radical change

In a world where we so easily create virtual identities, we're often tempted to paint ourselves in the best (exaggerated) light and to make ourselves appear as though we're more accomplished or popular than we actually are. And if we want to start over from scratch, we can do so with just a few keystrokes. For instance, Seppukoo.com (with a nod to the ancient Japanese samurai tradition of ritual suicide) allows you to kill off your old Facebook identity. Then, whenever you wish, you can just begin again. Of course, in the real world, true change requires far more work than clicking a few options on a Web site, and requires much more time (a lifetime usually) to see full fruit.

The prophet Ezekiel wrote to Israel while they were in exile, estranged from their homeland with no power, minimal resources, and little hope for a meaningful future. Spiritually, they were destitute. Even the empire occupying their land saw what had happened. "Those people are far away from the Lord," they said, "so now He has given their land to us!" (11:15). The entire nation of Israel groveled in a losing life they were desperate to change.

But they couldn't enact the transformation they needed. They couldn't pull themselves out of their mess. Left to themselves, nothing would change. Ever. This was true for them, and it's true for us. Locked in cycles of selfdestruction and impotent attempts to make ourselves over, we know that we can't bring about the type of renovation we need.

Mercifully, God promised that He would gather His scattered people back together, and that He would "put a new spirit in them" (v.19). God does what we can never do, He takes our old, withered life and gives us new life, full of joy and promise. , Winn Collier

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