The Journey to the Cross, Day 2

March 13: Who Takes the Punishment?

Fast-forward from Adam to Abraham, about 2,000 years.  God told then 75-year old Abraham to leave all that he knew to “travel to a land I will show you.”  And he obeyed!  There were several adventures along the way but the one we’ll focus on today is from Genesis 15.   There God promises Abraham a reward for his obedience.  Abraham says back to God, in essence, “A reward is great – but I have no heirs so anything you give me will go to my servant!”  But God assures Abraham that he really will be a dad one day – even in his old age.  And then, to guarantee His word, God does something that would be strange in our culture but was the custom of that day. In order to make a covenant or promise, the parties involved would meet.  They would then place split carcasses of animals in a path, with half of the animal on each side.  Then one or both parties would walk through the path, dramatically symbolizing the consequences of what would happen if the promise was broken. Breaking the covenant equaled death.  God tells Abraham to arrange the animals so that a covenant could be made and then he put Abraham into a deep sleep.  While he was asleep, he saw a brazier full of coals representing God go through the path.  However, Abraham was never required to walk the path of promise!  In other words, God was saying, “I am making a promise to you, Abraham, to make you a great nation and to bless the entire world through you.  But when you and yours break faith with me, you won’t take the punishment – I will.”   And sure enough, God’s promises to Abraham were fulfilled.  Out of Abraham’s son of the promise, Isaac, came the nation of Israel.  And out of Israel came the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”.   We have broken faith with God many, many times.  And yet, God willingly gave up his Son, Jesus, as the “punishment that brought us peace.”

Adoration: Praise God for being willing to be both the Promise Keeper and the One who bore the punishment for our sin on Himself.  Thank Him for His grace and mercy.

Confession: Spend time seeking God, asking the Holy Spirit to show you where you are breaking covenant with God or with others in your life.  Confess what He brings to mind and purpose in your heart to walk a different way.

Thanksgiving: Thank God that as far back as Abraham, He had you in mind.  Consider praying back to Him Romans 5:6 (AMP), “While we were still helpless [powerless to provide for our salvation], at the right time Christ died [as a substitute] for the ungodly.”

Supplication: Ask God to bring to mind the people that you need to invite to come with you for Easter Sunday.  Start praying for them now, asking that God would soften their hearts to hear of His love for them.


The Journey to the Cross, Day 1

March 12: The Beginning of the Journey

To properly tell the Easter story, we have to start at the beginning.  No, not the birth of Christ – farther back.  We have to go to when God created the heavens and the earth. All the way back to Genesis 1.  He created it for His glory and our pleasure, making a perfect place with no sin, sickness, or wrong of any kind.  And then we blew it.  Adam and Eve chose to listen to the lies of God’s enemy, Satan, instead of resting in the Truth of God’s goodness.  They disobeyed and sin entered the world.  And with sin, the consequences.  Death came into the world through that one act.  And not just physical death – but spiritual death as well.  Eternal separation from God because He is holy, perfect and pure.  But even then, even as the very first effects of sin began to be felt, God intervened.  In the midst of discipline, a promise to send a Savior.  God stated in Genesis 3:15 that one of Eve’s offspring would be wounded in the heel by Satan – but that He, in turn, would crush Satan’s head.  That promise was pointing to the eventual crucifixion of Jesus, God’s only Son.  Satan definitely wounded him that day.  But three days later, Jesus rose again, defeating death and hell, making a way for us to come back into fellowship with God the Father.  He crushed Satan’s head, indeed!

Adoration: Praise God for making provision for us long before we were born.  Consider praying back to Him Romans 5:18-19 (NLT): “Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone. Because one person disobeyed God, many became sinners. But because one other person obeyed God, many will be made righteous.”

Confession: Ask God to show you the areas in your heart, mind and life that need to be made right with Him.  Agree with Him about your sin and ask him to help you to walk in a new direction.

Thanksgiving:  Thank God for His glorious creation.  As gorgeous as it can be now, imagine what it will be like when He restores all of it to its sinless state.  Thank Him that you will get to see that day with your own eyes if you know Him as your Savior.

