Advent (week three) Joy

Advent (week three) Joy

The Christmas carol (the song, not the movie) Joy to the World, was written by Isaac Watts way back in 1719, nearly 300 years ago; and it remains one of the most popular of all Christmas carols to this day. It’s lyric is both profound and simple, theologically meaty, yet blended making it easily digested. The funny part is, it wasn’t written as a song or hymn or Christmas carol at all, rather published in a book of poems and later set to music. It was Isaac Watts’ look at Psalm 98. Now, we have looked at some of the difficulties of Jesus’ birth, and since no one really likes a Debbie-downer, let’s just let joy be joy this week.

Let’s look at this verse:

Joy to the world, the Lord is come
Let earth receive her King
Let every heart prepare Him room
And Heaven and nature sing
And Heaven and nature sing
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing

Here is the reality, whether a person accepts Jesus or not, doesn’t, in any way, affect His being King. There is a popular statement going around since Donald Trump was elected President of the United States, “Not my President.” Well, i hate to break it to you, regardless of how you feel about him, he is the President of the United States, and if you are a citizen of the USA, he is your President. In Roman’s it is written; “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” (Romans 14:11) It is a direct reference to Isaiah 45:23. Paul refers to it in his letter to the Philippians 2:10-11; “so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” So, yes, Sir Isaac Watts, let earth receive her King! And let every heart prepare Him room!

And this verse to wrap things up:

No more let Sins and Sorrows grow,
Nor Thorns infest the Ground:
He comes to make his Blessings flow
Far as the Curse is found.

To the believer, this should be of great interest. “No more let sins and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground.” We are called to live in the righteousness of God. If then, Jesus dwells in us, should we keep on sinning? No, by no means is that possible. We are called to be holy as God is Holy! It is not by our own doing but Christ in me that makes me victorious over sin and death. Now the flesh is weak, and we are definitely in a spiritual battle but as is observed in Watts poem, “He comes to make His blessings flow, FAR AS THE CURSE IS FOUND!” That is joy!  So, this Christmas, as you sing this carol, sing it with Psalm 98 in mind:

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises! Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody!” (Psalm 98:4-5)

You are loved,

cj

Advent (week 2) Peace

Advent (week 2) Peace

13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joesph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and His mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy Him.” 14 And he rose and took the child and His mother by night and departed to Egypt 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophets, “Out of Egypt I called my Son.” Matthew 2:13-15 ESV

Peace, each Christmas we look at the Advent, and we talk about peace. We know Jesus as Prince of Peace, yet, as we look at the story of His birth, peace is not the first thing that comes to mind. Joseph and Mary in order to comply with the senses travel to Bethlehem for the census. Mary is well into her pregnancy, and as they arrive, inevitably delayed by slow travel of a pregnant woman on foot or even a donkey, there is no room for them in the inn.  The Inn Keeper not being without heart things of the best he can do, a stable will have to do. Giving birth in a stable is probably far from what some would say is peaceful. Shepherds approach after being surprised in the field by angels. Certainly, brought some trepidation to the new parents. This scene does not have the earmarks of peace.

In the passage at the top, we read that Herod wanted to have the baby of this poor couple killed. So, in a flight for their lives, they head to Egypt in the dark of night. Hardly, peaceful! In fact, it wasn’t peaceful at all for the boys left behind. Many children were killed. Matthew 2:16-18 tells the story: “Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: ‘A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted because they are no more.‘” i do not see peace here either.

As Jesus grew up, under the radar for most of His life, we see relative peace. However, from the start of His earthly ministry, we don’t see peace. We see great things, don’t misunderstand me, but we do not see true, lasting peace. Here is why, Jesus, Himself said, “I did not come to bring peace but a sword.” This statement seems to go against His nature until you dive into it and see what is meant. True and lasting peace is from the Father and will not be present until Jesus’ earthly Kingdom is set. If we read in Revelation, we will see that even after the Millenial Reign of Jesus there is a time that Satan is loosed again and will deceive many, before being ultimately and forever defeated.  (See Revelation 20:7-10)

So, again, this peace is a peace of mind and heart in a world that is fraught with sin and deception from the chief liar, Satan. We find peace in Christ when we give our lives over to Him. He is the author and perfector of our faith. He is the Everlasting, the Alpha and Omega, He is the only One, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Although, the world decay around us, we have hope and we have peace that Jesus has overcome already, and our victory is in Him, Jesus our Lord!

