Devotional Thought of the Day:
3 He said to me, “Mortal man, can these bones come back to life?”
I replied, “Sovereign LORD, only you can answer that!”
They say that they are dried up, without any hope and with no future. 12 So prophesy to my people Israel and tell them that I, the Sovereign LORD, am going to open their graves. I am going to take them out and bring them back to the land of Israel. 13 When I open the graves where my people are buried and bring them out, they will know that I am the LORD. 14 I will put my breath in them, bring them back to life, and let them live in their own land. Then they will know that I am the LORD. I have promised that I would do this—and I will. I, the LORD, have spoken.” Ezekiel 37:3:11-14 GNT
4 Come to the Lord, the living stone rejected by people as worthless but chosen by God as valuable. 5 Come as living stones, and let yourselves be used in building the spiritual temple, where you will serve as holy priests to offer spiritual and acceptable sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ… At one time you were not God’s people, but now you are his people; at one time you did not know God’s mercy, but now you have received his mercy. 1 Peter 2:4-5, 10 GNT
This world is full of rejection.
I have felt a lot of it across my life.
No, I am not talking about the ladies in high school who thought I was going to ask them out on a date and proactively said no. (Fourteen of the them, and only one was I thinking about asking out!) Nor the jobs and positions I really wanted whom others got.
I am talking about people who reject each other, and people they don’t even know, because of political views, religious views, views on what is moral or immoral and what is right and wrong. Maybe we wouldn’t reject them outright, but we place the signs and meme’s were they can see them, dripping with snark and sarcasm, or being just being offensive and hurtful in what we choose to say. (we may defend our statement as being true and accurate, but we say it in a way for shock value!)
And so we reject each other.
It is as if we were the one the Lord asked, “Can these bones live?” and rather than answer that only God knows, we go “No!” and turn our back and walk away.
We have had this done to us, and I bet we have done it to others.
Look at Facebook and Twitter – we’ve said it about every president or candidate or politician, we’ve said it about the broken figures in sports and in business, we’ve said it about those who seek help, and those who do not seem to help others. We’ve said it about the diversity of people around us, no race or culture has been exempt, including our own.
Notice I have said “we’ve said it,” for though we don’t each say it about everyone, we all have had our targets, those whom we believe are beyond redemption, who are beyond God’s ability to “Make alive” or put His Holy Spirit in, as He has promised. And I’ve said we, because sometimes it seems the church is more antagonistic than any other group.We are willing to bach people who don’t understand grace and mercy, and they won’t necessarily learn about it from us.
They should, we should be the ones who explain to the rejected that God won’t reject them. He will love them draw them to Himself, heal and cleanse their wounds. He doesn’t want to reject them, He wants to make them His people. His living, blessed, God chosen, valuable people.
People who know God, and revel to be in HIs presence.
These bones can live – and so can yours.
Rejoice, and look at all people, as those God is calling to be His own….what a wonderful thing!
Then You Will Know
† In Jesus Name †
As you know the miraculous work of God in your life, as the grace, mercy, and love become reality, never forget that this is your LORD who walks with you!
In the midst of the miraculous
There is a part of me, the geeky part, that would love to see a movie made out of the Old Testament scene today, with the skeletons coming together, with the tendons and muscles crawling up the bones, the faces going from skeleton to muscle to flesh…
It would be like watching a horror movie in reverse….
And then the miracle of the wind, roaring across the valley, visibly entering each body’s nostrils, entering their mouths, their eyes snapping open, amazed by the life that now pumps blood through the body that surrounds the formerly dry and brittle bones!
What a wonder it would be!
A great crowd of people, awake and risen from the graves, brought back to the life they were always meant to live!
What a great movie, what complicated special effects, probably even beyond the imagination of Spielberg or Lucas!
And the most miraculous thing that happened would be overlooked in such a movie…
The incredible miracle of the chapter, found in these words,
“Then you will know that I am the LORD!”
“Then you will know that I am the LORD!”
Even as we see everything else happen, not just as a movie in our lives, but here and now, will we hear those words? Then will We Know?
Yea – those are our bones…
The first thing that might take away our knowing is looking at the bones, our bones.
Like Israel, most of us can see how we’ve withered and dried out. We can see where our faith is challenged, where temptation has turned to sin, where the first cracks happened that left us broken, that made us outsiders.
