Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

God’s presence...

After the Adam and Eve incident, God seemed to speak to individuals.  In that grand old story - He spoke to people like Noah, Abraham, Jacob - and many others.  But God was seen as somewhat separate from His people.  He seemed to choose a representative to speak to the masses.  There were exceptions (like Job, for instance) but, for the most part, God remained separate and unknowable to most.  After all, God is - well - God.  Who could know Him? (the creator of atoms - and the expanse of the universe).  He is far above and beyond our comprehension.  

But God moved closer.

After all the craziness of the massive exodus of freed slaves from Egypt - and after the Hebrews turned away from the Promise Land out of fear - God further revealed Himself to the tribe of Israel.  On a mountain, He gave Moses and His people the Law (Instruction) - a set of ethics that set their tribe apart from other people and allowed them to be “right” in the eyes of God.  This is a bit simplistic, of course, but God was moving closer.  His presence was now experienced with His people.  He showed Himself as a fire at night and a cloud by day.  And the people constructed a tabernacle (movable tent/temple) where God’s presence was said to reside.  God’s actual presence in the midst of His people.  God was with His tribe.

People still feared God and He was still perceived as separate, but His proximity - His location - was closer than before.

Eventually, God’s tribe became a Nation.  The tabernacle was replaced with a massive temple in Jerusalem.  People from all over the known world would come and experience God’s presence.  Hebrews would make pilgrimages to the temple every year (and some, multiple times a year) just to be near God.

Inside the temple, there was a place knows as the Holy of Holies.  It’s where God’s actual presence was said to dwell.  Only one person a year could enter into the Holy of Holies in order to perform the atonement sacrifice for the people, and that High Priest had to have a rope tied around His ankle just in case God’s presence would overwhelm and kill him.  Getting too close to perfection can have drastic consequences.  There was no doubt that this created fear and reverence for the all powerful One.  

Again - all this is all a bit simplistic.  For instance, the builder of the first temple said, “But will God really dwell on earth?  The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you.  How much less this temple I have built!”

A very good perspective on an infinite and all powerful God.  But - one of the points of the temple was the with-ness of God.  His presence was with His people.  This was part of God’s revelation (revealing) to humanity.  

All the while, throughout the Hebrew scriptures, there was the promise of a King - a redeemer - a Savior that would come.  And His name would be “Immanuel” - meaning “God with us.”  

Jesus walks onto the scene.  People pointed to Him as this “Immanuel.”  This is the Christmas story... “Oh come, oh come, Immanuel” - sung so often at Christmas time.

Jesus redefined the temple.  One of the things He said was, “tear down this temple and I will rebuild it in three days.”  To His hearers, people thought He was crazy.  They were thinking the literal temple in Jerusalem.  Impossible!  But, it wasn’t just crazy, it was insulting.  The temple represented God’s presence to the people of Israel.  A modern day comparison might look like a person threatening to murder the President of the United States - very serious business.  This kind of talk was one (of many) reasons why Jesus got hung on a cross.  But - that’s a rabbit trail - what’s my point?

Jesus became the new temple.  He was Immanuel - God with us.  He was moving closer and closer.  When Jesus was murdered, the temple curtain that separated the Holy of Holies from humanity was torn open.  The representation of God’s presence was not contained within a physical location anymore.  He was no longer in a box! (although we try to put Him in one all the time - ha!)

When Jesus ascended - He promised His Spirit.  The Spirit of God would live within His people.  Our own physical bodies became the new temple!  

Talk about a new way of thinking about Immanuel - God with us!  God's movement is closer and closer and closer...

Seriously, think about it.  God - who was distant and separate - became intimately close (living within His people!) and inseparable.  His revelation is hard to comprehend - but sooooo good!!!

From an unknowable God outside of humanity’s perception somewhere in the heavens - to a tabernacle - to a temple - to Jesus - to us - God keeps moving closer.  In fact - there is no person/entity (however you want to say it) - no one is closer than our Savior.

From unknowable to knowable.  God’s revelation - His revealing.  This is the Christmas story.

One last intriguing thought...  If God really did reveal Himself in this way - and Jesus truly is the fullness of the unknowable God - then the historical Jesus - the One in all those stories - God incarnate - He is living within us.  

The Christmas story lives within us.  What a wonderful thought.

Have an awesome day!

Jer

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Where'd they go?


“Come, follow me...” (Matthew 4:19)

My antenna is always open for Jesus sightings.  Jesus sightings are moments when we notice our Savior in everyday life.  It’s a bit of “practicing the presence” of Christ in real life.  This is one from the past week.

I went to San Francisco with a group of kids that were giving a presentation about suicide prevention to the School Board of Education in California.  We stayed at a little youth hostel somewhat near Union Square.  We decided to take a walk down to see the Christmas lights and experience the holiday feel of San Francisco.  It was good times!