Supplication: Ask God to prepare your heart for Easter.  Ask Him to give you the grace to spend time with Him daily, enjoying Him and His Word.


When God Offends Me…

We sang it on Sunday.
And as we sang, I wondered how many people were actually thinking about the words.
And how many of them felt like they were lying.

It was the bridge to a song talking about the goodness of God that went, “You’re never gonna let, never gonna let me down. No, You’re never gonna let, never gonna let me down.”

And how many people sang it but were thinking, “But God, You did let me down! You didn’t answer my prayers…
…because You allowed my marriage to fall apart.”
…because my friend still died from cancer.”
…because I still lost the house to the bank.”
…because my child still died.”

Or maybe they sang it and thought, “Well, God, I guess that must be true for other people. But I sure don’t feel that way for me.”

I fear that some just sang it and never even thought about the words. They just did the next thing in church so that box could be checked.

Here is the truth: In this life, you are going to feel like God has let you down.
Because, in this life, He is not always going to do what you want.
What you feel is best.
What you deeply long for Him to do.

And when He doesn’t do what you are convinced you NEED Him to do, you are disappointed.
And afraid.

Jesus knew we would feel this way.
He knew that we would, indeed, feel like He let us down.
Like He doesn’t care.
Like He is powerless.
Or like He has power but refuses to act.

His cousin John experienced it first-hand.
John had a call on his life that began while he was still in the womb.
His mother, Elizabeth, was too old to bear children.
And yet God had given her and Zechariah a special child for a special purpose.
He was the standard-bearer for the coming Messiah.
The one who would go before Him, telling people He was coming, and warning them to make their lives ready.
And John did that.
He had followers of his own, disciples who hung on his every word.
And yet he encouraged them to follow Jesus when He appeared on the scene.
John knew his place.
He exalted Jesus every chance he got.
Praised Him publicly.
Rightfully declared His glory.
He even said, “Jesus must increase and I must decrease.”

John did everything he was supposed to do.
Gave up a “normal” life to be the ‘voice of one shouting in the wilderness, “Prepare the way of the Lord!”’
And where did exalting Jesus get him?
King Herod’s dungeon.
Locked up for telling the Truth.

And it seems that John expected Jesus to do something about it!
Perhaps he expected Jesus to come and denounce Herod’s sin and demand his release.
Perhaps he expected Jesus to do something miraculous and loose his chains, setting him free.
Perhaps he expected at least a visit from Jesus.

We don’t know his exact expectations.
But we do know that he was disappointed.
Because he sent some of his faithful friends with a message for Jesus.

“Are you really the one we have been looking for, the Messiah sent from God? Or should we be looking for someone else?”
All John could see was his pain.
His disappointment.
The ways Jesus had let him down.

And Jesus’ reply to John is both crushing and healing at the same time.
Luke 7 says that John’s disciples got to Jesus as he was in the middle healing many, many people, those with “illnesses, diseases and evil spirits”. He even restored the sight of the blind while these men watched.
And then Jesus turned to them and said, “Go and tell John about everything you have seen and heard: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the good news (gospel) preached to them.”

In other words, “John, look.I have fulfilled all the hallmarks of the Messiah. I am who you think I am.”
But then Jesus added this:
“Blessed [joyful, spiritually favored] is he who does not take offense at Me.”

Jesus didn’t say, “I won’t offend you.”
Nor did he apologize for John’s circumstances.
He said, “John, look around at the evidence of who I am. And then choose to trust Me, even when I offend you.”

When God doesn’t do what you want Him to do, He is still God.
And He has a higher purpose in mind.
He sees the WHOLE picture and not just the tiny part you are in at the moment.
He sees all of eternity and knows that this pain, these circumstances, this sorrow are all just specks on the timeline of your real, eternal life if you know Him as Savior.

If you have accepted His gift of salvation, these things are the only hell you will ever know.
And they are painful.
And most definitely not the way it is supposed to be.

But they are temporary.
While He is not.

And not only is He eternal,
but He is good.
Infinitely, completely, utterly good.

