Blessed, happy…

The hillside that looks down to the Sea of Galilee from the Mount called the Mount of Beatitudes, or Mt. Eremos in Israel.

 

We started the day at the top of Mt. Arbel. The Master had taken us up the night before. At daybreak, we watched a gorgeous sunrise over the Sea!  Mt. Arbel is His favorite “get away from it all” spot. You can get a view of the whole lake from there.

We had spent much of the past few weeks all around this northern part of the Galilee. He had chosen 12 of us to be His closest followers, His talmudim. Many of us grew up around here, working the sea for fish and the land for grain.

As we journeyed down towards the shore, He warned us about the expected crowds today. There was something in His heart that He needed to tell the people… If people were going to receive any kind of physical healing from Him, they were going to hear why He healed first.  He told us of the story when He taught in the synagogue in Nazareth… when the reading from the Prophets for that day was from Isaiah. He affirmed the reason He had come… to proclaim good news to the poor, freedom for the prisoner and recovery of sight for the blind… to set the oppressed free.

And now today, today would be the day when the Teacher revealed His yoke, His perspective, His views on the Law. And today, he would set the whole tone for the next year and a half of ministry…

As He began to teach, He did so just like He was in a synagogue. He sat down on a rock. And He preached with such authority.

“Blessed, happy are the poor in spirit, for theirs in the kingdom of heaven,” He began.

“Blessed, happy are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

“Blessed, happy are those who are meek, for they will inherit the earth.” (Matthew 6:3-5).

With each blessing, more and more people made their way to the field below Him. He continued…

“Blessed, happy are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Blessed, happy are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed, happy are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” (Matthew 6:6-8).

His voice echoed off the hillside and fisherman pulled their boats onto the shore to hear more.

“Blessed, happy are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

Blessed, happy are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.  Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 6:9-12).

The Master spoke for quite some time… I looked around as the crowd continued to increase. People elbowed each other to see His face. They wiped their brows as the warmth of the day increased. “Who was this?” I heard them murmur to each other.

He watched as fishermen on the shore began to pack their catch in salt to preserve it. “You are the salt of the earth,” He assured us. “But if the salt loses it saltiness, how can it be salty again?” (Matthew 6:13).

He looked east toward Hippos across the sea and proclaimed, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 6:14-16).

He then began to illustrate His views on Torah, His yoke, by noting what other teachers of the Law have to say… He would start by saying, “You have heard it said… “ and then He would add, “but I say to you…” It was His way of bringing grace and life to the Laws of Moses. For example, He said: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 6:43-45).

Some in the growing crowd were mesmerized by these teachings. Others were puzzled as this man appeared to be a learned rabbi, but was questioning much of everything we all knew of the Law.

He taught on murder, adultery, divorce, prayer and fasting. He summed up the Law and the Prophets with this straightforward statement: “Do to others what you would have them do to you.” (Matthew 7:12).

The topic that spoke most to my heart? Anxiety. I will admit, I’m a worrier. And yet, as He looked at the flowers in bloom on this very hillside, and saw the birds flying through the treetops, the Master urged us:

“Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?  So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:25-34).

 As He concluded this powerful, yet simple message, the crowd was amazed. I looked at the others with a smile, humbled that He had chosen us to be His disciples… and wondering what else we might learn in the days and weeks to come as we followed our rabbi.

Some of the thoughts, perhaps, of one of the 12, as he remembered that day where Yeshua first spoke those words.

_____

There are so many amazing teachings in this, the first of Jesus’ public teachings. As we see often, Jesus flips many of the norms and teachings of old on their heads. You are blessed when you are poor in spirit. It’s okay to mourn. Be hungry for righteousness not the Law. Be a peacemaker. Don’t worry when you are persecuted, or when you are hungry or naked. Seek first the Kingdom. Be salt. Be light. Treat others as you want to be treated. This is how you are to pray.

He was going “on the record” … establishing His yoke, His ways, His views on Torah. And ultimately, Matthew 11:30: “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

So, say “Yes!” to the Law. But, more importantly, say “Yes!” to Grace. Say “Yes!” to the way of Yeshua. He spoke with the bold and loving authority of God.  This message is for everyone. Jew and Gentile alike. Believer and unbeliever. For those who heard it first-hand on a hillside along the banks of the Sea of Galilee as He spoke it – Matthew says in 7:28 that the crowds were amazed!”

