Come on Over!

If you haven't made the jump yet, I want to invite you to come over to the new blog at www.jasonchenoweth.com.  I'm trying to post fairly regularly, and there are some good discussions going on with some of the posts.  Thanks!

I'm Moving!

hey everyone,

I am moving this blog over to Wordpress.

If you're interested, you can find it @ jasonchenoweth.com

Thanks so much!  I really, really appreciate all of you who take time to read the thoughts and ideas I post.  I hope you'll continue.


What To Do When Jesus Annoys You

Our church is taking part in a study called the Amazing Race, and as a church we are reading through the New Testament together until the end of the year.  I thought I'd post my thoughts on the days readings, and I'd love to hear what you have to say.  If you don't attend SCC, I'd still love to invite you to read with us, and weigh in with what you are learning as well. 
Today we read Luke 12:35-14:35.
The stories we read today mostly center around Jesus and the religious leaders squaring off.  At this point, the religious leaders want Jesus dead.  They just don't see any other way to stop Him from ruining everything.  They know it, and Jesus knows it.  
What strikes me is the number of times Jesus heals someone, and does it on the Sabbath.  The Sabbath is Saturday, and it's the Holy Day of the week for a Jewish believer.  The religious guys had developed a ton of rules on how you are supposed to rest.  They had effectively turned rest into a full time job.  One of the things they didn't want done was for anyone to be healed on the Sabbath, because that was work.  Remember, God gave us a Sabbath day so we could rest and keep our bodies, minds, and souls healthy.  But if someone tried to heal someone's body, mind, and soul on the Sabbath, that was wrong in their minds.
So, Jesus just goes ahead and does it.  
It doesn't make them happy.
Obviously, we don't have the legalistic issues that the religious leaders had on working on the Sabbath.  But we do have issues with Jesus.  Sometimes He wants me to forgive people, even when they haven't asked for it. (Actually, that's all the time.)  Occasionally He will ask me to be generous with stuff that I want to keep for myself. (Well, He expects that everyday, to be honest).  He can get crazy from time to time and want me to tell myself "no" about some action I want to take, and use self discipline. (That is really an expectation of His all the time.)  I mean, sometimes He annoys me.
Just like He annoyed the Pharisees.
It's all about whose Kingdom we live in.  That is part of the reason you have the Kingdom discussion in the middle of all of these stories.  Who is in charge of my life, of the religious leaders' lives, of your life, anyway?  That is the big question.
Today, right now, take some time to talk with God about what it is that He does, expects, or commands that bugs you.  Be honest, He already knows.  You have nothing to lose.  At least you don't if you admit it.  Act like everything is fine, and you'll find yourself mad at Him for healing people all around you, when you can't seem to be healed.  It's your, and my, choice.


Here Comes the Hoo-Haa!

Our church is taking part in a study called the Amazing Race, and as a church we are reading through the New Testament together until the end of the year.  I thought I'd post my thoughts on the days readings, and I'd love to hear what you have to say.  If you don't attend SCC, I'd still love to invite you to read with us, and weigh in with what you are learning as well. 
Today we read Luke 1:26-2:52.

As I read through the story in Luke of Jesus' and John's births, a couple of things stood out to me.  The book of Luke was written by, well, a doctor named Luke.  He was not an eyewitness to Jesus' life and stories.  He got them from somewhere else.  Most historians believe Luke interviewed Mary, Jesus' mom, and got most of his info from her.  In a sense, if that's true, this is Mary's version of the story.

So, when we read Luke, we see a lot of things through Mary's eyes that aren't in the other Gospels, or at least not seen in the same way.  Reading it today, it stood out to me about how God made it known about Jesus' birth.  He sent an angel to Mary; alone.  He sent an angel to Zechariah, her uncle; alone.  Mary and Elizabeth speak these beautiful songs to each other, inspired by God, but they are alone when it happens.  Simeon and Anna, the prophets in the Temple, only speak to Mary and Joseph.  Think about it.  Here God has sent His Son into the world, to rule and be King.  He is there to save everyone.  History is split in half with His birth.  The world is being pulled out of complete chaos and destruction.  It is the single biggest event in history.  The King of all kings is here.

No parade.

No press release.

He only speaks to the parents, in order to encourage them for what they will face raising Jesus.

That's it.

The world changes, and no one knows.

Well, no one, except for one group.

There is this huge press release, fanfare, big hoo-haa moment.  The angels show up in a group, appear at night and glow in the dark, and amaze everyone with their royal proclamation.  But they don't show up to the Roman Emperor, the religious leaders in Jerusalem, or on a high place in front of thousands.

They show up to shepherds.

What a waste for God to spend His one big show on a bunch of nobodies like them.  Shepherds were the bottom of the pile.  They were dirty, smelly, and loners.  They lived out in the woods by themselves with a bunch of dumb sheep for company.  It was a bottom feeder job in the world.

