When I am a wasteland, you are the water. When I am the winter, you are the fire that burns. When I am a long night, you are the sunrise. When I am a desert, you are the river that turns to find me. What have I done to deserve love like this?

from “Love Like This” by Lauren Daigle (2018)

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But if your heart turns away and you refuse to listen, and so are misled, worshipping other gods and serving them, I’m telling you right now that you will definitely die. You will not prolong your life on the fertile land that you are crossing the Jordan River to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth as my witnesses against you right now: I have set life and death, blessing and curse before you. Now choose life—so that you and your descendants will live— by loving the Lord your God, by obeying his voice, and by clinging to him. That’s how you will survive and live long on the fertile land the Lord swore to give to your ancestors: to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Deuteronomy 30:17-20

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I’m a parent of two nearly-grown teenage boys and was a teenager myself once, so I’ve experienced my share of threatening ultimate consequences. “If you don’t get down right now...” “One more time, young man...” “Just wait until your [insert other parent here] gets home…” I’ve come to understand that my mouth didn’t get stuck “like that” and that I didn’t really turn into a hot dog because I ate so many as a kid. Most of the dramatic threats or warnings we hear are actually empty; they're attempts to correct behavior.

So when God threatens such dire consequences, we’re ok to dismiss them as well, right? Let’s hit pause on that one.

Our lives really are different without God in them. We find our words tearing down instead of building up. We find our thoughts not at all leading to holiness. Maybe fire from heaven doesn’t fall down and wipe us out, but we burn with a longing for which only God’s company, relationship, and love serve to fill. If this longing remains unfulfilled, then the threat isn’t so empty; indeed, we are the ones who experience emptiness.

Byron Vance

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God, keep me close to you, not so as to avoid calamity or to avert disaster, but so that from the inside of my thoughts to the outside of my actions I might reflect you. Amen.

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So many things attempt to take priority in our lives. They each have their place.

Only one stands at the heart of things. Follow the voice of this One, our Lord, calling you today.

Byron Vance

Byron Vance is a United Methodist minister serving as Senior Pastor at the First United Methodist Church in Pell City, Alabama. He gets to share life with spouse Kelly, two teenage boys, a dog, a cat, and the occasional squirrel in the crawl space.

Fallow Ground

Carter Harrell

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