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September 11, 2017

It is not easy to lose everything. Just ask those who suffered in 9/11, people in southeast Texas, Florida or Mumbai. Whether you lose all through fire, flood, wind or thieves that take all you have, like they did with us, it does not matter. Losing everything is a horrendous and terrifying experience. In our disconnected world where our stuff means more to us than our fellow man losing everything leaves us with literally nothing. How we coped with loss was the most important step we took in our walk into the wilderness.

There were several times in our wilderness journey where God had us leave all, or nearly all, that we owned behind so we could follow Him on the path of faith. Each time it was physically difficult to lose or give up that which made our lives easier and gave us comfort. This is the experience people in Mumbai, southeast Texas and Florida are going through now. There are questions as to why, deep anger, frustration, confusion and fear all mixed in a toxic brew as one sorts out their life from catastrophe. Ours was by choice as we followed God but many are facing, and many will soon face, the same reality we did. I have great empathy for those that have lost and wish I could help some but the reality is they will have to face much of the loss alone.

Losing all is a part of God’s leading even if you think it is cruel and unkind. It is actually an instrument of God’s mercy to take away all that we own so we can have faith in Him. The problem is not with God but with us. Too often we blame God for the catastrophe that hits us without ever understanding the ‘why’ of what He does. I realize that the shock of loss is tremendous and that it may take a long time to get past the raw emotions to even ask the question. However, when we do pursue Him to find out why we will find a loving Father to explain it to us and a faithful Brother who was with us through it all.

Wine is a wonderful thing I am told. Once the grapes are pressed the wine will sit in a container for many days as the fermentation process takes place. During this time of fermentation there is sediment that settles on the bottom of the container as a natural part of the process. The wine is then carefully poured into a different container and the sediment is left behind. From what I am told if the wine is not transferred the sediment will spoil the wine eventually. The sediment that is left behind is called ‘lees’. When a wine is left too long it is said to have settled on its lees. This process will chemically alter the wine and if left too long will make the wine undrinkable. Now you may ask why I am writing about wine in a blog post about loss. Allow me to explain.

If we look at Jeremiah 28:11 we see a curious Scripture, “Moab has been at ease from his youth, and he has settled on his lees [like wine] and has not been drawn off from one vessel to another, neither has he gone into exile. Therefore his taste remains in him, and his scent has not changed.” God is saying that the nation Moab has settled on his lees and his scent remains in him. The point God is making through Jeremiah that there was something in Moab that had been there for a long time. The key words are “been at ease”. Moab’s problem was that of ‘self’. For many years prior Moab had developed into a nation of comfort loving people. They had nurtured their ‘self’ nature indulging in all that ‘self’ wanted. After a time, their ‘self’ nature had grown to such a point that God needed to do something. That ‘something’ was to wipe out the nation of Moab. God was warning them, and us through Jeremiah, that He was not going to left ‘self’ run forever pursuing comfort and ease. He was about to ‘pour out’ Moab because the ‘wine’, the fruit of the nation’s life, had spoiled.

Today we live in a world that is full of ‘self’. Everywhere we turn there is promotion of ‘self’, comfort, ease and luxury. Now I am not against comfort, ease and luxury but when the pursuit of those things is the primary goal of life then something is wrong. Terribly wrong. If we pursue ‘self’ and all its desire to be fulfilled, we will end up like Moab. Our fruit and the fruit of our nation will be spoiled. We will care more about satisfying our own selfish desires than caring for the poor and unfortunate. When this happens God will send the destroyer to take away that which ‘self’ relies on. In many respects God is giving Americans a taste of what this looks like. He is pouring out many people as what they cherished, loved and desired is ripped away from them. For many, these things were idols that they worshiped and put their trust in. Wealth and houses are, for many in the west, their security. What happens when God takes that away? Where will the faith and trust be when God takes everything away that we trusted in?

Faith is misplaced today. Although many give lip service to faith in God it is just that, lip service. They don’t really mean it. Just ask those who have had all that they owned taken from them. If they are honest they will tell you that they had way more trust in goods than God. They had way more faith in ‘self’ than the Son. In their pursuit of ‘self’ they lost their faith as they accumulated more stuff. We live in a world that encourages such selfishness continually. ‘Self’ has grown to egregious proportions. It is any wonder that God is about to pour out the nations where many will lose everything so that they can begin to trust and have faith in Him?

God does not take away everything to torture or hurt people. Quite the contrary. God does this to save people from their ‘self’ nature. By taking away all the stuff ‘self’ relies on God breaks its power. At this time the person who is broken by loss can begin to learn to trust in His provision. By letting Jesus lead us in our place of loss we will find that He is a faithful provider. He will provide all we need. He will not cater to our ‘self’, our wants, because ‘self’ is the enemy of our souls but He will provide what we need. He is the only one that sticks closer than a brother and leads us to “still waters”.

Losing everything is a very bitter and hard experience. We do not wish for that hardship for anyone but we do know the great fruit that comes when one learns the lesson of loss. Frankly we have learned that there is nothing on this earth worth keeping over Jesus. Nothing. We would gladly give up all we have, yet again, if the things we owned kept us from Him. Unfortunately, we are in the smallest minority on the planet. Too many today want ‘self’ over anything else. As long as they pursue a selfish course God has no choice but to take their security away by force so that they can see how weak and frail they are. Hopefully then some will see and repent. Those that don’t will follow ‘self’ to their own destruction. Jesus warned us of this in Matthew 7:24-27 “So everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts upon them [obeying them] will be like a sensible (prudent, practical, wise) man who built his house upon the rock. And the rain fell and the floods came and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not do them will be like a stupid (foolish) man who built his house upon the sand. And the rain fell and the floods came and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great and complete was the fall of it.”