The Battle Isn't Over

I. Love. History.

There. I said it. If you know anything about me, you know that I absolutely love history. It was my favorite subject from elementary school to seminary.

Math? Not so much. But I love history. From reading about it in books... to watching documentaries... to walking in the very places that existed hundreds to thousands of years ago.

Over the last year, I've gotten to walk in the steps of some historical places. From Fort Sumter in South Carolina, to Mount Vernon in Virginia, to the Valley of Armageddon in Israel, which is where this photo was taken.

As you look at the photo now, what you see is a fertile land where crops like wheat, corn, tobacco, cotton and millet are grown. It's hard to believe that over 200 battles have been fought on this very land. But there is a weight to this land. The first reported battle on earth took place here in the 15th century BC. From there, Jezebel and King Josiah were killed in this valley. Napoleon Bonaparte defeated the Ottomons here in 1799. There was even a World War One battle fought in this very valley.

But you wouldn't know it by simply looking at the surface without knowing the history.

There's another thing about this valley. Megiddo is a place where people have built upon ruins for generations... at least 26 layers of civilization make up the "hill" dating all the way back to 4500 BC. 26 layers of ruins.

There's one more thing about this valley. It's the most notable. Armageddon is synonymous with the end of days. Even if you have no knowledge of the Bible, people think of Armageddon as the events that take place when the earth ends.

"Look, I come like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake and remains clothed, so as not to go naked and be shamefully exposed." Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon. The seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and out of the temple came a loud voice from the throne, saying, "It is done!" Revelation 16:15-17

This isn't just a battle to end the earth. No. This is a battle where God fights for His creation. In a final battle God is getting rid of the old to prepare for the new. Getting rid of all the evil... all the hurt... all the pain. It's God fighting for His creation.

I don't know who needs to read this today... God knows I need to be reminded from time to time...

God. Is. Fighting. For. You.

He has fought FOR you in years past. He will fight FOR you in the future. And, read this... He is currently fighting FOR you right now. Many of us are walking around looking like the Valley of Armageddon today... all green and beautiful. But what can't be seen, are the 26 layers of ruin that our life is built upon... the hurt, the pain, the harmful decisions, the choices that hurt other people...

And God sees that, and says "I'll fight FOR you and make you new again."

God says I see all the wars you've fought. The battles you've encountered. The layers of ruin. And He wants you to know that He's still fighting FOR you.

The Lord your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as He did in Egypt, before your very eyes, and in the wilderness. There you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place. Deuteronomy 1:30, 31

I don't know what wars you've fought. I don't know that battles you're fighting, or the layers of ruin that's been built. But I do know that God is fighting FOR you... hear that today and trust Him.


False Sense of Safety

We love driving our Jeep with the top and doors off.

There's just something about riding in a vehicle and watching the pavement speed by. I used to drive a delivery truck for Ziker Cleaners when I was in college for extra money and would drive with the door open so I could hang my foot out. There's just something fun about it.

The other week we hung out at our friend's house after a leadership conference. As we were walking out to our Jeep, their then seven year old daughter followed us out, walked through their front yard and proceeded to climb in the backseat. She didn't say a word. Just climbed in and buckled her seat belt.

"Well, I guess you're coming with us," I said, as we proceeded to drive off with her in our backseat much to this little girl's surprise. "What!? Where are we going?" As we drove away I told her that we needed to pick Carter and Morgan up from their practices and then we would bring her back home. (I don't think she really thought we'd take off with her in the Jeep... but we did.) 😂😂😂

As we were driving she was throwing out questions while she was trying to keep her hair from whipping her in the face.

"What happens if we get into an accident?"

"Well, we have a roll bar so you'll want to keep your hands up by your shoulders... kind of like if you hug yourself."

"How fast are you going!?"

"100 miles per hour..." Her response... "Whaaaaaaaaaaaat!? 100 miles per hour!" (We really were only driving 45mph.)

Then Jami jumps in... "Todd, she's only seven."

Then there was a bit of quiet as she tried to keep the hair out of her face.

Then she asked one final question...

"What happens if they start shooting at us, I don't feel safe!?"

"What!? Who's shooting at us? Who are "THEY?" And why are THEY shooting at us? You're seven? Who's shooting at a seven year old? What type of work are you in? SHOOTING AT US? WHAT?"

Her response... "There's no doors!"

What? Doors won't stop bullets I tell her. Which blew her mind. She thought she was safe in a car from people shooting at her because of the doors. But doors don't stop bullets. When she thought she was safe, she really wasn't. Sure, she could duck. Or not get involved with people who would need to shoot at her in the first place. She could make choices that would help make her more safe. But believing that car doors would simply stop bullets isn't true. It's a false sense of security and it took a ride in a vehicle with no doors to make her realize that.

