Wednesday, July 1, 2020

A Letter to COVID by David Hummell

This amazing post comes to us from David Hummell (David attends one of the many CH Bible studies that meets throughout Jacksonville).  

                                                                                                                                                Pentecost 2020
Dear COVID-19,
Man, you are a son-of-a-gun.  I mean it.  You swept into our world and wrought global havoc like we’ve never seen.  Death tolls in the hundreds of thousands, financial crisis, unemployment projections matching that of the Great Depression, governmental partisan finger-pointing at an all-time high, international blame-gaming, divisive conspiracy theories; and a slew of other side-affects like ramped levels of quarantine anxiety, emotional depression, an exponential rise in new addictions, horrific do-it-yourself haircuts, some of the worst facial hair decisions ever made; and there are even the new phenomena of “mask shaming.”  “Mask shaming.”  That’s where we are.  
COVID-19, you are truly the worst!  But even so, I want to THANK YOU!
Thank you for ferociously exposing the fragility and frailty of our human spirit, of my human spirit, and thank you for forcing us into our homes and giving us something we always ask for...TIME.  Time to reevaluate our purpose, our priorities, and our commitment to what we are put on this planet to do…expand the Kingdom of God.  
You COVID-19 were like an alarming abnormal lump that forces one to seek an expert opinion, diagnosis, and treatment; or a low tire pressure warning light that forces one to pull to the side of the road or into the nearest mechanic shop for further inspection and repair. But in this case, you were the warning light for my soul, salvation, and fulfillment of my purpose here on Earth.   
Thank you, COVID-19! 
 “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” (Genesis 50:20)
Very early on in this crisis, during this precious pause, the Lord put on my heart the phrase, “Don’t MISS IT, Don’t MISS OUT.”  While it admittedly took me a couple days to decipher what this meant (my immediate thought was DON’T MISS OUT on the stock market fire sale…I’m such an earthling), it then hit me like a lightning bolt.  God did not want me, nor others to miss out on this amazing opportunity before us, the opportunity while called home in quarantine to spend with our loving and faithful heavenly Father, speaking with Him, learning about Him, in His word, in silent meditation and prayer like never before.  What a wonderful, unexpected, and precious gift amid this horrific pandemic, and thankfully, I have and continue to take full advantage of it!  
As I dove headfirst into God’s word like never before, I stumbled across the lesser-known Old Testament two-chapter (perfect for you light readers) book of Haggai, a minor prophet who delivered his prophecies over only a four-month time period.  Although the second shortest book in the Bible, it packed a powerful prophetic punch that not only resonated with the broken people of Israel but resonated deeply with my broken self as well.  It tells of the people of Israel being released from Babylonian and Persian captivity around 539 BC, allowed to return home to Jerusalem, directed by King Cyrus to rebuild God’s Temple, His earthly dwelling with us.  Unfortunately, that group lost focus of the task at hand as priorities waivered, their purpose was forgotten, and perspective blurred; until God spoke through the prophet Haggai to challenge and encourage His people to complete this spiritual and physical undertaking resulting in a “house that will be greater than the glory of the former house.” (Haggai 2:9) 
5Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. 6You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill.  You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it”.    
7This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. 8Go up into the mountains and bring down lumber and build my house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored, “says the Lord.   (Life Application Study Bible, Haggai 1:5-8)
Much as the people of Israel were released from Egyptian slavery, I was released from captivity of death and sin, set free through the blood of Jesus.  But still, at times, I wander in the wilderness, much like the people of Israel due to my occasional lacking of faith, trust, and proper perspective.  
And again, much as the people of Israel were released from Babylon, I was also recently released from captivity.  But my release was from the captivity of every-day, Bible-dabbling, occasionally praying, happy-go-lucky, normal, successful by earthly standards, 9:00-5:00 working, running in all directions, hectic life; and called home into quarantine.  I realize this sounds contradictory, being released from captivity into quarantine?  Yes!  Remember the call on my heart to Don’t MISS IT, Don’t MISS OUT.  I saw this as a release from captivity of “normal” life to spend time with our faithful, loving, heavenly Father, in His word, getting to know Him better, and reminded fervently of the ultimate task of expanding the Kingdom of God here on earth.  I had an unprecedented opportunity amid your horrific crisis to pause, reflect, and like the people of Israel released from Babylon, was challenged to give careful thought to my ways; re-evaluate my priorities, purpose, perspective, and patience. 
As a result of all this, I have reached a previously unfound level of ease in releasing total control to my trustworthy and faithful heavenly Father, finding peace and fulfillment that I have never experienced before.  Not too shabby for my first global pandemic.  No more wandering!!
Thank you, COVID-19.  
Disclaimer:  Don’t get me wrong, I still have SEVERAL AREAS OF OPPORTUNITY (just ask my wife and kids) that are still major works in progress (being more “present,” having more “patience,” using less “foul language,” bad dietary habits, etc., etc., etc.), but one day at a time.  
Now, please understand COVID-19 that I don’t write you this letter to encourage you.  You are still the worst!   I write this letter for me, to keep close and reflect on in days, weeks, and months to come and once you, and all of the chaos you brought with you has been eradicated from this planet; so that I don’t ever go back.  Certainly not back to the captivity of “normal” as there was NO FUTURE in “normal.”  
Today I pray for the courage, obedience, discipline, and wisdom to avoid ever returning to the captivity of “normal.”  There was NO FUTURE in it, at least not the future that God intended for me.   
You really are the worst COVID-19, but again, I thank you!  
Forever grateful for your horrendousness,
David Hummell, Treasured child of God 

