Not What I Expected

Expectations...

We all have them. Last year, Jami and I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Israel with a group of amazing people. Before the trip, we had multiple meetings to go over all of the logistics and what we could expect each day to relatively look like. These were all very helpful and necessary meetings to make sure we understood the expectations of everyone.

Expectations.

Once we were in country, there were other expectations that Jami and I had that were met and, well, different... For me, the Sea of Galilee was what I thought it would look like. Tiberias, the first city we stayed in, however, was different than what we expected. As we walked the city away from the "tourist" area to find a place to eat, we started to see more and more cats roaming around. Now, in Mexico, it's widely known that you'll see a lot of dogs roaming around. And as we moved farther into the town, we noticed that there were cats everywhere... If you used the word, "infestation," you wouldn't be wrong. As we sat down to eat we noticed that the cats would even come up and either take the empty chair next to you, lay under your table or climb up on your table and sit with you while you ate.

I. Kid. You. Not. Cats. Everywhere.

More times than not, however, the towns that we visited were largely what I expected... until we got to Jerusalem. Jerusalem was an interesting mix between old school Middle East, and suburb-like shopping/dining areas. The "Old City," as it is called, is behind giant-like walls. The Old City looked literally like a Disney backlot. There were many things about Jerusalem that I didn't expect. I didn't expect to go out at night, into the local areas to eat and hang out, and see people walking around with M-16's. I didn't expect to experience how segregated Jerusalem felt... to literally walk by people and looked at with hatred.

Expectations

Then, there was a time where we went to visit a location near Bethlehem that was talked about in the Bible.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. Luke 2:8-11

The shepherds fields. It's part of the Christmas story. I've read it many times. It's been told to me many times. In my head, as I pictured it, I expected the shepherds fields to look like something I'd see in the States. Green grassy fields. Instead, what I saw is in the photo that you can see at the top of this blog post. Across the trees. Across the construction area. The brownish, yellowish area is the shepherds fields.

It was totally NOT what I was expecting.

And in the same area, thousands of years ago, the shepherds experienced something they didn't expect. Imagine that you are one of the shepherds. Night after night you watch over your sheep. It's what you do. Night after night after night after night. No city lights like we know today. Just stars shining in a darkened night sky. The shepherds, living life... doing the same thing they've always done.

Expectations

"Then out of nowhere, an angel of the Lord stood before them. They weren't expecting this to happen. The Bible says that the shepherds were terrified. And the angel says to them, "Do not be afraid."

God's like that. He'll show up when we're not expecting it. We're living life. Working. Running kids to and from activities. And God shows up. Maybe we're in a spot where we're terrified. Covid. The coming election. Riots. Fires. Cancer and sickness. And like with the shepherds in the fields, God shows up and says,

Do not be afraid.

God has a habit of showing up when we least expect Him. He showed up to the shepherds in their fields. He showed up in a manager in Bethlehem. He showed up to Moses in a burning bush. He showed up to Peter after Jesus was crucified on a cross. I don't know what's going on in your life, but God wants to show up to you in a time and place you may not be expecting... in your marriage, your job, your family, your relationships, your health... your life.

God has a habit of showing up when we least expect Him and looking like something we weren't expecting. As you are... have eyes to see Him... Have ears to hear Him...

And do not be afraid... God will show up before you at a time you might not be expecting Him.


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.


We Didn't Start the Fire

I've literally typed up three different blog posts for today. Non of them do any justice to what's happening in the United States of America.

So today's blog will be a virtual moment of silence...

What our country needs, is not more outrage... our country needs more brokenness.

Brokenness about racism

Brokenness about hate

Brokenness about violence

Brokenness about looting

Brokenness about destroying businesses

Brokenness...

When our country and people are broken about these injustices, then true change will come about. That's my prayer going forward, God make me broken for the injustices in our country and use me to help make real changes.

If you choose, feel free to use the comment field to write your prayer below...