Lent

Lent

The season of Lent is upon us but the question i often hear is, what is Lent? Here are a few basic thoughts on Lent that might answer enough questions to peak your interest, in searching out more information, on your own and maybe even “celebrate” Lent this year.

Lent, is a period of 40 days beginning with Ash Wednesday and ending on Resurrection Sunday. Ashes are used as a symbol of remorse and repentance for sin. It is placed on ones forehead in the form of a Cross to remind us of Jesus love and forgiveness. It marks the start of the 40 days of Fasting, Service, Prayer,  and Seeking God in deeper ways culminating with the victory of Resurrection Sunday.

The 40 days are meant to be a period of seeking Jesus for a refreshing. It is based on Jesus, following His baptism, in which He was then led into the desert by the the Holy Spirit for 40 days. He fasted and prayed and sought what many believe was the mental and physical preparedness, focus, needed for His earthly ministry resulting in the cross, death and of course resurrection.

Revealing to us that we need to spend time alone with God for the same thing. We are called to die to ourselves and live for Christ. We are called to be light in a dark world. We are called to love the loveless. We are called to love mercy, do justly and walk humbly with our God.

Fasting doesn’t have to be food but it can be, it can also just be a meal a day, it could be fasting from meat, or soda, or coffee. It can also be refraining from electronics, TV, video games etc. Traditionally fasts can be broken on Sunday’s during the 40 day period. The point of the Fast is to focus our minds and hearts on Jesus to draw near to Him knowing that He will draw near to us.

For more on Lent go here: LENT

You are Loved,

cj

Forgiveness

Forgiveness

We are wrapping up the awesome book of Philippians during Coffee with Jesus. It is such a good book, full of great things. This morning as we met we had a great discussion about life, and forgiveness. The difficulties of forgiving others and the parallel that we can draw from the life of Jesus. The discussion happened prior to our reading of the text. Which in and of itself did not reference forgiveness directly however we definitely were able to draw from it.

Philippians 4:6-7 NLT
“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” 

It is said, that we forgive not for the other person but for ourselves. There is Scripture to back that up but let me say this, scientifically it has been proven beneficial as well. The stress release that comes when we let go of bitterness, anger, hate, malice, strife, jealousy etc. is unmeasurably hhuuuugge. When we pray to forgive someone, or maybe the first step, for the strength or the resolve to do so…we can rest assured that that prayer will be answered.

When we begin to pray a prayer of thanksgiving for all God has done as the passage declares, peace comes. Additionally, that peace will surpass anything we could ever understand. It will also guard our hearts and minds. It is finding the essence of the heart of God. It will set our minds at ease and prepare our hearts for praise. Let me conclude with this from Philippians 4:8-9. NLT

“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirableThink aboutthings that are excellent and worthy of praiseKeep putting into practice all you learned and received from me-everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.” 

You are Loved,

cj

Finding Jesus

Finding Jesus

i have walked past many red kettle pots, gave to some, felt guilty at others. i have waited in lines at the post office, the grocery store, and while shopping for gifts. i have heard sermons, read blogs, listened to music that reflect the season of Christmas.

Our house is decorated, complete with tree lit up in the corner of the living room and stockings all hung by the fireplace with care. The gifts wrapped and placed under the tree stir the anticipation of Christmas morning.

As i look at all the “Christmas” around me and as i am reminded constantly by meme’s on Social Networks, to keep Christ in Christmas. i can’t help but remember the question asked by the wisemen from the east when they stood before Herod, “Where is the newborn King of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.”  Matthew 2:2

Let me encourage you today to ask that question now through Christmas. As you ponder the question, “Where is the newborn King of the Jews?” Look for Him, in the red kettle pots, in the lines you stand in, the sermons you hear, blogs you read and songs you hear. Look for Him in your home among the many decorations. And, each time as you find Him as the wisemen did may you be filled with joy.

You are Loved,

cj

Do Justly, Love Mercy, Walked Humbly

Do Justly, Love Mercy, Walked Humbly

There is a line in a song by Mumford & Sons called “The Cave”.

“Cause I need freedom now, and I need to know how, to live my life as it’s meant to be…”

The song as a whole seems to teeter on this message of struggle. Something anyone who is alive can relate to…for the most part. During Coffee with Jesus we have been in the book of Philippians and before that Ephesians, both these books written by Paul. Paul isn’t afraid to share about his life of struggle and difficulty. Yet through it he reminds us that often the struggles we face help bare witness to the hope that we have in Jesus.

His rally cry for us is in Philippians 3:12-14
“It’s not that I have already reached this goal or have already been perfected, but I pursue it, so that I may grab hold of it because Christ grabbed hold of me for just this purpose. Brothers and sisters, I myself don’t think I’ve reached it, but I do this one thing: I forget about the things behind me and reach out for the things ahead of me. The goal I pursue is the prize of God’s upward call in Christ Jesus.”

Let me remind us yet one more time of my life verse, my motto, my heart beat: Micah 6:8
“He has shown you oh man what is good and what does the Lord require of you? To do justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

The purpose of life isn’t to be chained down by the pursuit of worldly happiness but to be free in Christ to live in the present joy of knowing Him.

