And God * said, ​”because you are free,​ it is ok to do as the pagans do!” (*never)

And God * said, ​”because you are free,​ it is ok to do as the pagans do!” (*never)

This is me wading into the muck of a cultural tradition steeped in paganism. The question, should Christians celebrate Halloween? The answer, first, let me ask you a question. If Jesus were alive today, would He attend a pagan festival, dressed as a zombie? No, given the many times in Scripture, we are told not to do as the pagans. Would He attend the festival to preach to the attendees? Unlikely, perhaps He would stand outside of it preaching? Maybe. We don’t know because there isn’t a pagan festival written in the New Testament, so what we have is Jesus’ words regarding worship and the Old Testament. So when in doubt, search the Scriptures and seek the leading of the Holy Spirit.

Let me tackle the idea that we are not to put on others our own convictions, which, i hear often. The verse most widely used is found in Galatians 5:1 — “For freedom, Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Another prominent verse is 1 Corinthians 6:12 — “‘All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful for me,’ but I will not be dominated by anything.‘” We could also look at Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8 here, but we will touch on those in a bit. Our freedom gives us, well, freedom. But, not license to sin by committing idolatry. i have been reading and studying Halloween for some time now, and these are the things that i have learned.

  1. It dates back to a Celtic festival known as Samhain. In which the Celts believed that a portal between worlds, life, and death, was opened. They would dress up in costume to ward off evil spirits.
  2. The Celts date back to 1800 B.C. However, The existence of the Celts was first documented in the seventh or eighth century B.C. The Roman Empire, which ruled much of southern Europe at that time, referred to the Celts as “Galli,” meaning barbarians.
  3. In the early Church, roughly the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honor all saints; soon, All Saints Day incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain. The evening before was known as All Hallows Eve and later Halloween.
  4. It was believed that if the church incorporated some of these traditions, it would make it easier for pagans to convert to Christianity.

There is so much more i could write regarding the traditions and origins of those traditions but suffice it to say all of them are pagan. Therefore, they should be avoided. Look at this passage in Deuteronomy 6:13-15 we read:

“It is the Lord your God, you shall fear. Him you shall serve, and by His name, you shall swear. You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are around you, for the Lord your God in your midst is a jealous God, lest the anger of the Lord your God be kindled against you, and He destroy you from off the face of the earth.”

In 1 Thessalonians 5:21-23, we have Paul instructing the Thessalonians to avoid evil.

“but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely . . .”

Two things here stand out. First, abstain from EVERY form of EVIL. Would you say that Halloween in its former and present state is filled with evil? i know i sure do! Second, “sanctify you,” sanctify means to set apart from. As Christians, we are to be different than the world not blend in so well that no can tell the difference. Let me share a few more verses just to add some perspective for our thought.

“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” Colossians 2:8

“for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.” Ephesians 5:8-11

“He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?” Matthew 15:3

We could discuss here the eating of meat that had been sacrificed to idols, but i will just add this . . . The intent here is to not be a stumbling block to others by our understanding.  So let me pose the question, are you confident in your celebration of a clearly pagan festival isn’t laying a stumbling block for your neighbor? That is the test! Let me end this with a passage from Ezekiel and really, the reason i am writing was inspired here.

“If I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked person shall die for his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, or from his wicked way, he shall die for his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul.” Ezekiel 3:18-19

Can you warn someone of wickedness, evil, and idolatry, and still keep the same festival you are warning them about? No, you cannot. So, therefore, in my humble opinion we as Christians should not partake of the pagan festival known as Halloween regardless of its human tradition. Let me add, this was a natural conclusion, but a difficult decision. Why? Because i love tradition and i grew up on Halloween. i even helped my sister put on a haunted trail for a park she worked for not many years ago. However, my conviction over this grows more and more every day as i see the day of the Lords return getting ever closer. We must wake up and proclaim the truth!

You are loved,

cj

Have we wearied the Lord?

Have we wearied the Lord?