AND the timeless message is for us today. Can we be amazed again? I hope so!

 

[1] Friedrich Hauck, “Theological Dictionary of the New Testament,” as cited in Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, by Kenneth E. Bailey, © 2008, p. 68.

 

(c) 2019 Rich Ronald.

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I Am That I Am

ReceiveTheHolySpiritIt was an ordinary day. The sky was blue with beautiful white puffy clouds. The air was typically hot. I was tending sheep at the base of the mountain. It was a simple, anonymous life in the country.  It’s what I needed. I was a fugitive. I had killed a man back in Egypt because of the way he treated one of my own. And each day I wrestled with the guilt – the guilt of the murder, the guilt of my people breaking their necks as slaves of Pharaoh, the guilt of growing up in the privilege of the Palace. None of it was right. It didn’t seem fair. The desert air and the mundane nature of my responsibilities was all I needed.

It was just after noon, the heat of the day. The sheep were nibbling at little patches of tall grass. The thoughts in my mind were 1000 miles away. I looked up to my right and beyond a mound of prickly pears, I saw smoke rising from a fire. As I approached I realized it was a bush fully ablaze… but it was not burning up. I thought to myself “how strange?” and approached to consider it further.  Just a few steps from the fire I heard a voice call my name. Again, “how strange,” right? Who in this desert knows my name? “Yes?” I replied with a quiver in my voice and began to take another step forward.

“Don’t come any closer. Remove your sandals from your feet. You are standing on holy ground.” At this I knew in my heart it was Yahweh. Quickly, I dug my bare feet into the sand and fell to my knees and hid my face in my hands. Then He said, “I am … I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob.”

He continued to share His heart with me… Together we felt the pain for my people, our people… and He told me that He would answer the prayers of His people to deliver them from Pharaoh’s evil ways and bring the children of Israel to a land flowing with milk and honey… wide open spaces where they would be free and no longer slaves!

This was very encouraging news! And as I wondered about God’s plan He stunned me with these words: “I am sending you, Moses! Go to the Pharaoh. Lead the people of Israel out of Egypt.”

“What? Meeeee?” I stuttered.  “Why me? Who am I? I’m a fugitive. I’m on the run! Pharaoh will never listen to me!”

And God assured me that He would always be with me. And for proof, He told me that one day, I would worship Him again, right here in this same spot.

“Just one more question…” I asked with a crazy, unknown confidence. “If I take this assignment, if I go to the people of Israel… who should I tell them sent me? What is his name?”

God said to me… “YHWH… Yahweh …” It sounded like He was breathing deep, life giving breaths. “Tell the people of Israel, I Am That I Am sent me to you.”

I protested a bit further, but, I knew it was in vain. The very presence of YHWH was going with me. So, I took my wife and sons that very day, and with my Father in law’s blessing, began the return trip to Egypt.

And was YHWH with me? Oh yeah… oh yeah!

Some of the words, actions and thoughts, perhaps of Moses at the burning bush, as revealed to us in Exodus 3 and 4. This is from the opening of a sermon entitled, “What We Believe: God.” You can watch it here: What We Believe: God

I think it’s significant that when Moses asked God what His name was that God didn’t reply in Aramaic. He didn’t reply in Hebrew. Nor Greek. Nor English. God’s name is the sound of breathing… the sound of life itself!

God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit… all together in one function, breathing life into mankind, from Adam, to the disciples, to you and me.

The sound of breathing… is the name of God. In Hebrew YHWH is translated “I Am.”

God’s name.  I Am.

It is our very life – our created life.

Our life for a set period of years – our living life.

And our life forever — our eternal life!

I am that I am.

I am everything.

I am the Alpha and the Omega. The first and the last. I was before there was anything.

I am the smallest of microscopic strands of DNA. I am the largest galaxy in the farthest distance.

And because of that, God is everything, God is the only thing, you need.

He is not just the sound of breathing, His breath is life itself!

And He offers that life to you!

Think about it! When the “I AM” offers you life? Can I say it? You’d be crazy not to accept it… not to accept Him.