It’s super easy to lose the people that you are following.  Our high school friends were on the move to Union Square on a pace that would rival competitive speed walkers (ok - maybe it was more like my pace resembled a lost snail).  Whatever the case, Christmas in Union Square is crowded and it’s easy to lose the people that you’re with if you’re both walking at two different speeds.  

The other adult and I had to shout over the loud Christmas music and hoards of chattering shoppers to tell our High School friends to stay at our pace.  We joked about having a conversation with their parents back home, telling them we’d lost their kids in the middle of San Francisco.  That would be bad... 

Our high school friends were technically “following” us, yet they were way ahead of us and they almost disappeared into the crowd.  It’s easy to get lost when our pace becomes faster than the one we’re following...

The next day, we followed a car through the streets of SF to get to the place we were presenting the topic of suicide prevention (Moscone Center).  We had a little caravan: three cars heading to the same location - one car leading the next.  Of course, we lost one of our cars behind us on the way there.  Had it not been for smart phones - we might still be searching for our destination.  

It’s hard to follow.  There were so many distractions, so many twists and turns (red light, green light - go!), and only the lead car knew the directions to our destination.  If we didn’t stay right behind the lead car, we would surely lose our way and we’d be hopelessly lost.  

Sound familiar?

 A particular phrase within the Christian faith community is becoming a bit cliche:  “following Jesus.”  There are many versions of this cliched phrase: “I’m a follower.”  “I follow Christ.”  “I’m a Christ follower.” etc.  In everyday - real life - it’s a great description of our walk with Jesus.  But this cliche has become something that doesn’t even resemble what actual “following” means anymore.

What I’ve learned over the years is that many who identify themselves as followers of Christ “follow” Him in a very static way.

Hmmm...static...  Static is non-moving.  Dead.  Many people “accept” Jesus and they’re done.  Their idea of following Jesus is a finished work - a one time utterance that is rooted somewhere in the past.

While Christ’s love for us is complete (it is finished!) our adventure with Him is never over.  And it never will be - for all eternity.  

And Jesus is on the move...

It takes actual effort to follow someone.  Even with effort, sometimes the person leading is very elusive.  It’s almost like a chase.  Do you see following Jesus this way?

I think of an episode of Seinfeld, when Jerry and Elaine try to follow George in their car - and George drives so fast that he quickly loses them.  It’s so easy to lose sight of the lead car!

But this is part of the adventure.  Jesus is elusive!  Sometimes He moves very fast and it’s hard to keep our eyes on Him, other times He moves very slow and we pass Him up and wonder where He went.  He’s not predictable and only He knows where He’s going.  

What would it mean to follow (get off our butts and pursue) Jesus in a non static way?  What might it look like in real life to actually follow our Savior?  How would a person even do this?  What does a “follower” actually look like?

These are questions that are worth pursuing.  

There’s a verb that’s often used in the scriptures:  seek!  “Seek” is an active word, not a passive one.  It’s like a treasure hunter seeking the prize.  What are you doing today to seek our Savior?

May these words inspire you in the smallest way to seek our Savior.  May your life be full of Jesus sightings as you follow Him in your everyday life...

Have a great day!

Jer

Friday, October 19, 2012

What does "Jesus is the good news" mean?

I've spent a lot of time in my blogs pointing out what the gospel (good news) is not, and then I point to Jesus.  So, that's got me wondering....hmm...when I write "Jesus is the good news"- does that create confusion??  What the heck does that mean?  I think if I were to hear that statement years ago, I might not understand what the heck I was talking about.

Well, let me try explain.

How we see the good news comes down to our view of God.  Is God (Jesus) good enough to stand on His own, or is the good news all about what He does for my personal benefit?  Is "who He is" good enough to be THE good news?   Is His character good news for me - and the rest of humanity? (regardless of my eternal destiny?)

For many people, He's not.  The gospel is turned into a set of bullet points that lay out "the plan" of God's redemption.  And often, people inside (and outside) of the faith community begin to see the good news as only "fire insurance" (or some such lessening of the Gospel), which virtually makes the Christian life an ineffective way of living everyday life.

I believe - in truth - that He is THE good news!  God alone IS THE GOSPEL.  Outside of how I see Him - how I might perceive Him - He is good!  I wonder how many of us really believe that??  Or see that?  I think that if we spend all our time on the ethics of the Bible - or the rewards of the Bible - or the warnings within the Bible - it's very easy to miss the character of Jesus.  He is truly wonderful.  He is better than anything I could ever hope to describe!  No words can even come close to how great He truly is.  As so often happens in these blogs - and even in my mind - these words PALE in comparison to how wonderful He really is...

Yet somehow we've turned the gospel (good news) into a formula of personal reward.

