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

How will 2020 look different for me?

How will 2020 look different for me?

i have taken the last couple weeks off from writing here . . . mainly for the holidays. However, not entirely. i have been at a loss of words, writer’s block some might say. That might be partially true but not completely. It is amazing what the feeling of appreciation brings, acceptance, even understanding within disagreement; feelings of joy and the spirit of motivation. Of course, with that said, the opposite is also true. When feeling defeated, opposed, ridiculed, and unappreciated for the attempt to do what God has placed on my heart; this brings a tired feeling, a spirit of pessimism. Obedience isn’t always easy when faced with human weakness, in myself or others. Yet, easy or not, it is required.

6 Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists[a] arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brothers,[b] pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty.But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them.

And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.  (Acts 6:1-7 ESV)

i have had a rough couple of years. i have attempted to do a lot while refusing to do everything. Some things i will admit i should have paid closer attention, other things i should have handed off to others. As someone who is in leadership knows sometimes you just get things wrong. That is where grace should step in not opposition. We should not be lying in wait for someone to fail but rather encouraging them and spurring them on to faith and good works as Hebrews 10:24 says, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.

So to answer the question, “How will 2020 look different for me?” Simple, i will be more resolute to walk in obedience to God’s call on my life. i will take every thought captive and live out my hope in Jesus, not putting my hope in man. i will continue to pray for wisdom and to preach the Word with boldness. In short, i will seek to be less influenced by how man sees me and more worried about how God sees me.

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matthew 10:28

You are loved,

cj

The Merriest of Christmases

The Merriest of Christmases

It was 198?. i was 8ish years old. We lived in Burbank, CA. on Keystone Street. It was a budget crunch year for the family, and we had the option of a Christmas tree or buying a Christmas present for the grandparents. The parents left it up to us kids. The three of us decided on buying our grandparents a gift. That meant no tree. However, not entirely. We did own a small, and by small, i mean not much more than a foot tall fake tree. We decorated it and placed it on the coffee table. So, in the end, it was three feet tall.

i don’t recall what we purchased for the grandparents. i am sure it was lovely. i can tell you, however, what i got that year! With great anticipation, looking under the coffee table, i wondered for weeks, “what could these gifts be?!?” i would pick them up and give them a shake or two, no hint was revealed. Finally, the day arrived! Christmas!!! i was so excited. But we waited. No gifts that year until after the Christmas dinner. We waited for our relatives to arrive. They did. With them, MORE GIFTS! i believe this picture (featured image above) was taken on Christmas day just before we opened the gifts . . . But i could be wrong.

Here is a list of my gifts. From my parents that year i received, i don’t remember. From my sister i received, yeah, i don’t remember that either. From my brother . . . Again, nothing comes to mind, oh, he got me something, they all did, but i don’t remember. What i do remember is i received the memory of the merriest of Christmases. i remember that year; my dad read the story of Christmas from the Gospel of Luke. i remember the joy of my Aunt Helen as she played her accordion that was twice the size she was. i remember the birthday cake my mom made for Jesus and singing Happy Birthday to Him.

i miss that Christmas. It was to me the sweetest most merriest of Christmases. This year my prayer for you is that you will experience the sweetest most merriest of Christmases. May it not be about what is under the tree, but WHO is in your heart. Enjoy the family, read the story in Luke, out loud, bake Jesus a cake, and sing Him happy birthday.

“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased!” Luke 2:10-14

“For to us a child is born, to us, a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6

You are loved,

cj

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas

The Advent season. A time of great tradition. It is widely celebrated in both the Christian culture and the secular culture. Although the secular culture doesn’t necessarily understand the significance of the Advent, they do enjoy their Christmas. They put up Christmas trees, decorate their houses with lights, go to or host holiday parties, exchanging gifts with one another in grand celebrations. When it comes to viewing things from the outside, one would think everyone is celebrating the exact same thing, they would be terribly wrong.

That is just it. When there is no difference in the celebration, is there a difference at all? When my unsaved neighbors put up their Christmas tree, what goes through their heads? Do they ever wonder where the tradition of the tree comes from? The origins of the evergreen tradition in the season? Do we, as Christians, as we set up our tree, talk about the significance of the tree? What does the tree stand for? When was it first introduced? Beyond the tree, how many nativity scenes do you have? When you pull them out of the box and set them up, do you talk about the story? Honestly? Or do you just set it up in a rush to get done so that you can enjoy the decor for the next month?

Wanna know what the world is talking about? Money. They are talking about money. Corporations are looking at the season, and they salivate at the profit margins. It is the season in which they go from the red to the black. In the retail world, that is from being unprofitable to profitable. It is why it is called “Black Friday.” When you buy those gifts for all your loved ones, do you stop to consider the significance of giving gifts at Christmas? When you tear open, those gifts, is a thought given to the greatest gift ever given? How long is that mentioned? For what part of the day is that dwelt upon? One hour on Christmas Eve? Depending on what day is Christmas, maybe one hour on Christmas day? For the Churchgoer.