Even when you don’t feel like He is.
Even when you are overwhelmed by pain.
And fear.

As Casting Crowns sings in “Just Be Held”:

“If your eyes are on the storm
You’ll wonder if I love you still
But if your eyes are on the cross
You’ll know I always have and I always will.”

So blessed are you when you look beyond what is happening and seek His face.
Blessed are you when you choose to trust even when you don’t understand.
Blessed are you when you believe in the goodness of God even when all evidence your eyes can see points to the contrary.
Blessed are you when you recognize that a good Dad allows painful things in the life of His child for a higher purpose.
Blessed are you when you remember that this life is extraordinarily temporary and that what really matters is the eternal.

I heard a speaker recently say, “Don’t allow your experiences to limit your theology.”

In other words, blessed are you when you choose to not be offended by Him.

Then you can sing, “You’re never gonna let me down” – and mean it.

Standing On The Promises…

Suzie is an 8-year old ball of energy and cuteness with sparkling brown eyes and a mouth that never stops. She is adored by her parents because they see her as a special gift from God. Every night when her Dad tucks her into bed, he kisses her on her forehead and whispers, “I love you, my Suzie-Q.”

Now, you would think that Suzie, being so cute and so very loved, would always get her way. But, of course, her parents recognize that sometimes the most loving thing you can say is “no”. Candy before dinner, staying up late to watch more TV, and the request to “never have to eat spinach again” are all things they have wisely denied.

Suzie’s parents aren’t perfect but they are passionate about their daughter. They try very hard to do what is best for her, both for today and for the future. Even now they are doing proactive things that she knows nothing about, like putting money aside for college or whatever her future holds.

So, now that you know Suzie and her folks, you can imagine their shock when Suzie came to them in tears one evening right before dinner. With a quivering chin she wandered into the kitchen where they were chatting. She tugged on her Mom’s shirt and pleaded, “Mommy, will you please give me food for dinner tonight?” She then turned to her Dad. “Daddy, will you tuck me in tonight, please?” And then she turned and left the room, shaking her head and saying, “I know they can do that stuff but I don’t know if they will…”

Suzie’s family is a figment of my imagination. But how Suzie treated her Mom and Dad? That I see over and over again. I am guilty. And I know many others who are, too. It’s how we often treat our Heavenly Father.
We don’t take God at His Word.
We don’t trust Him to keep His promises.
We don’t believe that He is a good Dad, able to care for us beyond what we can see.
And, where Suzie’s parents are imperfect, our Heavenly Dad is completely perfect and completely good.

Those unbeliefs leak out in our prayers.
We pray things like, “God, will you please supply our needs?”
“God will you please be with my friend?”
“God, will you please be with me as I travel today?”
“God, life is hard. Will you please give me the strength I need today?”

Why are we asking God to do the things He has already promised to do?
Can you imagine how insulted you would be as a parent if your child did that to you?
“Mom, will you please feed me and take care of me today?”
“Dad, will you please watch over me and protect me as best you can?”

The Bible is FULL of promises from God.
Not suggestions.
Not happy thoughts.

“I will never leave you or forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5b)
“My God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)
“He that began a good work in you will complete it.” (Philippians 1:6)
“No one can pluck you out of My hand.” (John 10:28)
“In this world, you will have trouble. But be courageous, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
“I will keep in perfect peace the person who fixes their mind on me.” (Isaiah 26:3)
And so many more!

God always, always keeps His promises!

Yes, some of them are conditional, meaning you do your part and then He will do His.
“Seek first MY agenda and I will take care of the rest.” (Matthew 5:33, Kathy-phrased)
“Humble yourself under the mighty hand of God [set aside self-righteous pride], so that He may exalt you [to a place of honor in His service] at the appropriate time.” (I Peter 5:6, AMP)
“Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over [with no space left for more]. For with the standard of measurement you use [when you do good to others], it will be measured to you in return.”!” (Luke 6:38, AMP)

But they are all PROMISES of a good, good God.

So don’t insult Him by asking Him to do what He has already promised to do!
Instead, stand on the promise even as you bring Him the need.