The plan of salvation is PART of the gospel.  But it's only a sliver of the Gospel - which is the person of Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ is the Gospel.  How well do you know Him?

He is Savior.

He is also King.

He is a friend of sinners.

He has ALL authority in heaven and earth.

He is the suffering servant and the wounded healer.

He is the cursed one (on our behalf).

He is the redeemer.

He is the reconciler.

He is the conqueror of death - the resurrection.

He is love.

Christ is life!

All good things come from Him.

And He holds ALL things together.

Gosh - and so much more - and more - and more!!!  I guess that's my point though.  If God (Jesus) is just a plan of salvation - then that's limiting His goodness to our personal reward.  He is SOOOOOO much more!!  And I'm not so sure I emphasized SOOOOO enough.

Take the time to get to know Him.  It will be worth it, even if you don't get a clear picture of His goodness immediately.

And why wouldn't you want to?  Why wouldn't you want to know someone that amazing?  THAT good?

It can't hurt.  Getting to know Jesus isn't gonna make you any worse for wear.  Test and see if what I'm saying is true!  Who knows - maybe I'm trying to manipulate you into believing a fairy tale.  Go dig deep and see if it's all true!  Don't believe my words - go read the gospels!

I'm confident that when you come to know the gospel (Jesus Christ), you'll not only see how wonderful He truly is - but you'll also come to find that He has a TON to say about us - who we are - what we're worth, etc. - and that secondary good news is ALMOST as good as the Gospel itself.

I wonder if that cleared anything up?  haha.

Have an awesome day!

Jer






Friday, September 7, 2012

4 books!

Why do some people turn to God?

Some people want to find meaning in their life - so they turn to God.
Some people want to escape eternal punishment - (hell) - so they turn to God.
Some want the promise of heaven - (paradise) - so they turn to God.
Some want to escape pain - so they turn to God
Some want to belong to a bigger family - so they turn to God.
Some like the culture of Christianity - so they turn to God.
Some want blessings - so they turn to God.
Some hate the consequences of sin and evil - so they turn to God.

Most people want something - so they turn to God.

Is God just a means to get what I want? Is God just a tool to serve my hidden selfishness?

If I look to God to find meaning in my life - aren’t I really just looking for meaning? If I look to God to escape hell - aren’t I really just looking to escape hell? If I look to God to grant me heaven - am I really just looking to get into heaven?  Etc., etc., etc, -  I think you get the point...

About 15 years ago, someone asked me why I share the gospel. My responses sounded like I was selling something.

I thought the gospel (good news) was what you received from Jesus. I think there’s a major flaw in that type of thinking...

Here’s some of what Jesus received:

hate. name calling. taunting. beating. torture. pain. betrayal. abandonment. doubt. condemnation. humiliation. a sentence of death that led to a cross.

It wasn’t just the cross either. People took up stones to kill him. Some wanted to throw him of a cliff. He was in constant danger and was questioned and ridiculed throughout his mission.

What’s my point?

Most people look in the bible to find out how to get their “thing” instead of getting to know Jesus. It’s curious that Jesus often didn’t get the very things we demand of Him in today’s culture.

Hmmm..

What if Jesus Christ Himself was the good news - He was the gospel? What if He was the blessing? What if the Church turned to Him because He was good enough - not for what we get from Him, but for who He is?

What if we took the “me” (what’s in it for “me”?) out of the equation - and just looked at Him?

What is God like? What is Jesus really like? What did He do? What did He say? How did He behave? What’s the big deal about Him? Why did the one who loves so well get condemned to a cross? Why do so many people pledge their allegiance to this man? What makes Him different?

What’s absolutely amazing is that many followers of Jesus don’t know Jesus very well. Sure - they know the cross story, and a few other prominent stories - but - for the most part - many don’t really know the Jesus in the New Testament.

I wonder why that is?

4 small books. 4. That’s it. Four.

Matthew
Mark
Luke
John.

What’s God like?

God tells us!

I mean - seriously. The most complex, imaginative, creative, all powerful, wonderful, unbelievable person to ever exist - revealed in 4 books. All the Old Testament points to Him. All of Paul’s writings reflect about Him.

And we end up looking at everything but Him!

It’s no wonder that C.S. Lewis commented about humanity being content with mud pies when we’re offered a holiday at the sea.

Once again - I point to myself in the post. I often find myself asking “what’s in it for me?” I often forget Jesus and look for the “things” I want.

One of my prayers: God, help me to see You as You are - and not as I want You to be - open my eyes!

4 books - He replies. haha

Have a great day!

