Turn back

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Cross at sunset

By Tom Wiles | For The Times-Post

“Therefore, I will judge each of you, O people of Israel, according to your actions, says the sovereign Lord. Repent, and turn from your sins. Don’t let them destroy you! … I don’t want you to die, says the Sovereign Lord. Turn back and live!”

Ezekiel 18:1-32

I don’t know why I still feel the need to test the veracity of “Road Closed Ahead” signs.

It’s a very simple response to just take the detour.

Something inside of me, however, thinks that for some reason the sign is unnecessary. They either forgot to take the sign down when they were done working, or the blocked road isn’t really blocked, it’s just a little bumpy.

Thankfully, my little misadventures haven’t cost anything but time as I inevitably have to turn back to avoid real trouble.

Ezekiel, God’s prophet to Israel, was charged to continually give God’s “Road Closed Ahead” message.

The people had drifted into a false idea that if their parents were righteous, they were covered and could barrel through the signs without consequence.

Wrong.

Others, whose parents were sinful, felt they were stuck under God’s punishment regardless of whether they went through the signs or not. Turning back wouldn’t matter.

Wrong again.

Everyone will be accountable to God for their own actions.

God’s signs are always an expression of his love and desire for us to live the best life possible.

We, however, see his signs as a hindrance to living life the way we want to live it.

Even stronger, we truly believe we were made by God to live life the way we feel we should live it.

Ah … but those pesky “Road Closed Ahead” signs.

It helps me to know the one holding up the signs is doing so with nail-pierced hands.

Jesus has proven his love. He cries out to us all, “I don’t want you to die. Turn back and live!”

Never satisfied

“Just as death and destruction are never satisfied, so human desire is never satisfied.”

— Proverbs 27:1-27

The glazed doughnut. My great nemesis.

Superman has his kryptonite. I have my glazed doughnut, especially when they’re still warm.

Each bite melts in your mouth.

I’ve walked up to many a doughnut table in my life acting as if I’m uninterested.

However, deep inside, I’m frantically scanning for the glazed doughnut.

If I find one of those beauties, I casually sit it on my plate telling any who would be there, “Just one.”

The book of Proverbs is one of my favorite examples of wisdom literature that is found in the Bible.

King Solomon, the primary author, lists one commonly true statement after another. His intent is to equip the reader with a reservoir of knowledge to draw from while walking down the ever-changing roads of life.

He observes in the verse above that there is no end to the desires that clamor within each of our hearts.

“More! More! More!” they shout. Feeding them only makes them more hungry.

Many times, we find ourselves prisoners of desire: Addiction, gluttony, lust, greed, avarice, rage, control, dominance and the like rule our lives with such force, we feel helpless to confront them.

Saying “No!” to their “More!” feels pointless and in practice unproductive.

It’s a counter-intuitive path to victory that we’re presented with in the Bible.

It’s in saying “Yes!” to Jesus, that the roar of the “More!” slowly but steadily drifts into the background.

In its place? The voice of the Good Shepherd.

Dry bones

The Lord took hold of me, and I was carried away by the Spirit of the Lord to a valley filled with bones. He led me all around among the bones that covered the valley floor. They were scattered everywhere across the ground and were completely dried out. Then he asked me, “Son of man, can these bones become living people again?” “O Sovereign Lord,” I replied, “you alone know the answer to that.”

Ezekiel 37:1-14

Faced with multiple trip hazards and a something less than “not great” visual appearance, I knew I had to take action.

The years and a recent construction project left our back patio pavers in need of some tender loving care.

Virtually every paver had to be removed.

The base underneath had to be releveled, a process dduring which the bricks were strewn around the yard as if hit by a bomb.

Slowly but surely, these scattered pieces came together to form a revitalized patio and walkway.

Ezekiel stood there looking at piles of human bones stretching across an entire valley floor.

God asked him if these bones could come back to life.

He knew enough to defer to God for that answer.

After being instructed to do so, Ezekiel spoke to the bones.

The rattling echoed off the canyon walls and the bones reconnected with muscles, flesh and skin right behind them. Then, the wind came. The breath of life.

They all stood, a great army. This, God told Ezekiel, is what I’ll do for my people.

Slowly, but surely, this world with its lies, deceptions, evil, disappointments, false gods, cruelty, bitterness, broken dreams, betrayals, death, destructive solutions and the like leads us all into the valley of dry bones.

We rattle around looking for distractions, scrounging for meaning and purpose.

We try to convince ourselves we have it all figured out, and yet our own guilt and shame remind us otherwise.

Into this valley, Jesus’ voice resounds, “I have come that you might have life and life to the fullest.”

People, patience and a Promise

The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.

2 Peter 3:1-18

As we raced down to the lakeshore, we could see the boat fading into the morning mist.

The hum of the motor gradually grew silent and there we stood, left behind.

Clearly, to the guys we were attempting to go fishing with, 7 a.m. meant 7 a.m., not 7:04 a.m.

In their defense, they made it clear to my dad that they would not wait for us.

With every pull of the oars, I was reminded that our close to 7 a.m. thinking was a bad idea.

Peter was well aware of the ridicule and mockery that Jesus’ followers were experiencing: “What happened to that promise of Jesus coming back? Nothing’s changed.”

He reminded them of the power of the Lord’s command.

To create. To destroy. He will command again.

When he does, judgment fires will fall.

It will be unexpected.

It will be deafening.

It will be final.

These days between Jesus’ visits are the last days. Our days.

His love compels him to be patient. He doesn’t want anyone to be destroyed.

“The end of the world is coming soon!!” is not just a phrase scrawled on a piece of cardboard by a wild-looking guy.

It’s what Peter told believers in Jesus, the simple truth.

For thousands of years, many from every generation have looked around and seen the signs of the end of the world.

Were they all wrong?

Nope, they were all right.

It’s time to simply embrace that truth and live accordingly.

With God’s help … pray earnestly.

Love deeply.

Share generously.

Speak boldly.

Serve sacrificially.

Praise continuously.

Tom Wiles is senior minister of Fall Creek Christian Church in Pendleton. He can be reached at 765-778-3166.

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