Devotional Thought of the Day:
9 So Moses wrote down God’s Law and gave it to the levitical priests, who were in charge of the LORD’S Covenant Box, and to the leaders of Israel. 10 He commanded them, “At the end of every seven years, when the year that debts are canceled comes around, read this aloud at the Festival of Shelters. 11 Read it to the people of Israel when they come to worship the LORD your God at the one place of worship. 12 Call together all the men, women, and children, and the foreigners who live in your towns, so that everyone may hear it and learn to honor the LORD your God and to obey his teachings faithfully. 13 In this way your descendants who have never heard the Law of the LORD your God will hear it. And so they will learn to obey him as long as they live in the land that you are about to occupy across the Jordan.”
Deuteronomy 31:9-13 (TEV)
The word of God is creative; and the Word he said, once and for all,
to human beings couldn’t be other but the Word made flesh, his Son, Jesus Christ.
Our lives are long enough to learn what we need to learn, but not long enough to change anything. That is our flaw. Each age must learn everything afresh. Such waste!
Such waste – making all the mistakes once and again, each generation making the same mistakes, fumbling in ignorance and darkness.
This oak was already old when I was born. Now I am old and soon to die, and this tree grows strong still.
We are small creatures. Our lives are not long, but long enough to learn.
There are times that preaching and teaching becomes tedious. It seems like we do the same thing, over and over, year in and year out. Sure, we use different words, but the story is the same.
But there is a time where you wish people would learn the lesson, internalizing it. making it part of who they are. There is also a time where those who teach wish that each succeeding generation would be able to hear and learn from those who went before them, not having to watch them make the same mistake generation after generation.
Or deal with the same issues.
Lawhead’s comments in green above brought me back to that thought. My generation struggled with extremes. Topics like the role of women in the church, or what is appropriate in worship (from music to dress), struggles theologically, it was so easy to become blown this way or that depending on who was teaching.
It seems vain, and without impact, as we didn’t see all that much change possible in the world. We could learn, or we could help, but neither left an impact on us, what hope do we have to pas this down to the next generation.
Which brings me to Pope Francis’s words, and the amazing insight in them. We give the same lesson over and over because the place where it is best learned is that place of brokenness we all inhabit. The valley of tears, where guilt and shame haunt us, and we need God to intervene in our lives.
Why does each generation have to deal with the same arguments, the same battles, the same sins over and over? BEcause it is in those paradoxical places, being blown about, struggling, we find out He is our rock, He is our anchor, He is our peace.
And that is the difference between a sermon that instructs your people and a message to those you are discipling. One promises hope, the other guides them into discovering it, and seeing God reveal it to them. The result is that their voices praise Him from the soul, and their hearing and the reaction of obedience is something natural, not something forced.
The people that we guide through life, each and every generation have to deal with the same issues, the same struggles, the same questions that plunge the paradoxes of our faith.
But we need to know the paradoxes are not the final issue and not the final battle. We need to discover the Lord who is deeper, the Lord who is greater, the Lord whose love goes beyond the dimensions we can explore. But exploring those dimension, that is where life is found.
And that is a trip you can only take from the point of brokenness… and each person, and each generation must deal with that brokenness…
Lord, help those on the journey be patient with those who are beginning it. Lord, help us see the struggles that we have, not as something to deny or hide, but help us look for those who will point to You, and remind us of that which is greater than our struggle. AMEN!
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 113). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.
https://www.northumbriacommunity.org/offices/morning-prayer/ (for this day March 30
“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.