Like Moses at the burning bush… God is holy. He’s waiting for you to approach Him. And at the same time God is with us by way of the Holy Spirit. He goes before us, as Jesus did, to conquer sin and death once and for all. The Bible says He is opportunity. He is healing and love. He is our protector and guide. He is gracious and kind and jealous and righteous. He is the Most High. He is perfection and truth. He is glorious and beautiful. He is our Redeemer and Savior. He is Immortal and Invisible. He is. Period.

And here’s the most amazing thing… because of Jesus, God is accessible to you and me. He loves you. Look at the 23rd Psalm.  He longs to be your Shepherd. You lack nothing. He longs to take you to green pastures and quiet waters where you can find rest for your soul.

Will you let Him?

 

 

(c) 2018 Rich Ronald.

Joy Comes with the Morning!

 

You can trust in the sunrise!

 

From the journal of Mary Magdalene:

Today started as yesterday began… and even how Friday dawned… As the sun came up I began to weep and mourn. For today was to be another day without my Messiah. The Sabbath was not kind to me this week. Most of the day I sobbed uncontrollably. We met with the others and cried together. Tears of confusion and anger. Tears of disappointment and fear. What would our lives look like now? Oh, how I loved Jesus. When He healed me of my seven demons, my whole world flipped right side up for the first time in years. Of course, I followed Him, I served Him, I loved everything about Him… On Friday afternoon I gazed up into His beloved face as the sky behind Him grew fierce and black. I stayed until He breathed His last. I fell to my knees in horror as the soldier pierced His side. I helped Joseph and Nicodemus take the body down from the cross, cleaning it as best we could in the short time before Shabbat.

The new week began today with the same heaviness deep in my heart. I went to the tomb to properly anoint the body with oil and spices. I kept hearing His promises echo in my head… “I will never leave you nor forsake you…” There was an eerie darkness in the garden. The birds, normally singing loudly in the pre-dawn springtime, were unusually quiet. I wondered how I would roll away the stone.

As I arrived at the burial spot, I was confused because the entrance to the crypt was wide open. Was this the right place? Had I misunderstood Joseph’s directions? As I looked inside, I saw an empty slab in the darkness. A cold breeze slapped my face! Immediately my anger increased as I wondered who had stolen the body? I ran to tell Peter and John and they quickly competed to see who could get there first. They both confirmed my initial discovery and left me standing in front of the vacant tomb.

I sobbed uncontrollably for what felt like hours. I paced back and forth. I fell to my knees. I shook my fist at heaven. Something prompted me to look inside once more. I saw two angels sitting about six feet apart. An empty burial cloth lay between them. They asked me why I was crying? Why do you think? There is a massive hole in my heart and the pain is great!

I looked away and began to leave. A man was nearby; I thought he might be the gardener. I couldn’t see his face for the sun was rising over his right shoulder. He too asked me why I was crying. With all my heart I asked him if he had taken the body someplace.

He spoke my name. “Miriam. Mary.” My heart skipped a beat as I recognized the familiar, loving voice of Yeshua! In that instant, I recalled a time when the Lord told us that He was the Good Shepherd… and that the sheep know His voice…  I spun around quickly, like a dancer!  My weeping suddenly turned to great joy as I recognized my Lord and fell at his knees! “Rabboni!”

He’s alive! He spoke to me first! He told me to go tell the others. I would say that I can’t believe it, but I do believe it! He has risen! I have seen the Lord!

There was great sorrow and weeping last night. And the night before that… But today… today… joy has come with the morning!

 

The actions, words and thoughts, perhaps, of Mary Magdalene, as recorded in John 20.

 

What do you do when you feel sorrow or sadness? Run to Jesus! Listen to His words in Matthew 6:

“Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place… Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.” Matthew 6:6 (MSG)

Oh, to sense His grace… You’ll find it as you meet Him in your prayer closet each day.

 

(c)2018 Rich Ronald.

God IS with us. Always!

The Jordan River in Israel. A Land flowing with milk and honey is just on the other side. Photo by Rich Ronald.

Inheritance. Moses had been promising a Land flowing with milk and honey for 40 years. And now it’s ours! Somedays it’s truly hard to believe that we are actually here. Living in this inheritance hasn’t been easy. But it is so worth it.

