Ashes to Fire Reflection – Cracked Cisterns, Blind Spots, and Why the Prophet Jeremiah Might Have Been a Country Singer

“Looking for love in all the wrong places” is a well-known country song lyric that singer Johnny Lee made popular.  If you know this lyric you may be a child of the 70’s or 80’s since it was released on the Urban Cowboy album in 1980.   While reading our Ashes to Fire scripture passage from Jeremiah 2:1-13 today it struck me that Jeremiah could have composed that line.  Who knows, maybe the prophet Jeremiah was a Country Singer.

In today’s reading Jeremiah composes some lines that really helps us identify a huge blind spot that is very common.  In fact, we might say that this blind spot is the mother of all blind spots. Jeremiah is called of God to proclaim not what the people want to hear, but rather what they really need to hear.  God’s word for the people is straight to the point.  The word is that the people of God had started their journey with great devotion and love for God, but that somewhere along the line they had strayed from their devotion and dependence upon God replacing him with worthless idols.  The exact line is: “They followed worthless idols and became worthless themselves”.  And then this penetrating line: “for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living water, and dug out cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that can hold no water”.   Cisterns were reservoirs that held life-giving water in the arid land of the Middle East.

Jeremiah reveals that even Israel’s priests, prophets, and those who knew the law of God best were blind to the leakage of life that took place due to dependence upon their self-made idols.  Idol making and worshipping was prevalent in the culture of their day.   Many worshipped these gods in addition to giving lip service to the Lord because they held out the promise of fertility, success with their crops, and good fortune in life.  The word of God through Jeremiah is that His people are looking for fruitful, successful, love filled lives in all the wrong places, and their very life is leaking out leaving them diminished and devastated.

Although we may not carve self-made idols of wood and stone to worship in our present day we are still tempted to place something, or someone in the place of the living God.   How often do we look for love, fulfillment, success, true happiness, or our self-worth in all the wrong places?   The one thing we know for sure is that the temptation to drink from cracked and leaky cisterns is as common today as it was when Jeremiah proclaimed God’s Word for God’s people.  Whenever we begin to believe, or trust in, the things that our culture tell us will bring love, satisfaction, or result in success – money, fame, power, sex, and the list goes on – a blindness covers our souls.  We become blind to the fact that anything we put in the place of God becomes nothing more than a leaky, cracked reservoir that will always run dry.

As we walk through this Lenten season many of us are fasting in order to strip away something that we commonly lean upon to fill our lives (food, Facebook, other sorts of media, etc.) so we can clearly seek after the One true source of living water, Jesus Christ!  If we are honest, we are all tempted to look to other things (cracked cisterns) instead of the life-giving water of God’s grace that never runs dry.  The Great News is that Jesus came to meet us in our mess.  He came to remove the blind spots which are the illusions  our idols create.  Ask God to reveal any idols you may be depending upon instead of devoting yourself completely to Jesus and His love.  Allow him to burn away the blind spots so he can lead you to the water that never runs dry.  He loves you too much to allow you to drink from cracked cisterns that allow your very life to leak out!  Also, you will not want to miss this coming Sunday’s message as we look at a woman who wrestled with blind spots that were keeping her from receiving living water. It’s a rather sordid story told by John recorded in John 4.  It has all the makings of a great Country Song.  Who knows, maybe John was a Country Singer as well.

Grace and Peace,

∼ Pastor Ron

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Ashes to Fire – Midweek Reflections

“People don’t resist change, they resist loss. And most change produces loss.”
– Quote from Nazarene Youth Leadership Conference 2017

I heard this quote during our final session yesterday, and while it certainly struck me during our session, I found myself revisiting the quote after reading the Gospel reading from Wednesday’s devotion – John 2:22-3:15.

If you haven’t read the passage yet, a quick summarization is that a religious leader by the name of Nicodemus comes to Jesus to inquire about his true identity. Jesus stumps him with the statement that unless an individual is born again, he or she cannot see the Kingdom of God. Nicodemus, though a smart and educated man, is a bit dumbfounded by Jesus’ response, and they go back and forth before Nicodemus seemingly gives up his quest to understand.

This is quite the conversation! We have a Pharisee, one of the religious groups that opposed Jesus’ Messianic claims, who is curious and seemingly interested in discovering who Jesus is. But there’s a catch. In v. 2, two small words stand out above the rest: “at night.”

You might be asking, “Why is this important? Do those two words really make a difference here?”

You see, Nicodemus was afraid of the potential loss associated with this conversation. He couldn’t possibly be seen having an authentic conversation with Jesus…he’d face ridicule, and maybe even face damaging political and social repercussions because of this. And so he comes in the thick of night.