Jer

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Caught in the Act

"But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:6-7)

One of the most well known stories about Jesus is his interaction with the woman caught in adultery. (John 8:1-11)

The religious types were trying to trap Jesus, so they brought a woman caught having sex with someone that wasn’t her husband. In our day and age - that’s a pretty common type thing - but in that culture - marriage was really sacred (within the religious community - it was extremely sacred). The Hebrew Scriptures said that such a woman was punishable by death from stoning (the men would pick up stones and throw them at her until she died). Quite a brutal way to die actually - and I’m sure the woman was terrified when she was placed in front of this country rabbi. She thought she was a dead woman.

So, here ya have Jesus caught in the middle. He was known to be compassionate and loving - and yet - He was also a Rabbi who followed the Law (instruction) found within the Hebrew Scriptures.

The religious crowd thought they had caught Jesus.

If he let the woman go - then He would show that He didn’t take the Hebrew Law (instruction) seriously. If he allowed them to kill her - he would not be perceived as loving and compassionate - and many of his followers would be disillusioned.

There’s so much in this story - and actually reading the account in John does a much better job than what I can describe.

But there’s part of the story that is coming to light for me in a new way - that I’d never seen before - until recently. And what’s crazy is that within this very common Christian story - there lies within in it such a controversial piece. I’ve never heard anyone (from the pulpit or otherwise) point it out.

Here’s what could cause controversy within the story:

The woman caught in adultery never came to Jesus on her own will. She didn’t ask for forgiveness. She didn’t confess her belief. She didn’t join a group. She didn’t become a Christian. haha.

She was just caught. And she wasn’t caught by Jesus - she was caught by others. And there was no repentance - at least from what we can tell from this account. In fact - she was literally in the middle of her “sin” right before she was placed in front of Jesus. She wasn’t seeking Him. She didn’t do anything to get “right” with Jesus - God. She didn’t do anything be be good - or be a better person. She did nothing. Nothing.

Why is that so controversial?

It’s at her “worst” that Jesus says “then neither do I condemn you.”

She hadn’t repented. She wasn't seeking Him. She was fearing a death sentence - and believed she going to die - but there was no plea for mercy or second chances. She hadn’t figured it all out. There’s no mention of her doctrine. There’s no mention of her “role” as a woman. In fact - she was there unwillingly. This was the last place she wanted to be.

Jesus does such a good job at loving her in that spot. Humanity picks up stones to throw at the down-and-out (the “sinners”) while Jesus distracts the self righteous with finger painting in the sand - and makes everyone take a gut check at their own soul before revealing that He doesn’t condemn. John 3:17 supports idea this as well. “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

Why are we so quick to condemn? I wonder.

Why are we so quick to believe that Jesus condemns when the scriptures so often reveal the opposite?

Why do we think we have to say the right things - do the right things - know the right things - in order to be "right" with God - when so often the bible tells stories that contradict this type thinking?

And why don’t people ask more of these kinds of questions? I don't get it.

It's should be pointed out that Jesus does say "Go now and leave your life of sin." Sin meaning - rebellion to God - or - not esteeming God (putting Him in His rightful place).

But - our sin was condemned by humanity on the cross where Jesus died. "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." 2 Cor 5:21

Humanity condemned sin to the cross by killing the only righteous person who has walked the earth - God Himself. Soon after, God conquered death by rising from the grave to a new life - a new day. The problem with "sin" (broken relationship with God) is over - finished. God is greater than sin!

So, why don't we live that way? Maybe a better question is: do we really believe this? Do we really believe that the problem of sin is finished?

One pastor I heard said it best, "You're more sinful than you think you are. Get over it!" I love that. Sin is done - taken care of - whether we participate in that or not. We have peace with God the Father through Jesus - period. We just - so often - don't live that way.

What if we did live that way? What if we saw other people the way Jesus sees other people - with the loving eyes of grace and mercy? He doesn't seem as concerned about the things many church folks are concerned with. Don't you find that strange?

Well - don't take my word for it - go read the gospels again. See how He deals with sinners. Look for the controversies. Ask questions!! It's worth the time and effort - you might even be set free from bad doctrine.

You have permission to ask questions about God and the bible. If God really is God - He can handle it. Seriously. Part of loving God is loving Him with your mind - He gave it for us to use!

But - that's a whole other subject. ha!

I wonder what it would look like - if - when people reveal their worst - we responded like Jesus - and said to them, "...neither do I condemn you."

Have a great day!

Jer

Sunday, August 12, 2012

F'ing Earthquake!

"Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose." Acts 16:26

When I was in high school, every other word I spoke was a swear word. I think this habit formed when I was in Jr high - all in order to feel cool - or maybe to make me feel older, I don’t know.


I also remember saying swear words before I knew what they meant. This is funny to me now - but - when we’re kids - we’re so clueless... I had my mouth washed out with soap on more than one occasion. I got caught swearing outside my parent’s house multiple times (I have an obnoxiously loud voice - grrr). I was one smart cookie!