Over and over again we were told that God would be with us as we entered the Promised Land. Forty years earlier, Moses sent an advance team to scout out the territory. They reported that there were giants in the Land and we’d be better off staying in the wilderness or going back to Egypt. But Caleb and I saw the beauty of the rolling hills, the fertile acreage, the amazing size of the crops and we were certain that Yahweh was blessing us…We were honestly dumbfounded that He would give us cities we didn’t have to build and allow us to eat from olive trees we didn’t plant. And now, we were the only two given the privilege to return.

First things first, we had to cross the Jordan River. While normally it flows lazily from Mount Hermon down to the Dead Sea, it was spring time, and the water had overflown its banks. It was time to see God’s amazing hand lead us as He had led our forefathers at the Red Sea.

The people nervously gathered by the water’s edge. We heard the Canaanites on the other side we’re confident the river would protect them as we moved from East to West, just south of Jericho. The Lord told me to put the priests out front and to have them carry the Ark of the Covenant. If God was going to be with us, His presence should lead the way.

With great fear, one by one and step by step the Levites waded into the rushing rapids… all while balancing the great Ark.  Honestly, I wasn’t so sure what would happen next as thousands of our people watched from the muddy banks of the Jordan. Would the priests slip and fall in? Would the Ark topple and get carried downstream by the current? But we had faith. We knew God hadn’t brought us this far to leave us stranded.

A miracle for our generation happened next! The water began to pile up, like it was splashing against an invisible dam. Some started shouting and praising God. “Look! It’s just like the Red Sea, Joshua!” I smiled as I thought of my parents being chased by Pharaoh, and then watched as my own children skipped across the dry river bed  holding their mother’s hand! 

Everyone was laughing; some were dancing!

We built a monument to the Lord in the middle of the river bed to remind generations after us of the great beginning to our crossing into the Promised Land.

We didn’t really know where we going or what to expect next. God continued to guide us and deliver us… There were victories at Jericho, Ai, Gibeon, Lachish, and many others… 180 towns altogether west of the Jordan.

We’ve been living on the Land in peace for a long time now. All of the tribes of Israel have just gathered for a delightful and moving celebration at Shechem. I reminded the people of God’s faithfulness through the generations… how He has fought for us, just as He promised. Our enemies ran from us, not because of our swords or our military strength… for we are just wanderers… They fled because of God. Some tried to fight us, but God gave us the victories, just as He gave us the Land.  Oh, how He has kept every one of the promises He has ever made to His people! How sweet God’s inheritance has been to every one of us.

I may not be here much longer… but for however many days I have left… as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord!

 

The story of the people of God and their leader, Joshua, from the book of Joshua.

Do you ever feel like each new day is a brand new expedition, full of unknown diversions, diasters or battles with people you don’t even know? You wake up to new challenges that you didn’t expect to encounter? Today’s toddlers are achieving greater computer mastery than IBM executives in the 1950’s. Nothing is like it was. Everything is changing. It seems we live in a completely different world than just a decade ago. How do we find our way with daily, new unknowns?

God. It’s a simple answer, but it’s true. He is constant. And the same Holy Spirit that was with God in Genesis 1:1 at the creation of the world is with us today. As we follow the Spirit’s prompting, we receive God’s intended inheritance.

 Only those people who are led by God’s Spirit are his children. God’s Spirit doesn’t make us slaves who are afraid of him. Instead, we become his children and call him our Father. God’s Spirit makes us sure that we are his children. His Spirit lets us know that together with Christ we will be given what God has promised. We will also share in the glory of Christ, because we have suffered with him. (Romans 8:14-17 CEV).

No matter where we go, no matter whether we’ve been there before or not, no matter if it is a place of joy or a place of suffering, be assured of this: God is with us.

Even Jesus walked an uncharted path at least once… on the via Dolorosa… The Painful Way… the walk from the palace of Pontus Pilate to the Hill of the Skull. It was a walk He had not ever taken before. He knew the destination; He knew His Father in heaven was with Him. He knew it was part of His inheritance… but He had never been there. It was a place of suffering for His glory and our inheritance.

Open up your hands and receive His inheritance today!

 

(c) 2017. Rich Ronald.

 

 

You can defeat the enemy, the Devil… the same way Jesus did!