It may have been the sin of jealousy and coveting that got you, or some juicy piece of gossip that you had to pass on. Maybe it was a desire that caused you to be unfaithful in your words or thought, or anger that caused you to hurt someone you should have loved. Or maybe the sin was not honoring parents or authorities, or not recognizing the need for time with God, or using His name in a way we shouldn’t, or not using it when we should.
It doesn’t matter the sin, whether it was in thought or word, or action that we took, or knew we should and didn’t.
Those bones in the story are ours, as much as they were Israel’s.
And seeing them, we can lose our hope, we can lose our focus on God, and see only our own sin.
But that isn’t the story here, nor is it where our thoughts need to dwell. Can our dried bones live? Can we, despite our sin and shame find life? The LORD knows…
It’s time to stop focusing on your sin, your history
Yea – that is the Quickening
Our dry bones can take much of our attention away from God. So can our being brought back to life, the miracle of God covering our sin, our nakedness, and putting His Spirit within us.
It is truly a miracle, this work of God, this thing that theologians calls the quickening, this miracle were a sinner is declared and becomes righteous by God’s command. This miracle where sin is stripped from us, and laid on Jesus at the cross. Where we are brought to life with Him and His resurrection.
This is a wonderful thing as God saves us from our hopelessness, and causes us to rise again.
But it is not the greatest thing, not even close…
But here is what you need to know.
Go back to that phrase, “Then you shall know that I am the LORD!:
We may skip over that far too quickly. For the other things, our sin and our being brought to life seem to capture our attention, they are more graphic, more visual, and knowing that Jesus is the LORD, that is something we might just assume, or take for granted.
But know here isn’t just about knowing the facts, it is about knowing God as LORD, as the I AM. To know him deep down into our heart and soul, the part of us that seems hidden. Hidden not only from those who know us but deep down into the parts of us that lie beneath our character, that truly define who we are.
We also have to remember that when we see LORD in all capital letters, it is not His title, it is His name, YHWH, or Jehovah, the I AM that Moses was told to use to introduce Israel to Him with. The Name we are to call out to God with when we are in despair, the Name of God we are to use in our prayers and our praises, the God who communes with us here.
This is knowing at our deepest part, knowing Him in the most intimate of settings in our heart and soul. Knowing Him at a point where brokenness is healed, where love is known, even if we can’t explain it. Where peace is found, for there God has put His Spirit. For God has breathed into you life, a life that is abundant.
This is the real miracle in the valley of the dry bones, the revelation not just of salvation, not just of the Love of God, but of knowing Him, and realizing how well He knows and loves us.
For as that is revealed – we become more and more aware that we dwell in His presence, and are safe there… for He is our LORD, He is YHWH, our God. AMEN!
“Come Holy Spirit, that They May Live”
† In Jesus Name †
In these days, when we look around at our world, may our faith not be shaken, but instead may we heed God’s call to pray, and to ask the Holy Spirit to enter those who need to come to life in Christ!
The hand of the Lord has Brought us here..
Like the prophet Ezekiel, we have been brought to this place, by the hand of God. We have come from three or four different continents, and having possibly a dozen languages between us. Children and young adults, parents and grandparents and even a great grandparent or two…
God has brought us here to this valley, to the Los Angeles Basin, with a purpose not unlike Ezekiel’s vision that was shared a few minutes ago by Dr. Wang.
Indeed, the words of Ezekiel not only describe the time in which he lived, but describe our time as well. They also describe a time in between, when Jesus was the son of Man who fulfilled the prophecy, who brought healing to the dead bones of those who struggled with God.. and whose Spirit was poured into them, that they would live.
What a tremendous vision! What tremendous work God does!
What an incredible blessing it is, to be involved in such a vision, to be taken a hold of, and brought to a place where sin and death’s damage is so visible, and see God reverse it all!
That is why we have been gathered, to bring this hope to this place…
Do our hearts break, for what has left these bones so dry and brittle?
When my mom’s dad came to America from Italy, it was because this was the land of promise, looked at much as Israel looked forward to the promised land, and in the time of Ezekiel, looked forward to returning to it. Generations have come here, expecting blessings and freedom and the chance for a life. I believe strongly, that as revival sweeps our land, just as it has in the past, there is a chance those dreams of freedom will be restored, that the blessings of God can return to this or any other country, which for a moment has turned away from God. The entire Old Testament bears witness to this truth, for again and again, this was what happened, and God fulfilled the promises – He would be faithful and patient…even when they were not. Even when spiritually they were as dead as the bones in Ezekiel’s valley.
