A year and a half ago, we resigned from leading a thriving church of around 200 people.  We were also overseeing another church plant in a another town.  It was struggling, but still there.  We were traveling a bit and doing some ministry in other countries.  That resigning bit was a bit tough, and that was compounded by the fact that we really did have a clear sense of direction as to what was next.  It was a bit like jumping off a cliff.  For me, the reality of what our lives were and where we were at hit during a holiday we took to France one month before the actual hand over of Portlaoise took place.

The first week of the holiday was great and needed.

The second week, I developed insomnia.  My hormones were running wild and I could not get a grip on my emotions.  My mind was just running non-stop.

A lot has changed since that holiday.  I am not going to attempt to get into details in this blog of what God has been doing and is doing.  It would be more like a book.  Several books!

This much I will say.  I thought that when we said “yes” to what God was saying that it would simply be a “next step” from what we were doing, or I would even say, I expected that the “yes” would be built on top of and with what we had already built.  WRONG!  God’s ways are not our ways, and you only have to open the pages of the Bible to see people like Abraham, Joseph, Moses, and David, to see that often there was a complete life change that came with new direction.

Enough said about that for now.

During that time in France, I felt God was bringing me back to His Word in a new way, and I felt God was speaking to me to start at the beginning.  It took me about a year to finish.  Not long ago, I felt God saying, “Start again.”  I am currently nearly through the first 5 books of the Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy).

I have spent a lot of time studying Israel and their journey as a people over the past year and a half.  So, here I am again, and it is speaking to me fresh and with new insights.

Numbers 11 tells a story of Israel in the wilderness, hungry and complaining.  They had been traveling in the wilderness around a year at this stage and have not yet approached the Promised Land.  God had miraculously been feeding them manna, which was a bread-like substance.  They wanted meat!

Here is what it says in verse four, “Now the mixed multitude who were among them lusted intensively to intense craving.”  Reminds me of another verse, where Paul describes those who live as enemies of the cross of Jesus Christ in Philippians 3:19:  “Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things.”

Wow!  Never saw that before!

I will take you to the end of the story…God provides meat, and while they had the meat in the mouths and plague brakes out and some were killed.

Here’s where it gets a little interesting.  There are plagues all around us!  People are dying.  I have personally experienced an autoimmune disease that was diagnosed as that without anything further mentioned.  We have and are experiencing things in our family.  The world wants us to feel good about about ourselves, and likes to tell us that we are victims of our environment or that somehow we were unlucky.

A lot of what we experience and go through is lifestyle.  What we eat.  How we think about ourselves.  How we live.  How we deal with stress.

But that is not simple.  We are a tangled web of so much stuff.  But God is in the business of untangling the mess if we will allow Him!

Besides all that involved within ourselves, there is a cultural element to all this.  And this is where this verse really hits me at the CORE of my being.  When we live like the world we die like the world.  Double WOW!  That can sound harsh, but it is truth.

Time and again, Israel lusted for the things they had in Egypt.  Throughout the Bible, Egypt is a representation of the world’s system.  In the prophetic books, God warns Israel time and again, “Do not trust in the horses and chariots of Egypt”, “Do not go back to them.”  God wants us to put our trust in Him.

I don’t know exactly where this journey I am on is going or where it will all lead.  I am not setting myself up to judge anyone else’s lifestyle because that is between you and God.  What I am taking note of and have no problem delivery as a punch, in what areas are you “lusting intensively and given to intense cravings.”

If you know the Bible, even at a basic Sunday School level, you know that entire generation never made it into the Promised Land.  They lived by their emotions and feelings and could not have faith.  Sounds awfully characteristic of the world we live in today.

For the first time in American history, this generation is not only expected to live shorter lives then their parents, but the quality of that last 10-20 years is to be low.  Yes…I think what we eat has something to do with it, as well as stress, and so many other factors.  But there is an underlining issue to it all:  Are we living for the lusts of this world or in intimacy with Jesus?

OK!  Intense.

I want to follow up a little bit on this in my next blog, but first, let me leave a bit of hope.

John 10:10 tells us that, “Satan comes to steal, kill, and destroy, but Jesus came to give us life and life with abundance.

Some have equated that this verse means that we can do as we please and enjoy as we see fit.  Let’s just assume that is NOT what this verse is saying.  Destruction in our life and in this world is not something random, but comes from Satan.  It is not bad luck or something that just happens.  It is the plan of our Enemy.  That is where it comes from.  But the good news is that Jesus will always lead us to life and with abundance!

The closer we get to knowing Him and His Word, the more it will change our ENTIRE lives…if we will let Him touch those areas.  You may even struggle to believe that God loves you in that way.  That’s where you begin.  I have really had to dig into the Word to believe and declare that God is not done with me, and my circumstances can appear like I gave up the dream and am living something subpar for some weird absurd fickleness.  But that is what obedience often looks like to the outsider.  That is what the cross of Jesus looks like to many.  The truth is…when we follow Jesus…we will not be disappointed.  The road may not be easy, but God’s intention is for our growth and for good.

What is God saying to you?  Do you even know?

I want to live out the rest of my days.  I mean, I want to accomplish what God has for me.  That means not only making some big changes in perhaps the way I think and live (changes that will continue on for the entirety of my life as I expect I will always need to grow), but changes that will make me different.

Perhaps in the past, the church got so weird and isolated in its approach that it needed to become more connected to those in the community around them.  Jesus was connected with the world He lived in.  But He also stood out.  Being loved by the world is not the best way to reach the world!

Third WOW!

And I will leave it with that for now…;)