 

The Israeli desert can be brutal. Satan tried to use it to his advantage. To no avail!

I am known as a tempter, a deceiver and schemer. My goal is to take anything good and wreck it. I have had many, many successes. Eve is the earliest. I was able to confuse her. Oh she had it so good there in the garden… By manipulating the truth just a bit I totally wrecked her life, her relationship with Adam and with God.

I also messed with Abraham, Moses, Saul, David, Solomon, even Peter. The list is endless. And, I’m sure I’ve messed with you.

So the day Jesus entered the wilderness I was poised for another great victory. I watched as he spent 40 long days in solitude.  I waited until he was at his weakest… he was lonely, hungry, and he was likely preparing for his next move. At just the right moment, I pounced!

The Israeli desert is rocky, dry and dirty. Loose stones the size of fists cover the landscape. Just walking can be a chore. And finding a spot to kneel and pray is impossible. With just the right amount of prompting, and the early morning light just so, I knew that Jesus was famished, I figured I may be able to convince him to see small loaves of bread where the path was covered with rocks. This was going to be easier than Eve.  He hadn’t eaten in 40 days. Appealing to his flesh and his position, I said: “If you really are the Son of God, and since you are hungry, why not turn these stones into bread… satisfy your hunger. Can’t you taste a fresh baked loaf, Jesus? Mmmmm.”

Even though he was famished and his body weak, his mind was sharp. He quoted Torah and said: “No one can live on bread alone. People need every word that God has spoken. The word is life. The word is my sustenance, Satan.”

He was stronger than I thought he’d be after 40 days without food.

We walked along for awhile together.  I took him to the City.  The air was hot, not a cloud in the sky. Although no one could see us, we went to the top of Solomon’s great temple. We looked down from the height above and saw people going about their day… the women to the markets and the men to their work. Bright colored awnings peppered the walkway below. I pretended to push him off and challenged his ego. If this is about words supporting him, how about these words from Scripture: “God will give his angels orders about you, Jesus. They will catch you in their arms. Jump, Jesus, Jump!”

He replied by quoting other words from God: “Don’t try to test the Lord!”

I schemed again how I might tempt him… I knew that God has given me the power over this earth, so I used that authority as a bargaining chip… I would gladly give that up if I could get Jesus to merely bow to me!  I’m still angry at God… It was supposed to be me on that throne in heaven! So we went north to Mt. Hermon, the highest elevation in all of the Promised Land. He was still physically weak. Surely I could get him to yield.  “Look to the mountains in the east and the great sea to the west.  This can all be yours, Jesus… all you have to do is bow before me. Think of it… you can bring your people your kind of peace, for all time… think of the wealth of this land, the bounty and riches of the fertile crescent, the many palaces of King Herod… I’ll see to it that it is all yours to do with as you wish… merely worship me.”

This time, he didn’t bow, he bellowed: “Go away, Satan!” Again he quoted the Word of God: “Worship the Lord, the One True God and serve only Him.”

Others were so much easier to cripple… I will continue to press on this one, the Son of God… but for now, I will leave him. I will leave him. But I will be back!

 

The words, actions and thoughts, perhaps, of Satan during temptation of Jesus in Matthew, Chapter 4.

 

Do you know you have the power to defeat the enemy? Use the words of God and the truth of the scriptures. Use the authority Jesus gives to all of us. Most important, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the Devil and he will flee from you.” James 4:7 (NIV).

 

Original sermon video is found here.

Photo by Matthew J. Parker. More info here.
(c) 2017. Rich Ronald.

Bad news? You can go from mourning to great joy!

Broken walls. Broken hearts. The story of the People of God from Nehemiah.

Do you remember a time when your heart was so broken you cried for days? You mourned and wept without ceasing? Maybe a spouse or child had died? Maybe something horrible happened to a friend? Maybe you moved across the land only to find that that which was supposed to be beautiful, turned out to be awful. It’s hard to weep and mourn for so long, isn’t it? It’s a challenge to recover from news that is so devastating, right? That’s my story.

My name is Nehemiah. And I was a cupbearer to the king, a wine steward.

I worked in the palace of the King in Susa. All of us Jews were scattered like the wind. Some were in exile, like me hundreds of miles away from our home. But the times had changed, some had weathered the exile in the Land and others had the good fortune to return to the beloved City of David.