Spiritually, while there is still a remnant in America of those who trust in God, who turn to him, a great deal of our country is spiritually dead, as is this valley in which we live. A great evidence in this can be seen on our recent LA County ballot, where measure B mandated how an immoral industry was to provide “protection” for those in the industry! No longer are we as a nation, we as a people finding such industries immoral, but we are creating laws that would mandate that their immorality is “safe”?
It is hard to realize how far this country has fallen, how far, like Israel – whose name means “they who struggle with God” have gone astray, each doing what is right in their own eyes, with no thought to God’s ways, or the forgiveness He offers!
Such are the days when we should be crying Lord, Have Mercy!
And knowing that He will!
Time to Prophesy over these bones! Time to see them Heal!
The Son of Man was told to prophesy over the valley, to speak to it words of life, the words of hope that tell of the Spirit’s washing of renewal and regeneration as Paul tells Titus in our second reading.
That happens as the Gospel was lived out in the life of Jesus, as He came and healed the lame, the broken hearted, as He brought healing to those physically deaf and blind, and spiritually deaf and blind. As the gospel is poured out in the life of Christ, as the prophesy’s found in Ezekiel and Isaiah and Jeremiah and even Leviticus and Numbers are lived out in the life of Christ – the damage of sin is reversed, the bodies devastated and devoured by the sin of this world, and our own individual sin is reversed!
As we are united with Christ, as the Holy Spirit regenerated us, that healing, that restoration occurred in our lives….
As we proclaim God’s love, shown in Christ to this valley of bones, we will witness what occurred in the vision, what happened in the lives of every person called and claimed by Christ – we will watch the miracle of people being born again, born of water and Spirit!
For God’s word, the words we speak forth to those lost in darkness, are never uttered in vain…
Prophesy once more.. for the Spirit will bring them to life!
In our reading from Titus, there are two stages mentioned – regeneration – building up that which was ravaged by sin, and renewal – the restoration of life. They are not two processes, but one – as God justifies us by erasing the damage of sin, and sanctifies us – making us holy, setting us apart to His purpose.
IN the same manner, as part of the same prophecy, the son of Man in Ezekiel is directed to complete the prophesy, to called the Spirit to breathe life into these bodies, that they may live!
In Christ – this is one seamless promise – the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2 as they are called to be cleansed in Baptism – a natural act as the cross and the empty tomb result in the Spirit falling on the people and breathing life into lives crushed by their own sin. In Ezekiel – verse 5, that is the first thing promised – the Spirit being breathed into them – and the restoration of their bodies! It is one movement, one act of God, one look at His work of Art, as He revives and renews His people!
Even so, as we look upon those who God speaks through us to- whether the pastors in gatherings like this, or the Bible Study leaders, or as you are talking to someone sitting at the next table at lunch, that is what is occurring – a change that will bring them to life, free them from sin, and pour out blessings that could never be seen, living under the rule of any man, of any system… but is seen as the norm for those who live in Christ, united to our Lord and Savor, cleansed by the power of God
Time to celebrate – as we live with Him, for we know He is our Holy Lord
My brothers and sisters – this is why we are gathered here. This is vision of the work of Christ, the power of the Holy Spirit demonstrated in our midst – in our valley of dry bones, in this place where dreams need to be fulfilled- even as they need to be clarified.
Our graves have been opened, the Spirit has poured into our lives, we have been raised from the dead, for we were crucified with Christ that we may live with Him forever!
For that is our homeland, whether our biological family is originally from Taiwan, or China, or the Phillipines, or German, or Italy, or Ireland….
Our homeland is where we live with God… no matter the geography..
For We know He is the Lord, we have heard Him speak the words of life…we have received His Spirit in our lives, and we know we are His people, called to speak to the Spirit to ask it to come into the dry bones of this valley, that they may live as well.
May, even as the Lord speaks through us, may we know the peace that comes from the Spirit of God, dwelling within us, the peace that we are kept in, our hearts and minds secured in, guarded by Christ Jesus.