And God appeared to them with the big fanfare.  Remember, He could have sent one angel to one shepherd, like He did to Mary, Joseph, and Zechariah.  A junior angel at that.  But He didn't.  He sent a huge group, and they had choreographed dance moves and everything.  Even their wording is this official sounding, royal announcement.  And God wasted it on the shepherds.

He still does.  He loves saving his very best for losers, for nobodies, for the bottom of the barrel.  When people are down and out, God moves up and in to their lives.  He loves the people on the bottom.  The broken, the wasted efforts, the ones who don't amount to anything.  He loves them.

He loves us.

Be encouraged over the coming days.  God sends His best messages and gifts to those who least deserve it.

Which means you and I are in for some things this week.

That Voice in the Dark

Our church is taking part in a study called the Amazing Race, and as a church we are reading through the New Testament together until the end of the year.  I thought I'd post my thoughts on the days readings, and I'd love to hear what you have to say.  If you don't attend SCC, I'd still love to invite you to read with us, and weigh in with what you are learning as well. 
Today we read Mark 14:53-Luke 1:25

In chapter 14 of Mark, we read about Jesus being drug around during his overnight trial.  Everywhere He goes, Peter follows Him at a distance.  Technically, Peter is still a follower of Jesus at this point.  But, as you read the story, the drama ramps up as Peter is accused of that very thing, three times.  Three times he is called out for knowing Jesus, and three times he denies Him.  Of course, Jesus told him ahead of time that he would do this.  When Peter remembers it, it breaks him.

What kind of horrible person would be warned by Jesus that they would deny Him, only to turn around and do that very thing over the next few hours?  I mean, Peter had told Jesus that no matter what, he would never run or turn his back on Jesus.  Then, he does.  How can Peter even call himself a follower of Jesus?!  He talks a good talk, but then when a little opposition comes his way, he bails on Jesus and just tries to blend in.  What a wimp!


Isn't that what we are supposed to think?  Maybe not.

Ok, we are not going to be accused by a servant girl standing next to a bonfire at three a.m. anytime soon.  In fact, most of us will never be accused of following Jesus at any point in our lives.

Which is worse?  Being repeatedly accused, and denying it?  Or never even earning the accusation?

Why don't we get lumped in with Jesus by people?  Why don't we make it far enough to earn the right to be called out?

Yeah, I know, that's a little tough.  Let's move on.

So, if we won't get outed by a fire pit, how does this apply to us?  You understand, it wasn't the girl calling Peter out and playing on his fear, it was Satan.  He calls us out all the time.  When things get rough, you hear the voice calling you to run to anything other than Jesus.  It calls you to turn your back on Jesus and run to the internet, Facebook, your friends, your spouse, your garage, that bottle, the TV, whatever.  It calls you to deny that Jesus is the answer, and look elsewhere in the dark for your hope.  Jesus warns us over and over that this will happen.  Yet we keep falling for it.

Peter saw Jesus about to die.  He didn't know about the resurrection.  Jesus had told him, but He didn't believe it quite yet.  His faith could have carried him through that night.  All he had to do was say, "Yes, I follow Jesus".  That's it.  One time, and he would have averted the whole thing.

The same is true for us.  When we are faced with that voice, that call, that push to run from Jesus, we need to stop, and say "No, I will stay here.  I am with Jesus.  He will see me through."

Where is the place you need to stand today?  What is it that you need to refuse to listen to?

Remember, the sun always rises.  Especially on Sundays.

Erasing Hell Book Review

I recently wrote a review of Erasing Hell by Francis Chan for the Youth Worker Journal website.  It's in with a few other panel reviews.  If you'd like to read it, you can find it at the bottom of this page, right after Jen Bradbury's review.  I would love to hear your thoughts if you've read it.

When Jesus Won't Follow the Script

Our church is taking part in a study called the Amazing Race, and as a church we are reading through the New Testament together until the end of the year.  I thought I'd post my thoughts on the days readings, and I'd love to hear what you have to say.  If you don't attend SCC, I'd still love to invite you to read with us, and weigh in with what you are learning as well. 
Today we read Mark 12:38-14:52.

Jesus keeps moving towards the cross.  He is in Jerusalem, and the religious leaders want to arrest Him.  Think about what is going on in real life terms.  This is a crazy tense time.  His disciples have a sense of what is going on.  They want to keep Jesus quiet, to keep Him safe.  He just keeps going and teaching, putting Himself at risk.  You can imagine the stress and awkwardness that must have been going on with the guys.
What stands out is the contrast between Jesus and the disciples.  They are struggling to see what is going on around them.  Jesus is teaching about the end of time, about His betrayal, about His crucifixion, and they can't comprehend it all.  No wonder they can't.  We wouldn't have either.  They believe Jesus is there to take over the country.  It's the perfect time.  At Passover, the Jewish people celebrated God coming in and saving them from the Egyptians.  They celebrated it every year, and kept praying for God to do the same thing with the Romans.  The Jews wanted to be free.  Passover would be the PERFECT time for Jesus to declare Himself the Messiah, the One who came to save them, and take over from the Romans, setting the nation free.  It was a script already written, just waiting for the right actors.  And they, the disciples, were in on the ground floor.
But Jesus kept talking about the end of things, not the beginning of things.  Even when He is speaking about the end of the world, they think He is talking about His kingdom coming right then.  They miss it, because of their own dreams and plans for God.
In contrast, Jesus is all about God's plans for Him.  He is more in tune with what is going to happen in the future than at any other time in story.  He is clearly moving on a set path, and nothing will stop it.  But with His prayer in the garden, we see that it is His Father's plan, not His.  He is living in obedience to God's authority, at whatever cost, and it gives Him laser vision and focus.
What a difference between the two sides.  As we read today, which are more like?  Are we like the disciples, looking for God to save us from the the things that scare us and worry us?  Do we want Him to be a superman, coming to our rescue, so that we can live our dreams, our way, happily ever after?  Or are we like Jesus, throwing ourselves into His arms, trusting Him to catch us, no matter what it costs?  The second way is much more frightening, but it is the only way to salvation.  The choice is ours today.  Which will it be?