What does that look like? Something like this:

“God, will you please supply our needs?” becomes “God, thank You that You have promised to supply our needs! You know that we are currently in need of ___; I thank You in advance for how You will supply and look forward to seeing what You are going to do.”

“God, will you please be with my friend?” becomes “Thank You, God, that You are with ___ because she is Your kid, too. Will You please make her aware of Your presence today?”

“God, will You please be with me as I travel today?” becomes “God, thank You that You go with me in my car this day. Thank You that You go before me and that Your angels surround me. Help me to drive in a way that honors You.”

Do you feel the difference?
Instead of Suzie begging Mom for dinner or Dad to tuck her in, she comes into the kitchen with confidence, walking in the knowledge that she is loved. And it blesses her Mom’s heart when she says, “Mommy, thank you that you make dinner every night! I am so glad you love me and take care of me. Can we please have lasagna sometime this week? I love your lasagna!” And then she turns to her Dad and says, “Daddy, thank you for tucking me in every night and for protecting us! I am so glad you are here!”

Remember – those things that Suzie sees are just the tip of the ice burg. She has no idea just how much she is loved. She doesn’t know that her Mom and Dad feel like their hearts are walking around outside their bodies when they look at her. She has no idea of the good things they have prepared for her in the future. She is simply confident that she is richly loved – and therefore, will be richly cared for in every way. Even when they say “no”.

You have no idea just how much you are loved by God. You cannot fully comprehend His heart for you. But He proved it by sending His one and only Son to take your place on the cross so that you can run to Him with both praises and requests. Don’t mock His love by forgetting His promises or doubting His character. Instead, stand on the promises. Walk in the confidence that you are fully, completely and ridiculously loved by God, simply because you are His kid.

All of this is summed up by Paul writing to the church at Philippi:
“Don’t dishonor God by worrying about one single thing. He’s got this! And He loves you. Sure, go ahead and tell God what you need – He loves to hear from His kids and He is for you in every way. But when you tell Him what you need, make sure you start by thanking Him for all He has already done and for all He has promised to do. Reminding yourself of His character that way and getting your burdens off your chest – that allows Him to fill you with His supernatural peace that goes way beyond your circumstances. You can’t control that stuff anyway – so dumping it all on Him and remembering to be thankful at the same time – that is a great way to guard your mind and your emotions from stress. Concentrate on how good He is and the good stuff He has done.” (Philippians 4:4-8, put in my words).

May we walk today in confidence, standing on all the promises of our good, good Father.

On Being Holy…

He had quite the outfit!
Especially for the time and place where he was living and working.
Snowy white robes with a rich blue tunic on top, decorated with scarlet pom-poms interspersed with small bells around the hem.
Elaborate embroidery on the special sash tied around his waist.
And on top of the robes, a breast plate made of gold and filled with a dozen precious stones, held in place with epaulets that were also jewel encrusted.
And to top it off? A snow white turban on his head.
And finally, the last piece, a gold medallion looped over the turban so that it rested on his forehead. It was engraved with the words, “Holy to The Lord”. Everywhere he went, in all that he did, when he was wearing his priestly garments, Aaron was marked. Every Israelite knew that he was “Holy to The Lord”. And every High Priest of Israel after him was supposed to wear the same outfit. With this same piece as the final fixture, declaring them “Holy to The Lord.”

That word “holy”.
It can trip us up.
It is often defined as “perfect”.
And it does have that connotation.
But it also means “set apart” or “sacred”.
In Exodus God tells the people that when Aaron wears the medallion, he will transfer holiness to all the things he uses in the worship of the Lord. (Exodus 28)
Every item he touches will be made pure.
And it will be set apart, sacred, special to God, dedicated to Him and His use.
No longer common or ordinary.
But sacred.

