Pastor's Corner
  Dry Bones
 “The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. …Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’”  So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.”
                                                                                              -Ezekiel 37:1,9-10


  If you have ever read the book of Ezekiel, you know that Israel was in horrible shape. They had forsaken God and given themselves to idol worship.  They had gotten fat from the peace and prosperity to which God had led them.
     It’s an age-old story.  When times are lean, we toughen up, turn to God and listen to Him.  But when God redeems us, and leads us to sanctuary, we shun Him and look to our own comforts… as if we’d delivered ourselves and deserved our comfortable status.
     The Israelites suffered for this attitude greatly.  Taken into captivity by Babylon, exiled from their homeland, they suffered greatly.  Instead of turning back to God, they turned to the false idols of Babylon, and worshipped golden images.
     By 586 B.C., Judah had fallen, and Jerusalem was completely destroyed.  There seemed to be no hope.  These events occurred right in the midst of Ezekiel’ ministry.
     Ezekiel heard the Lord and urged the Israelites to turn again to God; to listen to and obey Him.  It was God, after all, who delivered them from slavery in Egypt.
     Hard to get a people to be obedient though.  They’d become used to their status… after all, it wasn’t so bad in exile, was it?  They had adequate food and drink, and Babylon wasn’t a bad place to live.  After all, it was a thriving nation with a strong army.  Worship their kings and their gods and there was a great opportunity for advancement.
     Therein the human condition: earthly solutions to eternal problems.
     Before long, as Ezekiel knew, these people were dead to God.  Hence, the words quoted above, from chapter 37: “in the middle of a valley… full of dry bones.”
     How true.  That is our status without God: dry bones.  Oh sure, we might have a house and car, and a lot of other “stuff,” but you can put an expensive suit or dress on dry bones, and it remains just that… a lifeless set of rotten calcium.
     But there is a way to new life.  God said, “[S]ay to these, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord!’” (v. 4) 
     Isn’t that beautiful?  The dead bones, dry and rotting because they have chosen to reject the Lord, have a way to new life.  And it’s not their way… heck, they’ve tried every fleshly road to happiness.
     The way, the righteous way, the only lasting way is to “hear the word of the Lord.”  Our culture might snicker at this… after all, we are such a brilliant and informed public. 
    But I would offer this:  Look to where it all leads.  Society’s fleshly offerings, those advertised on TV and in magazines, look enticing for sure, but yesterday’s commercials seem silly and meaningless today- they are so dated!
     God’s offering is eternal truth and life.  His word, contained in the Bible applies yesterday, today and tomorrow.
     But there’s more to the story…  God instructs Ezekiel to tell the bones to breathe; breathe the breath “coming from the four winds.”  Ahhh! The Holy Spirit has come to the dry bones, breathing new and real life into them.  Back from the grave comes the dead nation of Israel, through the strength, wisdom, breath and word of God.
     I love the footnote in my Bible about this passage.  It says this:
     “The dry bones represented the people’s spiritually dead condition.  Your church may seem like a heap of dry bones to you, spiritually dead with no hope of vitality.  But just as God promised to restore his nation, he can restore any church, no matter how dry or dead it may be.  Rather than give up, pray for renewal, for God can restore it to life.  The hope and prayer of every church should be that God will put his Spirit into it (37:14).  In fact, God is at work calling his people back to himself, bringing new life into dead churches”
     This is from the Life Application NIV Study Bible, and it is worthy of our consideration.
     We are not close to being a “dead church,” but a few years ago, we were hurting.  Attendance was a bit off, several folks left or stayed home, a few elders abruptly quit the session, and we were hurt by the deaths of several or our brothers and sisters.
     Then, look what happened.  We didn’t walk around with our heads down, or in the sand; we came to church and we prayed.  We conducted meaningful and well-thought-out stewardship campaigns.  We brought new and exciting groups to give concerts.
     God called new and robust members to serve as elders; members who would honor their vows to lead, not just throughout their three-year terms, but through a second three-year term!  And they are having a joyful time leading this church.
     God has breathed new life into Franklin Presbyterian Church.  Worship attendance has improved.  We are seeing new faces.  The scripture readers are enthusiastic. The youth are signing on for the Pulpit Club. The choir sounds beautiful.  Reggie Saddler and his crew are coming back.  In unity, church prayer is happening daily; prayers for the church as well as the community and world.
     Our focus is where it should be; on Jesus Christ, not the petty things that divide us.  It is on living anew in the Spirit, not on bells and whistles.
     Let’s join together and keep it up.  Let’s show the world that this “over-the-hill” gang ain’t quite over the hill.  Let’s pray, join hands and do His work joyfully.
      Dry bones?  Shoot… not here. 

                                                                                                                                Yours in Christ,                                                                                                                                                                                      Pastor John