My brother was one of those who had an opportunity to visit Jerusalem recently. Upon his return, I asked him about our fellow Israelites. I was hopeful that life in Judah was going very well. Deep in my soul I longed to return to the land of our roots.

The news from Hanani broke my heart. He said those who were there were in bad shape, adding that the conditions there were appalling. The walls of Jerusalem were in rubble. The city gates burned and in cinders. The city was unprotected and vulnerable.

What?

But hadn’t the people returned under Zerubbabel under the direct order of King Cyrus to rebuild the temple? Wouldn’t they have rebuilt the walls too? At that moment I was brought to my knees. I realized that the People of Israel, including me, had sinned greatly against the God of Heaven. We had built our own houses before building His house. We married foreign wives. We turned our backs against Him.

After all He had done for us. For years we didn’t even worship Him. And now, the walls of Jerusalem had been attacked. The gates were burned. And all the work and effort of the people to rebuild would be for naught. And more importantly God’s glory would be tarnished by us, his selfish children.

I wept for days. I couldn’t believe how the people had sinned against God… and I counted myself in that group as well.  We hadn’t followed His commands. I was a broken man with a broken heart.

I fasted. I prayed. I humbled myself before God. He gave me a plan. He told me that I should personally see to the rebuilding. Me? But where would I get the funds to rebuild the walls of great city of Jerusalem? Who would help? And what about those who would plot evil against this plan, and thwart our effort?

I love God. I trust God. So, I asked Him to move in the heart of King Artazerxes.  When I asked the monarch of this distant land, and others, to help me… God granted me favor! And the walls were rebuilt in record time. But more than that, the hearts of the people of Israel were rebuilt as well!

There was sadness. There was prayer. Then there was hearing from God. Then there was action. And finally, there was great, great joy!

Some of the words, actions and thoughts, perhaps, of Nehemiah, from the book in the Bible that bears his name.

This story opens with sorrow and mourning… and a call to God to please forgive our stubborn ways. And I wonder, who mourns today for that which breaks God’s heart? Who mourns for the most vulnerable of children? Who mourns that our nation turns away from God? Who mourns with the widow?

But Nehemiah’s story didn’t end there… no… when the people had ears to hear… and when they acted with courageous faith, this story ends with great joy!

And that’s our story, isn’t it?  That’s the truth of the Gospel. When you align your life to God’s word, when you are obedient after hearing from God, there is joy!

If you are in a season of mourning… a season where your heart is broken… let Jesus and His Holy Spirit rebuild your broken heart, your broken life.  He can do it. He will do it!

 

This is an excerpt of a sermon based on Chapter 21 of THE STORY. You can watch it here.

 

 

(c) 2017 Rich Ronald.

Dry Bones Come Alive!

Dry bones in the dessert? God will bring life to them. He will bring life to you!
Dry bones in the desert? God will bring life to them. He will bring life to you!

It was a sunny, hot, dry day. I had been praying when God grabbed me. God’s Spirit took me up and set me down in the middle of an open plain strewn with bones. It was a curious site. He led me around and among them—a lot of bones! Human bones. Skeletons. They were scattered everywhere. Dry bones, bleached by the sun.

God said to me, “Son of man, do you think these bones can live?”

Believing that God can do anything I replied: “Master God, only you know the answer to that.”

He said to me, “Prophesy over these bones. Say this: ‘Dry bones, listen to the Message of God!” He continued: “I’m bringing the breath of life to you and you’ll come to life. I’ll attach sinews to you, put meat on your bones, cover you with skin, and breathe life into you. You’ll come alive and you’ll realize that I am God!”

Being a man of God, I spoke as He commanded. There I was, standing on a dry plateau. Nothing but sand, cracked earth, rocks and small stubble for brush at my feet. As I spoke, there was a sound and, oh, the rustling! The bones moved and came together, bone to bone. My eyes got “this big!” I kept watching. Sinews formed, then muscles on the bones, then skin stretched over them. But they had no breath in them.

Again, God said to me, “Prophesy to the breath. Prophesy, Ezekiel. Tell the breath, ‘God, the Master, says, Come from the four winds. Come from the north, the south, the east and the west. Come breath. Breathe on these slain bodies. Breathe life!’”