Hold a Kid and Flip a Table, All For Freedom

Our church is taking part in a study called the Amazing Race, and as a church we are reading through the New Testament together until the end of the year.  I thought I'd post my thoughts on the days readings, and I'd love to hear what you have to say.  If you don't attend SCC, I'd still love to invite you to read with us, and weigh in with what you are learning as well.

Today we read Mark 10:32-12:37.

In the verses we read today, we have the story of Jesus heading up into Jerusalem for a showdown with the religious and political leaders.  It's this really amazing mix of stories, as Jesus is facing off with people of power.  You see Him working amazing miracles, like healing the blind man Bartimaeus, and weird miracles, like cursing the fig tree.  Mixed in with it are these battles of words and authority with the religious leaders in Jerusalem.

Anytime we read the Bible, we not only need to take time to understand each individual story, but we need to ask questions like "Why did Mark put these stories in?  Why did he put these stories in the order he did?"  We know that God inspired him, and ultimately God is the author.  At the same time, Mark is trying to tell a story.  Why this order, this way?

With the stories of the miracles, Mark is proving to us how much authority and power Jesus has.  You've probably noticed as we've read through Mark, how many times he includes those words when we talks about Jesus; "authority" and "power".  It's on purpose.  He wants us to understand that Jesus is in charge, that He can do whatever He wants whenever He wants.

Then, you look at the debates with the religious leaders.  These people want to kill Jesus.  Jesus knows it.  Why doesn't He just make one of them wither like the fig tree?  No, I'm serious.  Why doesn't He simply do some miracle that wipes out a couple of the mouthier, more annoying Pharisees?  That would settle the whole issue.  No one would mess with Him then at all.

Or would they?

Jesus knows us.  He created us to be free.  Anything that forces itself on us can not stand long term.  God has made us to follow Him, hard wired us to choose to love Him, built into us a desire for true freedom that only He can give us.  We have to choose Him.  He could force us to obey, but He is more interested in us choosing to love and worship Him.  That is where freedom begins in our lives.  That is why Jesus won't destroy one of the Pharisees.  He could.  They are a creation of His, just like the fig tree.  But He doesn't.

He values our choice, He wants us to be free in a way we rarely know.

He loves us.

He loves you.

So, He talks.  He listens.  He heals.  He gives hope.  He warns.  He upsets tables and systems of power.  He whispers.  He holds children and blesses them.  He puts up with our selfish requests to sit on His right hand and left hand.  He yells.  All so that we can hear Him, choose to trust Him, and seek forgiveness from Him.

All so we can be free.

Where is Jesus trying to get our attention today?  What is He calling us to?  Are we listening?

I'd love to hear your thoughts on it.

All New and Improved!! No, really, it is this time.

Our church is taking part in a study called the Amazing Race, and as a church we are reading through the New Testament together until the end of the year.  I thought I'd post my thoughts on the days readings, and I'd love to hear what you have to say.  If you don't attend SCC, I'd still love to invite you to read with us, and weigh in with what you are learning as well.

Today we read Matthew 28:1 - Mark 3:6.

I think the thing that hit me as I'm reading through Mark is how he tells the story, compared to Matthew, Luke, and John.  Each of the writers are telling the same basic story, but the details show what their goal is in telling these stories.  Mark is out to show that Jesus is doing something new, something unexpected, something that challenges the status quo.  Here's what I mean:

In chapter one, Jesus is introduced by John the Baptist.  John's a freak.  Mark tells us what he wears, what he eats, and where he lives.  None of it is normal.  So, we start there.  When Jesus is baptized, the Holy Spirit comes down on Him, and immediately sends Him out in the wilderness as well.  These guys aren't growing up in the typical church schools of their day.  They are getting trained in the wild, by God Himself.

As Jesus begins His ministry, He begins collecting disciples.  This is an act of a rabbi, or teacher.  But instead of collecting the honor roll students from Jerusalem Faith Academy, He chooses instead to head out and collect guys who are school dropouts.  He picks some fishermen, and then later a tax collector, who was basically a sell-out traitor that everyone hated.  Not the picks you would expect Jesus to spend his first round draft on.

