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I wanted to take a moment to communicate to my followers and readers that I am sorry for not writing that many posts these last few months.  It has been a very busy semester in seminary full-time, working full-time  and filling in as an interim pastor at a local church.  And that is all on top of my greater responsibilities of being a husband and father.

I am sure you all understand and have in the past or are experiencing hectic schedules.  I just wanted to let you all know, I have not given up on the blog but have had no practical time to focus on it much.  Thank you for being so supportive of Jeremiah’s Trumpet!

Blessings!

Jeremy

The Gospels all speak to Jesus being a man who often got away to be ALONE and pray.  Perhaps Luke brings this out the most.  Many scholars have pointed to the strategic locations in the Gospels where Jesus is seen praying before he casts out a demon or heals the sick.  Prayer is something that Jesus views as being an essential discipline for living a life of service to God and others.  There are many reasons why it is essential but there is one that I have found that does not get as much attention…the therapy of aloneness.

We live in a world of a constant whirlwind of people and noise.  When our calling is to be a servant of ALL, it is inevitable that we will most likely spend alot of time around people and often times be enveloped by their situations.  As honorable and necessary as this may be, we need to get away to be alone and alone with the Lord.  I believe that this is key to a successful ministry and Christian life.  There is something therapeutic about being alone and being revived and reenergized by the silence and stillness.  It allows us to refocus and regain our barings. 

Finally, I would like to mention that we need to be supportive and respectful of others’ needs for this alone time with the Lord.  I know that as a married man there are times I need to allow my wife to be alone with no children.  After a long week of working, it may feel like I deserve it more than her.  There are also times when she feels the same way, she knows I need alone time but wonders when we can fit it in.  The truth is…we need to MAKE time for ourselves and for others to just be alone.  Even if it is for an hour or two…it is NECESSARY!

Is there anyone that you could offer a time for them to be alone?  Maybe they have kids and you could watch them, or pets.  Maybe they work for or with you and you could offer to cover for them.  Usually people won’t ask for that time from us.  So don’t wait for them to or say to them, “Well I didn’t know you needed alone time…you never asked.”  Just assume they need it on this one, okay?

Perhaps one the most fascinating people of our time in my opinion is Christopher Hitchens.  Hitchens is a well educated journalist who attended Oxford.  There is so much more to say about his unique life than I am willing to take the time here.  However, he is an outstanding debater on sundry subjects and is both witty and bold.

Hitchens describe himself as an antitheist instead of an atheist.  In many of his debates against religion he describes an antitheist as someone who does not believe in God but also is relieved that such a tyrannical god does not exist.  Hitchens calls upon Reason and Logic as his tools of truth and wields them against all of his religious opponents. 

Hitchens however does not hide away in a corner.  Instead he is very willing to debate any and all religious devotees who would like to step into the rhetorical ring with him.  Several well known ministers, theologians, and authors of various faith traditions have taken on the challenge.  Since I am a Christian I am mostly concerned with his debates with fellow-believers.  He has debated Douglas Wilson, Alister McGrath, Marvin Olasky, and even Al Sharpton (that one was hilarious and embarassing). 

Here’s the problem though.  Out of all we have offered him…in my opinion he has won every debate.  He is not only brilliant but he is unapologetically bold.  I find that many very intelligent Christians simply become intimidated and back down.  Now each one comes at him from a different angle.  I must say if they would actually sit down and pull all their thoughts together they may fare better. 

Olasky came at him from the approach of personal experience and attacked Hitchens’ generalizations.  McGrath, also a graduate from Oxford and a brilliant man came at him from the fields of science, philosophy, and theology.  In my opinion McGrath has done the best.  Wilson started out will but ran out of steam.  He came from the field of logic, philosophy and theology.  Al Sharpton…well ugh…yeah.

So I wonder, is there any Christian out there who could at least stay on equal playing field with Hitchens?  Where are our G.K. Chestertons?  Where is our witty version of Hitchens?  He is indeed a words-smith and if you don’t agree with him he is at least VERY entertaining to watch.  As a Christian I am intrigued by this man.  I would love to spend a day with him or write his biography.  He has given me reason for many sleepless nights of pondering my faith.

I just wonder though…is there anyone who can counter this guy?  The Church needs to step up their game on him.  Either way I will be writing more on this in the future and the New Atheism as it is being called.  But I would like to hear your thoughts.

