me and my bike

me and my bike

When i was eight years old, i remember for my birthday that year getting the greatest ever gift! A bike! It was a beautiful chrome Mongoose BMX bike! i absolutely loved that thing, and together we went on many an adventure. That same year for my birthday my sister and brother also received bikes . . . the now-classic beach cruisers. i didn’t care that we all received bikes on my birthday i was just happy to have the greatest ever gift in the entire world!

The three of us rode those bikes to Glendale Galleria, at the time it seemed like the biggest shopping mall on the planet! i was eight. We rode those bikes to Los Angeles Zoo and the old Los Angeles Zoo, where many a film was made. We would watch the production crews and the such from a distance but as close as we could get! We rode those bikes to Griffith Park and then would take a ride on the miniature trains. A few years later, when my parents trusted me to go on adventures with my friends, we would ride our bikes to Universal Studios and the back lot of Burbank Studios. That bike helped me deliver thousands of newspapers as a “newsie” on my paper-routes.

Oh, the adventures i remember taking on that bike! i even got hit by a car on my bike. Neither of us suffered anything more than a bruise or two. i could go on and on about my adventures, those were the days! Simple days, no cares or worries, of course, i was only eight. But the world was so much bigger then, and i lived in just a small part of it. The bubble of my universe was my three best friends, the girl i had my eyes on, and my bike. Now, the world is so small, and if i allowed myself, it would be full of worry.

Yet, we are told not to worry. For we serve a God who is able! Even if we are to suffer in the moment . . . joy comes in the morning. Be encouraged friends that no matter what may come our way, our God is BIGGER!

Fear NOT, for I AM with you; be NOT dismayed, for I AM your God; I WILL strengthen you, I WILL help you, I WILL uphold you with MY righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10 ESV (emphasis added)

It’s Time.

It’s Time.

It is time to grow up. Move on from the elementary lessons and on to the meat of the matter. We don’t want that, though, because it requires something of us. Yet, we must begin a new, and greater process of letting go of our selves. A journey in which we die to our selves daily, that we might take up our cross to follow the only one who knows the way, The Way. Paul writes this to the Corinthians:

“But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? For when one says, ‘I follow Paul,’ and another, ‘I follow Apollos,’ are you not being merely human?” 1 Corinthians 3:1-4

This isn’t the only passage that calls us to maturity. There are countless others. Each one rings true to the fact that we must grow-up! To remain toddlers or babies in Christ is to live a meaningless life that will be rift with crisis after crisis, swaying you and blowing you about in an endless torrent of catastrophe. The writer to the Hebrews writes:

“About this, we have much to say, and it is hard to explain since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” Hebrews 5:11-14

How does one begin to move from the elementary to the secondary, from the milk to the meat? It is done daily. It is done intentionally. It is done moment by moment and decision by decision. It requires death. Death to your old self and a putting on of the new self in Christ Jesus. It requires prayer, and meditation, meditate on the Word, day and night. It requires us to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly. It is a choice, and only you can make it. Be encouraged by Paul’s words to the Philippians:

“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:12-14

You are loved,

cj

I Don’t Wanna Go (Part 5 of 5)

I Don’t Wanna Go (Part 5 of 5)

The final verse of the song by Chris Renzema is, for me, the most powerful. (If you haven’t yet you can find a link to the song at the bottom of Part 1) Here is the lyric:

Like Jesus in the garden
Will you take this cup from me
Like Jesus in the garden
You don’t call where you won’t lead
I wanna love like you love
I wanna bleed like you bleed

The struggle is real, my friends. i love how Chris writes this first part, “Like Jesus in the garden, Will you take this cup from me.” It is based on Jesus’ request recorded this way in the Gospel of Luke 22:

41And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, 42saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me.”

The anguish in those words is unmistakable. Yet Jesus’ resolve is in the very next part of verse 42, “Nevertheless, not my will, but Yours, be done.” It isn’t about our will; it is, however, completely about the Will of the Father. And like Jesus in the garden, the Father won’t lead us where He doesn’t’ first call us. His love for us is genuine, and therefore, our love must mirror His.

