Again He said to me, ‘Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.’ Thus says the Lord God to these bones, ‘Behold, I will cause breath to enter you that you may come to life.’ Ezekiel 37:4-5
Last week I announced I was on my way to our children’s and youth camp in Leesburg, Florida, to serve as a children’s chaplain for the week. I had a great time! The theme for the week was “Thriving in the Desert.” During Monday evening’s chapel service, the kids and I explored our “Naming our Desert” as we likened a physical desert to a spiritual desert. For example, a real desert can be a lonely place as can our lives.
Tuesday night’s theme was “Discovering Life in the Desert,” and our Scripture selection was taken from Ezekiel’s vision of the Spirit of God restoring and breathing new life into a valley filled with what was once the very dry and scattered bones of an army of dead soldiers in the desert. The message was for the nation of Israel, but its spiritual implications are for us as well.
As with a real desert that is alive with cacti, camels, birds, flowers, and coyotes, the Spirit of God can breathe new life into the most scattered and desolate places of your life. He can raise you up to stand strong in places that seem hopeless and like a lost cause!
Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones…Now hear the word of the Lord!
Being Grateful in the Desert
And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, I have heard the grumblings of the sons of Israel; speak to them, saying, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread; and you shall know that I am the Lord your God. So it came about in the evening that the quails came up and covered the camp, and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the layer of dew evaporated, behold, on the surface of the wilderness there was a fine flake-like thing, fine as the frost on the ground. Exodus 16:11-14
During Wednesday night’s chapel service at camp, the children, adults, and I explored the time the Israelites began to grumble against Moses and Aaron for leading them to such a desolate place where they found themselves hungry. The sad truth is that when you read Chapter Sixteen in context, you will see that in essence they were grumbling against God who had not ceased to provide for them since they left Egypt. As a matter of fact, they say they wished they were back in Egypt where they had pots of meat and bread to eat.
Grumbling individually and among the Body of Christ is a deadly thing! It never leads to anything good and productive in the Kingdom of God. And yet God was and is merciful! He knew Moses’ heart and He fed the people a healthy breakfast and supper every day! Oh! To be thankful for God’s provision! Did you notice in today’s Scripture that “on the surface of the wilderness” the manna appeared?
Heavenly Father, forgive our grumbling, and may our mouths turn instead to praise and thanksgiving! Yes, may we praise You, even in the midst of the desert!
In Jesus, the Bread of Heaven’s Name! (See John 6)
Finding Purpose in the Desert
Jesus answered and said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water shall thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.’ John 4:13-14
As many of you know, my hobby is presenting Gospel Illusions in churches and various other places. One of my favorite “puzzles for the eye” is the illusion of the endless jar of water. In a recent show at Trinity given to support our upcoming AWANA program to begin this fall, I featured a large silver vase in which I frequently emptied of water, only to find it refilled each time within a few minutes. I will never forget the little boy who sat at the end of the stage and would run up to the water pot to look inside each time I would pour out a fresh batch of water from the vase.
John tells us that Jesus purposely sat down at Jacob’s well in the Holy Land during the hottest part of the day to offer Himself, the living water, to a Samaritan woman desperately in need of the Savior. So many folks are thirsty for something in life to satisfy the longing of their soul, something that only God can provide. Notice in the Scripture that Jesus said physical water can only temporarily satisfy physical thirst, but the water he offers will spring endlessly from within! Whatever your desert, you will find your true purpose, meaning, and fulfillment in life at no other place and in no other person than the Christ of the cross and the empty tomb!
Be filled and let your life overflow with Jesus to others!
Thriving in the Desert
And by the river on its bank, on one side and on the other, will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, and their fruit will not fail. They will bear every month because their water flows from the sanctuary, and their fruit will be for food and their leaves for healing. Ezekiel 47:12
Ezekiel’s ministry was to the Jewish exiles in Babylon. This verse encompasses Ezekiel’s vision of the Millennial Temple in which he saw a river emerging from the Temple flowing eastward. What’s neat is this river influences the desert around it and made even the desert come alive-thrive!
For the past four blogs, I have taken you on a little journey via the Warren Willis United Methodist Youth Camp’s Summer theme entitled, CACTUS: Thriving in the Desert! We have observed that as Christians, we will have real spiritual desert times in our lives. This is going to happen! But, we have also learned that especially during these times, we can be thankful for God’s purpose for bringing new life to us through the power of the Holy Spirit so the leaves of our lives will not wither nor will the fruit of our Christian lives fail!
Praise God today for the living waters of Christ which not only renew your desert places with His hope, love, and call to service in the Father’s Kingdom, but bring healing as well! For even a cactus holds water! (See Revelation 22:1-5 and its description of the New Jerusalem to come).