I still don't know why this seven year old would think someone would be shooting at her... is she pushing cocaine? Is she working for the mob? Is she a spy? Needless to say, we picked up Carter and Morgan and returned this girl back to her parents safe and sound... with no shots ringing out.

But this Jeep ride got me thinking a bit... well, the seven year old got me thinking.

How often do we run through life thinking we're safe? We're in control? And then BAM...

Covid hits.

We get laid off of work.

Kids start school at home on the computer.

We or someone we know gets seriously sick.

And we realize that we've been living in this false reality that we might be in control... in a false sense of security... like car doors would actually stop bullets. When in reality, there's a lot that we don't control.

I don't know why bad things happen... why some people get sick and others don't... why life is really hard sometimes. Sure, sometimes it's because of the choices we make and we bring it on ourselves. But there are things that happen that are outside of the control that we thought we had. 2020 has shown us all and given us plenty of examples.

It's easy to get caught up in life... when things are going well... when things are going as planned... "We've got it all under control" we think. And then boom... you get in a car with no top and no doors and you start to wonder "what happens if they start shooting at us" only to find out that even if you have doors, the bullets will still impact the inside of the car.

For a lot of us, 2020 has been kinda like riding in a car with no top or doors. We've fully come to realize that, as human beings and parents, that most of what happens to us is out of our control. Sure, we can make good decisions and place ourselves in better positions... but in the end, those are just doors. Ultimately, we don't and can't live in total, complete safety.

So the question is...

Where does your hope come from? What do you place your hope in?

Our hope comes from God. May  He fill you with joy and peace because of your trust in Him. May your hope grow stronger by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

When we put our hope in our leaders, or our relationships or our health, we will for sure be let down. People will let us down. Our health can fail us. Money can run out. Safety in our eyes won't stop bullets from penetrating our cars. But there is one who won't let us down. There is one whom we can trust. Jesus is his name... it's in him where our hope should be... the giver of life. I pray this for my life... and I pray it for your life.

Will this make our problems go away? Hardly so. But it will change our outlook on life's circumstances. This isn't a rose-colored glasses kind of outlook. It's an outlook of hope IN SPITE OF the circumstances that we face. It's the kind of hope that changes what you post on social media. It's the kind of hope that changes your words. It's the kind of hope that fills you with hope and peace. And it's this hope that I'm praying that will impact my life and yours.

There's one more question I want to ask my already believing friends... where does your hope come from regarding those you disagree with? It's a question I had to face. Those that I really, truly disagree with regarding everything that's going on in our world and culture today. It's a question that will be answered by simply looking at how we interact with the very people I was just talking about.

When we look at the life of Jesus, we can see what hope really looks like regarding those that we disagree with. The very man that would betray him, Judas, had a seat at the dinner table of Jesus the night before his betrayal. The man who would deny Jesus three times had a seat at the dinner table of Jesus.

Do the people whom you disagree with, maybe even dislike, have a seat at your dinner table? Are they welcome?

 


Stuck in A Corn Field

I love corn mazes.

When our kids were growing up, we’d take them every fall. They loved them too. We’d get to the start of the maze and they would take off running with their friends. Inevitably they’d come running back screaming, “come on, come on,” as they’re pulling our arms down the path.

Corn mazes are great… as long as you stay on the path. One year I decided to walk off the path so that I could explore and eventually scare the kids. Unfortunately for me, I was at the edge of the corn maze.

After venturing a little too far and taking more turns than I should have, I found myself stuck in the middle of a corn field. Feeling completely disoriented, I had no idea how I was going to get back to the corn maze path.

Luckily, as we usually did, we went to the corn maze near sunset. So in order to get back, I used the sun as a compass to help get me back to the path. Once I got closer, I could begin to hear the voices of my friends and the kids and eventually made my way back to the path.

That’s kind of how I feel like parenting can be at times. Or, how about 2020 in general.

It can feel like I’m lost in the middle of a corn field with no known way back to the path. There are so many unknowns… the virus and shutdowns, the civil unrest, the presidential election and what that will bring, and now the kids school and sports.

So much unknown. And it can be completely disorienting… like you’re walking in the middle of a corn field not knowing where to turn. And that’s just your feelings/my feelings. If you have kids… how do you parent when you feel like you’re off the path.

First, depend on the Son.

As soon as I started to feel disoriented in the middle of the corn field, I calmed myself down and looked to the sun. You see, as we drove up to the corn maze, I took note of where everything was as it related to north, south, east and west. I knew, that, if I could find where the sun was setting, the sun would point me back to where I needed to go.

The same is true with life. In times like this, when we feel disoriented and lost, whether it’s related to all the crap in 2020 or just parenting in general, the Son will point us back to the path where we need to go.

The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him,Follow me.” John 1:43

Jesus, the Son of God. He is the One who will point us to the path where we need to go. He understands where we are, where we’ve been. He understands and knows us.

