Get Up and Live.

You will know that I am the Lord, My people, when I open your graves and bring you up from them.

(Ezekiel 37:13)

It is the very essence of God that He will receive glory through our salvation, through bringing  us to life. As I read Ezekiel 37: 1-10, I see myself laying in the valley. Remnants of myself, what once was a body, now dry and disassembled. Scattered amongst the remains of others. Surely I have been picked over by scavengers. Maybe my belongings were looted by passerby. Whats left now is a skeleton of a man, if it can be called that.

Those who look out over me see hopelessness. They see what once was but is no more. To them, I am finished, useless. What could have led me to this state? One act. One act that lead to a terrible fall. One bite, if you will. It set me on a downward slope of never-ending consequence where each action leads to an exponentially greater fall. The more I tried to save myself the harder and faster I fell. Then I hit the bottom. It’s there, in the valley, that I lay, among others who met the same fate. Each of us trying so desperately to save ourselves. But now we lay here. Dry. Dead. Disassembled. Desperate.

That is when He comes along. He sees us not in our current state, but in a restored and brilliant manner, powerful and worthwhile. It’s with one breath that life begins to come back into us. With one breath we become reassembled. With one spoken command we are more than restored, to a holy and blameless state. His Spirit is within us, His power is among us. We are more than the men we once were. We are a new creation. A great and powerful army.

The same shell that was once useless, lifeless, and broken now has purpose. There is now a reason for its existence. In living, the Breather of Life receives glory. Our life in its restored state is a testimony to His power. It shows that He is good, He is strong, and He is the Lord.

For the Least of These.

Once a year my church completely shuts down for a whole weekend. No services, no meetings, no bible studies. Everyone is encouraged to go out into the community and serve. More than 800 volunteers serve in areas ranging from home renovations to yard work, giveaways to random acts of kindness. I was blessed to be able to serve on the car wash team this year. We spent all day washing cars completely free- no donations accepted. Just free.

While I believe we live in a society of entitlement and all too often greed, I have found that people have a hard time truly accepting anything for free. Why? Because that requires humilityadmitting that you have a need.

At one point in the day, a very challenging old woman came by. She wanted her car washed, but on her terms. She began bossing around some of the younger volunteers and making demands. She also (repeatedly) expressed her disappointment that we were not vacuuming or buffing the windows inside the car. I am not the most patient person. Really, I wish I was, but it just isn’t my gifting. I so badly wanted to say, “Look, lady, we are doing this for free; take what you get.” But I didn’t. Instead, I stayed quiet and continued to serve. I heard the still, small, patient voice inside.

Be glad and rejoice, because your reward is great in heaven.
(Matthew 5:12)

As I was detailing the inside of my new friend’s car, she began to share her story. She told me that she was a recent widow. She shared that she was a breast cancer survivor, but was recently diagnosed with lung cancer. She shared some of her financial struggles. It became clear that this was a woman who was in need of some love, grace, and patience. When we finished her car, she gave me a big hug and expressed her gratitude. She said she wouldn’t have been able to afford a car wash on her own or do it herself. Seeing her gratitude was the biggest blessing I could have received!

Reflecting on her testimony and the events of the day, I am reminded of Christ’s gracious sacrifice for us. The same way my challenging friend wanted a free car wash done her way, we often want to accept the free gift of salvation on our own terms. “Jesus, I will accept your grace, but I still want to do this.” “Jesus, I’ll let you save me, but I’m not sure I want to do such-and-such.” We need to remember that grace is free- you don’t get to have it your way. We struggle with salvation because we lack humility. With salvation, just like at the car wash, all you need to do is accept the free gift, no strings attached and no work required.

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Father God,
I thank you for being able to serve today. Thank you for blessing me with enough, so I can give to others. I pray for my new friend. May she find peace and healing in You. Help me to remover that You are offering grace as a free gift. No work required. Give me a humble heart that is willing to accept that grace on Your terms. In Your Almighty name, Amen.