In the warm spring and summer months I enjoy the tranquility of fishing.  I frequent a small creek in our area as much as I can.  Those days tend to yield more moments of deep thought and reflection than they do fish.  For me, it is very therapeutic.  I usually catch northern pike, but I often see bass jumping along the shore line.  It is so exciting to see those guys explode out of the water to grab a frog or a mouse.  However, the creek is highly populated by large carpe.  These guys are aquatic disappointments.  Picture it: there I am in the cool hours of the morning, the world is quiet and the sun is slowly peeking over the horizon.  The surface of the water is smooth as glass and I am deep in thought.  All of a sudden I feel a slight jerk on my fishing pole and at a distance I can see the outline of a large fish playing with my bait.  The adrenaline kicks, my blood starts pumping, and my heart is racing in anticipation.  But as the fish turns slightly I can make out that it is only a carpe.  Oh…the let down. 

If you know anything about carpe, you know that they are not the fish you want playing with your bait.  Essentially, carpe are bottom feeders, that is they eat all the garbage on the bottom of the water.  You know, decaying fish, a twinkie the last fisherman dropped in the water, trash…anything that sinks and doesn’t float…crap.  And the old saying is true, “You are what you eat.”  And boy do they taste like it.  Now, I don’t mean to insult those who like to eat them.  To each their own…but…yuck!

I am not just interested in telling you how gross carpe are or how much of a let down they can be.  I intend on using them as a metaphor.  You see, although carpe may be the fish that I see the most of on a trip, like all fish they are skittish.  Now they may have a higher danger tolerance than most fish but they do have a breaking point.  And so if you don’t actually see them feeding you will definitely see them scatter.  When carpe scatter they are not silent about it.  Their obnoxious action of fleeing is a sort of defence mechanism.  They turn and bolt with a sudden and violent jerk.  The jerking causes a loud splash at times or a burst of ripples in and on the water.  As they do this they stir up a wall of mud and soot at the bottom of the water and the seer can no longer see in front of them.  The predator or observer’s once crystal clear vision is suddenly and violently blurred.  The predator becomes confused and often gives up on its goal. 

This is where I will play upon the metaphor.  For many years I have felt God’s calling on my life as many of you may have.  But there was something wrong.  As much as I wanted to accomplish the goals God had for me, it always seemed a bit out of reach.  So what was the problem?  SIN.  Sin was the problem.  I would see others achieve and reach their goals and God’s vision and I couldn’t quite understand why them and not me.  Yet all the time I knew that I had sin in my life that I hadn’t dealt with. 

You see I knew what to do, I even could see the goal ahead of me.  But as I would begin to pursue it something would happen.  Like that carpe fleeing and kicking up a cloud of filth, this is what sin was doing in my life…or rather, I was allowing sin to do.  Sin is very dangerous and deceiving.  It convinces you that you can have it both ways.  It manipulates you into thinking you can follow God AND play with the devil’s fire.  But the truth is…YOU CAN’T!  God won’t allow it. 

I learned over time two things.  First, having sin in my life kicks up a lot of dirt and confuses me.  I can’t see clearly, think clearly, feel clearly, love clearly, be me clearly, worship God clearly or do anything clearly.  Everything becomes blurred.  Secondly I learned that it is not just sin that kicks up the dirt but God.  Let me explain.  It is the grace of God that our vision becomes blurred and can’t perceive clearly what he wants us to do next.  Why?  Well let me answer that with a question.  What would happen if the Lord let us move ahead with our sin at our side into his plans?  I think you get.  Bad things would happen.  We would not only hurt ourselves but we would hurt a numerous amount of people too. 

Sin is evil.  It is horrible and will rob you of your life if you let it.  If we want God to move and act in our lives and bring about his vision for us, we must divorce ourselves completely from our sin.  Determine that you are done with it, repent and ask God for forgiveness, and yield yourself to his transforming power to change you by his Spirit.  Now this will be a process but it is a process you must allow his Spirit to work in you.  As you do you will see things will become clearer and God will be able to work freely in your life.  God bless you brothers and sisters.  I will be praying for you all and I ask for your prayers.  We all need prayer because none of us are perfect. 

Amen.

So here they are!

