TWO THINGS: 2

“So how are things going for you?”

Some form of that question is asked on any given day as we pass people, come to work, show up at the coffee shop; it is a greeting that suggests familiarity, pretends some sort of compassion and empathy, but is lived out in apathy. What if you actually answered it for yourself today?
It the midst of life, Jeremiah, the prophet, TELLS us how things are going rather than asking us how they are going. (Well he does for Israel thousands of years ago any way.)

Jeremiah that prophet

Jeremiah is just not a happy guy. He is a downer. You just want to say, “Come on man, say something encouraging!” I’m reading Jeremiah right now and it has the same appeal as reading the actual contents on the side of a tube of Preparation H. Just a lot of scientific words I don’t know, and lacking in encouragement; right now at least. As I’m beginning this book I find myself with Facebook open in front of me and I’m reading Jeremiah 2 at the same time. There is a lot of looking from screen to page, from screen to page over and over. Not because I need to see what is happening in the digital social construct we call our world, but because there is so much correlation between what I am seeing and what Jeremiah is saying.

Jeremiah 2:13 (NIV)
“My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken me,
the spring of living water,
and have dug their own cisterns,
broken cisterns that cannot hold water.

Jolly Rancher

It is some pretty relevant scripture right there. Our souls would do well to take time to ponder this. Think of “pondering” like putting a Jolly Rancher in your mouth and just swirling it around and around. (it may be true that I have a raspberry Jolly Rancher in my mouth at this moment; don’t judge me) Explore the reality of your relationship to God in heaven for a while and your relationship to this passage. Fight against the human machine and the social extreme by grabbing the brake and giving it a YANK!! Slow down today for a moment. Let’s just be with God and hear this word from yesteryear.

TWO THINGS: #1

There are two things that God needed to tell Israel about. The first one is that they have forsaken God. There is a lot of this world that is attacking your heart and your desires as you go through life: things, attention, popularity, fame, love, sex, and a whole host of material possessions. God is calling us to not allow anything to take his place of priority in our lives. Clearly the Israelites had decided that the other “gods” (that are actually not gods at all); gods of various immoral worship practices; sexual as well as infanticide would be more fun. God is calling them out for walking away from him. He is GOD and he will not be ignored, cast aside or get off the throne. So, God allowed them to receive the consequences of not remaining under his protection. People talk about where is God when things go south, or go wrong, and the answer is always the same: You rejected God and pushed him away, now you are reaping the consequences of this choice.

WHAT ABOUT YOU?

What about you? Are you confessing being a theological Christian or Christ -follower, yet you are living like a practical Atheist? You read what Jesus said but you don’t do what Jesus said unless you like it. Don’t rise up in angst or feigned umbrage, (there’s a word for ya! It means, “offence or annoyance”) you know this happens all the time. For some reason we are “selling” Jesus like he is a club, or a group to join, when truly he is God to whom we surrender. God is not a Sunday morning checklist item. He is not a daily Bible reading chore to fulfill. He is not a good work that will earn you a right standing “in the end.” God is our father: he is a relationship to rejoice in above all others. He wants to walk with you. It does start in the Bible but it continues on as we learn to walk in the Spirit. But be honest, there are a lot of people that claim to follow Jesus, but they live in rejection of his teachings because the teachings don’t make personal sense to them. So they rationalize a whole new God that cannot be supported without serious hermeneutical calisthenics: TWISTING OF THE SCRIPTURES. Doing what Jesus said to do is costly and doesn’t always, or often, make sense; do it anyway. God says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” Is 55:8.

TWO THINGS #2

The second thing is that Israel is digging it’s own cisterns. (a cistern is an underground tank or reservoir for storing rainwater) God contrasts cisterns with a spring of constant cisternconsistent fresh water. What God offers in our relationship to him is good, it is fresh and it is eternal. Cistern water is stored water. It can get algae in it. It can become stagnant and putrid. Spring water is always being refreshed, it is moving through. God wants what is best for us. God is good, God is love, God gives eternal life. But we are a people that want what we want for some of the dumbest reasons at times. Even Israel in her early days rejected God being their leader for a King so they could be like every other nation around them. We want to be like everyone else. We want to keep up with the Joneses. We want more than everyone else so we can be impressive and important. We want to be a people that can “do it ourselves.” We want to brag about what we have accomplished. We want to leave out God and his part in our lives; he won’t stand for that though. The world we live in says, “Look what I did,” and even when we become Christians, we tend to revert to “Ok I got this God thanks, leave me alone now, I’ll do it myself.” But we are dependent upon God even when we don’t know it. We don’t make the sun run its course. We don’t keep the world spinning on its precarious axis of 23 degrees. We do not determine how much rain will fall and where or when it will fall. We don’t create the droughts. As humans we cannot even tell people where existence came from. The fool has said in his heart there is no God.