In other words, Nicodemus resists loss. This is further evidenced by the fact that when Jesus dives deeper into who he is as the Messiah and what it means to be a follower of him, Nicodemus fades from the story and we don’t encounter him again…until John 7, and also John 19. And in those places, it seems like he is still wrestling with the losses that a change of allegiances could produce.

Lent is a season of surrender. A season of loss. It’s a time for us to pause and reflect upon the Jesus’ journey to the cross, as well as his invitation to us to join him in laying down our lives and picking up our crosses.

And so if you haven’t yet, I encourage you to ask God what that might be this Lenten season.

What might God be calling you to lose?
What might God be calling you to surrender?
Could you…would you…give it up?

Eternal and merciful Father, help us to be okay with losing that we may gain. Help us to loosen our grip over our possessions and our desires for our lives, and to hold fast to your great and precious promises. Empty us, that we may be filled with you.

~ Pastor Joe

Ashes to Fire:  Burning Away the Blind Spots!

As we begin our series “Ashes to Fire:  Burning Away the Blind Spots” I would like to share a story found in the “Ashes to Fire” devotional for today, the first Sunday of Lent.

A workman went to his big boss one day and said.  “I’m tired.  I think I’ll take my retirement benefits and hang it up.  It’s been great working for you.”

The big boss looked disappointed and said, “I really hate to see you go.  I was hoping you could do at least one more big job for me.  Will you, just one more?”  Reluctantly the builder agreed to build a house for some important client of the big boss.

It was a big house, a big job, a lot of work.  It was on a golf course, with a lot of detail.  But the man’s heart wasn’t in it.  He threw the house together in record time and cut corners on material and labor wherever he could.  He saved the boss a lot of money, but it wasn’t really his best work and he knew it.

Imagine how he felt when he turned the keys over to the big boss and the boss gave them right back and fished around in his briefcase and gave him the title and deed to the property on the golf course.

This is my gift for you!  he said.  “Thanks for all your good work over the years!” 

Then the builder wished he hadn’t been in such a hurry.  He wished he hadn’t cut corners and taken shortcuts just to get the job done. ~Ashes to Fire Year A, Page 24.

From our perspective it is not hard to observe that the builder was shortsighted.  Isn’t that always the way it is with temptation?  Temptation seeks to blind us to the ugly consequences of taking shortcuts.   When Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness the first temptation he faced was to take the short cut of self-gratification.  When hungry and famished He was tempted to self-satisfy instead of waiting in dependence upon His heavenly Father.  How often are we tempted to satisfy legitimate desires in illegitimate ways instead of waiting on our heavenly Father’s provision?  When tempted Jesus quoted a well-known text from the book of Deuteronomy:  “Man does live on bread alone,  but every word that comes out of the mouth of the Lord.”  When we seek to fulfill our needs by taking shortcuts instead of following the leading of God it builds a shoddy house.  However, when we are willing to follow the Lord’s leading and wait upon Him a beautiful house is built that attracts and makes room for others to see the grace, truth, and love of Jesus!  

As you enter into this season of Lent we encourage you to start a new discipline of scripture reading through utilizing the “Ashes to Fire” devotional.  The devotional provides readings for morning and evening along with simple prayers.    Also, read Matthew 4:1-11, and consider fasting in some way.  Make your fast about coming to a greater awareness of your need to wait upon God to fulfill your deepest hungers.  Fast in order to develop a greater dependence upon God so that he can build a beautiful house out of your life where there is plenty of room for others to experience Jesus

∼ Pastor Ron        

 

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome!

Welcome,

Thank you for checking out the new blog of Fenton Church of the Nazarene!

On this Ash Wednesday, we are beginning a new series that will take us throughout the Lenten season. Titled, Ashes to Fire: Burning Away the Blindspots, the series will cause us to pause and examine our lives, to see where we may have blindspots in our relationship with Christ.

Throughout this time, our blog posts will feature reflections upon the Sunday message, as well as the readings from the Ashes to Fire devotional. If you haven’t picked up a devotional yet, we encourage you to do so! They are available in the church foyer for only $8 per person (we encourage each family member to have a devotional). We don’t want anyone to miss out, so if you are unable to make a donation, please take a devotional. If you are able to make the donation, please consider giving extra for those who are unable to donate.

Thanks for joining us on this journey! We hope that you’ll follow along with our Sunday morning sermons, with the Ashes to Fire devotional, and by checking in on the blog.

During this Lenten season, may God draw you nearer to him, as we humble ourselves before God, preparing to follow in the steps of Jesus all the way to Calvary, and beyond!

~ Pastor Joe