“You have wearied the Lord with your words. But you say, ‘How have we wearied Him?’ By saying, ‘Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and He delights in them.’ Or by asking, ‘Where is the God of justice?'” Malachi 2:17

This looks and sounds a lot like what we have today in our culture. It is in fact what is warned about in Isaiah 5:20 That in the last days. . . “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” And not just in the Old Testament writings but also in the New. “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions.” 2 Timothy 4:3 And in 2 Peter 2:1 “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.” There are so many more, but i will only add one last warning from Revelation 21:8 “But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

Have we as a culture wearied the Lord by watering down His grace because we have removed judgment? Rather than wrestle with challenging topics, we simply say, “God is love.” There is no denying that, seems a legitimate way to end an argument. However, it is a false hope for without judgment, there is no grace, and without repentance, there is no hope for mercy. As history always does, it is repeating itself again. i worry that as a culture, and by that i mean Christian Culture, that we are wearying the Lord with our acceptance of evil as good or just our lack of ability to call evil, evil by saying, “God is love.”

Our battle, as written in Ephesians 6:12 (quoted below in the ESV), is one in which the ruler of this world, Satan, fighting for our heart in an epic spiritual battle that attempts to deceive us into believing the lie, “Did God really say . . .?”

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.

Awake! God is not mocked! Sanctify yourself and work out your salvation with fear and trembling. You are loved so much that God, through Jesus Christ, made a way for us to enter into the holiness of God; Even still, we are being called to be holy by a holy God.

You are loved,

cj

To Write a Symphony

To Write a Symphony

Johann Sebastian Bach – 1685-1750 – Known as one of the greatest composers of all time drew much of his influence from classic hymns of his day using them to write Cantatas for the Lutheran Church as Thomaskantor in Leipzig. His work, of course, far more reaching than this still drew from his religious roots. As in the case of many great musicians and composers, his work was never truly finished, as displayed in his latter days, he spent most of his time coping, transcribing, expanding or programming music in an older polyphonic style until his death. Great work is never truly finished; there is always room for the master to tweak and expand.

Our life is much like a symphony that the Lord is writing. Each life is unique, gifted, and beautiful in its own way and never truly finished until the day one hears, “well done, good and faithful servant.” For many of us putting on the new self is a one time deal and then we are just marking time. We sit impatiently waiting in the quiet ticking of a hand-less clock, for the Lord’s return. We were not created to sit stagnant in time waiting; rather, we were created for such a time as this! Each day when we wake up, the day is half over. “There was evening, and there was morning . . .” This is how time is recorded in Scripture; Sunset marks the beginning of a new day. While the world sleeps, God is busy laying out His will for us. He has been setting things up and now in the middle of the day asks us to join Him. Our lives are His masterpiece. Until we cross over to the other side, we are a work in progress of the Thomaskantor.

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace,[a] both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. Philippians 1:3-11

So, stop thinking you are perfect or that you need to be perfect. Stop thinking there is nothing you can do or there isn’t anything to do. Stop thinking you are useless, or washed up, or worn out.  And start asking the Lord, what are You up to today, Lord? What work do you have for me to do, inwardly and outwardly?

You are loved,

cj

Put on the new self . . . part two

Put on the new self . . . part two

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” Colossians 3:1-4 ESV

The idea that one must put on the new self runs contrary to our postmodern culture of relativism. Sadly, this now, cultural norm of postmodernism, has crept into the church at its most influential pillars, our Christian Universities, and mega-church structures. Postmodernism, at its core, runs contrary to Scripture. It is humanism, secularism, even Luciferian, to its most fundamental core. And it is echoed in the movement of cheap-grace.

Yet, over and over again, we read in Scripture the need to put on the new self. The need to root-out sin in our lives and not only seek forgiveness but also repent, which is to turn from, in essence, putting on the new self. In the opening words of Chapter 3 of Colossians, (above) we see that it isn’t in mans understanding that we are to rely upon, but on the truths presented above, in heavenly places, and revealed in Scripture; more specifically the person of Jesus the Messiah. It one hundred percent means we put the old self to death along with all of its immorality, as defined by Scripture.

