Ezekiel 36:26-27 (NIV)
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.
The prophets of the Old Testament were well-acquainted with the activity of the Holy Spirit. Prophets had the task of hearing the Spirit speak, and then delivering that undiluted message to the appropriate party.
The Hebrew word for prophesy is naba, and it means to speak (or even sing) by inspiration, or as I like to call it, “in-Spirit-ation.” And what does the Spirit say? The Spirit is always drawing us back to our covenant-relationship with God. For a prophet like Ezekiel, the Spirit was inspiring him to call Israel home. A new heart, tender to God, is the homecoming gift for the exile in return, a heart of flesh that is responsive to the tireless love of God. The Spirit is always, always, calling people home.
Many years ago, I was sitting on an airplane getting ready to take off across the country. I was a happy introvert. It was a 5-hour trip and the seat beside me—possibly the last open seat on the plane—was empty! Then, just as the doors were about to close and my restful journey was about to begin, a loud, angry, and large business man came bustling through the aircraft door.
He strode toward the back of the plane, right where I had settled in, and climbed over me to take the seat beside me (banging my head with his briefcase on the way through!).
Within moments, he was asking me if I believed in God! I had no Bible in my hand or “pastor” label stamped on my forehead. Then he launched right into his story: he told me how he had taken lives in the military, how he had tried to cleanse his guilt by doing humanitarian work, how he was an atheist, and how he hated God because his young daughter was dying in a hospital bed (Note: his little girl regularly went and prayed for all the other patients on her floor. A sweet messenger had been given to him to help guide him home!)
In the middle of his confession, which had drawn the interest of everyone in the last five rows of the plane, I asked the Holy Spirit to speak to me. An unusual idea came into my mind: “Ask him who Rebecca is, and what her place is in his life.” I was terrified I would sound like a crazy person, but faith is spelled R-I-S-K (John Wimber). I told him that I believed God speaks to people, and whispered the question to him: “Who is Rebecca, and what place does she have in your life?”
His jaw immediately dropped. His eyes welled up with tears. His countenance softened. His voice fell to a whisper. “How do you know Rebecca?” he asked with unbelief. “I don’t,” I said, “but God does, and He knows you, too.” Rebecca was his girlfriend, and she was trying to get them to go back to church. As we got off the flight, he promised me he was going to give God another chance.
As J.D. Walt says, the prayer we are invited to pray is “Jesus, I belong to you.” And to own that prayer, sometimes a heart must be softened by an encounter that enables one to say: “Jesus, I am known and seen by you.” To partner with the Holy Spirit, is to call people home.
Jesus, I receive the Holy Spirit. I want to partner with your Holy Spirit in calling people home to your great love for them. Come, Holy Spirit, teach me to hear your voice, and to obey. In Jesus’ name, amen.
What are the names of those in your sphere of influence who come to mind as candidates for being called home to Jesus? Ask Jesus right now to do whatever it takes to turn them around.
For the Awakening,