“I wanna love like you love,  I wanna bleed like you bleed.” What breaks the heart of the Lord should also break our hearts. What stirs the Lord to move must also stir us to action! Are you living a life that loves like that and bleeds like that? i desire to live in this way, i hope that you do too!

Seek the Lord, and boldly declare, “i don’t wanna go if you’re not going with me!” And “i wanna go where You go and stay where You stay!” i want to be where You are Lord, lead me, and i will follow.

You are loved,

cj

I Don’t Wanna Go (Part 4 of 5)

I Don’t Wanna Go (Part 4 of 5)

17 And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son,[a] with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.”And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. (Matthew 17:1-8 ESV)

The Transfiguration was a sight to behold i am sure! Just by the reaction of Peter, James, and John we can see that it was spectacular. Can you imagine being there? Seeing what they saw surely would invoke many questions. Peter’s response to build tents or altars in that place certainly wasn’t said in jest but in sincerity. An honest desire to mark the occasion.

As we continue our look at Chris Renzema’s song, “I Don’t Wanna Go” we see him touch on this event.

Like Peter on the hill
I wanna make this my place
Like Peter on the hill
For your transfigured face
I will go where you go
I will stay where you stay

i have many a memory of which i have built an altar of remembrance to the goodness of Jesus. i believe that is what Peter desired to do, given the many altars of stone that were built in the Old Testament as reminders of God’s faithfulness. i also feel that is what Chris is trying to say here as well. Like Peter, in awe of God’s glory, desires to live in that place. To dwell with the Most High and to build an altar . . . yet, to also say, “I will go where you go, I will stay where you stay,” must remain our heart’s desire.

We cannot live on the mountain peaks of our relationship with God, but, we can mark them, remember them, even build an altar to look back upon later. As a remembrance of the Lord’s faithfulness. The past is a foundation, the present is our time, the future is the one we strive to share. It is easy to get locked into the present and desire to dwell there and for good reason. We cannot live in the past, we cannot go blindly into the future, we must live fully in the present, however, we do so with the words of obedience, “I will go where you go, I will stay where you stay!” (a link to the song by Chris Renzema can be found at the end of Part 1 of this series).

You are loved,

cj

I Don’t Wanna Go (part 3 of 5)

I Don’t Wanna Go (part 3 of 5)

This week we are looking at the 3rd chorus of the song by Chris Renzema (see part one for a link to the song). In this stanza, the focus is on Moses. We can look at the parts of Moses’ life and calling and see it was full of peaks and valleys. Here we are reminded that Moses didn’t get to lead the people into the promised land. Sadly, and as a humbling reminder that there are consequences for our actions and in the eyes of God no one is exempt from them . . . yet, still, His mercy and grace abound, and Heaven still remains a reward for those who remain faithful even after the storm.  Let’s look at the lyric:

Like Moses in the desert
I wanna see the land
Like Moses in the desert
I can’t fully see your plan
Still your love doesn’t stop
When I see the land from a mountain top

So many great things to be said of Moses; i don’t want to get lost on this one occasion. However, it is essential to note that even the godliest of people have moments of weakness.  Moses was instructed to speak to the rock in Numbers 20 and water would come from it for the nation of Israel. This is the same rock that we read about in Exodus 17. In the Exodus passage, Moses is told to strike the rock with his staff, and in Numbers, he is only instructed to speak to it . . . there is another interesting point, just before he strikes the rock Moses says, “. . . shall we bring water for you…?” Although, Moses is the mouth piece, it was God who was going to bring the water.

Now the people of Israel were a grumbling sort. We read that they were often grumbling against Moses and Aaron and God, for that matter. At this point, i am sure Moses was fed up with the 40 years of whining and complaining. He let his emotions get the best of him. i do that sometimes, i think we all do. Yet, even still, God, although carried out the consequence, allowed Moses to see the promised land, Numbers 27. Here is the main lesson that i take away from this, God is faithful, even when we are not.