When He goes home to Capernaum, He teaches in the synagogue He had spent time in as a kid.  But now, it's different.  He teaches with authority.  He isn't sharing his thoughts on what God might want us to do, maybe.  He teaches as one who knew God well.  To back it up, a demon possessed guy jumps up in the middle of church (really?!) and Jesus pulls the demon out of him right then and there.

He heals Peter's mom in law.  Putting all of the potential mother in law jokes aside (mainly because I love my mom in law!), this wasn't where a great healer and teacher should spend his time, in the small house of a fisherman's family, taking care of a woman's fever.  Surely there were more important things to do.  But, He did it.

Jesus walks away from a great potential healing ministry in His home town.  He disappears when everyone is wanting Him, so He can pray.  He tells the guys with leprosy to not tell anyone about the miracle, because He doesn't want the fame and attention.

To top it all off, He forgives a guys sins.  Think about that. It's cool that He can heal people, and He's a powerful teacher.  But who does He think He is to tell someone that all of the bad stuff they've done in life is forgiven, when they haven't even asked for forgiveness.  It's not like the paraplegic guy on the mat was at the temple offering the sacrifices God called for.  He was laying on the floor of some one's house.  Without the guy even asking, Jesus just up and tells him "Your sins are forgiven"?  Really?  That's way too far.  Then He heals him, just to prove He has the power to do it all.

In case we don't get the tie in to all of these stories, Mark spells it out for people like me who are pretty dense.  In chapter 2, verses 21 and 22 Jesus explains that you can't take new things and try to tie them into old ways.  You have to start all new.  That is what Jesus' actions are showing.  He is doing something completely new, unheard of, never before seen or thought of.  He isn't playing by the old rules, He isn't interested in how they used to do things.  He is starting fresh, and this fresh start is the Kingdom of God crashing into earth.

So, as we read Mark together this week, look for what is new or different.  Watch for where Jesus points out that He is changing things.  It's a constant theme in the book.

Then, take the next step.  What does God need to do new in your life?  Where are you letting your old ways of living continue to define who you are and how you live?  What friends do you have that keep you anchored in a way of life that is dead?  What religious ideas do you need to let go of that aren't really Jesus? What fears hold you back when Jesus is taking you by the hand and saying "Come on!  Let's go!"?  Jesus is still about the new.  New life.  New hope.  New starts.  New dreams.  New habits.

What is it for you?  Weigh in, and let us know.

the Middle Fall Retreat 2011

Here is the video from our middle school fall retreat, if you'd like to see it.


Tears, an Empty City, and a New Kingdom

I finished Jeremiah and hit Lamentations today.  To say that my time reading scripture is discouraging is an understatement.  With this chronological reading plan, I am immersed in the story of Israel's downfall.  I have been for weeks and weeks.  It makes it so tough to read the scripture.  This reading plan needs to come with some anti-depressants or something.

But, as I read it, I'm beginning to realize on a small scale, what a heartbreak it was for the people to lose their land, their place.  Everything was tied up in it.  Even in the Scriptures, the writers are focused on getting back to the land.  "Stop sinning so that we can go home" is the cry of the authors.  They want to be back in Israel, in Jerusalem, so desperately.  The city of Jerusalem has a personality, it cries, it moans, it misses it's people.  The personification of the city runs deep in their understanding.  It's something I have trouble relating to.

But it causes me to wonder what it is that I am that attached to?  It's not the United States for me, or my house, or city.  But my comfort would be something close.  I'll follow, as long as it isn't an inconvenience.  Or my job.  I'm good with following God, unless he asks me to be homeless and not be a pastor anymore.  Or my schedule.  When God wants to obliterate my schedule, I get a little sideways with Him.

So, while I obsess over different things, I still obsess.  I allow things to come between me and God, to get in the way, to distract me.  They become my Jerusalem, my kingdom.

So, again, I fall back on this prayer:

Our Father, who is in heaven,
Holy is your name,
Your Kingdom come
Your Will be done
On earth, like it's done in Heaven.
Give me today what I need,
And forgive me for all of my sins,
And I forgive those who have sinned against me.
Don't lead me into temptation
But deliver me from evil.

His kingdom.  Here.  Today.  Not my Jerusalem.  His kingdom.

I Guess the Yokes on You

I hit Jeremiah 26 today, and it's a tough chapter.  I've been following Jeremiah's story as a prophet, and God asked him to do such hard things.  In chapter 26, Jeremiah is told to go to the Temple and to warn the people that God is going to destroy the nation and the city.  It's not a new message.  He's been saying it for 25 chapters before this, and the people won't listen.

So, first of all, why would Jeremiah keep going?  No one is listening to his warnings, no one is taking heed to his advice.  He is made fun of, laughed at, and mocked.  On top of that, God keeps making him do crazy things as visual lessons for the people.  In chapter 26, he is wearing a yoke, like the ones they put around a cow's neck to pull a cart.  So, he's in the temple, preaching doom, with a yoke on.

Following God was not cool that day.