My senior year in high school, I started hanging out with some new friends. All of these friends were Christians and they never swore - or hardly ever swore. It’s awkward when you’re the only person in your group swearing - so I learned to not swear as much when I hung out with them. One of these friends never swore at all - ever. I had never heard anything vulgar come out of his mouth - not even once. It was weird.


One day - while playing tennis - we made a pact to stop swearing. I think we chose to do this because swear words were never really honoring to other people - and we were learning how to love - taking those first innocent steps. We made a pact that if a person swore - every other person got to hit the arm of the offender as hard as they wanted. There were 5 of us in the group - that’s four hard hits for every offense.


Looking back, this wasn’t really fair. I was the perpetual swearer. I think my friends wanted an excuse to hit me. Needless to say, my arm had many bruises over the next couple months. But - I have to admit - it worked. I actually did stop swearing. I’d replace F#%& with Fudge or Frick - or some other less offensive word. It didn’t have the force of a good swear word, but it still worked.


Flash forward three years.


I really had stopped swearing (except in cases of extreme fear or “stubbing my toe in the dark” moments). At the time, one of our friends was an exchange student in Germany - another was at Pepperdine - and the other three of us were back home in the foothills - near Sacramento. We decided on a whim, one weekend, to take a road trip to Malibu to see our friend at Pepperdine.


That weekend, we visited all over the Los Angeles area - and there were many side stories along the way (example - window shopping on Rodeo Drive - I mindlessly gave a bum some of my change and my Pepperdine friend said, “Jeremy - that bum was dressed better than you!” - and he was right. ha!) - but there’s one story that has stuck with me as if it had happened yesterday. On one of the last nights of our trip we visited Disneyland, and one of our good female friends from San Diego joined us at the park.


We did the usual fun stuff - had an amazing time - and stayed until the park closed. The four of us got in our car to drive back to Pepperdine. I don’t know the roads down south, but we found ourselves driving parallel on a freeway with our friend from San Diego - Kristen. I think this might have been after a quick Denny’s run, but I can’t quite remember. All I remember is driving parallel with Kristen at around 1:30am.


To give a visual - I was sitting in the backseat of my car behind the driver. My buddy Bil was in the front seat driving (he was older than all of us and we trusted and looked up to him). Gregg (our Pepperdine friend who I’d never heard swear) was in the passenger seat giving directions. My other buddy Chuck was sitting right next to me.


I don’t recall who said it first - if it was Gregg or Bil - but one of them said something to the effect of, “Sometimes - don’t you just wanna swear?” And we all talked about it and kept flirting with the idea of swearing - without actually swearing. I think it was Gregg that might have said the first bomb. “I F’ing (using the real F word) wanna swear right F’ing now.” - something like that.


Now - mind you - I had never heard a swear word come out of Gregg’s mouth - ever. This was about the funniest thing I had ever heard! Suddenly we were all saying every swear word we had ever known. I’ll never forget this moment until the day I die - Chuck is sitting next to me and Kristen is driving parallel to us - and she‘s got the biggest smile ever - and is waving at us - and we’re saying things like “See ya later B^$#%!” And all sorts of derogatory language. She can’t hear us, of course - but we were laughing soooooo incredibly hard as we cuss her out. Chuck is flipping her off under the window - and she can’t see it. I was laughing so hard I was crying. Serious tears streaming down my face. My stomach muscles were hurting. I’m laughing now - thinking about it.


Kristen drove on towards San Diego, and we drove towards Malibu. We went on a swearing rant for a while longer, then Bil suggested that we each get one last burst of swearing before we stopped. So, each of us, in turn went on one final rant. What was interesting to me is how many time fudge and frick kept creeping into my swear infested rant. We laughed and finally finished.


Then Bil said - “Hey - let’s pray.” haha. Again - so funny - thinking back. Praying after swearing - not something I’d ever imagined. I remember Bil’s prayer - as Chuck and I snickered in the back of the car. He said something like “God - thank you for the fun and laughter - and we didn’t mean anything from these words. Just give us a sign or something if you don’t want us to do anything like this again - and forgive us if we went to far.”


I remember the "thank you God" part - the forgive part - and the “sign” part of the prayer. We drove the rest of the way to Pepperdine and went into Gregg’s dorm room to sleep. I was exhausted from a long day and my stomach actually hurt from laughing so hard earlier - I was dead tired. I slept on the floor - Bil was on an upper bunk - Gregg in his bed - and I think Chuck was also on the floor. We were out by around 2:30 or so.


At around 4:30 am - the room we were sleeping in began to shake violently. Bil immediately woke up and started yelling “Earthquake - I think it’s an earthquake!” My first immediate thought was that it felt like Star Tours in Disneyland. Gregg and I were up - but I think Chuck was still sleeping - but then finally work up from the commotion. I do think something hit Chuck in the head, but I don’t recall exactly. The earthquake subsided and we were all wide awake. I’ll never forget looking outside the dorm window and the usual glow of light from LA was gone. It was pitch black - from the power being out.