Fast forward to the New Testament.
After the cross.
After the veil in the Temple that separated the Most Holy Place from the rest of the world was torn in two from top to bottom by the hand of God.
After the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, He became the permanent High Priest. (Hebrews 4)
He sits at the right hand of God, interceding for us that have chosen to follow Him.
And because He is The Lamb of God, the Great High Priest, the One who was set apart by God as the ultimate sacrifice for our sins, He transfers His sacredness to us.
Not because we have earned it in any way.
Not because we are inherently special.
Or super saints of any kind.
Simply because He is holy.
When God the Father sees the Final High Priest, Jesus, He also sees that I am with Him. In Him. Covered by HIS righteousness. Because I have none of my own to offer. But now, I am made holy because He is holy.
Set apart.

And then God takes it one step farther.
Ephesians 1 says that I am “sealed by the Holy Spirit”.
And Peter declares that we who are Christ-followers are “a royal priesthood”.
I don’t know what the Holy Spirit’s seal looks like in the heavenly realms.
But I envision it as a kiss on the forehead from God, a mark that tells every being in the spiritual realms Whose side I am on.
Or perhaps it is a medallion that says, “Holy To The Lord”.
The transfer of the Great High Priest’s holiness to me.

Set apart by Him from the rest of what is common.
Set apart to do a special work.
Things He has prepared in advance for me to do.
After He saved me by His grace and His grace alone. (Ephesians 2:8-10)
Set apart to live differently than the rest.
And bringing Him glory by fulfilling His awesome to-do list for my life.

But here’s the thing.
Nowhere in the Bible does it say that this seal is just for me.
That I am the only one who is “a royal priesthood”.
Nor does it say that it only applies to those who are in vocational ministry.
Or those who know their Bible best.
Have been to seminary.
Or have conquered certain patterns of sin and self.

It is the mark of every Christ-follower.
From the newest spiritual infant to the most spiritually mature.
Any Christ-follower is sealed with the Holy Spirit.
And marked as a royal priest.
Who is “Holy To The Lord”.

If you envision every believer you know with that on their forehead, would it change how you treat them?
Even if they worship differently than you?
Even if their skin tone is different than yours?
Even if their language is different?
Even if they drive you crazy?

And what about looking in the mirror?
If you could see that medallion on your forehead, would it change how you see you?
Your past?
Your present?
Your future?
Your current choices?

Because that is how God sees you.
Yes, He is very aware of how you messed up yesterday and will again today.
He is very aware that you are a work in progress.
Still struggling with that habit or those choices.

But God also sees you as holy.
Totally set apart.
Dressed in robes of shining righteousness.
Crowned with gold.
With a medallion that says, “Holy To the Lord”.

The instant you accepted the offer of salvation, you were dressed that way.
So how will that change what you do today?
Will you accept that you have been saved by grace alone?
Will you let gratitude for that grace change how you live today?
Will you live up to the outfit you were given?
Will you choose to live out the declaration that has already been made by God about you?
Or will ignore that you have been set apart?
How will you live out the fact – not the feeling – that you are “Holy To The Lord” today?

On Mopping, My Mouth and The Best News Ever…

I absolutely love my Bissell Crosswave! It is an amazing machine.
My floors are hardwood and linoleum with scattered area rugs.
And that is what it does best!

My favorite feature? I don’t have to vacuum first and then mop. It does both, pretty much simultaneously. So I can literally get my floors pristine in half the time. And the amount of cat hair this thing gets out of the carpets? Whew! I thought my old vacuum was adequate until I used my Crosswave. It felt like I had the fur of an entire third cat in the canister when I was done!

Do I understand all the ins and outs of my Crosswave? Nope. I sure don’t. I don’t understand why the suction is more powerful or how it can handle both wet and dry stuff. I have no idea how many engineers it took to make it or how many tests they ran. I don’t know the horsepower of the motor. All I can tell you is that I have tried it and found it to be worth every penny.

Do you have a product you love? I am sure you do. There is something in your life that makes you healthier. Or your hair shinier. Or your chores easier. Or something. And I bet you have told someone about it. Maybe lots of someones.

Because God designed us to delight in good things. And to share them with others. Perhaps it’s not a product. Maybe it is a recipe. Or a place you went on vacation. A really awesome movie or a great song.

