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March 18, 2019

Tell them, ‘As sure as I am the living God, I take no pleasure from the death of the wicked. I want the wicked to change their ways and live. Turn your life around.’” (Ezekiel 33:11, The Message)

Unless you turn to God, you, too, will die.” (Luke 13:5, The Message)

Troubled companies hire turnaround managers–experts who specialize in rescuing failing companies and turn them into productive, going concerns.  These experts identify the reasons a company is failing and implement a long-term plan to return the company to solvency.  God is the Master Turnaround Manager.  He knows how to turn floundering people and organizations into productive people and organizations, and gives us a roadmap in this week’s Scripture texts.[1]

We learn from the Old Testament reading that God appointed Ezekiel to be a watchman over the Israelites—to tell them where they were going wrong, and how to turn their lives around.  He was God’s turnaround representative, tasked to bring a message of hope to the Israelites. God instructs Ezekiel to “Tell them, ‘As sure as I am the living God, I take no pleasure from the death of the wicked. I want the wicked to change their ways and live. Turn your life around.’” (Ezekiel 33:11, The Message)

He promises that “if a wicked person turns away from their wickedness and does what is right and just they will live by doing so” (v. 19).  God offers his hand to us and pulls us out of the graves we are digging  for ourselves.  He shepherds us into eternal life with him.  Why?  Because he loves us.

Like any good turnaround manager, God is invested in you.  He desperately wants you to live a productive life under his guidance and to continue a joy-filled life after your time on earth is over.  The first order of business for a turnaround manager is to identify the problems that caused the company’s troubles.  Paul identifies some historical problems:  worshipping idols and false gods.  He describes God’s wrath against the Israelites who worshipped the golden calf in the desert (Exodus 32) and Baal (Numbers 25).  We don’t call our false gods Baal these days, but we are tempted to worship at the steps of celebrity, power, and wealth.  We are distracted by worldly pursuits, ambition, fame, and the endless pursuit of money so that we can buy more stuff.

When some feel the acute emptiness of their lives, they turn to self-help gurus, cults, or constant amusements to fill up the emptiness.  At times, it seems like we are too far away from the Master to turn back to him.  But like a good rep of the Master Turnaround Manager, Paul assures us that we can always rely on God: “When you are tempted, he [God] will provide a way out” (1 Corinthians 10:1-13).  God will never give up on you.  He will work to revive and resuscitate you until you take your last breath. There is no such thing as an irredeemable person in God’s eyes.  We are all his precious children who he wants to enjoy and be with forever.  If you turn toward him, he will take your hand and will lead you to spiritual health and life with him.

Jesus, the Master himself, is more direct in his turnaround advice–repent or perish: “Unless you turn to God, you, too, will die” (Luke 13:5, The Message).  He explains that every person on earth will eventually die—but our life does not need to end when our hearts beat for the last time.  God offers us a place with him forever—our forever home. Whether we “stay dead” or go on to live with Jesus after death depends on whether we are sorry for our bad behaviors, thoughts, habits, and activities and want to turn our lives around.

Another corporate turnaround method is to cut unproductive programs, policies, practices, products, etc. in the business.  Jesus demonstrates this technique in his parable of the fig tree.  He says that an activity that hasn’t produced results within a reasonable time should be eliminated.  Cut it out and try something new.  Replace it with something that will produce positive results.  Cut out the unproductive habits, behaviors, and activities that are bringing you, your family, or your church down.  You know what they are: laziness, gossip, idleness, slander, anger, impatience, pride, arrogance, addictions, etc.  The list is endless, but God shows us a way out of the downward spiral. He gives us hope.  He shows that if we turn to him, he will set us on a new course.

The psalmist asks the Lord for a revival: “Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?  Show us your unfailing love, Lord, and grant us your salvation” (Psalm 85: 6-7).  In verse 8 we are told that God “promises peace to his people, his faithful servants. ” He promises a good harvest to his faithful servants (v. 10-13). He will revive you. Turn to God and ask for his help. He is your personal turnaround coach. God rewards those who are faithful.

You can turn yourself around with God as your coach. Turn away from those things that are keeping you from using your God-given potential to be a productive member of his company. Ask him to take your hand and lead you away from the negative forces in your life.  You can turn your life around with his help.  If you are sorry for your mistakes, he will revive you and nudge you toward the path of eternal life.  Turn away from those things that separate you from God and become a Trinity Team player.

Diane Cieslikowski Reagan

Prayer: “We beseech thee, O Lord, mercifully to correct our wanderings; and by the guiding radiance of thy compassion to bring us to the saving vision of thy truth.”               –Gothic Missal

[1]The Scripture texts for the Third Sunday in Lent are Psalm 85; Ezekiel 33:7-20; 1 Corinthians 10:1-13; Luke 13: 1-9. Another version of this blog was published on this website on February 28, 2016.

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