The reaction to his message?  The pastors of the temple decide they've finally hit their breaking point, and they are going to kill him.  They take him prisoner, and want to execute him.  I don't know about you, but at this point, I might need to reconsider my professional calling as a prophet.  One, he's failing, because no one is repenting.  Two, he's failing because people hate him and God more than when he started.  Three, he's failing because they want to kill him, and that is never a win.

But his response is to keep preaching the same message to the people who want to kill him.  He tells them to do whatever they want with him, but to understand that God is going to judge the city, and they need to repent.

For Jeremiah, there was only one way to fail.  That was to shut up.  A few chapters earlier he tells God that he wishes he could just be quiet.  He tried to quit the warnings.  But he said that God's words were like fire in his bones and he would burn alive if he tried to keep them in.  So, he speaks.  Jeremiah speaks when no one listens, when no one repents, when no one likes him, when his life is on the line.

Because of that, he wins.  He has God's favor, he is never alone, he is not afraid of what is coming, he finishes the race well.

I don't think that many of us are called to give such a message that someone is going to want to kill us, at least not today.  But I know God is calling each of us to take a step forward.  Fear, worry, embarrassment, uncertainty, laziness, or pride may hold us where we are.  Today, understand that if Jeremiah, who was just a teenager when God called him, could obey; then so can we.  The same God lives in us, loves us, gives us the power and the abilities.  Don't measure what you're called to do by what everyone else defines as winning.  Be faithful.  Trust Him.  He will see you through.

You Are a Master of Sabotage

One of the books I am reading right now is Mere Christianity.  One of my senior guys and I am reading it together.  It's written by C. S. Lewis, the guy who is famous now for "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe" series.  He's amazing.

In the book, he is laying out an explanation for why Jesus is the best answer, in a logical, rational, scientific discussion.  But, Lewis is funny, sarcastic, and humorous as he does it, so it's a great read for anyone.

On page 51, he says this: "Enemy-occupied territory-that is the what the world is.  Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage.  When you go to church you are really listening in to the secret wireless from our friends: that is why the enemy is so anxious to prevent you from going."

Lewis goes on to talk about how Satan spends a ton of time and effort trying to convince us that 1) he doesn't exist 2) we are just fine like we are 3) we don't need each other.  I LOVE this picture of an invasion taking place.  As you follow Jesus, you are taking part in a war of sabotage against His enemy.

Be brave today.  Be fearless.  Fight hard.  The battle is won, but we still have work to do.

If you want more C.S. Lewis, there are mulitiple ways to read his writing.  There is a blog that simply posts some of his stuff everyday.  You can find it at http://merecslewis.blogspot.com/

We Hit 10,000 Today!

Slowly, one person at a time, I hit a new milestone with my blog today.  It's taken years for me to get to where most bloggers get in a few months, but I finally hit the 10,000 views mark today.  I'm not sure if that's good, sad, or neither to be honest.  But, I'm excited to hit it.  Thanks for being someone who logs in and reads what is posted here.  I'd love to hear your comments from time to time as well.  Here's the readout from my stats page:

Pageviews today
Pageviews yesterday
Pageviews last month
Pageviews all time history


When Reading the Bible Wears Us Out

I'm continuing to read through the book of Jeremiah, reading chapters 14-17 today.

I admit it.  I'm already tired of Jeremiah.  The constant warning to the people to repent, the repetitive threats of what will happen to them, the constant beat down of how sinful they are and how the nation is going to fall, it's all wearing on me.  I confess it, and put it out in the open.  I am tired of reading this book.

Which, of course, makes me wonder, why am I so tired of this book?  Shouldn't I feel compassion for the people who about the be destroyed?  Shouldn't I feel awe for God's power and mercy?  Shouldn't I run to hide in God's holiness as I realize how serious He is about obedience?


But instead, I feel beat up and weary of the message.

I think part of it is conviction, because I know I am guilty of what the Israelites were guilty of.  They worshiped fake gods instead of worshiping and serving the True God.  I do that all the time, whenever I turn to anything for comfort that isn't Jesus.  It's idolatry, and I am guilty.  So, as I read this, I know this is how God should treat me.  It scares me, and brings my guilt to the surface.  I don't like the daily reminder, and I want to move on to the more "loving" passages where I feel better.  But, these passages in Jeremiah are about love.

Second, I don't like this side of God.  The vengeful, judging, angry side of God.  It makes Him seem like a big whiny baby.  "I'm gonna get you!" is all He seems to say.  I don't like hearing God say that.  I like the loving God of other parts of the Bible.  As I ask God about all of this, I begin to realize something that may just be my own issues, I'm not sure if any of you ever have these feelings or not.  But, here is what I am understanding a little more.