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

He is NOT like us

Jesus never does anything by chance. He never haphazardly wanders around looking for something to do. He never moves without a purpose or a plan. Every action, every word of our Lord, is intentional. This type of living with a purpose is foreign to me. I am sure that, in a way, it is unfamiliar to you as well. We spend most of our days hoping to have no plan. We long for the days of vacations and not having a schedule to keep or a place to be. We devote our time and energy to trying to get to the point when everything is done, and we can unplug and get lost in a movie, show, video game, or focus on "me." Words spew out of our mouths with no intent and no concern about their impact. Jesus is not like you and me, and that is a really good thing. 
If you remember, in John 3:22, we are told that after the Passover and the conversation with Nicodemus, Jesus and the disciples head out to the Judean countryside to do a little baptizing. As the crowds around Jesus being to swell, the disciples of John the Baptist are more than a little concerned. Baptizing is kind of John's thing. It is what he/they are known for, and now Jesus is here stealing the thunder and the crowds. However, the sudden momentum swing is not troubling to Johnny B. When pressed, he openly admits that this is the plan… Jesus must increase, and he must decrease (John 3:30).
As the 4th chapter of John begins, it becomes clear John's disciples are not the only ones that are witnessing the explosion of the popularity of Jesus. The murmuring started to exit the lips of the Pharisees. The Pharisees that were not happy with John (John 1:19-28, Luke 3:7) are looking to turn their attention and distaste to Jesus.  Jesus, knowing all things, including the thoughts and intentions of men, knows what will happen if He stays. The decision is made that He must leave Judea and return to Galilee. His leaving was intentional, and His route was with purpose. 
When Jews would travel between Galilee and Jerusalem, they might make it a point not to take the most direct route that would take them through Samaria. (The historian Josephus notes that a Jew traveling through Samaria was not uncommon, but it did come with some risks of escalating the tension between the groups.) The traveler would often opt for a longer route that would take them across the Jordan River and then following the Jordanian Highway to Galilee that would have little risk of social tension. John suggests that it was part of God's plan that Jesus took this route (John 4:4). This makes the meeting that will happen between Jesus and the woman at the well not only significant but intentional. Jesus was so intent on getting to Samaria and being at that well by noon that He stressed and exhausted His body to do so. 
Jesus' actions in the first six verses of John 4 are unusual, but we should not be surprised. This is the way that Jesus always acts. His works are intentional, and as we will see, so are His words. In just a few short chapters, Jesus will be doing this all over again. He will be again pouring out His sweat, but this time it will be mixed with His blood. He will be speaking the purposeful words, not to a single sinful woman at a well but to every sin-filled man, woman, and child. This is His purpose! This is not just a good thing, but this is the GOOD NEWS!

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Forgiving Peter: John 21 Part #2

I am beginning to see that the road back to normal is not going to be smooth.  There are going to be bumps that are unexpected and test the shocks.  As we begin to "open" states back for business, it is becoming clear that this process is going to take a while.  Despite my desire to have life return to what it was before all this happened, the world is different, people are different, and I am different.  

In the second half of the last chapter of John's Gospel, we oddly find Peter in somewhat the same place.  Peter cannot merely go back to the way things were; too much has happened.  There cannot be a simple, "I'm sorry, and I promise that will never happen again."  There cannot be a "we're good, right?" fist bump.     Instead, at this moment, Jesus is going to venture into the deep dark places of shame and failure in Peter’s heart and begin a little Gospel surgery.