You are loved,

cj

Advent (week one) Hope

Advent (week one) Hope

What is hope? And, what does it mean, that hope does not disappoint? Well, according to the online dictionary, it says; “a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.” As far as hope not disappointing, that’s something to be understood, not just spoken as cliche. i have hoped for a great many things in my life. Some, when they did not come to pass, were really somewhat disappointing at the time. Actually, some are still disappointing to remember back upon. Other things hoped for now that i look back were a blessing to not have happened the way i had hoped. So, what of Advent hope?

You can’t tell me that Mary hoped to see her son one day hanging on a cross, after getting beaten beyond recognition. You can’t tell me that Mary and Joseph desired to flee to Egypt out of fear for their lives. You can’t tell me that their hopes of their son sitting on an earthly throne, in the Kingdom of their ancestors, wasn’t their ultimate dream, given the words of the Angel to them. Yet, the things one could most definitely say were no hopes at all, but fears are what actually came to pass. When we talk about Advent hope, we think of things like the coming King, the Messiah, the Son of God! These thoughts instill a sense of hope in us because we have seen the ending. And, that my friends, is the essence of this Advent hope.

In Romans 5:1-5 it says . . .

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him, we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (ESV)

Our hope is not in earthly riches, fame, or anything of the like. Rather, our hope is in the faithfulness of God in His eternal reward received by faith in the one and only begotten Son, Jesus the Messiah! Life will let you down, humans will let you down, spouses, children, friends, jobs, vacations, neighbors, you catching on? The list is endless, hoping in any of these things eventually will only end in a feeling of hopelessness. The only hope is not Obi-wan Kenobi, but it is only in the one named Jesus! According to the Word, given through the prophet Isaiah, “so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth, it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:11

There is our Hope! Our Advent Hope is the eternal Word of God! His faithfulness is endless, His promises sure, His love never fails, His Joy is unspeakable, His peace is unexplainable, He is the giver of life, the author and perfecter of faith, and His mercy is new every morning! Hope in that!

You are loved,

cj

Advent (introduction)

Advent (introduction)

It’s the 2018 Advent season. Traditionally, over the next few weeks, the topics are Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love.  Each one leading to the Advent of the birth of Jesus. Over the next several weeks we will take each one of these leading to Christmas. Advent is one of my favorite times of the Church year and not just because of Christmas. It’s an amazing reminder of the Hope we have in Jesus, the Peace we have in Jesus, the Joy we have in Jesus and the Love we experience in Jesus.

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).

Immanuel translated is God with us. This baby, the son of a young Jewish couple Mary and Joseph was the fulfillment of Isaiah’s Prophecy. Joseph was called to be a stepdad to the King of kings, as a stepdad, i know the challenges and the joys of being in that role, but i can’t even imagine the immense pressure of having to raise the Lord of lords. Being a part of training up this Child in the way He ought to go. Although we see Jesus growing in both wisdom and influence and not a whole lot of parental direction it is safe to assume that His parents were active in His upbringing. Their faithfulness to the role of parenthood ensured a Hope that would not disappoint, Peace beyond understanding, Joy unspeakable, and Love unconditional would be available for all who would receive Him.

In this weeks reading look at the Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love in these words. Also, look at the faithfulness and care His parents took to ensure He was safe and warm. Their first challenge was His birth, yet the scene broke through with a blessed Hope!

The Birth of Jesus Christ

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed,[b] who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.[c]

The Shepherds and the Angels

And in the same region, there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest,
    and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”[d]

15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

21 And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. Luke 2:1-21 ESV

You are loved,

cj

Christian (part seven)

Christian (part seven)

Life in the trenches. Ask any war vet and if they were in the trenches they will tell you some stories. True stories. They will be full of heroism, fear, the unknown, blood, guts, death, and life. They will say that they feared for their life but they pressed on for those they love and for those around them. Those fellow soldiers who were depending on them to keep pressing forward. It is a real thing, to both fear the unknown and run to it at the same time. It takes bravery and it takes faith, faith in those around you, faith in those back home, and they say even atheists pray in foxholes. For the past several weeks we have looked at this idea of “Christian” and i would submit to you that it is much like living in the trenches, a foxhole.