If we back up from the Jeremiah story, God loves the whole world.  Every person made is loved by Him.  He speaks to them, calls them, and wants them to trust Him.  His story with Israel wasn't the ONLY story of Him loving people.  It is the main story, but not the only story.  God equally loves every person from Adam on down through the lines.  He does NOT love Israel MORE than other people.  Sometimes, reading the Old Testament, I begin to quietly believe He was only working with the Jews.  But He wasn't.  Their story was special, not because God loved them more, but because He gave them more opportunity to serve Him. Because He has incredible grace and mercy, He picked them to receive extra gifts.  He put His temple with them, He blessed their kings, He gave them the Scriptures.  They didn't deserve it all.  He just did it.  His plan was for them to take these special gifts, and as they used them to obey Him, other nations would see it, and then those nations would understand the truth, and be drawn closer to Him as well.  It's actually a plan filled with kindness.  He knew people needed a visual to understand things, so He gave them the nation of Israel as that visual.  The Jews just happened to benefit from the deal, because God chose them.  He could have chosen anyone, but He chose them.

So, as the Jews were obeying God, the other nations would be blessed as they saw what obeying God looked like, and followed suit.  The problem was, the Jews thought they were special, that God owed them, and that all of this blessing was for them to spend on themselves.  They were selfish with it, and never really shared it.  Because they held it to themselves, in time they lost their love for God as well, and THEY copied the OTHER nations, completely reversing what God had set up.

By the time we get to Jeremiah, the Jews have stubbornly, selfishly, and immaturely so screwed the whole thing up, it was irreparable.  God had no choice but to do away with the nation of Israel, and start over.  That is where the prophets come in.  God is trying to warn the few remaining people who might still love Him to get ready.  Most of the people were not going to listen, no matter what.  The prophets are the last little voice telling anyone who still loved God to prepare themselves for what is coming.

So, when we read the ominous and dark words in Jeremiah, they aren't the words of a pouty God throwing a fit.  They are the last verses of a love song God is trying to sing to the few remaining people who know and love Him.  When we understand this, it all makes a lot more sense, and it doesn't feel so dreadful.

But the question still remains, what do we do with it?  Are we spending God's blessing in our lives on ourselves, instead of spreading it out around the world?  Where are you and I personally guilty of the sins of the Israelites?  The call to repent and fix it is still the same, and it's not too late.  What will you do differently today?

Bury the Belt!

Sometimes, I think we just need to be reminded that God really doesn't fit in the boxes we try to squeeze Him down into.  There are times where people say that God told them to do something, and I hear what it is, and I think "Yeah, right."  Not because it's unBiblical, but because it's so weird.  OR I hear God tell me to do something unorthodox, and I think it's just my imagination, or at least hope it is.  I mean, God doesn't REALLY ask us to do stuff that's strange, does He?  He's God, why would He act any differently than we do?  
Then I read something like this, out of Jeremiah 13.  

1 "This is what the Lord said to me: “Go and buy a linen belt and put it around your waist, but do not let it touch water.”
2 So I bought a belt, as the Lord directed, and put it around my waist. 3 Then the word of the Lord came to me a second time:4 “Take the belt you bought and are wearing around your waist, and go now to Perath and hide it there in a crevice in the rocks.”
5 So I went and hid it at Perath, as the Lord told me. 6 Many days later the Lord said to me, “Go now to Perath and get the belt I told you to hide there.”
7 So I went to Perath and dug up the belt and took it from the place where I had hidden it, but now it was ruined and completely useless. 8 Then the word of the Lord came to me:9 “This is what the Lord says: ‘In the same way I will ruin the pride of Judah and the great pride of Jerusalem.10 These wicked people, who refuse to listen to my words, who follow the stubbornness of their hearts and go after other gods to serve and worship them, will be like this belt—completely useless!
11 For as a belt is bound around the waist, so I bound the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah to me,’ declares the Lord, ‘to be my people for my renown and praise and honor. But they have not listened.’ "

Yeah.  God says "Go buy a belt." (Really?!)  Then later, He says, "Go bury it in another town."  After letting Jeremiah wonder if he was nuts for a few days, God told Him to go dig it up.  It was ruined.  
Did God really tell Jeremiah to spend money on something, then bury it and ruin it?  That doesn't make any sense!  That's not logical!  That's just stupid!  God doesn't tell us to do stuff like that.
Well, apparently, He does.  Be careful not to blow off what you hear from Him, just because it doesn't fit in with what you consider "normal".  Normal is whatever God says it is.  What is He calling me or you to do that doesn't make sense?
Just thought you might like to know, Amazon has Mat Kearney's new album "Young Love" for $4.99 for the whole album.  It's an amazing album, and that is a great price.  Check it out!  


Don't Make God Use His Dad Voice

I'm reading through the Blue Letter Bible study schedule on You Version.  It's a schedule that puts the Bible in chronological order, so that you read chapters and books in the order they happened.  Overall, it's been very interesting.

Today, I hit Jeremiah, and read the first few chapters.  The message is pretty clear, God is frustrated with His people.  You read through the book, and it is full of threats, angry words, and dreadful images.  For a lot of people this is the image of God they have, an angry old king in a far off land railing on the people He created.  For others, they will talk about how there is one side of  God in the Old Testament (angry) and the other side of God in the New Testament (happy).  Neither of these ideas fit at all with what the Bible teaches us about God.

