Loving Leviticus

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Well, Hello out there. How in the world are you? I hope you are well, and enjoying the shopping season. Black Friday is behind us. Yay. And we are so looking forward to Christmas. Man… You are listening to the Rediscovering the Bible online radio show. My name is Sam Burton, and I’ll be your host. Whether you are a long time listener, or brand new to the show, I’m delighted you stopped by. For those of you who are new, we are in a really crowded time period, and I’m not able to bring you a show every week. So we’re getting on here as often as possible. Once this period settles down a bit, we’ll get back to weekly. Again, if you’re new, we have a whole boatload of historic episodes you can listen to. I’ll include a link to the archives in the show notes. You’ll find those notes at samburtonpresents.com. While you’re looking at them, I’d love it if you’d just go to the home page and sign up to receive notices every time we put a show out. Also, please drop me a note, either on the comments section of my FB account, or, in the comments section of the .com site. If you’d like to ask me a question privately, please send that to .

Now, that’s enough commercials. At least it is for me. We’re going back to the Old Testament today. Last time, I just had to take a side trip, but we’re back on the road today. And we’re going to look at the OT book of Leviticus. Everybody’s favorite. More than any other book of the Bible, this one is a show stopper. More people give up on reading the Bible here, than anywhere else. By a long shot. I’m going to try and change that for you today.

First, remember to read the NT first. That is mission critical. I know that’s not normal, or at least it feels odd. But trust me. In fact, I have a reading plan for the Bible that will really help you if you’re new to the Bible, or have trouble understanding it. Just write to me at samburtonpresents@gmail.com or use the comments section on the page with the show notes, and I’ll send it right out to you.

But, loads of people who are trying to read the bible, get through Genesis and Exodus, bog down in Leviticus, and quit. Frankly, they find the book, slow, gory, and far too detailed. There are hardly any stories in it. So they just give up and tell all their family and friends that they tried to read the Bible, but it was too boring.

Let me give you just a couple of tips to help you out. I know a few have already left us, just hearing the topic. I could hear them screaming and clicking the off button. But How and why did this book come about?

First, there are a lot of us who think that Moses only received the 10 commandments while he was up on the mountain. Mostly, we can blame Hollywood for that. But he was up there for 40 days. God gave him, all kinds of laws besides the 10 commandments. He also gave him instruction on the special clothes the priests were to wear, and detailed instructions regarding the tabernacle and it’s furniture.

But why? Why all this maddening detail? Why all these sacrifices? Why all these Tithing laws? What is all this stuff about leprosy? It seems to make no sense.

First, chances are, you’re not Jewish. The law has never been a part of your life or your family’s. It sounds so odd. So very foreign. But think of it a bit this way. Do you remember learning to drive? You got a manual. You had to take some tests, right? You had to read it over and over again to learn the material. First, so you could pass your test. Then so you could avoid accidents and tickets for disobeying the driving laws. You learned it. I bet you almost memorized it. Things like stopping distances kept you up at night, because you just knew some of that would be on the written test.

In a way, that’s why the book of Leviticus is in the Bible. It’s like a driving life, Bible manual, written directly by God. If you were a Jew, that would be an important read. Especially if you were a priest.

But you and I aren’t every going to have to pass a test on these laws. So why do we need to even read it, except for historic purposes.

First of all, it shows us how bad sin is. Look at the things we do, or have done, that would require an animal to be slaughtered. It’s awful. It was not unusual for up to 144,000 sheep, goats, bulls, and turtle doves to be sacrificed in a single day. Not in a year, but in a day. Blood flood like rivers. Life had to be especially tough on the priests and levites. Can you imagine the sight, the smells, the gore. But that’s how ugly sin is.

It shows us how holy God is. He can’t stand sin. He can’t be around it. He wants us to know that. He wants it gone. That, by the way, explains all the stuff about leprosy. Leprosy was a picture of sin. Any kind of rash, or open sore, or mould, or mildew might be leprosy. It had to be tested. If it was leprosy, it had to be dealt with. That’s what sin is. It makes us ‘unclean.” It makes us unfit to be around God. It is infectious. It spreads over us, and from one person to another. The book of Leviticus, points out explicitly, and graphicly, how bad sin really is.

But more than that, it Shows us Jesus. Jesus is the sacrificed lamb, goat, bull, and turtle dove. It doesn’t matter who we are, whether we’re rich or poor, educated, uneducated, male or female, or what nationality or race we are. We are all sinners. And sin puts us in a broken relationship with God. In the book of Hebrews we learn that the blood of Bulls and Goats can never take away sin. That’s why
we need Jesus. That’s why He came. That’s also why reading the new testament first, is important.