But there is more! i have learned and am learning still to walk humbly, and completely with the Lord. my responsibility isn’t to please people but the Lord only. For when i focus on being obedient to the Lord, no matter how bad the grumbling might become i know that God, through His faithfulness, will bring everyone around to see His faithfulness. i needn’t try to make way for Him, no need to strike the rock, no need to take on the anointed of the Lord, no need to fight against the air . . . only listen to the Lord and obey Him.  i am again reminded of my life verse:

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” Micah 6:8

You are loved,

cj

 

I DON’T WANNA GO (PART 2 OF 5)

I DON’T WANNA GO (PART 2 OF 5)

Ever feel like the Lord led you into a dead-end or just making you wander around in a desert? i remember when i was half-heartedly in ministry. i was 20 something, married, one kid, at the time. i was working retail, and taking each step, i felt the Lord directing, to advance my career. We attended a little church where we were active with the ministry. i worked with the teens and worked full time in retail. i said yes Lord! i will serve You! However, i was only half-way in the pool.

When i was eight years old, ok probably more like 12, but i don’t actually remember, i had a paper route. i so loved being a paperboy. At the end of my route was a sweet lady who invited me and my friends to use her pool at the beginning of summer. Well, on the first hot day we didn’t hesitate! We headed over and into the backyard, then into the pool. That was a huge mistake! The pool was so cold we could barely move! i am convinced that had we stayed in the water any longer, we would all have died of hypothermia. None of us went in more than waste deep. We were too cold. Even though after getting out, the lady jumped in and did a few laps. We were just too chicken and afraid. We didn’t trust the lady and we didn’t trust the thermometer.

As we continue our look at the song by Chris Renzema (see part one for a link to the song) i want us to ponder the second verse.

Like Israel on the shore,                                                                                                           All I see is crashing waves,                                                                                                   Like Israel on the shore,                                                                                                           Through the wild you make a way,                                                                                            I will go where You go,                                                                                                                 I will stay where you stay

i love this lyric. When the Lord led the Israelites out of Egypt it is easy to see why the people worried when they reached the edge of the Red Sea. Of course, hindsight is 20/20 so we, of course, know the whole story, and we even think, “after all, God did they were still afraid.” (See Exodus 14) However, i imagine our response might actually be similar to that of the Israelites, unfortunately. After the Lord parts the sea and they begin their desert journey we see the Lord never left them. They were instructed to “stay” where the Lord’s presence rested and “go” when the Lord’s presence lifted. They were told to follow the Lord as He presented Himself in their midst as a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Even still it was a struggle for them, a constant struggle.

Why then do we think it will be any different for us? There will come times of struggle when we don’t fully understand the Lords leading. If you find yourself wandering in a desert or at what seems to be a dead-end, i can assure you it isn’t because the Lord has failed you or somehow given up on you. The question in those moments becomes, “are we still trusting in Him?” And as this verse ends, we must be willing to declare and follow-through, “I will go where You go, I will stay where You stay.” i had to make a decision as a young servant of the Lord, husband, and father, to step all in and immerse myself into ministry. The road has led to many places. Some appeared as dead-ends, others as a desert, yet all served a purpose as i have grown in faith and wisdom. my prayer for you is this, if you find yourself at a dead-end, or in an endless desert, that you will declare; “I will go where You go, I will stay where You stay.”

You are loved,

cj

“I Don’t Wanna Go” (part 1 of 5)

“I Don’t Wanna Go” (part 1 of 5)

Sometimes we have the best of intentions. Our desires are not against the Word, in fact, it might even be that our hearts long to worship and obey in ways we see as beneficial and glorifying to God as a whole. i remember once as a youth pastor that i desperately wanted to start up a youth worship band. i wanted it not for anything other than to build the ministry and to have the teens lead in ways that would, in my opinion, help them to grow in the Lord. Without much prayer, i just set out to do, because, hey it’s for God! Sadly, it wasn’t long and it was nothing but a sore spot, a thorn in the flesh if you will.

