Sunday, July 3, 2016

When You Come To a Fork in the Road...

But if you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.”  Joshua 24:15(NLT)
The real estate agent was attempting to be honest, telling the prospective buyers the disadvantages and the advantages of the house:  The disadvantages are that the stockyard is just a half-mile to the west; North is a rubber factory; two bloks East is the sewage plant; and just south is the paper mill.
The couple asked:  What are the advantages?
She replied:  You can always tell which way the wind is blowing.
For those of us who look at history as the unfolding of God's plan and purpose, the winds of nations rushing toward a collision course with disaster are unmistakable. 
No nation – especially a powerful and greatly-blessed nation as ours is, exists for its own glory, or to carry out its own plans.  The greatness of our (or any) country depends on the adherence of the people to the principles of righteousness and faith toward God. 
Years ago the U.S. Senate chaplain, Richard C. Halverson said,
A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government.  It can only exist until the voters discover that they can votethemselves money from the Public Treasury.  From that moment on the majority always votes for candidates promising the most benefits from the Public Treasury...with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship.  That dictatorship may be disguised in the form of a multi-trillion dollar national deficit. 
The average of the world's greatest civilizations has been 200 years. These nations have progressed through the following sequence: 
From bondage to spiritual faith – From spiritual faith to great courage 
From courage to liberty - From liberty to abundance
From abundance to selfishness – From selfishness to complacency 
From complacency to apathy – From apathy to dependence
From dependence back into bondage."
I'm no doomsayer, but we fit this pattern.  We have travelled far down that road from the courage and unselfishness of our Revolutionary forefathers, to the present day with its' entitlement mentality.  We, as in all generations past, face the constant threat of judgments, both natural and spiritual. 
Joshua took over the leadership of God's people when Moses’ time expired.  He led a bunch of rag-tag slaves over Jordan to conquer Palestine.  They had come out of the bondage of Egypt to become the people of God, wealthy, powerful, and respected by every nation on earth. 
Just as it was the hand of God that formed the nation of Israel and blessed her, so it is with the land of the free and the home of the brave.  We sing God Bless America, and the chills run up and down our spines.  Some tremble out of nostalgic sentiment; we simply wish for what used to be.  Still others use that sentiment to manipulate a popularity to carry them into public office. 
But if you tremble, and your heart is stirred in fear and holy reverence for the God who gave the blessing of His hand upon our nation, and Who (if He so chooses) could remove that hand and watch us fold up like a spider stuck in the belly...well, then you tremble rightly, and with good cause. 
Just as the word spoken by the God of Creation at the beginning of time, that His Spirit would not always be patient, and that His judgments are not lagging behind, God will not ALWAYS bless America just because He once did! 
·       He will not bless a nation that says In God we trust, and then pulls the plug on prayer. 
·       He will not bless a nationthat says, Thou shalt not kill, yet stands idly by while our so-called healing professionals every year cut the lifeline on a million heartbeats before unborn eyes see the light of day.
·       He will not bless an America that offers Islaamic prayers in the Senate, and refuses to hear the name of Jesus in the classroom. 
I am an American; 69 years worth, last Monday.  When my country asked, I served in our most unpopular war in Southeast Asia.  I pay taxes.  I love apple pie and my Mom.  I don't park in handicapped parking zones, and I answer Congressional junk-mail surveys.  I recycle and don't litter if I can help it.  I vote in elections and support the turkeys the rest of you elect. 
I am not a perfect citizen...but I am an American! 
And so, when I say this next sentence:
·       you mark it down as from one who despises Communism, socialism, and the other forms of repressive power-grabbing;
·       you mark it down as coming from one who loves this country, and the values it was founded upon;
·       you mark it down as from one whose heart breaks when I see poverty, crime, war, and indifference destroying the spirit and hope of our land.....
What must America do for God to once again bless her?  If God is going to bless America, we will have to listen to sound advice from God’s Word. And we will have to do more than listen – this is a time to act!
The erstwhile sage and philosopher from Brooklyn, New York, Yogi Berra once said, when you come to a fork in the road, take it!  You and I would probably and immediately ask, which one
Please think with me about some symbols of dealing with the choices that are before us, and what Christians, genuine believers who are surrendered to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, sacrificial, unselfish, God-honoring and faith-filled people will do when faced with the fork-in-the-road kinds of decisions we see destroying our land today.
First there is the symbol of the Ostrich[ii]

The old expression alludes to sticking your head in the sand.  This is a way of avoiding having to see the dangers around.  An ostrich at a fork in the road would refuse to see the choice that has to be made.  For humans, Christians in particular, NOT making a choice is making a choice to stick your head in the sand.
Second is the symbol of the Chameleon[iii]