We will never have to sacrifice animals. There is no disease of leprosy anymore. Yes, there’s a disease called leprosy, but that’s a misunderstanding that we can blame the crusaders for. What we call leprosy today, is a baccillus, and is called, Hansen’s disease, after the doctor who isolated it.

became man. Sin is still awful. It still separates us from our perfect God. And that is some place nobody

When Jesus came, died, and was raised from the dead, he fulfilled the old testament law. No one ever has to sacrifice an animal again. Jesus died for us. Jesus was the man who is God. He is the God who wants to be. And it’s a place God doesn’t want us to be. Which is why Jesus came. That’s the meaning of Christmas. God became a man. He left the glory of heaven. The worship of angels, became a baby, grew to manhood, lived 33 years, taught, healed, loved, and forgave, every day of his life. Then he was butchered like a lamb. He was treated with contempt. He was chosen. He suffered humilitation and torment, so we wouldnt have to. After being savagely beaten for hours, he was taken out and crucified. Blood ran from his face, his hands, his back, and his feet. Then to make sure he was dead, he was pierced in the side with a spear, and blood flowed from there, too. He spilled his blood, all of it, to pay the price for our sin. We can accept his sacrifice by faith, repent of our behaviour, and be accepted by God. How great is that. Some of us have sinned a great deal. And we know it. Some of us may not be savagely guilty, but none of us is sinless. And the book of Leviticus shows us very clearly, that one is enough to do us in, to separate us from God.

But Jesus paid it all. All to him I owe. Sin has left a crimson stain. He washed it white as snow.

It’s hard for me to do this via radio. But I will try. You know you’ve sinned. Many of you have already repented and received Christ. You are following him. You are forgiven and you know it. But there’s someone, or some ones, who haven’t. You know, maybe from Leviticus, that you are far from God. But you can change that today. Right this moment. You can turn to God. You can repent, that means turn. Change direction. Give God the Keys and let him drive. You can believe that God wants to forgive you. You can hit the pause button and do that now. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

God asks us to do one thing to show our seriousness about faith and repentence. He asks us to be baptised in water. , you can read about this in the book of Acts in the NT, to show people we’ve made that choice, that confession, by being immersed in water. That’s why everybody love a baptismal service. Because that’s where we publicly declare our faith and repentence. And that’s it. It’s done. Sure there’s more to learn, but that’s where we are born again, Faith and Repentance. How easy is that.

If you’ve done that today, write me, and let me know. I want to pray for you. I will help you find a good Church, where you can grow, and enjoy the company of others who have made the same decision. Or, if you want to know more, please write me. Do it today. I will help any way I can. Sin is awful. You know it is. You know how broken you feel. But It can all change. Right now.

That’s all I’ve got. I’ll talk to you next time. Remember, Leviticus will point you to Jesus. He will receive you and forgive you. Not might. He Will. Have a great week. I’m out

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Good Bye NIV, Hello ESV

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Today’s topic is rather personal, and spiritual. I know some of you are not even remotely interested in Spiritual things, so I’m warning you ahead time. I hope you’ll keep reading, because you might get something out of it. Besides, it’s just us, so of no one will know you’re reading someone discussing the Bible.

The year was 1972. I was a teenager. I was skinny and had a full head of hair. My how things change with time. I already loved the Bible. And I loved Jesus. I had submitted to Him a few years before and loved reading His Word.

In those days, that was the King James Version. That’s pretty much what everybody read. I did have a Good News For Modern Man (Today known as the Good News Version, or Today’s English Version). but I read about a brand new translation that was hitting the market called, The New International Version. I raced out to a Christian Book Store and bought one. It was only the New Testament, that’s all that was completed at that time. It was brown leather. Just like a Bible should be. Kidding. Mine was a large print edition. In those days that was an option I didn’t need. Now it’s a requirement.

This new Bible was like magic. I understood it. Every word. It was like it was written just for me. I absolutely fell in love with it. In 1974, I went to college at Ozark Christian College in Joplin, MO. In the bookstore, my first day, I saw and purchased, a whole Bible in the New International version. I was in heaven.

Throughout my college years, I was introduced to many translations. I liked some. Disliked others. Some I have to this day. A few I have as an app, but no actual hard copies. But I always loved the NIV.

Then in 1979, I went to Cincinnati Christian University, called Cincinnati Bible College in those days. One of the professors there, Lewis Foster, had been on the team of translators for the NIV, especially the Gospel of John, and played a role in the Book of Joshua team as well, but I don’t remember what he told me his role was. I will just say, Dr. Foster was an awesome man who loved the Word and the God who inspired it. I truly enjoyed his classes and spending time with him. I treasure those memories.

I was ordained into the ministry in 1978 in Cynthiana, KY in a Church where the minister was King James only. He was adamant about it. He disliked me very much for the fact that I was sold on the NIV and even used it when I was preaching and teaching. He only agreed to participate in my ordination because my dad was an Elder in the Church. I remember some dandy conversations with the Pastor as we would go about our days.