Breakfast is over, and as the disciples are washing the dishes and enjoying a full belly.  When they think that they couldn't eat anymore, Jesus serves dessert.  This dessert is not for the stomach but the heart.  In a moment of great compassion, Jesus turns to Peter and asks him a question.  It is not the question that Peter wants to hear.  It is not the question that we want Jesus to ask.  We would instead Jesus ask, "do you promise not to fail me again?"  We prefer Jesus to say, “well, you messed up, how about not letting that happen again.”  And it would be a dream if He said, “Hey Pete, no worries, forget about it.” 

The main reason that we want Jesus to say those things and ask us a different question is because it is more comfortable.   Author Henri Nouwen says it well when he wrote, "We like easy victories; growth without crisis, healing without pains, the resurrection without the cross."   Those kinds of statements keep Jesus out or our heart and at arms-length.  They give us something to do, a goal to achieve.  However, Jesus is not after our obedience but our hearts!

What we need to know is that those places in our hearts of the greatest same and failure do NOT scare Jesus away.  This is the reason why Jesus asks Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?"  not just once but three times.  Jesus is walking Peter back to the three denials, the charcoal fire, and the rooster crowing.  Jesus is leading Peter back to his moment of greatest shame and failure.  It is here where Peter and we remember the story from the Gospel of Luke (Luke 7:36-50).  Remember the one about the diner party, the sinful woman and the alabaster flask of oil?  In that story, Jesus taught that "to whom little is forgiven, loves little (Luke 7:47).  The opposite is also true: he who is forgiven much loves much.  The "rock" that Jesus is going to build His church on is going to be forgiveness and Love.

Peter, you, and I need to know that as we are called to "follow me," no matter the cost, no matter the circumstance.  We are called to follow not because we are good little boys and girls but because we are sheep.  We are sheep being led by the Shepherd.  We are sheep being led by Love Himself. 

Monday, May 4, 2020

Breakfast with Jesus: John 21 Part #1

We do not get many stories about Jesus after He rose from the dead.  In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, it is as if Jesus emerges from the tomb, has a few brief conversations, commissions the disciples, and then ascends into heaven. (Luke does write that Jesus hung out and taught for 40 days after He rose, but we have no record of those conversations.)  John’s Gospel is different.  From his prologue to the amount of time he spends writing about the passion week, John gives us something different in his Gospel.  The same is true for the post-resurrection appearances.  He writes of four different times of Jesus' appearing after Easter morning.  These stories are whimsical.  They are full of conversations and details.   John was the last Gospel story to be written, with most scholars dating the writing of John somewhere between 68-90 AD.  John, most likely, was able to read the other three Gospels before writing his story.  This might give us a little insight to reason his account of Jesus.  Maybe being late to the party does have its advantages.

Turning our attention to the 21st chapter of John’s Gospel, we find that the story moved 60 miles north to the region of Galilee.  Why this move north?  Were the disciples tired of the hustle and bustle of Jerusalem?  Were the disciples sick of the traffic?   
When we remember that the area of Galilee was the home to more than one disciple is not that odd move as most of the disciples were from that area.  The other clue is that when we cross-reference the Gospels. We see that in Matthew, the Angels at the empty tomb tell the Marys to tell Peter and the boys that Jesus will meet see them in Galilee (Matt 28:5-7).  

Although there is a promise to see Jesus in Galilee, John’s Gospel gives the impression that maybe Peter forgot.  Once Peter gets home, he makes the statement that he is going fishing.  This might not seem that weird.  Peter was a fisherman, and fishermen like to fish.  Peter had just gone through the most stressful and confusing weeks ever, and maybe a little fishing would put things in perspective. Perhaps Peter had a craving for a little Israeli sushi and decided that fresh is best.  But this fishing venture was not just a quick trip to the old stomping grounds, John writes, that Peter and the fellas fished hard all night and caught nothing.  (it would seem that Peter was the worst fisherman…ever.  Every time we read about him fishing he never has any fish.) 

We might think that after everything that Peter saw in not only the last week but the previous three years of his life, we could argue that fishing would be the last thing to do.  However, this is not unlike us.  We regularly run back to what is comfortable.  We return to things, places, and even people not because they are uplifting but because they are comfortable.  We might have a reoccurring dream or fantasy just because it feels good.  Some of us even live life trapped in the past because it is safe.  We stay where we feel safe, and we do what is most comfortable.  The life of the past or imagination is not for us as God's children. Nor is this the life for Peter in our passage.