We honestly didn’t know if this was the “big one” - in terms of the big earthquake that is possibly going to happen someday. It was actually a terrifying moment - in some ways - even though we were ok.


Turns out this quake was later named the Northridge Earthquake. There were fatalities and injuries - and it was all pretty crazy. That sequence of events is still hard to believe.


Did this happen because we swore? haha. I seriously doubt it. But, it has given me pause when I do want to swear - and that’s the truth. It's possible that God knew we'd be in that moment (that was already destined to happen anyway) to give us a sly wink wink. God - after all - did create humor - in the midst of this very tragic world. Laughter during a very tragic moment - for sure...


And - let's be honest - life is hard. We can either laugh at it - or cry. Sometimes we need to do both - with some swearing on the side. This is my story anyway...


The most eye opening moment in that journey was something that Bil had picked up on that I hadn't yet - which has taken me forever to learn. In the midst of our junk - our crud - our "sin" - God is right there with us - even when we're blind to Him. And in the midst of our junk - He is love - loving us - laughing and crying with us - He is always there.


And a simple prayer can remind us that we're not alone in this seemingly dark world - where Earthquakes can seem to ruin the party. The good news is that His love is so great that sometimes Earthquakes can even break the chains that bind us - and lead us to freedom.


I can think of one such earthquake the led to the freedom for all people. The one that happened on that wonderful - and horrific - day that Jesus died on the cross. "It is finished." - we are free...


But - wow - that earthquake day in 1994 - to this day, that is one of my favorite memories!


I don't swear often - rarely actually - but...sometimes it just feels appropriate. Y the L not, right?


Have a great fucking day! haha.


Jer



Saturday, August 11, 2012

Fan Mail!

“My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Psalm 22:1


This was an interesting piece of fan mail I got a few months back. Kinda caught me by surprise. Anyway - makes me laugh thinking about it now. Turns out - the guy who sent it (thru FB) was wasted when he wrote it. But - sometimes the truth comes out in those situations (from his perspective - of course). haha. Anyway - can’t keep this one to myself. It’s too good. ;-)


Jer



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Hey whats goin on you fat piece of shit. You probably don't remember me but I sure as hell remember you. You used to be my middle school/ high school youth group leader about 7 or so years ago at ????? Church in ????? (which has now sold out to ?????? to become ??????). You fuckin waltz out on us like the 3 or so other people after you. You had your own personal interest in mind and not God. Speaking of god, thanks to you and others like who put thier own interests and ambitions above your "god", I've walked away from the organized religion cuz douche bags like you fuck it up and corrupt it. If there is a god I'm sure as hell that he doesn't appreciate people spreading his word and then bailing out when something better comes along. I only found you cuz ur "friends" with some (not all of them) people I know. Do them a favor and tell them that ur a fuckin liar and cheat and get out of their lives before you negatively affect them. All you do is brainwash our heads and move on to the next group of suckers. You, your wife, and her loser brother who seemed cool. I still remember the faces in our youth group, do you? By the way, I didn't see you at our graduation from ????. You really are a Jer"K". (And yea, I remember that faggot ass story you told us). Eat shit and die.


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(My Reply)



Wow.


Well - first of all, it'd be nice if you got your facts straight. I didn't waltz out of (name of Church) - they let me go. And it surely wasn't over "personal interests in mind" cuz I continued to do ministry for basically no pay for the next 7 years - still doing it today. I've always been around - and I've always been doing youth work - but the Church didn't like the way I was doing it, because I was trying to reach the lost - kids that weren't going to church. They wanted to take care of their own.


Faulty fact number two - I don't give a rats ass about "organized religion" - it's Jesus I point to. I don't tell people to follow me - but to follow Jesus. If people get that wrong - if they look at my faults and cry about how their life went to hell - well - that's not my fault. I'm just a faulty dude pointing away from myself and towards the goodness of Jesus. I surely didn't bail out because something else better came along - I'm still doing the exact same thing as I was 7 years ago. If you have a bone to pick - go pick it with the Church leadership 7 years ago.


And brainwashing? Wow. If brainwashing means - use your own head - your own brain - to seek the truth in Jesus - on your own - apart from what I say about Him - then - yeah - I guess I brainwash. Cuz I always leave it in the other people's court. I don't give a crap what you believe about me. And it's truly a shame that you missed the message of love that is totally independent of me - that God has for you.


All I hear is a hurt little kid who is full of hate. Someone who took something really personal that wasn't even about him. Did ya ever think to ask that maybe I was the one that got hurt in that whole situation? You have no clue... But, it's all about you, isn't it? Wow. Just wow.