1. Revelation.  Why?  Because it is read too much by too many people who know too little about it or apocalyptic literature style and genre.  It has been twisted to fit the whims and desires of old men whose scholarship hasn’t amounted to a hill of beans.  But they knew they could write a series of books based on flimsy prophetic interpretations that Walter Brueggemann, Einstein, and Jonathan Edwards couldn’t follow.  Pastors that preach the eschatological paradigm these guys have made up don’t understand it from scripture but memorize the old men’s books.

2. Jude. Why? Because no one reads it and the ones that do don’t remember what is in that single chapter.  If I wrote something with one chapter that’s barely a page long, would it be called a book?  When was the last time someone taught from Jude in your church.

1 O Lord, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me; 2 many are saying to me, “There is no help for you in God.” (Selah) 3 But you, O Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, and the one who lifts up my head. 4 I cry aloud to the Lord, and he answers me from his holy hill. (Selah) 5 I lie down and sleep; I wake again, for the Lord sustains me. 6 I am not afraid of ten thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around. 7 Rise up, O Lord! Deliver me, O my God! For you strike all my enemies on the cheek; you break the teeth of the wicked. 8 Deliverance belongs to the Lord; may your blessing be on your people! (Psalm 3 NRSV)

My first thought as I read this psalm, is a sense of unworthiness.  What I mean is this; the Psalmist is obviously living in a hostile world where real, tangible, blood-thirsty folks surround him.  Yet, in this dangerous world where he is living he finds a peace and security in God.  Even though he is like an oxygen bubble in an ocean of water pressing all about to burst in, he has trust in the Lord. 

Here in my warm home, in front of my expensive computer, near my kitchen full of food and beverage…I have a difficult time thinking of who my enemies are.  There is Canada to the north, but regardless of our differences in world views, we have a pretty good relationship.  There is Mexico to the south whom we have a decent relationship with as well.  Then there is our world class military that offers us a bit of security as well, so that if the Canadians and Mexicans woke up tomorrow morning and decided they were going to invade us…I wouldn’t be all together fearful per se.  There are the terrorists however, who seem to be out for our destruction, but even that seems quite removed. 

So who are my enemies that I can relate this psalm to that would make me feel as threatened as he does?  Some tend to over-spiritualize the Psalms, making the enemies spoken of to be evil spirits or unfortunate things like sickness or poverty.  Though this may seem like the case it stills seems to fall quite short of the reality our Psalmist is living in.  To be plainly blunt…I have a difficult time relating to the Psalmists on these issues and at times feel quite guilty about it. 

“Why’s that?” one may ask.  Because I am aware of the fact that there are indeed many Christians around the globe, as I type, that are experiencing the reality the Psalmist experienced in his day.  So what this leads me to is this: instead of fabricating some pseudo-reality in my head about metaphorical enemies, I think it is best to feel the emotions and the tension the Psalmist is painting for us here and in the Psalms to come.  To sense that reality, connecting it best to our understanding and epathy of Christians around the world in the midst of persecution, and pray for them.  Pray that they will experience the same sense of security as our Psalmist felt, and trust in the Lord. 

However, I am not one to say in response to all needs, “Just pray.”   Often times that is a very passive way out of taking action to help in other ways.  So I ask myself and encourage you to do the same, what can I do to help encourage and strengthen those who are being persecuted?  Say missionaries or sister churches around the world.  Can I send a letter of encouragement and ask if there is anything they need?   Could I send more resources, like food and drink, clothes and books, etc?  How can I ease some pressure? 

Even this may seem a bit trivial in comparison to what they are going through, but communication goes a long way over and against silence.  And this may be exactly what they hear when they turn their ears our way for support…silence.

For those who are blessed enough to have them, family is one of the most prescious gifts God has ever given us.  The old saying goes, “Blood runs thicker than water.”  This statement is referring to the idea that blood relatives will be there no matter what.  If your car breaks down on the side of the road, they’ll be there.  If your sick, they will help nurse you back to health.  They are there sharing all of your good times in life and all of the bad.  They verbalize their love for you as well as illustrating it in action.  Then there are those times when you just need a family member to tell you something no one else will, like, “You know, sometimes you are so stubborn and opinionated it just turns people off.”