The Apostle Paul tells us that when we are called to be God's children, we are made into a new creation (1Cor. 5:17).  The old is gone, and the new is here, even if we do not know/see it.  When we forget this truth, do you know what happens?  When we act like Peter, and we forget, Jesus comes and meets us right where we are!  This is what Jesus does in the 21st chapter of John.  Jesus appears on the shore and asks if they have caught any fish (John 21:5).  

This moment catches the disciples off guard.  They did not know it was Jesus.  Maybe it was the fog of the early morning light, but they did not expect to see and hear from the Lord at this moment.  (The same is true for us.  In our lives, Jesus shows up often in places where we least expect it.)  Jesus then tells them to drop the nets on the right side of the boat.  The advice is not just successful; it is abundant!  The net fill full of fish, and this triggered a memory in John to make him realize that the only One that could have done something like this.  The only One that could give advice and fill the nets to capacity…is Jesus.  There is a massive truth here for us to notice.  No matter how proficient we are, no matter how hard we try, no matter how much effort we put into something, if God is not a part of it, we will never be successful!

While this is good stuff, this is not where we are going to land the plane.  There is something better awaiting us on the shore.

Arriving at the shore with the disciples, we find that Jesus already has breakfast on the grill.  Our Lord then tells Peter to go a get some of the fish that they just caught.  Why would Jesus need more fish?  What is He trying to show us?  Maybe in this little moment, Jesus is inviting Peter to bring the gifts that he was given to be a part of the meal. Perhaps this is a little reminder that Jesus provides all things but still wants us to be a part of His mission.  Maybe.  But what happens next is absolutely amazing.  Look at verse 12.  Jesus said to them, "Come and have breakfast."  Did you catch that?  The risen Lord, the One that could demand the worship of the disciples, the One that suffered, died and rose, the One that just blessed the unsuccessful fishermen with more fish than they could have dreamed asks them to come and eat breakfast.  Not only does He ask them to come and eat, but then in verse 13, we read that Jesus served them breakfast!  Only Jesus! 

Do you know that this same offer of “come and eat breakfast” is something that we still hear today?  Every morning as we wake up, Jesus still offers us the chance to come and eat with Him.   So, who are you having breakfast with today?  Facebook?  Instagram?  Twitter?  Alexa?  Jesus?  

Come and start your day eating from and with the Bread of Life.  If you cannot make it in the morning, don't worry it is served all day long.  It is ready, and He is waiting.    

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Another Wink by Bob Cherry

I read this today and thought that it would be a great thing to drop off here.  It is just a little poem from Paul Tripp...  Read and enjoy.

It swept us up,
in its path.
Confused and separated,
we try to analyze
what we don’t understand,
try to conquer
what is bigger than us.
Fear sets in,
denial offers temporary
numbers rumble upward,
hope weakens.
Then we remember,
this isn’t the
this isn’t the
this isn’t the most
There is another disease,
most don’t see it,
most deny it,
no human can defeat it,
everyone is infected with it.
There would be no cure
if not for the Savior,
willing to come,
face the ultimate plague,
die alone,
so that there would be a
ours for the taking,
no money needed,
no line to stand in,
bring only one thing,
a heart ready to
Receive your healing,
rise, live again.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Doubt with Thomas

Did you know that after Jesus rose from the grave, He appeared twice to the disciples in the upper room?  The two events happened a week apart.  If you pay attention and cross-reference the Gospels, you might notice that there are a few similarities.  There are also a few glaring differences.  One of the most significant differences between the first upper room meeting and the second was that not every disciple was present.  Two were missing from that first meeting… We know that Judas wasn't there because he was hanging out in the trees, but there was another.  Reading from John 20:24-29, we discovered the one missing.  

His name is Thomas.  His friends know him as the “twin.”  However, we know him Doubting Thomas.  Two things always bother me about Thomas.  One thing that bothers me about Thomas is that we can assume that he is a twin, but we know nothing about his other half.  The other part that troubles me about Thomas is his nickname.  Why he of all of the apostles got one, I will never know.  Others could have gotten a nickname for a slip-up.  Peter, for example, denied Jesus three times, and we do not call him “Petey Three-Times" or "Sinking Peter.”  Even Judas escapes life and history without being shackled with the burden of being known as “Betraying Judas.”    

Thomas was not present in the upper room when Jesus first appeared (see Luke 24:36-42 or John 20:19-23). Where was Tom?  Maybe he was getting some beer and pizza, or perhaps he was stuck in traffic or helping his kids with a last-minute science project.  We cannot say for sure, and Scripture gives us no hints, but we do see that there is no condemnation for his absence.  No one scolds him for not being there that night.  So, it is safe to assume that this was an excused absence.  