i learned a lot from that in that just because i wanted it doesn’t mean it is within God’s desire or timing. There is a song by Chris Renzema, that depicts this thought so very well! i will link to it’s YouTube video at the end. It is called, “I Don’t Wanna Go,” hence the title of this blog entry. In its opening lines, you get the heart of this idea of the desire to honor God as he brings to light King David’s heart of wanting to build God a Temple, a permanent structure. David’s heart was in the right place, he declared, why should the king live in a palace, while God is dwelling in a tent? David made this declaration to Nathan the Prophet, and Nathan seemed in the moment to agree, it does sound good! “Do all that is in your heart, for God is with you.” (See 2 Samuel 7; & 1 Chronicles 17)

However, that night the Lord speaks to Nathan and says, “Nope, not today.” (Ok i paraphrased that a little) In this whole thing God reveals His desire, Nathan shares it with king David, and David prays to the Lord in gratitude. Sometimes, we won’t fully understand God’s plan. That is OK, but we still have to accept God’s plan. Back to my days as a youth pastor, although it wasn’t time in that season to have a youth band, God did eventually bless me with one. i am completely humbled by His faithfulness. Here is the verse of the song by Chris Renzema:

Like David and the temple
I wanna bring You praise
But like David and his temple plans
Your ways are not my ways
You don’t need me to build a temple                                                                                     to know that You love me still, oh

You are loved,

cj

Here is a link to the song by Chris Renzema, I Don’t Wanna Go: https://youtu.be/nZ_LUCVdh-o

If Not Today . . .

If Not Today . . .

i had a great routine of going to the gym three days a week faithfully. It was awesome. It was California, and they had a heated pool so, i was able to swim every day. That is my favorite workout, swimming. In fact, when i lived in Wasilla Alaska, i swam four to five days a week, sometimes even six or seven, depending. It is a great workout. Now i am no swimmer mind you, i definitely don’t have a swimmer’s body, and my swimming technique probably looks more like flailing about rather than swimming, but i can keep a steady pace for about a mile. i am a member of a gym now, and they have a pool, but it isn’t a lap pool it is more like a giant bathtub for water-aerobics or small children learning to swim. Needless to say, i lack a strong motivation to go to the gym anymore.

i tell myself, if only they had a lap-pool i would be at the gym every day! i say things like, “Monday, Monday! i will start back at the gym. Only to have Monday come and go without a trip to the gym. i think we can all relate in some way to this, whether it be the gym or some other “thing” that you keep putting off for “Monday,” only to have Monday come and go without a “thing” to show for it.

This same principle can be applied to our walk with Jesus. “Oh, I will go to church next Sunday.” “I will start reading my Bible daily on Monday.” “I will begin that daily devotional or attend that Wednesday Night Bible Study this week.” Many have good intentions only to have those Sunday’s, Monday’s, Wednesday’s, those start days, come and go with only regret for not doing what you said you would do.

i think the best way to begin to form good habits and break bad habits is to just start! Don’t wait for Sunday or Monday or Wednesday or “this or that day” to begin. And then when you start, don’t do it for yourself, although you will benefit. Don’t do it for your spouse, although they will benefit. Don’t do it for anyone but do it for the Lord. He ultimately is the one we should be living for! And this idea doesn’t just apply to Church or studying the Bible or going to a study or group, it applies to any and everything you do.

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord, you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” Colossians 3:23-24 ESV

You don’t wait until you are in shape to go to the gym, you don’t wait until you are skinny or healthy to start a diet or change your eating habits, and you shouldn’t wait to begin to live your life wholly for Jesus in everything that you do.

You are loved,

cj

Sit, Stay, Roll-Over

Sit, Stay, Roll-Over

He said, “sit,” and he sat. He said, “lay down,” and he laid down. He said, “roll over,” and he rolled over. He said, “beg,” and he sat up, leaned back slightly with his paws up as he looked longingly into his master’s eyes. He said, “BANG!” And he fell back and played dead. It is amazing what you can teach a dog to do. And these are just simple tricks. i have seen some dog acts where i think the dogs are part human or something. Dogs are trained to help police, military, the blind, and disabled, they are used as emotional support animals in hospitals, and homes. They are remarkable animals. They are always happy to see you, no matter how long you have been gone, 10 seconds, 10 hours, or 10 days. Even 10 months or more! i have watched some emotional videos of soldiers coming home after deployment, and their dogs go absolutely insane with joy. “Dogs, a man’s best friend,” that is what they say anyway.