And - let's see - 2010 - you graduated at “name of HS”? I sang at that graduation with two High School students. Or was it “different HS”? I was there too. I've gone to every graduation for the last 5 years at “1st HS” and “2nd HS”. Without getting paid. Without it being my job. Without the support of "organized religion". And “Jr. High School” graduations as well. Yeah - that's my own interest. Yeah - that's me waiting for something better to come along. Going to High School and Jr. High graduations - the MOST FUN THING EVER!!! You got me pegged.


And you throw in the "eat shit and die" crap in the end. Are you still in Jr. High? That rant sounded like a temper tantrum from a little kid. Amazing.


One of the things you should do before going and spouting your mouth off is to get the facts. The easiest thing you could have done was email me this question: Why did you leave seven years ago? It wasn't cool and I would like some answers.


Maybe there could actually be a dialogue instead of mindless blah blah blah. This is what happens when people rush to judgment. Every thing you told me was judgmental. Just from what I read - you're judgmental. You sound like the "religious" one to me...


And it's fine if you don't ever like me. I'm ok with that. I really do have a ton of faults and junk in my life - and I'm sure I've pissed more people off than just you. But - just because the messenger is faulty doesn't mean the message itself should't be taken seriously. Sorry if my crud took away from the message.


Hope God opens your eyes - and hope His love penetrates your heart.


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Haha! Have a good day!


Jer

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Back

It's been a while since I wrote - and there's lots of reasons. But - regardless of the reasons (school, work, breathing, etc.) - I think I wanna try my hand at telling some stories - true stories - of life experiences. I think stories are more fun than just pointing things out. Well - let's hope. Anyway - more to come soon. Hope all is well...

Jer

Sunday, March 18, 2012

What's with the Bible?

I'm taking a class right now and it's very difficult. The difficulty isn't the content or the subject - but how it's presented. The textbook is in glorified outline style - and it's just plain boring. Not only is it boring - it's a thousand pages long! There are sections, and subsections, and subsections to the subsections. And there's laws and explanations and figures, etc. It's maybe one step above reading a dictionary or a phonebook.

There are books in the bible like this too. I remember the first time I read the books of Leviticus, Deuteronomy, and Numbers. First off - those titles - not the most exciting names one could come up with. Second - after reading the first couple chapters of each - huh? It was a combination of "what the heck are they talking about", "what's with these names?", and zzzzzzzzzz.

Context: I didn't grow up religious at all. I didn't go to any church until I was a senior in High School, and the first actual book of the bible I read was after high school (book of James). When I sat down and actually tried reading the entire bible - I set out to read it chronologically. Start at Genesis - end at Revelation. (I was inspired to read the bible from the book "Screwtape Letters" - C.S. Lewis)

Truth be told - I started at Genesis - made it through Exodus - then would hit the wall of Leviticus. I probably did this 4 or 5 times. I'd get a little farther each time - but would always stop. Finally - one of the times - I just skipped those books and went straight to Joshua (the Braveheart book of the bible - lots of battles).

All of these books made me confused. None of these books really showed me a picture of the God I knew in Jesus. And a lot of it was boring. Genesis was great. Even Exodus had wonderful moments - Moses kicked butt! But the three books after - wow. Talk about confusion. And God seemed to do strange things in the rest of the old testament - such as - ordering Joshua to destroy whole communities (men, women, and children) - and many other crazy things. The obvious questions that popped in my head at the time were "If God is good and love - how could He destroy so and so a people" - etc.

I wonder how many other people start out reading the bible like this? The bible is the most amazing book ever written - but a lot of it is written like it's Calculus when most of us are struggling with multiplication.

What is this book?

I've heard a lot of people say things like, "The bible is the roadmap of life" or "the bible tells us how to live" or "the bible is the story of how God saved us" - something like that.

I've also heard people say that the bible is the living word - it's alive - and it's holy - etc.

Maybe it is - in some way - maybe it isn't. Over the years, what I've come to find is that the bible is God's written word that reveals His Living Word: Jesus Christ. The written word is NOT the Living Word - but reveals the Living Word to people like you and me.

In the old testament - God revealed Himself to a tribe. But this was a partial revelation - with the promise of full revelation once the messiah appeared. In the gospels - the full revelation of God was seen/heard/experienced - in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. In the post gospel writings - the writers reflected on the partial and the full revelation of God to humanity. The door was opened up for the entire world to know and experience God.

If the bible is a book of revelation (revealing) - then starting with God's incarnation (God becoming human - Jesus) is probably the best place to start. What was God like? What did He do? How did He interact with people? What did He care about? How did He see people? etc.

I've met a lot of Christians that don't know a lot about Jesus. They know about the reflection writings in the bible, and even the foreshadow books in the Old Testament - but they don't seem to know Jesus as a person. I always walk away scratching my head.

