Witness Cloud

It’s Wednesday morning, November 16, 2011. We have our first (I don’t know if there will be more) appointment with a nutritionist this evening at 630. We are praying that, just maybe, she will say something that will resonate with Stephanie to trigger a desire to get on the weight loss bandwagon with Christi and me. I really don’t think she will have anything to say that we don’t already know. However, I hope she does. I’m certainly open-minded about it. We are seriously trying to lose weight, so any advice she can give us will be helpful.

It sounds like the leadership team from The Exchange may be close to finding a place for the church, so we don’t have to meet in a school any more. They are having a prayer meeting Thursday about it, according to the pastor’s Facebook feed. Please join us in praying for that.

Today’s Bible readings:
Hebrews 12; Ezekiel 23-24; Proverbs 27:10-18

Hebrews 12 starts with yet another “therefore.” This one refers back to all of those names listed in chapter 11, which, for the first time in my 50+ years, inspired MY faith! Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

I had to throw that in there. We have all of these great faith people “surrounding” us, so let us be encouraged! Let us throw off the weight that hinders us, this “sin which clings so closely,” and run the race! We all have a race “set before us.” My race is different than your race. But some of us may have the same race. So all the more encouraging when you find someone to run with. As a Church, our race is similar, so we can all, in a sense, run together, because the goal is the same; to glorify our Lord. We also have the example of Jesus. We look to him, as he is “the founder and perfecter of our faith.” We have struggled against sin, but not to the point that he did, for he shed blood in his fight against sin, and he overcame it utterly and completely.
We do endure discipline from God (vv. 7-11), but we have to remember…this discipline is out of love, not anger! God is not angry with us! (I have to keep repeating that to myself.) If God did not discipline us, it would be a sign that he did not love us. The reason for God’s discipline is seen in verse 10, that we may share his holiness. The result of discipline is seen in verse 11, the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. I spent far too many years of my life resisting the discipline of the Lord.
The writer admonishes us to lift our “drooping hands” and strengthen our “weak knees,” and make “straight paths” for our feet! We need to get moving! We need to stop sitting around, acting powerless. We are also encouraged to “strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” (v. 14)
Verse 18 begins a tremendous passage. For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.” But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. AMEN!! Hallelujah! In the old testament, the people of Israel were terrified of the mountain of God. They were afraid of seeing the Lord, lest they die! We have come to a place that is inviting and beautiful, which we need not fear, because we have come to Jesus, the mediator of our covenant! We are receiving “a kingdom that cannot be shaken,” (v. 28 ) and we should “offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.” (v. 28-29)

Ezekiel 23 is probably the most graphic depiction of Israel’s unfaithfulness in the whole Bible. It’s pretty much “R-rated,” if not “X.” Suffice it to say that God looks at unfaithfulness to him with great disdain.
In the first verse of Ezekiel 24, the king of Babylon has attacked Jerusalem that very day. Verse 14 is sobering. I am the LORD. I have spoken; it shall come to pass; I will do it. I will not go back; I will not spare; I will not relent; according to your ways and your deeds you will be judged, declares the Lord GOD. Later in the chapter, Ezekiel’s wife dies, yet he is not allowed to mourn her, as a sign for the house of Israel.

Some of the proverbs prove that God has a sense of humor. 27:14, for instance, Whoever blesses his neighbor with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, will be counted as cursing. Amen to that! I’m not a morning person, either.
Also, verses 15-16. A continual dripping on a rainy day and a quarrelsome wife are alike; to restrain her is to restrain the wind or to grasp oil in one’s right hand. Have you ever tried to hold a handful of oil? Heh. I thank God that my wife is nothing like this. She is more like the woman in Proverbs 31.
In more seriousness, verse 17 describes the benefit of having a really good friend. Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.
(I really wanted to put a video of the old Glad song, “Iron Sharpens Iron” here, but there doesn’t seem to be one on Youtube.)

Father, first I want to praise you for Christi. She is the love of my life, and has been a joy to me all these years. She is encouraging to me when I feel like I’m not worthy of even licking the ground people walk on. She lifts me up when I have fallen. And more than anything, she loves me when I don’t feel very lovable. But she also corrects me when I’m veering off the path, and not so gently, sometimes. This I thank you for as well. She truly is my best friend, and I praise you for that! I pray that, as the years continue, we will grow closer together, and love each other even more.
I also thank you for the relationships that are building in our lifehouse. Perhaps those will be the type spoken of in Proverbs when it says “iron sharpens iron.”
Lord, I thank you for the “witness cloud” of Hebrews 11. And the way the writer uses that to encourage us to run the race that we have before us in chapter 12 is very inspiring! I pray that I will have the faith to do just that! You have helped me to throw off the sin and weight that so easily entangles me, that “besetting sin,” those things in my life that don’t glorify you or hinder my walk with you…they are dropping off along the way, as I walk with you. I praise you for this, Lord. May your mercy and grace continue to flow in my life, and may they overflow to the point that they splash out onto people around me. I don’t want people to see how great I am (especially since I’m not). I want them to see how great you are! I stand before you, holy! I come before you with clean hands and a clean heart, because the blood of Christ has cleansed me and set me free! I pray that the worship I offer you is acceptable.

I pray for this day, Father. I pray that Christi will have a good day at work today. I also pray that my day at work will be a good one. I pray for our meeting with the nutritionist this evening, that it will be the thing that will trigger Stephanie to start caring a little more about what she eats. I also pray for her first meeting with her home teacher this Friday.

I lift up a special prayer today for the meeting of the church leadership team tomorrow. I pray that your wisdom will guide them into the right decision that will be best for our church. I pray that we will not become needlessly encumbered by something that isn’t right. Let your timing and wisdom be known, Father!

Ponder that “witness cloud” today. Let the knowledge of all of those people spur you on to greater things! No matter what your lot in life, there is someone out there who can inspire you to do whatever you do even better.

Grace and peace, friends.

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