I also remember NOT getting hired by a church in KY once because I used the NIV rather than the King James. Those were weird times in churches. In fact, I would carry a King James AND an NIV with me when I was traveling and raising support to be a missionary, so I wouldn’t offend people if their church was still sold on the KJV.

When I got to Buckie, Scotland in 1980, I boldly preached from the New International version. Most of the people stuck to their King James, but converts used the NIV. Eventually, it became the majority version in the Church in Buckie, as well at in Forres which I planted in 1986, and in Cumbernauld, born in 1988.

I stayed true to the NIV, even when The New Living Bible became so popular in the late 90s. My wife loves that translation. She uses it all the time. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it. It’s just not me.

I received a beta version of Today’s New International Version of the New Testament to read and comment on sometime in 2000 or 2001. It was published in 2002. I read it and HATED it. It was, lets say an attempt at political correctness. It was just awful. And I said so.

The Old Testament was finished in 2005. The translation was totally unacceptable to serious believers in Jesus and His Word. Eventually it just faded away and ceased being published.

Then in about 2012 a new edition of the NIV came out. I had bought a new Bible and was teaching a class at Northwest Christian Church in Acworth, GA. As I was reading, I became aware that some of the translation was just terrible. I laid my bible down and told the class that this version was crap. The NIV had implemented some of the translation model that had been used in the TNIV and the NIV was ruined.

The next week, I went back to my 1984 edition of the NIV. It was the last sound version of the NIV. It is now only possible to buy it from used bookstores or backrooms at Christian bookstores. Despite all the furor, I stuck faithfully to the 1984 edition of the NIV. And I will continue to use it in personal study.

But today, I am announcing, primarily because the 1984 NIV is so rare, that I will begin this week, preaching from the English Standard Version. It is considered a literal translation, yet it reads pretty smoothly for one. It is used by many conservative Churches in English speaking countries. In fact, it is the translation used at Brittan’s and my home Church in GA, Crosspoint City Church.

Frankly, this was an extremely difficult decision to make. I wish the publishers of the New International Version had never forced me into it. But they did, and that’s that. It’s done. Here I stand.

If you want to understand more about translations of the Bible, I recommend my book, (Re)Discovering the Bible Vol. 1. Its a short book. And inexpensive, too. Just click on the link. You’re welcome.

So, farewell, New International Version. You have been a faithful translation. You have served me well. I cherish the many memories I have had using you to reach people in the U.S.A., Great Britain, Jamaica, Canada, and any other English speaking country I’ve visited. But it’s time to move on.

Hello, English Standard Version. You have big shoes to fill. But I believe you have what it takes. Let’s do this. The Gospel of Jesus is too important. There’s no place to go but on.

Thanks for listening folks. At least now you understand a little bit about why this is so important to me. Use the comments section and tell me about your favorite, or least favorite, Bible translation. See you next week.

My UFO Close Encounter – A True Story

I think that since I started my mind thinking about supernatural things and cryptids last week, I would continue with that thought today. Why not, right?

We moved several times when I was in Jr. High and High school. I couldn’t even begin to tell you the names of the roads we lived on during that time, except for one, Middlesex Drive. I remember it not because of the odd name, but because of a strange event that happened to me while we were there. Frankly, it changed me forever.

The house was brand new as were all the others in the neighborhood. Lexington was a fast growing city in the seventies and new houses were going up everywhere. Most of these new homes were split levels and split foyers. Ours was a split level. On the ground level were a single car garage, the kitchen, dining room and living room. Upstairs were three bedrooms and a bath. Below ground were a family room, an extra bedroom and the utility room that also contained a bath. My bedroom was below ground. Probably every teenage boy in the neighborhood had a below ground bedroom in those days, because we were not civilized. Our rooms smelled bad. Probably mostly to do with unwashed socks hiding under our beds. I know it didn’t have anything to do with unwashed bodies, because I took at least two showers every day. One before school in the morning and one in the evening. At least three days a week I took one in the afternoon at school after gym class as well. I hated the thought of smelling bad. I was terrified of smelling bad in front of, you know, girls.

We also played our music too loud. Apparently, 20th century parents weren’t keen of Black Oak Arkansas, The Edgar Winter Group, or even Elvis. They kept spinning in my room along with Elton John, the Bee Gees and a wide range of Southern Gospel Quartet music. I had a nice collection of Motown favorites like Marvin Gaye, and the Stylistics for variety. Man, my hair is growing back just thinking about it.