Yet there is another side of family that can ruin and shipwreck your walk with God.  You will not only experience this if you try to surrender all to our Lord but scripture is filled with warnings and examples of this unfortunate truth.  Since I was a young man I knew God had a calling on my life in some form.  As I sought after him I was led to realize that it is in teaching scripture and possibly into the pastorate one day.  When I was in my early twenties I had a family member ask me what my plan for life was.  I told this person that it was to be in the ministry.  This person’s response was, “Well how much money does that make?”  Unfortunately, this was simply one of many questions and comments I dealt with from family memebers. 

Let’s look at Abraham the father of both the Jewish and Christian faith.  It is well known that in Genesis 12 and 15 God made big promises and a covenant with Abraham.  What was one of the first things God commanded Abraham to do?  In Genesis 12:1 God tells Abraham to basically, “Get up and get the heck away from your family!”  Why would God do such a thing?  Aren’t families a good thing, a blessing?  Well yes and no.  Families have a way of reminding you of who you are and not what God has re-created you to be.  In 2 Corinthians 5:17 Paul tells us that, “if anyone is in Christ, they are a new creature: old things are passed away; behold all things are new.”  When you live a life in Christ the old you is changed into a new you so that those who knew the old you might not even recognize the new one.  I work with a gentleman who a was nothing but a sloppy negative alcoholic a year ago until the Lord got ahold of him and flipped-turned that man right side up.  He is NOTHING like that guy I once knew.  He is living for the Lord, his attitude and lifestyle changed and I actually don’t mind being around him any more.  That is just one person of many who I have seen that change. 

The problem with family is they seen you grow up and they know your parents.  In their eyes you are usually reduced to that kid who was always whining or that teenager who just couldn’t stop screwing up.  Or they remember you as that girl who was just so danty with curls or that shy high schooler who had few friends.  Whatever the case may be they can’t help but minimizing you to that image.  Even Jesus experienced this when he went to minister in his hometown in Matthew 13:53-58.  In those days many of the satellite towns like Nazareth were small communities networked like families.  These people could not get their minds around Jesus’ wise teachers and miracles?  Why no?  Matthew tells us that they were stuck on who he used to be (a boy) and who his family was.  They could not see him as a prophet, none the less the Messiah.  Jesus growing frustrated said, “A prophet is without honor in his hometown and in his house.” 

If Jesus struggled with this what chance do you and I have?  Most families can’t see God at work in your life, because they can’t look past YOU!  A disciple of our Lord has two options here.  First, the disciple can yield to the family in agreement that they are “just this or that but not what God intends them to be.”  Many take this route because we live in a society of people pleasers and this path is the easiest.  In a sermon by John Piper, he calls these folks “second-handers” because they settle for the second-hand life box that the family puts them in.  Yet he explains a further truth.  He says that if you live your life trying to please other people you will live as a slave for the rest of your life.  We become our family’s slave when we have to ALWAYS please them.

The second path and the one the Lord wills for our lives is the one he had to choose.  In Matthew 12:46-50 Jesus is found teaching to the crowds when his biological family comes looking for him.  A disciple goes up to Jesus and tells him that his family is there to see him.  Jesus responds by saying, “Who is my family?  These here are my family, those who do the will of my Father.”  What did Jesus do?  He adopted a NEW family, a family of the kingdom.  In Matthew 19:16-30 we learn that we who follow Christ will often have to leave our families to join the family of God just like Abraham did many years hence. 

This may sound a bit harsh, but more so to the family who is holding someone back from doing the true will of God.  Some family members just like to be the one in control.  This can come from a grandparent, a husband or wife, a mother or father, a mother or father-in-law, a brother or a sister.  Yet all control needs to be yielded to God, not mom or dad. 

Often times family will not even give two hoots about the ministry God has raised you up for.  They may show little to no support and try to even talk you off of your pedastal.  You may have a ministry of writing books and they won’t read even on line.  You might pastor a church and they won’t visit or even ask for a cd.  You may do some sort of outreach and they won’t ask a single question about it.  You may create a ministry blog or site and they will NEVER visit it.  We are indeed without honor from them. 

As frustrating as this may all be, you must decide in your heart who your true family is.  In agreement with Ephesians 3:14-15 we must yield to our Father and receive our family of believers that we have been adopted into.  Here you ought to find the unconditional love and support you need for your calling.  Here you will find those who should be able to look past YOU and not hold you to who you used to be.  We belong to a new family now in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

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