And maybe, like me, you have the gift of gab. You’ll share with anyone. You hear a perfect stranger talking about a health issue and you just can’t help saying, “There’s an oil for that!” Or you have an acquaintance who mentions that they are looking for the perfect vacation spot and you say, “Oh, we loved Great Wolf Lodge!”

Perhaps you are more reserved, less inclined to view the entire world as a group of friends you haven’t met yet. That’s fine. But I bet you still share good things with the people you already know. Your coworker mentions that she has always wanted to make lasagna and you say, “Oh, I found a great recipe that our family loved. Do you want it?” Or the soccer Mom you make chit-chat with on the sidelines says, “We need to get Johnny a new set of cleats but they are so expensive!” and you say, “Oh, have you checked out We got a great deal there for Suzie’s cleats!”

We do it naturally.
Because we have found something we love.
We have experienced its goodness.
Or the benefit in our lives.
And we share that experience, what we have seen with our own eyes, with those around us.
We don’t worry about offending them.
We don’t think, “Gosh, I have to go to culinary school before I share this lasagna recipe!”
We keep it simple.
We have experienced goodness.
We share it.

So why is sharing Jesus so difficult?
Why do we get tripped up by what might happen? Or how they might react?

You don’t have to have all the answers.
Nor do you need a seminary degree.
You don’t have to be able to prove the existence of God or even defend what other people have done in the name of Christ.
All you have to do is share what YOU know.
What YOU have experienced about the goodness of God.
What your life was like before you met Him.
(And no, you don’t have to share all the gory details unless He prompts you to do so.)
Share how you decided to surrender.
And how you have seen Him work since then.

Keep it simple.
Keep it real.
If – or when – they challenge you with a question and you don’t know the answer, do these things:
Pray. Quickly, silently. Something as simple as, “Help! Please give me wisdom.”
Be willing to say you don’t know.
And be willing to say, “But I will do my best to find out.” Then ask someone who is ahead of you on the faith walk and return with the answer.
Finally, recognize that those questions are often simply diversionary tactics of the enemy who does not want your friend to have eternal life.

Because here’s the deal:
If God is real and the Bible is true, then every person is going to die someday.
And when they do, they will face God.
He will not take out a list of Good Works to compare it to a list of Bad Choices.
He will simply look to see if their name is recorded in the Lamb’s Book of Life.
Did they accept Christ? Or did they reject Him?

But He will also look at those of us who followed Him. And we will give an account of what we did with the experience we have of knowing Him. Our obedience to the last command Jesus gave, to go and make disciples.
Did we share the best news ever?
Or did we keep to ourselves?
Did we let the enemy scare us off mission?
Or did we complete our assignment through His strength and by His grace?

Not by preaching sermons or having all the answers.
But simply by knowing Him intimately.
And then by being willing to share what He has done.
Because that is all a witness does.
They share what they have seen, heard and experienced.
They testify to what happened.
It is up to the hearer – and the work of the Holy Spirit – to be changed by the testimony.
Your job is to be faithful in planting and watering seeds.
His job is to reap the harvest.

And if you want to be more prepared, go for it!
There are plenty of great resources out there that answer the questions they might ask.
Study up!
And be prayed up at all times.
Stay close in your walk with Him.
Keep your relationship in good standing by confessing sin ASAP.
Delight in Him.
And it will get much, much easier to share.

In fact, you will have “streams of Living Water” bubbling out of your life and you may not even have to initiate the conversation.
They may initiate by asking you why you love the way you do. Or how you can be so forgiving. Why you work so hard or why you don’t laugh at the dirty jokes. And then it gets easy to share.
But even if they don’t ask, you can still share the best news ever.
First, because He is so awesome.
And second, because He commanded it.

Will you share?
Or will you let the enemy shut you up?
The choice is yours.
But your friend desperately needs to hear what God has done for you.
I pray we’ll both be obedient.

I Blame the Apples!

I blame the apples.
It had to be them!
Twice in my life I have had food poisoning.
And both times, the food I ate had apples in it.
So I blame the apples for the misery that followed.