So, what gives then, when we hit stuff like Jeremiah's writing in the Bible?  How do we make sense of it?

I definitely don't grasp all of why God says what He does.  I mean, after all, He's God.  I'm not.  Not much more to it than that.

BUT, as I was reading today, I was asking God about this, and he reminded me of something that goes on in my own house.  Sometimes, as we are dealing with our daughters, they simply won't listen to what we are telling them.  I know, I know, it's a shock that our kids act like that.  We constantly get "I can't imagine your daughter being disrespectful.  She's so sweet!"  Yes, they are.  They are both wonderful girls.  But, they do have a condition that makes them act disrespectful, disobedient, and difficult sometimes.  I think the technical medical name for it is "human".  They are human, their parents are human, so stuff happens.

Anyway, I was thinking about this week, when I had been asking/requesting/telling/ordering one of the girls to do some jobs around the house that they were supposed to have done.  I tried every tactic I knew to get her to take the responsibility on herself and do the job herself.  Finally, after quite a while, I had to get stern with her, and do the "dad" thing with my voice and tone.  I remember telling her that I had tried to avoid that tone for quite a while, but she wasn't listening, and I had to resort to it.  I mean, she had a role to play, she needed to do it for her own development and good, and I would have been irresponsible to let her get away with skipping out on it.  So, I asked.  I cajoled.  I hinted.  I spoke clearly.  I spoke directly.  Then I had to do the "dad" voice to motivate her.  Not because I was hurt, angry, or threatened.  She simply needed to get this job done, and wouldn't listen otherwise.

I think in part that is what we see in Jeremiah and the other prophets in the Old Testament.  God has tried to get His people to do what was best for them for hundreds of years.  He has shown them miracles, He has blessed them, He has shown them mercy and love over and over.  By the time we get to the prophets in the Old Testament, He has had to resort to using his "dad" voice to get their attention.  It still doesn't work, so He has to punish them.  You can't send the entire nation to their room, so He sends them to another country as slaves.

Often my daughters want to accuse me of not loving them when I act like this.  The opposite is true.  I train them, force them to learn self-discipline and self control, because I love them.  That is the only reason I would go through so much hurt with them.  It's no different with God.  I mean, think about it.  He should have simply had another country wipe the nation of Israel out, and never let it return.  Yet, it exists today, thousands of years later.

The God of the Old Testament is a God of love and truth.  We just don't like hearing his "dad voice".  Don't avoid the message you find in the prophets.  It's a message that still applies to us, today.

Taking the gods (with little g's) to the Dump

Cleaning out the junk in your room or house is such a mix of emotions.  On the one hand, you hate letting things go that at one time had some value to you.  On the other, it feels so good to clean out and have a fresh start.

There was a king named Josiah who cleaned house for God and the whole nation once.  He decided to follow God after generations had ignored Him.  The priests were ordered to clean up the temple, and they discovered a book that no one had ever seen before.  It was the Bible.  Yep, that's right, no one had seen it or heard of it.  THAT'S how far off the track the "children of God" had gotten.  Once they started reading it, and understanding what God wanted, they panicked.  Josiah decided to really clean things up, and went on a rampage.  You can read all about it in 2 Kings 22 and 23.  It's pretty fascinating.

The amount of junk that was in the temple, that was used to worship fake gods, is appalling.  I was amazed as I read everything that the kings had put in this holy house of God.  It was almost incomprehensible that they could get so far offtrack that they would cram that much trash into such a sacred building.  I mean, after all, this is where God was supposed to meet with the people.  But they turned it into a religious storage barn, cramming in it stuff to worship any god that they happened to hear about.

So, Josiah comes along and cleans house.  He has to tear down monuments his father, grandfather, great grandfather, and more had built.  He had to destroy places where people worshiped everyday.  He had to destroy people's misplaced hopes and dreams, and places they found comfort in.  It was all fake religion, and he had to destroy it.  So, he did.  Piece by piece, angry person by hurt person, he dismantled the mess that had been made, and returned things to a state of purity and focus.  It cost him greatly, but the reward was even greater.

I fully realize that you and I are not king of a country.  We don't have to clean out a temple.  Or do we?  Scriptures tell us that we are now the temple of the Lord.  He doesn't live in a building anymore, He lives within each of us who follow Him.  So, what junk is in the temple that needs thrown out?  How are you and I worshipping false gods of hopelessness, and messing up the relationship we have with God?  What habits do we run to for comfort that are not centered on God?  What images/videos/movies/websites/books/TV shows/etc. are we setting up to focus on that lead us, step by step, piece by piece away from God?  What god of power/money/authority/control have we set up a pole to bow down before and worship?  Which people in your life have become a little-g god to you?  What needs cleaned out in the temple today?

Yes, it may cost you.  Almost certainly, someone won't like it.  It will take focus and effort.  We will have to replace what we remove with the right things of prayer, Bible study, community, service, worship, etc.  You can't just toss out the bad and leave the room empty.  You have to refill the space with what was supposed to be there to begin with.