Beads of perspiration formed on skin. And again, nervously, I opened my mouth. To be honest, I stuttered and stammered quite a bit. Wondering if what was happening was real or a dream or a vision of some sort.  The breath of GOD entered them and they came alive! They stood up on their feet, a huge army. Hundreds of men. They began shouting! And marching! They were alive! The dust of the ground was kicked up in a cloud as their legs stepped off… right, left, right, left. Small desert animals awoke from naps in the sunshine and scattered in every direction.

I shook my head in wonder as I watched from the safe vista above. I smiled at God in disbelief.

Then the Father said to me, “Son of man, these bones are like the whole house of Israel. Listen to what they’re saying. They are crying out: ‘Our bones are dried up, our hope is gone, there’s nothing left of us.’

Speak! Tell them, “God, the Master, says: ‘I’ll dig up your graves and bring you out alive—O my people! Then I’ll take you straight to the land of Israel. When I dig up graves and bring you out as my people, you’ll realize that I am God. I’ll breathe my life into you and you’ll live. Then I’ll lead you straight back to your land and you’ll realize that I am God. I’ve said it and I’ll do it. This is my plan for my people. This is God’s Decree!’”

 

The story of Ezekiel in the Valley of Dry Bones as recorded, with some interpretation, in Ezekiel 37.

I love this image… is it a vision or did this really happen? Well, Ezekiel was a prophet, so this is likely a future vision, for the people of Israel… and for us.

Can you see what he saw? Human bones. A femur over there. A skull over there. A tibia. An ulna. A ribcage. Bleached white from years in the desert sun. As he spoke there was a noise, a rattling, as they reassembled into full skeletons. Then muscles, tendons, organs, skin, hair. Finally breath. Life! One by one these people began standing to their feet.  Until the whole desert valley was full of an army of God. Amazing! A miracle. A picture of what is to come.

Jesus says:

I tell you for certain that the time will come, and it is already here, when all of the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God. And those who listen to it will live!  John 5:25 (CEV)

Are you listening? I’m wondering if God is calling you to hear? Or to be someone like Jeremiah or Ezekiel? Someone who cares deeply for the hurting. And someone who will speak life into places where there are lonely souls, broken hearts and dry bones.

There’s a new song on the radio called “Come Alive!” Maybe you’ve heard it? It’s based on Ezekiel’s vision of dry bones coming to life. I watched an interview with the songwriters Lauren Daigle and Michael Farren. Their intention in writing the song was to encourage people like you and me who know others who are living a dry-bone kind of life.

Maybe they are prodigals? A daughter? A brother? Do you know a few? I do.

Maybe they are waiting to die? Do you know someone in hospice who fears what is next? I do.

Maybe they have no life outside of their home? They live in virtual deserts. They wander aimlessly. Do you know someone who is lonely? Lifeless. I do.

And yet, God…

With a heart of love God has called each one of us to speak… to pray… to sing over them with words of hope, words of healing, words of life. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 14:1: Go after a life of love as if your life depended on it—because it does. Give yourselves to the gifts God gives you. Most of all, try to proclaim his truth. (MSG). “His truth” is the gift of prophesy. That’s what He asked of Ezekiel. We, too, are called to speak to others the hope we have in Jesus… it is our testimony of His faithfulness and His love in our lives. And it encourages and brings life to others!

Come on, Church! Can you see an army rising up from the dry bones of the desert?

Or,

Maybe you are one of those dry bone, broken hearted children of God? Maybe your life is in ruins right now, like Jerusalem was?

Can I assure you, there is hope! You see… Jesus ultimately comes to the people of Israel… from the Tribe of Judah… all the way to Jerusalem. There is life and love in Jesus! And He will come again!

Can I speak “life” to you, Church? Trust God. Trust Him as Jeremiah did. You can be assured that God’s mercies are new every morning and great is His faithfulness.

Are you willing to receive the life that Jesus has for you? Are you willing to receive the mission that He called Jeremiah and Ezekiel to… to be someone who speaks life to someone else? The prodigals, the dying, the lonely.

If you are in a dry bone kind of place,  receive God’s breath and Come Alive today!

In your heart AND in the lives of those you love.

(c) 2017 Rich Ronald.