Put to death, therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these, the wrath of God is coming. In these, you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” Colossians 3:5-10 ESV

Our present culture reminds me of Paul teaching to the intellectuals in Athens. However, with one slight difference, this age of enlightenment known as postmodernism is far less accepting of moral absolutes. Which makes it increasingly difficult to present the truth to this culture without offending someone to the point of unbalanced retribution. Yes, the message wasn’t universally received back in Paul’s day either we clearly see that, i simply point out that everyone seems to be offended, even within Christiandom. And that should really make you wonder at the words of Jesus when He said, “I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” Luke 18:8 ESV

So what does it look like to put on the new self, scripturally speaking? Well, it looks like this:

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,  bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.  And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.  And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.  And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:12-17 ESV

Clearly, Christianity isn’t the problem. Just read that again if you don’t believe me. Unfortunately, our inability to hold fast to our identity in Christ Jesus is the problem. If we don’t stand for the truth, we will fall for every lie.

You are loved,

cj

Put on the new self . . . part one

Put on the new self . . . part one

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:15 ESV

This passage comes after Paul’s writings on putting on the new self in chapter four of Ephesians. There is a requirement on our part beyond merely accepting Jesus into our lives. We have to allow Him the ability to change us. Which means taking thoughts captive, it means dying to ourselves daily, it means taking the steps necessary in your life, it means taking ownership of your decisions, it means changing for there is no growth without change. However, without the Holy Spirits influence, we are hopelessly lost in an endless cycle of sin.

Can there be personal growth without the Holy Spirit? Yes, just look around you at some of your friends who without knowledge of God personally, they seem to make positive changes in their lives. But we are not simply talking about physical changes, we are talking about heart changes, spiritual changes, changes in how the mind thinks and reacts and does. Hear the words of Paul to the Corinthians:

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:18 ESV

That is us. Now here it is in Ephesians four in contrast to the non-believing person. There is a stark contrast to the mind of someone living outside of God’s grace as opposed to one living within it, all though the grace of God is available to all.

Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ! assuming that you have heard about Him and were taught in Him, as the truth is in Jesus . . .” Ephesians 4:17-21 EVS

Notice two things from this passage above, first, “futility of their minds” and “their hardness of heart.” Here, very clearly, one cannot separate the mind and the heart as they appear to work in tandem. Jesus deals with the heart clearly. He dwells there with His Spirit, ever-present, ever whispering, ever softening. In the mind, however, resides the carnal nature and therein lies the change that is required. Here is the last bit of this section in Ephesians.

. . . to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” Ephesians 4:22-24 ESV

We must begin to change the way we think to sometimes not think anything at all! The mind and the carnal nature that dwells there is “deceitful!” It has a mission from the carnal to lead you by misleading you. To clear the mind of thought so that we can focus clearly on the heart of Christ is absolutely necessary! However, not in all things as the mind is incredible! Without it, we don’t breath, our bodies stop functioning as all processes run through the motherboard of our bodies the mind or our brains. It is useful, and it is necessary, it is however flawed and therefore requires a renewing, a daily renewing. We must put it in check always taking every thought captive and giving it to Jesus within the heart and filtering it there.

You are loved,

cj

Greetings to the Seven Churches (part 8)

Greetings to the Seven Churches (part 8)

And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation.‘” Revelation 3:14

Laodicea, although on the banks of the river Lycus, it appears either the river ran underground or wasn’t always a steady flow as Laodicea is known for having an aqueduct system. The aqueduct brought water from a hot spring about five miles away and so it is believed that by the time the water reached the city itself, it was lukewarm or tepid. Laodicea isn’t just known for its appearance here in Revelation but is also mentioned in Paul’s writings to the Colossians. Which Colossea wasn’t too far away from Laodicea.

“I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. ” Revelation 3:15-16

There are two popular interpretations of this verse above. One is that being hot or cold, or on fire for the Lord, zealous even, was far greater than being lukewarm and that God would rather one not even say they believe but be cold entirely than to say they believe but do so in a lukewarm manner. The second idea of popular interpretation is using the concept of the aqueduct. Hot water is useful, it is suitable for sanitizing, cooking, even drinking; as is cold water good for many things, especially for being satisfying on a hot day. So whether one was cold or hot, neither better than the other but rather equally useful is better than being tepid or lukewarm. Have you ever been hot and go to get a drink of cold water only to find out it’s tepid and you spit it out? That is what is being described here, the lukewarm will be spit out of the mouth of God.