So, seriously, what is it for you?  What idol needs to fall?

Oh, by the way, Josiah was 8 when he became king.  He was 12 when he began cleaning house.  If he could pull it off, I'm pretty sure you and I can.  Just thought you'd like to know.

Two Wheeled Uphill Repentance

Several mornings a week, I try to get out and ride my bike early, before my day begins.  I have a route that loops out away from our house, and rolls through some hills and valleys, and finishes back at the house 25 miles later.  I've found that I tend to like to ride it the same direction each time, in fact I've only rode it in one direction all summer.  I know where the hills are, where to pick up my pace, where to watch for dogs, and where the temperature will drop as I go through a valley by a stream.  It's really a great ride.

Today, I decided to ride it backwards.  Now, I know that according to basic 7th grade science, and an elementary understanding of geography, that when I ride in a loop, any amount of distance that I descend, I will have to climb.  I also know that regardless of which direction I ride on that loop, I will climb and descend the exact same distance.  But I gotta tell you, it felt like all I did was climb today.  It was crazy.  I don't know how it's possible, but somewhere on that route, I must have passed through a wormhole in the time/space continuum that allowed me to climb 80% more than I descended on that loop.  It was nuts!

I also was laughing along the way, because I was noticing things I had never seen before.  This is a route I've ridden dozens of times this summer, and I was seeing things for the first time today.  Little things, like, you know,...a house....a barn....small stuff like that.  It was so amusing to me just because I couldn't believe I had missed so much before, just because I was going in one direction.  Then today, when I turned and went the other way, everything looked and felt different.  Same places, same roads, same farms, but it all looked and felt totally different.

It kind of hit me as I was riding, that is what repentance is like.  God calls us to repent, and follow Him.  When we repent, it means we turn 180 degrees and go the other way.  So, when we are lying, we stop lying and start telling the truth.  When we are angry in a selfish way, we quit and begin showing love selflessly.  If we find ourselves trying to control our lives ourselves, we turn and begin to live by faith and trust God where we can't see Him.  Repentance is a simple thing.

I think that so often we find ourselves far down a bad road in our lives, where we've made horrible decisions, been selfish, faithless, and just plain sinful; we convince ourselves that we need to uproot and start over in a completely new place.  The only answer is to dump our friends, our location, our life and run away and start over.  That is usually due more to being embarrassed than it is to wisdom.  God calls us to repent, to run the course backwards, to climb where we had coasted before, and to trust Him where we had tried to climb on our own and failed.

What is amazing in life as we repent, is that we travel the same paths we always do, interact with the same people, face the same challenges, yet it all looks and feels different.  Repentance makes all things new.  It's pretty cool how God can do that.  We don't need to change the location of where we live out our faith to get a new start.  We just need to repent, and go back the way we came.

It's a life changer.

What is that you need to repent of today?

A Tale of Two Kings

In 2 Kings 20, 21 we have the story of two kings.  No, it's not the show off the Disney channel either.  It's about two actual kings.  Hezekiah is the first king.  He honestly tried to serve God and follow Him as the ruler.  He cleaned up the worship, got rid of the fake idols, and turned the nation back to God.  A lot of what he did was tremendous, and God blessed him for it.  But, the story shows he wasn't wise, because he showed an enemy nation all of his money and riches, basically tempting them to come take it, which they eventually did.  He also was selfish.  When he was told by Isaiah that his children would lose the kingdom and be carried off into slavery one day, his response was "Oh well, at least it's not going to happen to me, so no big deal."  Yeah, not someone we would consider a hero.

The second king was named Manasseh.  He's the king in 2 Kings 21.  He is just the opposite of Hezekiah.  He didn't want anything to do with God, and worked very hard to be as unGodly as he could.  He had the nation worship everything except for God.  He murdered his son as a sacrifice to a fake God.  He put an idol in the Temple, where God was supposed to meet with the people.  He was incredibly intentional about being evil.

What is surprising is that Manasseh was king immediately after Hezekiah.  Even more surprising is that Manasseh was Hezekiah's son.  His own son.  Raised in his house.  As a prince.  What happened?!  How can a king follow God and do so much to set the nation straight, only to have his son undo all of it and go even farther in the direction of evil?  Hezekiah didn't live a life of influence on those closest to him.  He did a lot of great things publicly, but didn't work to love and influence those in his own house.  It destroyed the nation.  Thousands of people were killed and lost their homes and families because of it.

Who are you influencing?  No, seriously, who are you influencing?  Are you spending all of your time trying to impress those outside your home, hoping to create a good name, an attractive image?  You'll probably succeed.  But what will it cost you?

Or are you intentionally focusing on those God has placed closest to you?  Influencing those friends and family members who are with you everyday may not be as glamorous or intoxicating, but it is what we are called to do.  It's how the truth and good news of Jesus gets passed on.  Parents, are you intentionally training and teaching your kids?  Kids, are you working to influence and model a Jesus kind of life for your parents, brothers, and sisters?

It's what we are called to.  And when we don't, we destroy entire kingdoms.
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