i have had a few dogs in my lifetime. None could do many tricks. Shake, sit, and lay down, simple commands were about it. You know what most of them could do, though? Get into the trash, relieve themselves in the house, bark at nothing, dig up the yard, shed all over the house more fur than could possibly be imagined, and yet they never went bald, if i were only so lucky. Yet in all of this, they were loved, correction quickly forgotten, and belly rubbings promptly reinstated. Why all this for a dog? Loyalty, that is really the only word i can come up with, loyalty. Dogs are loyal to the very end. It is what makes forgiving them so easy. If only we were able to forgive others as quickly if only others were so loyal.

The parable of the Prodigal son found in Luke 15:11-32 tells a tale of a greedy and ungrateful son. He wanted his inheritance while his father still lived. His father obliged. After squandering his inheritance, he found himself destitute and wishing he could even just eat like the pigs. But not even that was offered. He reasoned to go home where his father’s servants had food to spare. Determined to seek his father’s forgiveness and beg to be treated like one of his servants, he set out for his former home. What greeted him, he was not prepared. His father gave him the best, returned the family ring, and killed the fatted calf in celebration for his son, who was dead, was now alive again. Not dead in the physical sense but gone in the emotional sense had returned humbled by life with sorrow in his soul.

Jesus goes on in this story to relate it to how our Heavenly Father looks at us. We are not dogs, trained to do this or that, but we are dogs that even when we mess up, love is just behind the correction. Forgiveness awaits the sorrowful, repentant heart. Never be so proud to come home, never feel so lost that you can’t seek the Father. The Lord, who loves you, waits eagerly for you, He is watching the horizon for a glimpse of your approach. When He sees you, He runs to meet you, love you, and celebrate your return! Come to Jesus! Come back to Jesus! He longs to have mercy on you.

You are loved,

cj

i said it . . .

i said it . . .

i did it. On Sunday i said, “hell,” and it wasn’t a curse word. It isn’t the first time, however, and it certainly won’t be the last. Although it is becoming more and more uncommon to hear the word in any sermon or message of any popularity. Hell is a very uncomfortable subject, more so even, then when it is 110 degrees outside and the air conditioner is broken. We can debate the definition of the terms, several are used in scripture, or the physical location all we want but let me tell you what isn’t debatable the honest meaning of the word, “Eternal Separation from God,” period.

Think about that for a moment. The message of the Gospel is hope to a dying world. Hell is it’s destination if it is unaltered. The freedom to choose is on the table for everyone. Choose to believe and enter into eternal glory, choose to ignore or not believe and it is eternal separation. Of course with believing comes repentance and allowing the Holy Spirit to work in and through you but let’s just focus on the believing part for today. It is clear that one must believe before they can repent otherwise there is no need, in the mind of the individual.

Scripture tells us to Repent and be baptized, Acts 2:38. Prior to this statement, following Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended upon those who had been praying, it states this: “Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?'” You see they believed, and in verse 21 Peter is very clear, “And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Saved from what? The eternal separation from God, hell.

Most people reading this already believe so what is my point in writing to you the need to believe? If we know that belief is the first step. If we truly believe this what are we doing about it? You know how many people you come in contact with every day who are on a road that leads to hell? It is greater than 50% i would imagine. What are you doing about it? i wrestle with that question personally a lot, “what am i doing about it?” If i know that there is a bridge that is out at the top of a hill and cars driving up that hill can’t see it until it is too late. Therefore, they plummet to their death, shouldn’t i do all that i can to get their attention and tell them, to get them to believe me, to stop and turn around?

That is it. We have the message of Hope for the world. We see that the bridge ahead is out and that there is a detour where one can cross over. Should we not then do all that we can to tell the people?

14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?[a] And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”                 Romans 10:14-15

For those who follow me or know me, i have written a book, “Staying the Journey, the narrow road.” The premise is Christian living within our culture. i hope you will pick one up. You can follow this link HERE, or it is also available at ChurchSource, Faithgateway, Barnes and Noble, and also on all EReader platforms.

You are loved,

cj