You are Loved,

cj

Frustration

Frustration

Frustration, we all deal with it. It is mostly those moments that we allow things outside of our control affect our emotions. For example, one Sunday i walked into the Church Youth Room (we call it “Not the Choir Room) and found the corner over taken by Christmas decorations, a broken pew (previously repaired) and the chairs i had previously set up, back in stacks. Frustrating? Yes. i muscled through. Fast forward to Thursday night…i walked into “not the choir room”, still Christmas, still a broken pew, chairs again stacked…frustrating? You bet!

Thursday night i was less able to muscle through and found myself struggling through the entire evening as my thoughts just went back to my frustration. i allowed, absolutely those outside influences to affect my emotional being and in turn it had an effect on the entire evening. i had to remind myself of the actions being taken by others to move and change…the processes are in motion to make the “Not the Choir Room” into the “Journey Student Ministry Room” for lack of a better name. We will have our stamp on it as the children’s ministry has done with theirs. Yet…

You know when you know something and yet it doesn’t matter how many times you remind yourself of the facts you still are frustrated? This was my state of mind, frustrated. That night i went home frustrated, sat frustratingly on the couch, and stewed frustratingly until…

We all have choices to make. Choices that will have influence on our lives emotionally and physically. i sat at a moment of choice. i could continue to sit in a frustrated sense of “woe is me” OR rise above the frustration, see the big picture and find a solution. i chose the solution.

Read Philippians 1:12-26 (below) This passage, i believe, is Paul choosing to not sit in a state of “woe is me” but rather find the good, find the solution and choosing to see the bigger picture. May we all in our moments of frustration, stop and look at the big picture and choose solution over frustration.

Philippians 1:12-26

12 And I want you to know, my dear brothers and sisters,[a] that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News. 13 For everyone here, including the whole palace guard,[b] knows that I am in chains because of Christ. 14 And because of my imprisonment, most of the believers[c] here have gained confidence and boldly speak God’s message[d] without fear.

15 It’s true that some are preaching out of jealousy and rivalry. But others preach about Christ with pure motives. 16 They preach because they love me, for they know I have been appointed to defend the Good News. 17 Those others do not have pure motives as they preach about Christ. They preach with selfish ambition, not sincerely, intending to make my chains more painful to me. 18 But that doesn’t matter. Whether their motives are false or genuine, the message about Christ is being preached either way, so I rejoice. And I will continue to rejoice. 19 For I know that as you pray for me and the Spirit of Jesus Christ helps me, this will lead to my deliverance.

20 For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. 21 For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better.22 But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better.23 I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. 24 But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live.

25 Knowing this, I am convinced that I will remain alive so I can continue to help all of you grow and experience the joy of your faith. 26 And when I come to you again, you will have even more reason to take pride in Christ Jesus because of what he is doing through me.

You are Loved,

cj

Making the right New Year Resolution

Making the right New Year Resolution

Its that time of year again, time to make and break those New Year Resolutions. Did you know that you have less of a shot at actually keeping your “new year resolution” than you do of getting in a car wreck? But lets not talk about that…Here are the top 10 New Year Resolutions year after year:

1
Lose Weight
2
Getting Organized
3
Spend Less, Save More
4
Enjoy Life to the Fullest
5
Staying Fit and Healthy
6
Learn Something Exciting
7
Quit Smoking
8
Help Others in Their Dreams
9
Fall in Love
10
Spend More Time with Family

i find most of these interrelated. For example, if you lose weight you will naturally be more fit and healthy 1 and 5 respectively. Enjoying Life to the Fullest would probably encompass the whole of this list really. So what is the best New Year Resolution? Or a better question might be is it a good idea to even make a New Year Resolution? i personally don’t see a problem with making a resolution to change or improve your life. But i do think that if we are going to be successful we need to look at the reason and the focus of our resolution.

Psalm 51:10-11New Living Translation (NLT)

10 Create in me a clean heart, O God.
Renew a loyal spirit within me.
11 Do not banish me from your presence,
and don’t take your Holy Spirit[a] from me.

 

Philippians 3:12-15New Living Translation (NLT)

12 I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. 13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it,[a] but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

Philippians 4:13New Living Translation (NLT)

13 For I can do everything through Christ,[a] who gives me strength.
If you are on the edge, deciding whether to make a resolution this year or not or if you have already made a list, may i make one suggestion? That you make Jesus, your New Year Resolution. Make Him the focus of 2016 and everything else will fall into place. One last verse that really is all the resolution you need for the coming year…

Matthew 6:33New Living Translation (NLT)

33 Seek the Kingdom of God[a] above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

You are Loved,

cj

Unintentionally Ashamed

Unintentionally Ashamed

Throughout our lives there are times it becomes easy to unintentionally be ashamed of being a Christian. Situations arise and perhaps you over hear a conversation in which Christianity is being put down. And rather than defend it we quietly walk away. That isn’t always the wrong decision. However, more often than not i believe it is an opportunity to share our faith. Paul throughout his ministry finds himself in difficult situations. However, he found resolve in knowing that to, “To live is Christ and to die is gain…”

Let these words of Paul resinate in your hearts and minds this week as you find yourself in situations or opportunities to share hope, life and love to those around you.

Philippians 1:20-24 (NLT)
20 For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. 21 For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better.22 But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better.23 I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. 24 But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live.

You are Loved,

cj