Follow Me (part one)

Follow Me (part one)

Did you ever play follow the leader as a kid? You know that game where one person leads a group and where ever they go you have to follow, and if they jump, you jump . . . That sort of thing? We don’t much play follow the leader anymore like that do we? We still follow; we follow someone who might know where they are going, and so we drive behind them, following them. We follow the directions of our boss. We follow the laws of the land. We even follow sports teams or individuals on social media, twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. Although, we aren’t kids and we don’t “play” the game, follow the leader, we still follow. There are in fact, only two leaders. One says, follow me and enjoy life’s pleasures, the other says, take up your cross and follow me. It’s a stark contrast, one is wide and the other narrow.

So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” Matthew 7:12-14 ESV

Some would say this is two separate thoughts; i would disagree. You see there are two ways, the wide gate, which is easy, and the narrow gate, that is hard to find. Why? Well, because, humans are selfish. Generally, one treats another as they are treated by them. Jesus flips this general rule of thought and says, no, you know how you like to be treated? This is how you should treat others. Let me tell you this, it is not EASY to treat someone, who doesn’t treat you well, in a way that you wish to be treated. In fact, for those who give it a try, it is a tough thing to do!

However, our example in all these things is Jesus. Jesus, who was mocked by His earthly family, deserted by His followers, mocked by the ruling class, the religious, the crowd; All the while treating them, except for righteous anger, with dignity and respect. Obedient all the way to the cross. So what is His secret? The answer is He submitted Himself to God and relied on the Holy Spirit. They were one. He invites us to this same place. He gives us a helper, the Holy Spirit. He invites us to be one as He and the Father are one, He in Him and He in us. It’s a fantastic reality.

The narrow way is difficult because it requires, no, it demands, that we live selflessly. That we consider others over ourselves. This does not come naturally. In fact, unless we follow Jesus, we will never find it. He says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6) Many will quit the journey because the way is to hard, yet what they don’t realize is that when we submit to the Lord, there is a Helper. The Holy Spirit who dwells in us, enables us, to live in such a way as this. We need only to follow the leader, we know as Jesus. You see, you have a choice to either follow Jesus, or you will be following the temporary ruler of this world, the devil. The devil, demands nothing from you but in the end, steals your soul. Jesus, demands your life but in the end, grants you eternity.

Jesus says, “Follow Me, and I will . . . save you, equip you, send you, help you.”

You are Loved,

cj

“Will I find Faith . . .”

“Will I find Faith . . .”

This week i want us to take a look at the Parable of the persistent widow, found in Luke 18:1-8. Here Jesus contrasts the actions of an unrighteous judge, being nagged by a widow, to the acts of a loving God, and the prayers of His faithful. Jesus ends His parable with;

And the Lord said, ‘Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to His elect, who cry to him day and night? Will He delay long over them? I tell you, He will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?’” Luke 18:6-8

The unrighteous judge grants justice to the widow who persisted, nagged him, to the point he responded. God who is loving and desires our good, will be all the more quick to respond. However, here is where the lesson gets deeper, “. . . will He find faith on earth?” Ouch, if that doesn’t sting, you are reading it wrong. Sometimes we get tired of waiting in prayer, having a persistent faith in God moving on our behalf. Let me remind you Joseph remained in prison for years as he waited in prayer for crimes he did not commit. He, of course, is finally vindicated and raised to such authority in Egypt that only Pharaoh had more authority. (see Genesis 39-41)

You see, God’s answers are not in our timing, and speed is relative, when talking about a God who doesn’t live within space or time as we know it. But, He is not slow to answer, and when He does answer, it is suddenly, and unexpectedly. Unexpected, because sometimes He doesn’t answer them the way we have been praying for them. He may be teaching us, waiting for us to mature before granting our answer. It may not be exactly what “we” wanted but, it will be what is true, right, impactful and “HIS WILL!” Remember, even Jesus prayed, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not My will, but Yours, be done.” (Luke 22:42)

In the meantime, we need to know that Satan is out and about looking for anyone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8-9, tells us, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.” He, the devil, is persistent. He doesn’t tire of doing evil, he is simply waiting for opportune times. When we are weak, or tired, or struggling . . . he prepares to pounce. Luke 4:13, says, “And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time.” If he was this persistent with Jesus, the Son of God, just how much more will he be with us who often battle with a lack of faith?