One of the features about downstairs living I liked best was the fact that I had my own entrance to the house. There was a door from my bedroom to the backyard. That was great because I had a white German Shepherd, Rajah. I could easily sneak him into the room, not that I would ever do a thing like that! Anyway, after we were done playing, I could open the door and let Rajah out. He would stare in the back door for a while, then lay down and sleep right outside. It was comforting for me to know my big dog was right outside.

One summer evening, August, to be precise, I was listening to the radio late on a Tuesday night. I kept it low enough not to disturb my parents or sisters upstairs. Rajah lay outside my door. The radio was tuned to WKYT radio as it pretty much always was.

The time was ticking away, well past midnight. It was dark out. Because there were no houses behind us, just a corn field, the back of our neighborhood was always particularly dark. There were lots of stars lighting the sky, but no moon that night. Whenever there was no moon, the darkness of the cornfield was particularly creepy. I was glad Rajah was out there. I was thinking about letting him inside when it all happened.

First, the radio stopped. It just shut off mid song. So did the clock. At first I assumed it was a breaker. Then I saw Rajah. He was sitting up just outside the door with his eyes fixed on the sky. He was frozen like a statue. I called to him. He didn’t move a muscle.

I got up and looked out at the sky. All I saw were stars. Then one star began to move, but instead of moving across the sky, it moved towards me. It began like a white pin prick and grew larger as it moved closer. In just a few seconds it was as big as a full moon and lit up the back field. But it wasn’t done. It kept coming closer until it was in our back yard. Technically, it was in the corn field, but very close to the yard. It was very large and very bright. The thing just sat there pulsating and watching me.

I did what any 16 year old would do. I jumped back in bed and hid under the covers. There was a hum coming from the orb, but that was the only sound in the night. There were no dogs barking. There weren’t even any insects or frogs doing their usual serenading of the darkness. It was terrifying.

I don’t know how long I stayed under the covers. Probably around 10 minutes. By that time it was getting pretty hot under there and the oxygen was pretty stale. I was trying to decide what to do when I sensed a slight change in the brightness, so I pulled my head out from under the blanket.  The craft was now moving off. It flashed once, then slowly but steadily retreated the way it came until is was just a tiny pin prick, then disappeared.

The moment it was gone, the radio came back on. Rajah shook and turned to face me. I got up and let him in. He whined and lay down by the bed. I let him sleep there the rest of the night. I didn’t sleep much. I kept watching the sky, afraid the thing would return.

The next morning I said nothing to my sisters. Neither of them have ever said they saw anything. Eventually, like a year later, I told my parents. They never saw anything. My dad poo pooed it.  My mom stayed quiet. She was open to anything.

On the school bus, and at school, nobody saw or heard a thing. It was like I was the only witness to the event. And that made no sense to me.

In order for you to fully understand my discomfort, you should be aware that even back then I was a Christian, and did not believe in men from outer space. I was convinced we were the only inhabited planet in the universe. There were no grays or lizard people. But what I had experienced was real. And it shook me to my core.

Those were days before the internet so Google wasn’t an option. I was forced to go to the library and go through the card catalogue with a fine tooth comb. I did that at my school library and at the public one, checking out everything I could find on UFOs, encounters, the Bible, and anything else I could find.

Eventually, I found a book written in 1972 by an Australian Christian Writer, Clifford Wilson, called, Crash Go The Chariots. It was a response to Erich Von Daniken’s, “Chariots of the Gods”. I don’t remember much about the text of the book, but Wilson seemed to answer most of my doubts. He set me on a path that I still walk. These days, I call UFOs, and most other supernatural events. Demonic Practical Jokes. They are designed to trick us and to cause us to take our eyes off of God and His message to us.

For example; the teaching that every single person has brought back from a kidnapping encounter with ‘aliens’ is a denial of the Gospel’s core teaching. What’s also true is the message is almost exactly the same as from those who have near death experiences. What a coincidence.

Now this episode is getting a bit long in the tooth, but as I unfold these stories to you, I’ll also unpack what I think is happening. For now just let this thought sink in. I believe that UFOs, The Loch Ness Monster, Dogmen, and even ghosts, are ‘real’. I believe they are trans dimensional and enter our dimension with evil intent. I believe that’s why they can do things that seem so odd to us. Because we are used to our 3 dimensions.

Yes, there are loads of hoaxes. But there are too many serious stories that cannot be discounted or disproved. We must take them seriously.

For now, think on those things. I’ll be back soon with more.

 

Five Surprising Things Farming Has Taught Me About God’s Relationship With Us

old-stone-barnFarming is one of the great joys in my life. I never ceased to be amazed at how much can be done, or how much work there is to do, even on just the few acres we have. Often, it is not the idyllic life I once imagined in my farm fantasies, but I still love it.

For example; vacations are things other people take. It’s very rare that my wife and I can go anywhere exotic or romantic together for more than a day.  Someone has to be there for the garden and animals.