I honestly believe it's how we've been taught. We're asked to read the bible - but most people don't know where to start or what to look for. So, we start chronologically (like I did) and read the bible looking for how we are supposed to live our life. Often, we look for ourselves in the bible rather than for Jesus (God). But - again - that's how many of us are taught.

What if we just looked for God?

Maybe we should just camp at the gospels for a while - really get to know God through the person of Jesus. I think many of us would be surprised at what we find. Jesus Christ is the walking definition of love - and He is known as a friend of sinners. And there's no God hiding behind Jesus. That means - God (the Father, Son, Spirit) is a friend of sinners. That's not controversial, it's just plain true. I like how Paul puts it:

"We're speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he's already a friend with you." (2 Cor 5:20)

I have a lot more to say on this - but I'll end here. May God guide you as you seek Him.

Jer

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Where am I going?

"As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector's booth. "Follow me," he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him." (Mt. 9:9)

One of the struggles I've recently discovered about my life is that instead of responding to the call of Jesus, I turn the question on Him and ask Him to follow me. I might set out upon a task and ask for God's blessing (Come follow me, Jesus). I might want something out of a relationship (come follow me Jesus). Even as a missionary - I tend to go into my daily tasks telling Jesus - "Come on - catch up!" The truth is, most days I rarely listen to His call to simply follow Him.

How many of us do that, actually? We want what we want, and then say to God - "Come follow me" in whatever endeavor we're marching towards. How many of us actually just listen and follow where Jesus might be leading, as opposed to telling Him where we really want to go and asking Him to bless us.

I love how Jesus deals with Matthew in this subject. Matthew was minding his own business in the middle of his job collecting taxes - and Jesus walks by - Jesus says, "Follow me", so Matthew gets up and begins to follow. At this point, Matthew had no idea where Jesus was leading Him. He could have been going to the next town, or some random place, but - as he followed - he recognized the streets he was passing. In fact, Jesus led him straight back to his own house! He led him straight to a normal and familiar place - not some outlandish romantic town far, far away - or some scary building with people that are wearing their nicest clothes to look good. I think that's pretty interesting.

Jesus must have told Matthew to tell all his friends to hang out because the next scene in the story is a feast at Matthew's house with a ton of tax collectors and "sinners". We don't see in this story Jesus telling Matthew, "Go to random places and invite random people to Church." haha! He tells Matthew to invite his friends to his home and have a feast. Jesus loves sinners - that's such good news!

Some of us want to be martyrs for our causes - even for Jesus. I think it's because we want to feel important. Jesus already thinks you're important - valuable. You don't have to "do" anything for that to be the truth.

And maybe He just wants to lead you to the familiar - your home. Consider putting aside your own agenda and seeking Him. Don't seek His blessing (you already have it - through the cross) - or how He can make life better for you. Learn to go where He goes. Learn to accept His invitation to follow - and keep it simple - just follow. Don't lead.

Yes - I know - easier said than done. But - He's the creator of life - He knows what's good and best for us. Maybe we should trust Him.

What I've learned in life is that when I lead, I fall. I end up hurting myself and others more often than I'd like to admit. So, I speak to myself as much as anyone else in this post. May we hear our good Savior's call - and may we be blessed for hearing His sweet voice and following wherever He leads - even if it's to our own home.

Jer

Friday, February 10, 2012

Grass

We are fragile people.


I’ve been sick the last week and it’s been pretty awful. The worst part is that it’s been hard for me to think. My sinus crud is interfering with my mind. I feel like I’ve been walking in a fog. I’ve taken a ton of medication but it hasn't done anything. It's only got worse. Now I am finally feeling like I’m starting to come out of it - at least the headache part - although I’m still hackin’ up a lung.


It’s made me think of how fragile everything truly is. We take our thoughts, our hands and feet, our 5 senses - we take them for granted. At least - I do. I remember years ago getting a really bad sprain in my ankle - the pain was unbearable - and I sat there in the midst of my pain amazed that I had never thanked God for a normal ankle. Pain - it does something. It makes us grateful. Sounds kinda backwards - but - for me - it seems to be the truth. I’m not naturally thankful. I forget and get an entitled mindset.


Especially when we get “normal” - we just tend to forget. Well - I can’t speak for you - but I forget. I forget how fragile I am and I begin to take things for granted again. Every one of us is 5 minutes from losing anything - or everything. Everything we have is a gift. We act like entitled children when, in fact, we own nothing. One day - we will lose it all. Everything. Our thoughts, our mobility, our “cool”ness - everything. We have such a short time on this Earth.


We are fragile people.


Psalm 103:14-16


14 “for he knows how we are formed,

he remembers that we are dust.

15 As for man, his days are like grass,

he flourishes like a flower of the field;

16 the wind blows over it and it is gone,

and its place remembers it no more.”