Life in the trenches as a Christian should not be marked with plush comfort, we are in a battle for the very souls that are around us, including our family. We need to be war ready. Now we do not fight this spiritual battle with human weapons, but with prayer, with love, with faith, with the Word. 

10 “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.” Ephesians 6:10-18

This passage in Ephesians is our battle prep, our war-room message from the commander. We are to be ready. It isn’t always easy the enemy is powerful or it wouldn’t be a battle. We have victory, yes, but it takes us fighting the battle! It takes sacrifice. It takes us laying down our lives daily, for the cause of Christ. Being ready, aware, listening for that direction to get up, to go, to do! Here is our final passage in this series, Romans 12:1-2

12 “I appeal to you, therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Many of us are not prepared for a battle. We are not allowing the Lord to transform us, by renewing our minds. We are not discerning what is the will of God, or we are and choosing to say, “that is too hard for me!” But, it is good and acceptable and perfect! Therefore we must know that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13) and “But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:57) These are the facts. This is the mission. The trenches and foxholes are before us. Let us together, go to battle!

You are loved,

cj

Christian (part six)

Christian (part six)

We have been looking at this idea of “Christian” for weeks now and we could go on for weeks to come. However, i will be wrapping this up next week with part seven. Until then we have part six which you are reading now. Let’s start by looking at today’s passage, which is a look back at the verses just before (Romans 12:9-21) where we have been the last five weeks. Romans 12:3-8.

“For by the grace given to me, I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.” (9 Let love be genuine).

In all the devastation of the fires in California, especially the one that destroyed the town of Paradise there has been some hope. The surrounding towns and cities have jumped to attention and the outpouring of support and help has been unbelievable! The Churches in Chico and Oroville have come together as one body and are meeting the needs as best they can. People are bringing donations of goods and services as well as financial as they show the love and care of Jesus, the head of the Body, the Church. It is a remarkable thing. Each person giving where they are most gifted.

It is sad, in tragedy, when the church doesn’t come together and i have seen that too. Or those of influence not stepping up and leading or partaking in the work as a whole. We need to be about the quest, the task, the journey, of coming together and serving! It is vitally important that the Church not be on the sideline or in the stands as so often many are. The sign of a Christian is that they “get up” and spring into action! Many non-believers or folks that are not of the Way are giving selflessly. The Church should never be outdone! If we can’t meet a need it is important to have other services! Yes, we should be partnering together in crises. Doing all that we can, in the Love and Care, of Jesus!

Get out of the bleachers, get off vacation, get off the sideline, get out of your house and do something based on your gifts. And don’t wait for a crisis, we should always be about the work of the Kingdom, but in crises, we should be all the more attentive. As God has blessed you, so go and bless others, using those abilities, talents, resources, experiences,  gifts, etc.

You are loved,

cj

Christian (part five)

Christian (part five)

The current political and social climate is really rather dark. We can look at the latest news on any channel and it definitely seems as if the sky is falling. It doesn’t stop there either, there is a radicalization of both sides and a few in-between that are for a wild-west solution, “meet me in the street at sunset” or Old Testament solutions, “an eye for an eye” sort of solution. It has been quoted, “If they go low we kick them!” or “Chase them out of restaurants, form mobs around them!” Even, images of decapitated bodies, threats, bomb scares, fear-mongering, and bully pulpits are the norm. So how is a Christian supposed to respond? And how can you tell if one is truly trying to live the life of one?

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be conceited. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:14-21

There are several elements that we can take out of this passage. Let me highlight this one, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” Here is the key, if possible. Let me stress that it will not always be possible to live peaceably as it takes two to bring peace. You can try until you are blue in the face but if the other does not want peace . . . what we do is, “leave it to the wrath of God.” In so doing we live the higher road, the one less traveled and puts us in a position of influence later on in that situation or in life.

Not only is this the command of God to us of the Way, but it also leaves justice to the one who judges righteously. When we live a life of love to those who persecute us we allow God’s Spirit room to move in our lives and their lives. It will be either a blessing or a curse depending on their openness. It will either bring goodness or “burning hot coals” and not like you might think but metaphorically speaking. God’s ability to bring wrath is greater than anything we could ever imagine so let us be about the task of love. Loving our neighbors. Loving those who spitefully use us. Love our enemies. Love our families. Love.

You are loved,

cj