When Tom comes back around, the others let him know what he has missed.   They tell him that they have seen the Risen Jesus.  Upon hearing this news, seeing the excitement in their eyes, Tom does NOT believe.   He snubs the testimony of Peter, James, and  John.  In fact, he refuses to believe.  What is his hang-up?  Why can he not just believe?  It might be that Tom is resentful and experiencing a giant-sized serving of FOMO regret.  It might be that Tom is a full-on skeptic and will not trust anyone's opinion about anything.   Yet, Tom tells us what he needs is evidence.   Thomas is just like us and wants proof or cold hard facts.  He wants to see with his own eyes and touch with his own hands.  Tom, just like us, wants to see the scientific, double-blind, peer-reviewed, published papers.  He wants not only to see the proof; he needs to put his fingers in the holes on Jesus' hands and put his hand into the wound on Jesus' side.  It is not just some little doubt, but Thomas emphatically states that without proof, he will never believe (John 20:25).  This is where I feel that we may have gotten his nickname wrong.  Thomas didn't just doubt; he refused to believe.  

For eight long days, Thomas was forced to listen to the stories of the others seeing Jesus.  The passing time did nothing to grow faith in Thomas.  The Gospel of John then tells us that after these 8 days pass, the disciples are back in the upper room, and the door is again locked.  (It seems that the passing of time did nothing to grow the faith in the others either.)  In this doubt-filled room, Jesus suddenly appears.  He does not show up and slap Thomas for not believing.  Our Lord does not look and wave a disappointed finger at Peter for again locking the door.  He does not hang His head in frustration.  Instead, Jesus announces, "Peace be with you!"   Then in the most amazing, gentle act of compassion, Jesus holds out His nailed scarred hands.  Looking directly into the doubt-filled eyes of Thomas, He speaks,  "Take your finger and put it here, Thomas.  Look, and see my wounds.  Take your hand and put it into my side.  Stop unbelieving...and believe."  Thomas' eyes are finally open, and he proclaims…"My Lord and my God!!"

In our current time, there is so much frustration that for some, the doubt is beginning to boil.   This reveals the harsh reality that we are more like Thomas than we want to admit.  We are doubters and all we have to do is look at the media to prove it.  We question everything and wonder if we are being told the truth or listening to fake news.  Many people desperately need cold hard facts, scientific evidence, and proof.  We protest that we have the right to know the truth and long answers and when the answers do not come, our doubts slowly begin to turn into skepticism and unbelief. 

Our doubts are not just confined to what is going on in the media.  We doubt our faith, the future, and even God Himself.  We ask questions like "If God is all-powerful, all-knowing and all-loving… Why are there people getting sick?  Why won’t this pandemic go away?”  Our doubt originates from the poisonous question the snake asked in the garden.  And despite years of teaching, Bible Studies, and Scripture reading, this same question lingers in our hearts. “Does God really love me?” “Can He really forgive me for that?” and “Is God really who He says He is in the Bible?”  "Can I trust Him?"

In this little story, we see Jesus step into all of the doubt, disbelief, worry, and confusion in Thomas' life.  Jesus does not allow Thomas to drown in an ocean of uncertainty, nor does He leave Thomas to wallow in his own doubt.  Jesus comes and meets Thomas, who had not only locked the door to the upper room, but also his heart. He holds out His nail-scarred hands and takes hold of Thomas's burden of doubt.  This is something that Jesus still does.  Jesus walks into our locked quarantine "upper rooms" and the "closed doors" of our hearts and reminds us that He is who He said He is.  Jesus holds out those same nail-scarred hands and takes all of our fears, doubts, concerns, shortcomings, and sins.  And then He blesses us with all of His faith, peace, joy, hope, and glory!  Whenever this happens, our hearts cry out with Thomas, "My Lord and my God!"  

It is nothing short of amazing!!  So, agonize about your doubts if you want.  Lock your doors, and social distance, it will not keep Jesus from coming.  And when He does. there will be no condemnation.  There will be no finger-wagging, no disappointed sigh.   His words will be "Peace be with you!"  Look at His hands, take your fingers, and put them in the holes and BELIEVE that HE IS GOD!!

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Top 200 Christian Blogs

We are not really sure how it happened but this little adventure of the CH Blog was recognized as one of the top 200 Christian Blogs!!!  If you don't believe me head over Top 200 Christian Blog and start scrolling... and keep scrolling and scrolling, you will eventually find us sitting at #219!!

Thank you to all of you that read... we will keep them coming!