Interesting how important it is to keep Christ in Christmas yet the amount of time spent truly being wrapped up in the actual Spirit is limited to a few Sunday’s, (keep it short) and a special service on the Eve of . . . But not too late! When Christmas lands on a Sunday, i have seen churches shorten services, combined them if they have multiple services in a day . . . Why? Because attendance drops if Christmas is on a Sunday. What does that tell you about keeping Christ in Christmas? Have you heard the statement about Black Friday? It goes something like this, “Because only in America do we wait in line and trample others for sale items one day after giving thanks for what we already have.”

You know what has become more important than Jesus? Tradition. Want to know what became more important to the religious leaders two thousand years ago? Tradition. Want to know what hasn’t changed? God’s opinion of man’s traditions. i am not saying it is terrible to have traditions, not at all. What i am saying is when those traditions become what we celebrate, when those traditions are the very thing we need in order to celebrate, it is that mentality that has led to how and what we celebrate at Christmas. If we look no different than the world, then we are no different. Make this year different. Maybe we all need to try a little harder to get in the spirit of the Advent . . . Without the influence of tradition, just once.

And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written,

“‘This people honors me with their lips,
    but their heart is far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
    teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’

You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.”

And he said to them, You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition!” Mark 7:3-9

You are loved,

cj

Paganism and the Church (הסוף)

Paganism and the Church (הסוף)

i feel the need to end this series for a time. Sadly, paganism and the church is a big deal. It has been a part of the church for hundreds of years, if not tens of hundreds. So much so that the majority in the church are so blind to it that when you even point in its direction, they become defensive and irritable. Precisely the devil’s plan. Just think if he can fool so many with a little levin, just get one of the marks ever so slightly. Those that are not genuine students of the word will be easy targets when the great deception takes place. Let’s be honest most “Christians” are 1-2 Sunday’s a month pew Christians that may have access to a Bible but rarely even crack it at church.

Here’s the problem. The “Stronger” Christians need to be even greater light. Here’s why the great deception that is coming has the potential of even fooling the elect. What does that word “elect” mean? First, here is the passage i am referring to in its context.

23 Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. 25 See, I have told you beforehand. (Matthew 24:23-25)

The word “elect” comes from the word, eklektos, in Greek and in Hebrew, ἐκλεκτός, it means in its root form, select; by implication, favorite:—chosen, elect. There are three groups of people given the title elect, the Hebrew Nation, the Church, and those who come to faith during the Great Tribulation. Each one of these groups is found in this passage in Matthew regarding the end-times. So which one is being referred to here? It is my opinion as i read through this that it is referring to the people of God. Which group are the real people of God? ALL THREE! i have read many different versions, and many commentaries, i have listened to different sermons on this as well. Each one is trying to align it to a particular group of the three named above. There isn’t a true consensus. Therefore, one must draw the conclusion that maybe, just maybe, God didn’t want one drawn at this point. For this particular use of elect. The deception is going to be so great, so believable that those who are of God in those days, if possible, could be fooled. 

It is why we are told to be alert, to study the scriptures, and to not be taken aside by whims and culture. God is a jealous God. He doesn’t want our worship to be two-faced. He doesn’t want our worship to resemble in any way the pagan culture around us. He says it in multiple places, including 1 Corinthians 10:20-22.

20 No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. 22 Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?

Oh, i am sure i will hear, this is about food. Look, my friend’s food is the least of our worries. Would you buy a ouija board because it is sold in the toy department and just call it a game? Would you decorate your home with Hindu statues because you happen to like elephants or cows? Would you practice pagan worship posses because it is culturally acceptable to do so? Sadly, for many Christians, the answer is yes. Oh, if only we would be so quick to defend the Word of God, rather than to justify the traditions of man. What of God in all of this? What does He think?

12 Take care, lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land to which you go, lest it become a snare in your midst. 13 You shall tear down their altars and break their pillars and cut down their Asherim 14 (for you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God) – Exodus 34:12-14

i write these things, i share these things, not as condemnation, but as a warning. i desire only the Will of God, Him glorified. i hope that it causes one to pause and think critically of how and why they celebrate and worship. For one day, we will stand before God, and we will give an account of our actions, of our worship, and of our life. i want to be able to stand before Him and say, “As You oh God instructed, i did all i could to proclaim, all that You put on my heart, whether popular or unpopular, i proclaimed. Even still oh’ Lord, Thank You for the grace and mercy in my short-comings.”

You are loved,

cj

Break Time

Break Time

Well, can you believe it?! It is already November. We are a week away from Thanksgiving and the start of what has been the tradition of the Advent season leading up to Christmas. Which is something that we have been talking about as we have looked at paganism and the church.  So the struggle for me is real as i digest all this information and find my center, as well as appropriate Worship of our Lord Jesus in the context of a seemingly pagan holiday.