What brings one to the point of being lukewarm in faith? Is it contentment, and not the contentment Paul refers to when saying, “I have learned to be content in all circumstances.” (Philippians 4:11) But perhaps an overestimation of one’s well being? Here in Revelation 3:17, John will address the why or how the lukewarmness has taken hold.

“For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.” Revelation 3:17

Does this at all sound like the western church of today? We are content in our riches! We have broadway stage productions every Sunday in countless churches across the country to appeal to the desire of man. Smile and seek wealth and prosperity because that is God’s desire for you, is being preached by more and more “pastor’s.” When in reality we need to see that we are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked . . . We need a Saviour. We need to realize that it is far more critical that we spread the gospel than build a new center. That our riches are not in earthly possesions but in heavenly treasure. Here are the words the Lord advises us here to do:

“I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.” Revelation 3:18-19

Again, let me remind us that this is being written to the church. This should both be alarming and comforting. If you find yourself in a state in which you have grown content in your riches, there is hope, and there is life, and there is grace if we respond.

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into him and eat with him and he with me. The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Revelation 3:20-22

This verse has some folks all wound up because it is used in evangelical messages where the Gospel is being presented to non-believers. i don’t really see a problem. Yes, in its context, it is written to the church. Yes, there are many verses that are taken out of context that cause overall harm to the Gospel. However, this is not one of those times. We know that; “God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son . . .” John 3:16. We also know that God desires “all to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:19. This verse conveys that message that behold He stands at the door and knocks, and if anyone opens that door, He will come into them. Besides we also understand that many are the hearers at a revival or evangelistic crusade and therefore to some in the church these words are fitting.

Do you need to open the door to Jesus again, do you need that fresh start? He desires to take a meal with you to feed and nourish your soul, mind, and body. He wants a relationship with you. Won’t you open the door for Jesus today?

You are loved,

cj

Greetings to the seven Churches (part 6)

Greetings to the seven Churches (part 6)

Sardis

And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of Him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent…” Revelation 3:1-3 (3 in part) ESV

Wow, wow, wow, here is for the first time zero atta-boys but a firm rebuke and call to repentance right out to the gate. Sardis was the capital city of the Lydian Empire. They had great halls and buildings and temples. In fact, one of the seven largest Greek temples founds it home in this metropolis, the one to Artemis, goddess of the hunt, the moon, and fertility. As a capital city and one of such great stature and prominence, it is easy to see how the church may have gotten a bit off track. It is easy to see actually, and there are, as i read them, many similarities between this ancient Greek capital and my own home country, the whole thing. Not only that but as i read this i wonder, “how many in the western church would fall into this description, ‘You have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.'”

i see so many, what appears to be, great full of life churches; i have been a part of a few. One i would say, without a doubt, was alive! The other appeared alive to many but as i sat in the inner circle we were far from thriving, in fact, we were on death row. We, collectively, needed to repent. Instead, as the warning continues to the Sardis church, so was the fate of this “church” it imploded. It has yet to recover. We also see so many Mega or large churches that seem alive fall in the blink of an eye, as another Sardis church crumbles. Let us look at the remainder of this letter to Sardis in Revelation 3.

Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent.  If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before His angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'” Revelation 3:3-6

There is a remnant, there is always a remnant! If you feel stuck in a church and in your spirit, you know that it is all a show, that although the “church” appears alive, you know it is not, here is what you need to do. First, pray! Pray for wisdom and discernment on when and how to bring up your concerns with the pastor or ministry leader. If they will listen, great! If not, find a few others who share your concern. Again, pray for wisdom and discernment. Then collectively approach your pastor or ministry leader. If they will listen, great! If not, shake the dust from your feet and leave. Go and find a church that is truly alive and seeking the will of the Lord daily. Be the remnant. Be the unsoiled. Be the conquerer.

You are loved,

cj