Also, the myth of the rich farmer is just that, a myth. Money is always tight, except when it’s not there at all. Yes, we have many things money can’t ever buy, like beautiful sunsets over our front pastures where Brittan and I can sit side by side in our rocking chairs, sipping iced tea, enjoying the animals romping together in the fading light as the sun slips over the horizon. Those stuck in commuter traffic rarely get to take time for such pleasures. Still, gorgeous views don’t pay the electric bill.

Did you know that it’s possible to get sick of zucchini? Are you aware that a human can only eat fresh chicken or lettuce or green beans so many days in a row before we begin to crave something really unnatural, like Krispy Kreme donuts or Dairy Queen?

When I used to dream about having a farm, and imagine the infinite joy it would bring, I never once considered weeds, or how stubborn and prolific they could be. I only saw rows of corn and bushels of strawberries.

Yes, farming is sometimes just plain hard. And I wouldn’t trade it for the world. How could I ever measure the joy of listening to roosters singing their morning songs as I wander out to begin my day? How could I describe how much better it is to watch a flock of geese on their seasonal commutes than to watch the cars and trucks on I-75 in theirs? How could I ever compare sitting on our deck staring agape at the multitude of stars in the Milky Way lighting up the night sky to the street lights and headlamps of city living?

I think, though, that some of the things I love best about farm life are the lessons I’ve learned about God and His incredible relationship with us. There are far too many to count, but with your indulgence, I want to share five of them

  1. It’s Messy. If farming is anything, it’s messy. For one thing, there is poop everywhere. Cows poop.  Chickens poop. Pigs poop. Rabbits, turkeys, quail, goats and donkeys all poop. Everything that hath breath goes number 2. It smells bad and, like Visa, it’s everywhere you want to be.

Where there’s not manure, there’s mud. At certain times of the year mud is a fashion style and a food group. Then, just when you think things are starting to dry out, a water line bursts somewhere and you’re up to your waste in mud again, trying to mend the pipe.

I suspect that’s how God must feel about us, sometimes. We make messes everywhere, all the time. The stink must be awful and He must have one heck of a set of chest waders. Yet His love for us looks past our stench and our stains and He wallows in the sheer joy of fellowship with us.

Each morning, when I head out back to feed the pigs, they surround me. There are four of them. Each one has done their best to out mud the other three. As I pour some soaked feed into their trough, they take turns rubbing their snouts all over my legs. It’s their way of saying good morning. By the time I’ve finished with them, my entire lower body is covered in Georgia clay and snot. But I am still compelled to take time with each pig, scratching behind their ears and along their backs. They wiggle with delight and smile up at me, hog jowls dripping with swill.

I can’t help but think how God delights in our special moments with Him, despite the sheer volume of grime we get on Him.

  1. It’s Emotionally Draining. There is great joy in seeing a pantry filled with freshly canned produce, a freezer filled with meat for the winter, or a garden ripe and ready for harvest. There is also enormous satisfaction in watching a pasture full of baby goats or calves suckling on their mothers or chasing each other around the farm at sunset. Yes, those are pleasure that silence the pain, but I assure you there are many hard days and tearful nights leading up to those happy endings.

It is extremely frustrating to walk out to feed your chickens only to find thirty carcasses scattered around the field, having been tortured and mauled by neighborhood pets, a weasel or some other ambassador of terror. You can almost feel the fear in the survivors, and even emanating from the corpses of the dead.

After waiting anxiously for a doe goat to get through her pregnancy, it is draining to sit with her as she struggles for hours with babies turned wrong or underdeveloped only to have three born dead. Your heart breaks for her, and for the money you will not be getting from the sale of those kids that was going to pay for seed for the garden.

It is almost impossible to describe the anguish of coming home from Church to discover your future milk or beef cow, down in the pasture unable to rise because of some disease or attack.

There is a real sense of shock and awe in stepping out of your house only to discover that in the night, something has gotten into the garden you’ve tended to for months and have devastated it. Seeing the tomatoes, peppers, corn, beans and squash all eaten to the ground can truly create a sense of loss and hopelessness.

Birth and death, disease and health, Joy and heartache, abundance and famine are all a part of the farmer’s life. And it can be exhausting. I just can’t help but think about how emotionally draining we can be for our Heavenly Father. We read in the Bible about God ‘inhabiting’ the praises of His People. In Luke 15 we read all about the joy of lost sheep found, lost coins discovered, and lost sons coming home. The same Bible tells us how human sin caused our loving God to ‘repent’ of ever making the Human race. During the Israeli’s 40 years in the wilderness there were times God told Moses to stand aside so He could wipe out the people. We are an exhausting species.