WHAT ABOUT YOU?

Back to the same question, “What about you?” Are you living your life on your terms, by your own created, rationalized, standards, or are you in a living relationship with God? In Matthew 7 Jesus said not all who say Lord, Lord will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Those people did good, religious, and spiritually powerful things, but apparently it wasn’t what God was telling them to do, it was what they wanted to do. They were digging their own cisterns and asking God to bless it.

We serve a God that still speaks today. Through the Bible, through circumstances, through other people, through music, through prayer and through community: God wants us to listen and obey.

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IS IT DARK WHERE YOU ARE?

“Why are you crying? Who is it that you are looking for?”

unworthy tearSome times when we are sad, depressed and can’t seem to gather our courage, we just stop moving. We don’t look for God.

Mary had no reason in her mind to look for Jesus. She saw the stone rolled away. She saw the empty tomb. She saw the morning come. And she saw the gardener; that guy standing over there behind her, or beside her. She maybe saw him out of the corner of her eye. When he came to comfort her she was willing to interact, she was willing to allow him to touch her pain. She let him in, just a little bit. “Why are you crying, who is it that you are looking for?”

People 

I get to interact with people everyday. Some people are having a great day. Some people are facing very scary circumstances. Shoot, sometimes I‘m facing giants in my own life. I’m going to shoot straight with you, this “life of the pastor thing” sometimes, is way too much fun and then sometimes it is not all sunshine and lollipops. No sirrreeee, sometimes it is down right scary!!

Do you know what to do?
Do you know what to say?
and do you know where to go?
God are you listening?
God they are mean.
God they are stingy.
and God they are scaring me to death.

And then there is the occasional, “Man this has got to be a great gig, I’m feeling called to the ministry” or “So what, you work an hour a week on Sunday, two if you have multiple services? I need me some of this.” “What do you do all day?” Pastors are not immune to depression, self loathing, and struggling with life. Hahahahahahahaha, Sometimes it’s even crazy here at the church and if you came in you would see that the crazies are running the show. Heeeelllllppppp!

Really though, what do you do when life is just on hold?
What do you do when the darkness seems a little too dark for you to step out into the light?

 MARY M and Mary MOJ

Mary was having that kind of day. This is Mary Magdalene, not Mary the Mother of Jesus. Can you imagine Mary the Mother of Jesus’ weekend? Her very first Easter and what a downer it was. Seriously now, I cannot comprehend the tragedy of losing a child, even an adult child. And then for it to be the Son of God you lost to murder. Here you are, 33 years after you tried to convince people that this pregnancy was an act of God, just when things were looking like the community was believing that he was the Son of God, or at least that he was someone special to God, this happens.

What an Easter this is turning into. 

Those stinking Romans! Big mean nasty warriors and fighters that think they can do what ever they like! THEY HAD NO CAUSE. What about those religious leaders? Hauling her son into the Romans; couldn’t even do their own dirty work, and it WAS DIRTY WORK!!!! Yeah, who did they think they were? What an Easter this was turning into.

Oh it WAS a special week. People may not have recognized that it was the first Easter, but it was still special. It was a couple days after the Passover. BIG holiday for the Jewish people: BIG. Now it was the week of the Feast of Unleavened bread. It was time to remember how faithful God had been to Moses and the gang. God didn’t appear to be faithful to the followers of Jesus. People were celebrating, not this small group of Jesus followers. Small may be an inappropriate term, they were a group bigger than 80% of the churches in America if my understanding is right about 80% of the churches in America.

 Mary M again

Back to Mary Magdalene, It was dark. It was dark for everyone that weekend. At this moment in time Mary is standing, in the morning, at the tomb, with a gardener. At Mary’s darkest hour at the time, she didn’t see Jesus standing there.

God is standing next to Mary. The apple of her eye, the reason for her concern, the answer to her pain, is standing right next to her. Sometimes we are so hurt, the pain is so much, we are so dejected, that we miss that God is right there. Could we but lift our eyes and ask a question, we would hear Jesus call our name. The pain may not go away, the hurting may not stop, but we would realize in that moment that we are not alone.

 GOD

You are not alone.
God said he would never leave you,
nor would he forsake you.
In your darkest moment he is right there with you.
You will grieve, you will ache, you will be in pain,
but God wants to walk with you.
He wants to meet you at the point of your deepest grief,
at the place of your biggest fear,
at the depth of your loneliest moment
and the height of greatest trial.

God is standing right there. Lift your chin and look a round. He may look like someone you don’t know. He may be a song whispering in your ear. He maybe a Word that you read in the Scripture. He could be anywhere but he is there with you. You don’t see him because you don’t expect him. Let him surprise you, lift your chin.

Look around, He is RISEN indeed.

The sun is coming up, it is Easter in your life, He is risen, look for the Lord.