man, go, get thee unto the house of Israel, and speak with my words unto them. For thou art not sent to a people of a strange speech and of an hard language, but to the house of Israel; Not to many people of a strange speech and of an hard language, whose words thout canst not understand. Surely, had I sent thee to them, they would have hearkened unto thee. But the house of Israel will not hearken unto thee; for they will not hearken unto me: for all the house of Israel are impudent and hardhearted." (Ezekiel 3:4-7)

God calls Ezekiel "son of man". He says to go and "speak with my words". I like that. Because the time you take to actually make the words of God yours, will tell in the effectiveness in getting your (God's) point across. "For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing..." (Matthew 13:15) Jesus is quoting Isaiah (6:10). Evidently, the same thing happening in the Old Testament was happening during His time and it happens today. People hear a sermon every week and the words go in one ear and out the other. The mere words, it would seem, mean nothing. And yet when God tells you--you to "speak with my words", you know they won't "return...void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it." (Isaiah 55:11)

God tells Ezekiel that he would have been a hundred percent effective if he went elsewhere with his message. That's amazing. The confidence of God in reaching the lost and the unsaved! But the care and concern He has for those who've already made a commitment to Him and are backslidden! Which is greater? And this is where it can get scary. Because if God wants to do new things and only a select few people have availed themselves of God's heart on a matter, and no one else wants to slow down and see it, where can He go?

Praying in the back row

"Gather my saints together unto me; those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice." (Psalm 50:5)

But that's not our problem. The writer of Hebrews says (10:39) "But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul." Keep pressing on. God has your back. Look in the eyes of those whose are glazed over (don't think donuts, think ice--that's the root of the word) and let God ignite the same fire in them. Sometimes it takes time. Heartache and boredom and God knows what else. If you have a fire on your insides (you should!), stay warm and stay there.

"Then the Spirit took me up, and I heard behind me a voice of a great rushing, saying, Blessed be the glory of the Lord from His place. I heard also the noise of the wings of the living creatures that touched one another, and the noise of the wheels over against them, and a noise of a great rushing. So the Spirit lifted me up, and took me away, and I went in bitterness, in the heat of my spirit; but the hand of the Lord was strong upon me." (Ezekiel 3:14, emphasis mine)

In other words, Ezekiel was pissed at his lot. He saw God. He knew God, he knew that much. And if left to his own devices, he probably would have left "Israel" alone. But the Holy Spirit moved him along. It didn't matter that he "went in bitterness, in the heat of [his] spirit", he still went. God can do something with us, regardless of our feelings, if we choose to obey Him and go where we're sent.

Yours, Mine, and Hours

Three Little Words