  1. No Matter How Much He Gives, We’re Never Satisfied. When I go out in the mornings to feed, usually just before 7, the chickens and rabbits are already at the gate awaiting their breakfast. Sometimes they risk life and limb by jumping into the yard to escort me to be barn. We have two collies in the yard that have a real taste for fresh chicken and rabbit, but the thought of food drives all fear from the hearts of my birds. That, and the fact they have brains the size of salted in the shell peanuts.

By the time I’ve gotten to the barn, the pigs are climbing on the gate, and each other, unable to wait 4 more minutes for their grub.  Even the cows will come running straight for me if they catch sight of a bucket in my hands.

When I return an hour or so later to top up their water, all the animals are begging for more food. This is despite the fact that I have never missed a day of feeding them, or that they have an entire farm full of edible pasture available to them 24/7. The simple fact is, they are never satisfied. They always want more.

Aren’t we that way with God? Regardless of how much or how frequently He provides for and blesses me, I always want more. I cry and whine and complain like a hungry boar hog. If he gives me shoes, I want boots. If he gives me a shirt, I complain that I wanted a suit. If He gives me potatoes, I whine that I have no gravy.  I have so very much, but greed drives my appetite, begging for more, more, more. Dear God, have mercy on me.

  1. When We Run To Him, It Gives Him Pleasure. This morning, after giving some hay to the cows and filling their water tank, as I turned to head in for some coffee, two things caught my eye. First, the sun had risen over the house creating a magical scene as its light sparkled in reflection off the dewy pasture. My heart leapt inside my chest. At that very instant, the second sight stopped me in my tracks as Lady, one of our two collies, came flying through the gate running across the field towards me as fast as her legs would carry her. She ran to me, jumped up on me and showered me with kisses before dropping like a stone to the ground so I could rub her belly. Needless to say, I was grinning from ear to ear as I gladly obliged her and fulfilled her wishes.

Anytime I step into the back pastures where the chickens hang out, they come running to me as fast as their little legs will carry them. They waddle and wiggle all at the same time. I have seen this same sight multiple times a day for 6 years, and it makes me smile every time.

God wants to be in a relationship with us, and when we run, or waddle, towards Him, it makes Him smile. He is no absentee Father, He is among us, enjoying our adoration and our company. We make him Happy. Our fellowship gives Him Joy.

  1. Our Needs Are More Important Than His Pain. Farming is not for the faint of heart or self-centered soul. My wife and I have crawled out of bed with fevers, injuries, colds, flus, headaches that would drop a bull moose in his tracks, and more, for no other reason that there are things that MUST be done.

Last week, I injured my foot and it resulted in the agony of Turf Toe. I could not begin to describe the pain associated with Turf Toe (tearing of the ligaments in the knuckle of the Big Toe.  It feels just like gout and lasts two to three weeks with proper care. There is no proper care in farming. Period. I’ve had fever, body aches and much pain from the injury. I would gladly cut off the toe to stop the pain, but I do the chores regardless, because they need to be done. I’ve known farmers who go to work despite crushed discs, pulled muscles, pneumonia, broken limbs, or even cancer, for no other reason that it needs to be done.

Yesterday, I stepped in a hole, twisting my ankle on the already swollen, aching foot, adding insult to injury. With each step the pain grew in intensity and walking became more and more difficult. I wanted to sit down and have a good cry, then take the rest of the day off. But I didn’t. I am not particularly noble, or brave or strong. The simple reality is, the animals and garden need cared for regardless of my comfort. Their needs are far more important than my pan.

Today, as I grunted and hobbled through throbbing toe and ankle during my chores, it dawned on me that in Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary, God truly demonstrated that our need for a savior was more important to Him than His own pain. God’s very Son took beatings, endured scorn, carried a cross and bore the agony of the nails all because our need was greater that His pain. By comparison, I have endured nothing.

I love farming. It’s not always easy, but it’s worth whatever I’ve sacrificed. It gives me more back than I ever put in; but more than anything, what I love about farming is how it’s revealed to me just how much the Great God of the Universe loves me. By the way, He loves you, too.

 

Buying Real Estate In Mordor – Hard Passages Of The Bible Part 1.

mordorJer 29:4  “The LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those people whom he allowed Nebuchadnezzar to take away as prisoners from Jerusalem to Babylonia:

Jer 29:5  ‘Build houses and settle down. Plant gardens and eat what you grow in them.

Jer 29:6  Marry and have children. Then let your children get married, so that they also may have children. You must increase in numbers and not decrease.

Jer 29:7  Work for the good of the cities where I have made you go as prisoners. Pray to me on their behalf, because if they are prosperous, you will be prosperous too.

Jer 29:8  I, the LORD, the God of Israel, warn you not to let yourselves be deceived by the prophets who live among you or by any others who claim they can predict the future. Do not pay any attention to their dreams.

Jer 29:9  They are telling you lies in my name. I did not send them. I, the LORD Almighty, have spoken.’

