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Great Lakes

There are times that we find ourselves in situations we didn’t expect because we were not sufficiently warned. I celebrated my 18th birthday in Great Lakes, Illinois in the month of February. Now, in case your geography is a little lax, that part of the country, in the month of February, is cold. Really cold. Having lived in upstate New York I thought I knew cold but the wind that blows off Lake Michigan in the winter is a different beast altogether. The first morning I woke up in Navy Boot Camp I was welcomed with a metal trashcan being thrown down the middle of the barracks. My company was told to fall out of the grinder which I later discovered was a frozen parking lot. As we assembled ourselves on that icy tundra the wind from Lake Michigan began to blow. We then marched half a mile to a building with green smoke bellowing from its smokestack. The chow hall offered my new friends and I instant eggs, greasy bacon, cold toast, and lukewarm coffee. The five minutes we were allowed to eat was more than sufficient. A bellowing voice commanded us back outside to again face the angry winter wind.

As we stood at attention on the grinder, awaiting the sun to rise, the man behind me began to choke. I became convinced that in a matter of seconds my new shipmate would deliver his half-digested breakfast on the asphalt behind me. I stood frozen in time. When he finally hurled his green eggs and greasy bacon, I felt the warm substance hit the back of my leg. Desperately working to digest the slop I had forced down, I had everything I could do not to join him in his protest of vomit. And then it happened, my moment of icy discovery, when the cold hard truth came crashing in. I lifted my eyes to the starry night and thought, “What have I gotten myself into this time?” The Navy recruiter’s words haunted me. I had been promised palm trees and sandy beaches. The posters in his office never included the scene I was presently witnessing. I had been deceived.

When Jesus called his disciples, he made no promises except that they would be hated of all men, hunted down like common criminals, and in constant trouble. He made no attempt to win followers by offering them an easy ride through this world. The promises of wealth, health, and a growing bank account, that dominate the evangelical landscape these days, was absent from Jesus’ teachings. In fact, he offered them nothing from this world but a bloody nose. When the rich, young ruler walked away disappointed, the Messiah made no attempt to go after him. The high standard of complete loyalty to God and renunciation of all wealth was seen by the man as too high a price to pay and Jesus never lowered that edit.

We do men no justice by sharing a watered-down gospel linked to promises our Lord never made. The current of this world flows in one direction and when someone chooses to walk in opposition to it resistance is the natural reaction. The appeal of the gospel must never be directed to the need of man but to the authority and kingship of Jesus Christ. When a man hoists the banner of the King of kings over his life, he instantly becomes an enemy of the kingdoms of this world. The early disciples paid a heavy price for their faith. Should we expect anything less? The promises Jesus made to us are mostly for the life to come and that’s what we should look forward to.

Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.

Luke 6:26 ESV


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