A roundabout way

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So, God led them in a roundabout way through the wilderness toward the Red Sea. Thus, the Israelites left Egypt like an army ready for battle. — Exodus 13:17-22; 14

“Where in the world is this GPS taking us?” I asked myself.

As directionally challenged as I am, even I could sense we were wandering far from the most direct route.

We went through neighborhoods, entered and exited smaller highways just to arrive right back at the same highway we were on 30 minutes prior.

However, as we went over the overpass to get back onto the highway, we could see behind us flashing lights and traffic backed up for miles.

The people of Israel’s GPS was three-fold: Moses, God’s pillar of cloud/fire and his angel (Ex. 14:19).

Wow! Avoiding the Philistines? OK.

However, when the Lord had them circle back and pin themselves in between the water and Pharoah’s chariots, something felt more than a little off.

Those who had just left Egypt “with fists raised in defiance” (Ex. 14:8) were now in a full-blown panic.

What happened next simply defies explanation and understanding.

As unusual as this story is, it is also eerily familiar isn’t it?

Jesus told us that he is the way and commanded us to follow him.

And, just like the ancient Israelites and Jesus’ disciples, we see far “better” paths to walk than the one he’s walking.

His are roundabout.

His are difficult.

His defy our understanding.

His require the abandonment of ourselves.

And yet, God willing, we’ll one day mature to the place where we fully embrace the liberating truth that the paths and the destinations are far less important than the one with whom we are walking.

Stay on point

And the King will say, “I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!” — Matthew 25:31-46

“OK, who started that one?” I ask.

With a sly grin, one of my fellow staff members raises his hand. They’re known as “rabbit trails.” An erratic, off topic verbal meandering that chews up time, but doesn’t accomplish anything.

Secretly, I don’t mind very much. We typically end up giggling like kids who are trying to be quiet in church, but they just can’t. It’s a sign of a healthy team revealing no one is taking themselves too seriously.

However, what is relatively harmless in a meeting (rabbit trails) can be absolutely devastating in our relationship with Jesus.

In the above parable, Jesus reveals a judgement day reality.

Love for others expressed in tangible service reveals a heart that has been transformed by an authentic relationship with Jesus.

“Welcome home!, Jesus will tell those who have been loving others; “I don’t know you,” to those who haven’t.

This message seems quite straightforward, doesn’t it?

Many have come to this parable and said, “Well, who are these brothers and sisters? Is Jesus speaking to Jewish people only, followers of Jesus only or people in general?”

Great debate ensues, but no one is served. A dangerous rabbit trail.

In Luke 10:25-37, Jesus already answered the question when he was asked, “Who is my neighbor?”

We are to serve wherever serving is needed.

In the Matt. 25 parable, he shocked everyone when he said, “By the way, it was me who you served or didn’t serve.”

Let’s help each other stay on point.

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