Jer 29:10  “The LORD says, ‘When Babylonia’s seventy years are over, I will show my concern for you and keep my promise to bring you back home.

Jer 29:11  I alone know the plans I have for you, plans to bring you prosperity and not disaster, plans to bring about the future you hope for.

Jer 29:12  Then you will call to me. You will come and pray to me, and I will answer you.

Jer 29:13  You will seek me, and you will find me because you will seek me with all your heart.

 

Jeremiah 29:11 is a very famous passage among Jesus Followers. “I alone know the plans I have for you, plans to bring you prosperity and not disaster, plans to bring about the future you hope for.”

The verse is (mis)quoted by health and wealth hucksters to help fleece the flock, and it’s quite frequently shared by good hearted Believers to encourage those going through rough patches. Unfortunately, as I see it, even those good hearted people are only partly right in the way they use the verse.

When you read the passage in its entirety, we see the people of God listening to false prosperity teachers telling them to resist their exile. Now God is telling them that these so called prophets are only leading them farther away from redemption.

God tells them first, that the exile is from Him. That He is calling them to repentance and obedience. He tells them to not only accept the exile, but to trust Him and prosper where they’re planted. He even lets them know that the exile is not going to be short lived. It will last for generations.

Then it gets even tougher. God tells the people to work for the good of their oppressors and to pray for them. What? You heard right. Go back and read verse 7 again.

It’s only AFTER God sets the expectations that there will be no quick fix for the hardships the Israelis are facing, that he gives them the good news that their exile is finite. He has set a time of liberation. He promises more than freedom, He intends to prosper them. And He wants them to hang on to that promise through the long years they are facing.

I find that to be a hard lesson in an age of instant gratification. Our computers don’t move fast enough, our microwaves cook too slowly, even instant pudding takes 5 minutes so we buy little tubs of it already made and filled with highly questionable ingredients, but at least we don’t have to wait the 5 minutes.

The fact is, sometimes our valleys are going to be long and deep. I don’t want to hear that. I don’t want 70 year exiles; I can barely take three days, before I expect my resurrection. I am not good at waiting. Patience is not the most evident aspect of the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22) in my life.

Not content with the warning, God tells the people to make lemonade out of their lemons. He assures them, that even in this place they don’t want to be, He is willing to bless them if they do their part.

Then adding what we would think is insult to injury, He tells them to work for the prosperity of their oppressors and pray for them. My American Nature cries out, “No Way, Jose! They’re godless Democrats, Republicans, Atheists, Muslims, evil people.”

The simple truth is, God’s people are supposed to handle adversity differently than the rest of the world. Our example comes from the One who pleaded for forgiveness for the soldiers who drove the thorns into his brow and the nails through His hands and feet, as well as for the crowds who mocked Him as He hung suspended between the heaven and earth He created, seemingly a part of neither (‘Forgive them, Father, they know not what they do.’ Luke 23:34).

These things are much easier said than done. Jeremiah’s message to the Israeli exiles was hard to hear and hard for the people to implement. Similarly, it can be very difficult for us to trust when the path in front of us is shrouded in darkness and fog. Faith is not an easy thing, but sometimes it is the only thing.

The One who conquered the cross and ruptured the grave, has promised to return and make all things new. Let’s hold on to that promise. Let’s hold on to the Promise Keeper. And let’s hold on to each other. There’s strength in numbers. We’re in this together.

 

The Most Secular Cities And States In the USA. Will Number 1 Shock You?

USAWhile flipping through radio stations this morning, I heard someone mention ‘the most secular/non-religious cities in the country.’ Frankly, I kept flipping. As the morning progressed, however, that statement kept haunting me, so about 11:00 I stopped what I was doing and headed for Google.

My search for ‘most secular cities in the United States’ turned up quite a few results, some of which were quite recent, but many were several years old, so I’m sure certain data points have changed. The most recent list comes from April of this year and it’s the one I’m going to share in a moment.

In an obvious follow up, I searched for the most secular States. I found some convoluted pages of fairly recent information, but they were not really easy to make sense of, so I settled for a list from 2009 published on “The Friendly Atheist” page on Patheos.

The lists didn’t surprise me much, but they did hurt my heart. I am committing starting today, to pray each day, for one of the cities and one of the States in a 10 day rotation for 30 days. Essentially then, each of them will be prayed for 3 times during the month. I would love it very much if you would consider joining me. I’m also going to pray for my State, Georgia, and our County, Bartow. I encourage you to pray for your State and County, too.

I’m going Pray for God’s blessing. I will pray for the Leaders, The Churches, The economy, and the people. I will pray that God will send a revival among the Churches and will draw unbelievers to Him. I will pray for peace and wisdom.