The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish. John 1:14

He, along with the Bible, will point us in the direction we need to go in our life and our parenting.

And two, have friends in your life where you can trust their voice.

You see, I knew I was heading in the right direction when I could hear the voices of my friends getting louder and louder.

Who’s voices in your life are the loudest right now? Those who are helpful? Or those who’s cause more confusion and madness? In order to find your way back to the path you need to be on, you need the loudest voices in your life to be voices you trust and point you towards the right path and not create more confusion and angst.

This in an interesting time to be alive. It’s a challenging time for sure, especially if you have kids. But there is a way out of the disorienting corn field…

Follow the Son. And have friends in your life whose voice you can trust. I can’t promise you won’t find yourself in the middle of a corn field again, but you’ll definitely be able to find your way out if you do.


Us vs Them

2020 has been a year of many things... most of all, it's becoming a year of "Us vs Them".

  • Us vs Republicans
  • Us vs Democrats
  • Us vs mask wearers
  • Us vs non-mask wearers
  • Us vs the police
  • Us vs Black Lives Matter
  • Us vs teachers
  • Us vs Fauci
  • Us vs Trump
  • Us vs Biden
  • Us vs AOC
  • Us vs governors
  • Us vs people who kneel for the National Athem
  • ... on, and on, and on we could go.

Us vs Them

It's truly an unfortunate place we are in... the Us vs Them mentality. Everywhere you look, it's Us vs Them. Everyone's been pushing this mentality. I've been guilty of it. And I understand where it comes from... at least with me. You see an injustice. You hear lies. You witness the destruction of people's lives. And it confuses you. Then it frustrates you. As you see more, it makes you angry. Then, as you watch tv and scan the internet and social platforms, you see other's comments. You see more lies and injustice and destruction. And the voices you listen to paint this picture of the Us vs Them mentality.

It's, if you're not for us, then you're against us. The Us vs Them mentality takes us to all out war. That's what you're seeing when you walk through the stores in your community. The looks of disgust at the signs requiring masks. The mask-shaming from those who wear their masks perfectly towards those that either don't wear them how you think they should or even wear them at all. You see it when grown adults scream at little kids in a grocery store and tell them that the person with the mask on hopes they will die. You see it when people who wear masks in their cars get made fun of. You see it when a white supremacist punches a lady. You see it when someone who votes for Trump is called a racist for no reason. You see it when people make posts and rants about those that choose to kneel for the National Anthem. You see it in the debate about going back to school from teachers and parents alike. You see it when people scream racist remarks at black officers at the protests. You see it in our politicians... both left and right. Local and federal. You see it on the "news" channels... both left and right... national and local.

You see it everywhere.

It's no wonder that as we look out into humanity today that very few of us sees humanity as human beings. Instead... we see each other as enemies. It's no wonder that as we look out into our cities, that we see destruction and despair. We've allowed it to be created. You. Me. Each one of us. We've allowed it to take shape and be built into what it was... into what it now is.

The Us vs Them mentality...

It's destructive. And it's not how we're designed to live. Unfortunately, there are far too many people that are pushing this type of mentality. And we need to run far away from those people who are looking to push this crap into our brains.

  • Shaun King
  • Tucker Carlson
  • Joe Biden
  • Trump
  • Don Lemon
  • Pelosi
  • Ben Shapiro
  • ...

The list could literally go on and on. The Us vs Them voices are everywhere on both sides. It's what makes good tv. It's what creates the most shares and likes. And it's much easier to destroy others than it is to build them up. The message of 2020 is quite literally...

Us vs Them

And we need to run FAR from these voices. Refuse to listen. The very people who tell us it's Us vs Them aren't trying to unite anyone. They aren't trying to bring harmony to humanity. They're trying to bring war between neighbors. It's not an agenda of peace. It's an agenda of power. Each one of them.

Socialism isn't the biggest issue in society. Racism isn't the biggest issue in society. Democrats. Republicans. None of this is the biggest issue in our society.

The biggest issue in society right now...

The Us vs Them mentality.

We need to refuse to listen to those that push this mentality. We need to silence them by coming together. It's not Us vs Them. It has never been designed to be that way. It's me for you. You for me. It's being FOR each other. Swallowing our pride. It's listening to each other's fears and scars. It's hearing each other out. It's not assuming someone's a racist. It's knowing that black lives do matter and not having to bookend it with a, "but all lives matter too." It's denouncing violence against our nation's police officers. And it's understanding that when someone kneels during the National Anthem, they are expressing their freedom of speech. It's speaking out against those that are rioting.

It's me. Understanding you. And you understanding me. It's coming together to call evil for what it is. And it's valuing and loving every life as a human being.

It's the first week of August. The second half of the year has just gotten started. Let's redefine this year from Us vs Them to...

Me FOR You... building everyone up together.