We live in a world that gives up far too quickly, because, giving up is easy to do. We move on to paths of least resistance. We quit because the task looks impossible. We look for happiness and fulfillment in others, in a man or a woman, in a job or a hobby, in something or anything else, when we feel God hasn’t answered our prayers. It is why i linger on, ponder more, pray unceasingly, and remind myself even of this line, “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” Will He, find us waiting faithfully for Him, in word, in deed, in love, in prayer . . . Let me finish the last bit of the passage in 1 Peter 5:10-11;

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To Him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.”

Be encouraged, don’t give up waiting in prayer, do not think God’s delays are a punishment but rather take the time in waiting to discover all that God has for you, in and through, Christ Jesus our Lord! Pray more, yet, listen more than you speak. Read more, pray what you read, that it would encourage you, listen to it as Jesus speaks to you. Allow the Holy Spirit to have His way in your heart and mind as you commune with the God of the universe, the Lord of your life, the one who calls you His friend.

You are Love,

cj

What more can be said?

What more can be said?

What can be said, you know, more than what has already been said of Jesus? Besides the very Word of God, the clear picture we have of Jesus in the Gospels, and the glimpses of Him throughout the Old Testament. Really, what can be added that would do Him justice? Not to mention the books upon books that are out there and available, YouTub videos, devotionals, mini-series’, and the list goes on and on. Who am i to add to what is already available? How are my words going to present Jesus, the King of kings and the Lord of lords, any different or clearer? They are not! i can do and say nothing that will enlighten us any more than what is already available. So why do it then? Well, because to be silent, to keep quiet, to put my hands in my pockets, hang my head low, and walk about as if there was nothing to share, would indeed be negligent of my faith.

Luke records Jesus saying, “He answered, ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.‘” (Luke 19:40) When we believe in something, such as a sports team, we generally speak up about them, even defend them against opposing sports team fans. We make our case for why our team is the better team! We hang banners, plan parties, invite friends, all to cheer on our teams. It doesn’t have to be sports teams, perhaps its a show. When i was a kid my mom and sister love the Soup Opera, Days of our Lives, they would watch it and talk about it, and if one missed an episode, they would fill each other in. One time i remember my sister stayed home sick from school to watch a particular episode because it promised to reveal something of a plot that had been building for months! We recently had a grandson. Our first grandchild! i have shared about him, talked about him, share pictures of him, and if someone were to say something against him, i would rush to his defense!

This is exactly, no not exactly, because it would still be inadequate of how we should talk about Jesus. We need to speak up! Talk to our friends, our loved ones, and frankly anyone who would listen! Talk about what we know is true, talk about and share our struggles, confusions, misunderstandings, so that we might grow in our faith and ability to share. In 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Paul writes, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”  Jesus should be our “watercooler conversation;” He should be the topic of our celebrations, we should have parties and gatherings around the idea of discussing Him, enlightening others to the Truth of the Gospel and of a God who cares for them! When someone misses out on a service, we should desire to fill them in, and they should desire to be filled in.

Here is some good news and a challenge:

“For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. (That is the good news, now for the challenge). But how are they to call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 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! But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?’ So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” Romans 10:13-17

You are loved,

cj

Advent (week three) Joy

Advent (week three) Joy

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

Let’s look at this verse:

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

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

And this verse to wrap things up:

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

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

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

You are loved,

cj

Advent (week 2) Peace

Advent (week 2) Peace

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

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

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

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

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

You are loved,

cj

Christian (part six)

Christian (part six)

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

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

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

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

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

You are loved,

cj

Christian (part five)

Christian (part five)

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

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

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

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

You are loved,

cj