Every great revival in history has been preceded by and accompanied by, prayer.  It is time, no past time, for the Church to rise up and stop seeking answers in the voting booth, but in the prayer closet. Vote, yes, but remember that real change can’t be regulated or legislated, because it comes from the inside out.

Please use the comment section to let me know if you choose to join the ‘knee party’.

Top 10 most secular cities (Source: Christian Century, April, 2015)

10: Detroit, MI, 9: Columbus, OH, 8: Boston, MA, 7: Los Angeles, CA, 6: Tampa/St Petersburg, FL, 5: Phoenix, AZ, 4: Denver, CO, 3: San Francisco, CA, 2: Seattle, WA, 1: Portland, OR.

Top 10 most Secular States (Source: The Friendly Atheist 2009)

10: Connecticut, 9: Nevada, 8: Rhode Island, 7: Oregon, 6: Washington, 5: Alaska, 4: Massachusetts, 3: Maine, 2: New Hampshire, 1: Vermont.

 

Today we pray for Detroit and Connecticut. Ask, Seek, Knock.

Sometimes We Have To Retreat To Win

Reflection on my reflection
Reflection on my reflection

I retreated to the Georgia mountains yesterday for a time of reflection, introspection, redirection, prayer and focus. In fact, I’m writing this entry from my secret hideaway. My exact location is known only by God, my wife, and of course, the NSA (but that’s a discussion for another day).

I’ve been through a tough 15 months, floundering ‘in the wilderness’, as they say, and I was beginning to despair. I’ve made some bad decisions (financial and career, not moral), chased some rabbit trails and ‘wild geese’, and found myself at the end of my wits, my cash flow, and I feared, my sanity. Despair was giving way to long term depression.

“Open doors” turned into dead ends and “answered prayers” were nothing more than cruel hoaxes. I pursued career possibilities that weren’t and ministry opportunities that led nowhere. Friends and family, including our Church family, have been supportive and encouraging, but have been as baffled as I about my ongoing exile.

As I have walked through ‘the valley of the shadow’, I have never doubted the existence of God, or the truth of the Gospel. I have, though, at times wondered what kind of God He is. He has seemed cruel, distant and too busy blessing other people to be bothered with me. There seemed to be no ‘rod and staff’ to comfort me. I could not experience the victory of the resurrection, only the constant pain of crucifixion. The only Scripture I could recall is, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me.”

I swear if I’d heard one more well-meaning person say, “We don’t know why this is happening, but we know God has something special planned for you”, I was going to run out into traffic. It was hollow in my ears and a dagger to my heart, rather than comfort for my soul.

My poor, wonderful, amazing wife has walked with me every dark step of the way. She has wept and prayed for and with me. If it was not for her support I might very well have broken. An old song says, “You were wind beneath my wings”. She has been so much more than that. She has been the eagle to my Frodo, carrying my broken soul to safety from the flames of Mordor.

Today, a hat trick of events has come together and rendered a miniscule crack in the darkness, allowing in enough light to provide the hint of a path forward.

  1. A post on Facebook led me to 2Chronicles 20 as part of my Bible reading for today. In that story, the Kingdom of Judah is being invaded by a three nation alliance and the future looks bleak. Jehoshaphat, King of Judah, calls the nation together to pray. In his prayer, the King openly admits, “we don’t know what to do. We are relying on you.” (Verse 12). You’ll have to read the chapter for yourself to see what happens.
  2. Someone I have known for many years, and whose family has been more than dear to me, has rejected the notion of Faith and the existence of God. My heart burns like fire and acid and I would single handedly storm the very gates of Hell, to change his mind. I cannot bear the agony of knowing anyone, especially those I care about, making such a choice.
  3. I saw myself in the mirror and realized that time is slipping away. Tic Toc. The years have not been kind to me. I look old and weary. I can see clearly that I have more miles behind me than in front of me, so I must make the most of the days I have. Time marches on. It takes its toll on us all. We must seize the day as if it’s our very last, fight as if the battle depends on us, pray as if it depends on God and repeat the process with each new dawn we are given.

From the time I was three years old, all I have ever wanted to do was preach the Gospel. While other kids dreamed about NFL careers, or wanted to practice law, or hit a baseball for money, I fantasized about standing in front of multitudes of people, introducing them to Jesus. To this day, my greatest joy comes from sharing Christ’s message of hope.

That life was stolen from me just as I entered my prime. The details are inconsequential; it happened. Period. Now it’s time to reclaim my calling, my destiny. I don’t know how just yet, but I know the what.

Along with preaching, my other great passions are writing and teaching people how to grow food to feed themselves. Everything else is just a distraction.

Now comes the hard part; figuring out how to do those three things in a way that glorifies God and supports my family at the same time. Stay tuned, I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, while “We don’t know what to do. We’re relying on You”.