Will I still eat apples?
Sure, I guess.
But I am keeping a wary eye on them.
After all, you never know when one of them will turn on you.
And who needs that?
In fact, I think I may avoid them altogether.
Because, obviously, they are the cause of all of my issues.
After all, the two times I got food poisoning, apples were involved.

I blame the ____.
(Fill in here with the group of your choice. A certain political party. A certain race. A certain age group. A certain church or denomination. Even a certain family member.)
It had to be them!
Every time there is a problem, they are at the center of it.
So I blame them for all the misery there is.

Will I still exist on this mortal plane with them?
Sure, I guess. Because I have to.
But I am keeping a wary eye on them.
After all, you never know when one of them will turn on you.
And who needs that.
Actually, I think I will avoid “them” altogether.
Because, obviously, they are the cause of all my issues.
After all, every time I get hurt or frustrated “they” are involved.

The truth is, both times that I have had food poisoning, apples were involved.
But the truth is also that they were not the cause.
Bad meat the first time.
Bad meat and bad mayo the second time.

But it would be so easy to come to the wrong conclusion.
Blame the apples.
And then cut my nose off despite my face and never eat apples again.
Ignore all the health benefits and the deliciousness they bring.
And just lump them all together into the category of “bad”.

Now go back.
Think of that group or that person who you cannot stand.
The apples you want to blame for your misery.

And recognize that the poison does not come from the apple.
It didn’t come from the fruit in the Garden of Eden, either.
(Which, by the way, was not an apple.)
The fruit itself was good.
The poison came from the action – the sin that eating the fruit ushered into the world.
The choice to disobey.
And every sinful choice we have made since then.

The poison does not come from the “apples” who are
Or Democrats
White People
Or Black People
Or Conservatives
The Government
Or the Protestors
The President
Or the Congress
The Baptist Church
Or the Catholic Church
Or any Church
Your Mother
Or your Father
Your Boss
Or your Co-Worker
Your Ex
Or your Current.

“They” – whoever your “they” may be – are apples.
And they are not the cause of the misery in the world.
They are mixed in with it.
They are even carriers of it.
But they are not the poison that causes the malevolent illnesses of greed, corruption, violence, hatred, murder and the rest of what plagues our society.

It is sin.
And I cannot call you a sinner without acknowledging that I am one, too.
We ALL “fall short of the glory of God”.
And while the earthly consequences of our sin may be different, the heavenly one is the same.
“The wages of sin is death.”
Death meaning separation from God.
Which means no power.
No power to love.
None to forgive.
None to live differently.
None to look past the outer differences and see the inward similarities.

Sin divides.
It frustrates.
It separates.
And it poisons.

“That group” or “those people” are not the root of your problem or misery.
Sin is.
Your sin.
Their sin.
Our sin.
And because sin separates, we are all unplugged lamps, separated from our Power Source, desperately trying to shine by our own willpower.
Until we acknowledge the separation.
Yield to the Power Source.
And plug in to Real Life.
True Life.
Eternal Life.
Which leads to power.
Power to forgive the unforgivable.
To love the unlovable.
And to “tear down the dividing walls of hostility” that stand between us.

And yes, you plug in one time.
The time you say, “Yes, God, I am a sinner. And Jesus is the only way I will be saved.”
But then you keep allowing the power to flow.
Actively seeking out kinks in the cord.
Not allowing a sinful choice to stutter the flow of power.
Keeping that connection open by keeping short accounts with God.

So when “they” do the unthinkable and the thought occurs, “I hate ______”, you instantly counter that poison with, “but God, You love _______. Help me to forgive them as you have forgiven me. Help me to love them with Your love. I do not have it in me. But You are my Power Source, not me. Change my heart, God. And then help me to change my world by loving “them”, one apple at a time.”

Because the apples may be a common denominator.
But they are not the poison that will make you violently ill.
Don’t miss out on the goodness, the benefits, the sheer joy that comes from choosing to love the apples even while you hate the poison.
When you do that, you will shine.
And people will wonder why.
And you will have one more opportunity to share the One – the Only One – Who can change the world.
One apple at a time.