However, we are budding up against our annual fall/winter vacation week. Therefore i will be taking a break from my regular posting and then upon my return will be talking about how i am handling the Advent this year in the context of the church. We have already scheduled our calendar as far as Advent goes, including each Sunday evening in December. We will, however, be looking at Hanukkah as well this year as it lands on the week of our traditional Christmas. Definitely taking a different spin on our traditional Christmas this year.

We have themed it “Find the Light, the birth of THE King,” as i don’t see why we can’t celebrate that within the proper context and outside of anything pagan. Again, i am just now awakening to this and tearing down the false idols without tearing up the wheat.

“But He said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.'” Matthew 13:29-30

i understand that this is taken mostly out of context, i say mostly because it is still useful here as it relates to not being too aggressive as to not lose the weak or shallow-rooted. Yet, until then, as i said earlier, i will be taking a break as i vacation with the family. Although, as any writer knows, sometimes you get hit with something, and you just have to write it down. That may happen, but there will be no posting until the first week in December.

There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from Him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?” Ecclesiastes 2:24-25

You are loved,

cj

Paganism and the Church (part three)

Paganism and the Church (part three)

There is a character who happens to be a wizard named Gandalf the Grey, later becoming Gandalf the White, who appears in the series of writings by J.R.R Tolkien, The Hobbit, and The Lord of the Rings series.  Gandalf is described to be a long-bearded fellow dressed in grey, later white, and carrying a staff. i was looking at photos today of Odin the Germanic pagan god, and thought, “wow, now there are some similarities here!” Could we begin to draw similarities between everything and in so doing, make everything sacred or everything unholy depending on our take? Yes, we could, and yes, we have, in many instances, on many topics. This is the main reason that i want to be very careful as we tred into custom, tradition, holiday’s, and paganism. i don’t want to lead anyone into confusion or misunderstanding, but in everything, cause you, the reader, to think critically and examine Scripture thoroughly.

Last week we talked about the history and timing of Christmas as it relates to pagan traditions, Saturnalia, Yule, and Egyptian sun god worship. There is a figure that each of these traditions has that have surprising similarities. In fact, build upon each other within the ongoing mixing of many of these celebrations. Most notably or recognizable in our current culture, we know him as Santa Clause. No need to dive into who he is or the tradition surrounding him. However, our present Santa is an evolutionary being, drawn from the mixing of cultures throughout time. Chiefly, Saint Nicholas, Sinterklaas, Father Christmas, Kris Kringle, and Odin.

Is Santa just a fun cultural icon who is only one of many characters within the secularization of the Christmas holiday? Or, is he a well placed pagan influence, put there purposefully by the prince and ruler of this world? Well, i will be the first to admit that i have always looked at Santa as just a fun cultural icon of the secular side of Christmas. i even have a costume, dressing up as Santa, i have placed gifts under the tree.  You could say it has been a tradition also as the kids have gotten older. They certainly know that it is me, they even know what they are getting, nerf guns. It’s the same every year, and everyone opens them at the same time, and then, traditionally, an epic battle ensues. Is this a pagan tradition? Are we worshiping Odin? i can unequivocally say, no, we are not.

However, with that being said, now that i know how this cultural icon has evolved, can i continue with a clear conscience? Can i continue to celebrate the birth of Jesus along the same lines as an ever-evolving holiday tradition we know as “Christmas?” The answer to that is also, no, i can not. If i want to celebrate within culture a holiday tradition i certainly am free to do so. Even still once i cross the line or blur the line of worshiping Jesus, my Lord, and Saviour, and use elements that are known by me and everyone else to have pagan history and influence, i am compelled by what i read in Scripture to stop.

And he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, according to all that David his father had done. He removed the high places and broke the pillars and cut down the Asherah. And he broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the people of Israel had made offerings to it (it was called Nehushtan). He trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel, so that there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those who were before him. For he held fast to the Lord. He did not depart from following him, but kept the commandments that the Lord commanded Moses. And the Lord was with him; wherever he went out he prospered. He rebelled against the king of Assyria and would not serve him.” 2 Kings 18:3-7

Notice here that King Hezekiah, to honor God, destroyed all the high places. The “high places” is another term for “holy” sights or places of pagan worship. He broke down the Asherah, again pagan symbols of worship and even the serpent that Moses was instructed by God to make when the children of Israel were being tormented by the serpents in the desert. You see, the Israelites took something God used for good and began to worship it as a god. We can and have done the same thing within the Christian culture. We have taken things God created for our good and have worshiped them instead of God. We need to be as bold as King Hezekiah and begin to tear down those things that we have elevated or given special honor over Jesus in our worship, through worship that is tainted by pagan cultural influences.

Do you have high places that you have built up? Have you set up Asherah poles or other forms of pagan worship within your worship of God? If so, tear them down! And do it now, and do it quickly! God does not want your pagan influenced religion. He wants you to seek Him with your whole heart, soul, mind, and strength. He desires to be worshiped in spirit and in truth, untainted by the world.

You are loved,

cj