Chameleons change color so as to fit-in with the background.  A human who acts like a chameleon doesn’t want anyone to know what his thoughts and real character are; he blends-in with what will produce the least amount of conflict.  A chameleon will see a fork in the road and jump into the grass, turn green and stay real still.  It’s different than the ostrich…this is professional hiding!
Third is the symbol of the DoDo Bird[iv]

In case you’ve never heard, the DoDo is extinct.  You have to go to a museum to see its skeleton!
It’s extinction came about (say scientists) due to the fact that, although the bird had wings, it never flew.  God made it with wings, but it refused to use what God had given.
What would be a DoDo bird’s reaction to a fork in the road?  It would stop and sit down in the middle of the road in front of the fork, paralyzed, refusing to make a decision; it would get run-over by the next car.  Among the human population the DoDo bird has a lot of cousins! 
And so…ostrich head-burying, chameleon hiding, DoDo do-nothing…
And Finally, the symbol of the Eagle[v]

Here we are on the eve of celebrating our nation’s independence day – a country that has for its national symbol the bald eagle. 
When America was still quite a young there was a lot to decide upon as to what symbols would represent this country.  The eagle was chosen over the objections of Benjamin Franklin, who wanted the U.S. represented by the turkey.  Now, there’s a big difference between turkeys and eagles.  Eagles are birds of prey, turkeys are the guest of honor at the dinner table.
What would an eagle do at a fork in the road?
I think it would do what it was created to do – lift off, fly over the scene, spot something that fits its eye, and get busy getting dinner! 
Getting back to Joshua and the nation of Israel, that is what they did…
·       they stopped burying their ostrich heads in the Sinai desert and began to follow God’s leading boldly
·       they stopped trying to blend in with the Amorites, Amalekites, Perizites and all the other “ites” like a chamelon on steroids, and became the peculiar stand-out treasure known as the people who served JHWH, the one, true living God
·       they stopped being DoDo’s who never learned to use their wings and fly
·       they started being eagles, conquerors of Canaan.
Today there are many churches that choose anything but flying like eagles. 
Like ostriches, we choose our comfortable hole in the sand, where we can block out what’s really happening; we deny there’s a fork in the road, and sooner or later we will just fade into the landscape, a footnote listed in the minutes of an Annual Conference that closes the doors for good.
We choose to be chameleon churches, fitting-in with a safe background of compromising our history and future by just trying to not have too much controversy or anything that would force us to take a stand.
We choose the way of the DoDo if we get paralyzed by what it might cost to fly; we don’t want to do anything to jeapordize what we have.
Jesus told a parable one time about making decisions at the fork in the road.  It was about servants who were given some of their Master’s goods to manage while the Lord of the house was on an extended trip.
Some of the servants worked at investing what the Master had given.  They gained some interest and profit to turn over to the Master when he returned.  But one of the servants played the fearful ostrich and buried all his trust in the sand.  He played the hiding chameleon, who tried to be like all the people around him, fishing and playing golf when he should have been serving the Master.  And he ended up a paralyzed dodo, not understanding the most basic thing about why he was created – to soar like the Master’s eagle in training.  Rather, he was content to scratch around in the dust like a chicken in Colonel Sander’s back yard.
Our lay delegate shared with you that some of the more disturbing issues our denomination is continuing to fuss-over are just not going to go away.  Being an ostrich and burying our heads so we can just deny there’s a problem doesn’t work.
Fitting-in with the crowd like a chameleon church will just mean you’ll end up going over the cliff when the crowd moves in that direction.
And being like the DoDo bird, refusing to fly, because you have never flown before will make you just as extinct as the 7 churches that were closed at Annual Conference this year.
Joshua said to his flock, what are you going to do about this fork in the road?  Make up your mind…be an ostrich, chameleon, dodo or turkey if you want; but me and my house are going to serve the Lord of the Eagle.  Who is on the Lord’s side?
Every one of us humans is going to live until the day we die.  That is a fork in the road you cannot change.  So, today I would like to say to you, as a dying man, speaking to dying people, it doesn’t matter to a dying person which fork you take, but you’d better do something; time’s running out!  People of God…act with the courage of eagles!
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit!


[i] Nicholas Mutton, via Wikimedia Commons
[ii][ii] Man’s head in sand By Sander van der Wel from Netherlands, via Wikimedia Commons
 Ostrich By Nevit Dilmen (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons
[iii] Chameleon By Jgdb500 (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons
[iv] Dodo skeleton By Heinz-Josef Lücking (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons
[v] Perched eagle:  By Hillebrand, Steve (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Flying eagle:  Dave Menke [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


  1. What makes your points even more applicable to our current time is that the quote from Joshua came at the end of his life. Isreal had been through all the successes of His leadership yet had become complacent and more like the chameleon in taking on the forms of the inhabitants of the land. Yet Joshua was faithful and challenged his people to yet another battle. To once again take off as eagles!

  2. Good catch, Thom. Especially for an old guy! :-) (as we are getting to be)