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

Jude (Part 1)

Jude (Part 1)

Let me start here: if you have not read Jude (an introduction), stop now and go read it . . . it will make more sense that way. However, as a reminder to those who did read it let me refresh your memory. Jude is one of four brothers of Jesus and at some point led the Church in Jerusalem. He came to faith after Jesus’ resurrection. This same Jude then pens this letter and it is powerful! As a call to repentance, as a reminder of judgment, and as a warning to stay alert as we contend for the faith.

He doesn’t waste time with small talk, antidotes, or gibber, he is very matter-of-fact. In the verses, we will look at this week, we will see his heart, and his understanding as the brother of Jesus and leader of the Church. Let’s look at verse 5, “Now I desire to remind you, though you know all things once for all, that the Lord, after saving a people out of the land of Egypt, subsequently destroyed those who did not believe.” Here is an interesting point, there are a couple manuscripts out there as well as a few versions of the Bible that use “Jesus” in place of “the Lord”. Could these early manuscripts be more accurate to Jude’s point? i think so. Jude had come to an understanding of who Jesus was and was not ashamed of it.

We love grace, i love grace. We preach grace, i preach grace, and it is glorious! However, we mustn’t lose sight of Jesus. Jesus, actively a part of the Old Testament, who is the same yesterday, today and forever, saves us by His cross. He leads us free from the chains of sin, out of bondage and into freedom. As the Israelites out of Egypt and still, subsequently (lit. the second time) He destroys those who did not believe. Folks, there is judgment. There is a hell and it has been preached since the formation of the Church. Do not be led astray. We must continue to contend for the faith in a world that would pervert the grace of God, even some in the Church.

Now I desire to remind you, though you know all things once for all, that [e]the Lord, after saving a people out of the land of Egypt, [f]subsequently destroyed those who did not believe. And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day, just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after [g]strange flesh, are exhibited as an [h]example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire. (NASB)

Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved[c] a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day— just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire,[d] serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire. (ESV)

Pray with me for insight, for understanding, for fresh revelation into God’s Word. Let the Spirit of God speak to our hearts through these words written by Jude inspired by the Spirit. May we grow in wisdom and faith, as we seek to walk humbly with Jesus, contending for the faith. Until next week . . .

you are loved,

cj

Praise the Lord!

Praise the Lord!

The shortest chapter in the Bible is Psalm 117, it is just two verses. Yet these two verses are immensely profound in their simplicity. You want to boil things down to the minimum and just look at the core of human existence? Then here you go:

“Praise the Lord, all you nations! Worship Him, all you peoples! Because God’s faithful love towards us is strong, the Lord’s faithfulness lasts forever! Praise the Lord!”

It doesn’t get much simpler than this, Praise the Lord. Worship Him. Because, He is faithful. His love is strong towards us and He is forever faithful. Thus, we should, Praise the Lord! No matter what you are facing, no matter what difficulties or trials befall you, Praise the Lord! In the good and in the bad, Praise the Lord! In the sun and in the rain, Praise the Lord! In life and in death, Praise the Lord! In sickness and in health, Praise the Lord! In the hardest of times and in the best of times, Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!

Praise the Lord,

you are loved,

cj

Discovery

Discovery

Discovery, so deep there is a channel dedicated to it, ships named for it, TV series dedicated to it and seminars teaching how to do it. It’s as awesome, and intriguing as it can be when it doesn’t involve us. You know, watching a Discovery Channel program can be really interesting but when it comes to self discovery it can be much less interesting and rather intimidating.

No one likes looking deep into their life and soul for fear of finding that thing that they have been suppressing since their childhood. Then having to deal with it. Yet what we don’t understand sometimes is that “thing” we choose to ignore will eventually surface and 99% of the time it will be at the wrong or most inopportune time.

There is good news however, Jesus! He’s the good news, Jesus is there wanting to walk with you through the journey of self discovery. Let’s just look at this verse from Romans 8:31-37;

“31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;

we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

There is nothing too dark, too bad, too distressing, too dangerous, too overwhelming that Jesus can not help you through. He is for you not against you, He desires to bring you hope for a future with Him.
You are loved,

cj

Trees of Righteousness

Trees of Righteousness

When i have writers block…sitting at my computer just staring at the blinking curser, growing ever more frustrated as nothing comes to mind (i know that most of you can understand somewhat of what i am trying to express) anyway, at the point of absolute frustration i put on music. It is usually my favorite album of all time, David Crowders Neon Steeple Deluxe Edition, and grab my “magic” Bible and just flip it open and begin reading.
Today i opened to one of my favorite passages in Isaiah. In chapter 61:1-3 is says this: (NKJ)

61 “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me,
Because the Lord has anointed Me
To preach good tidings to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
And the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord,
And the day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all who mourn,
3 To console those who mourn in Zion,
To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” 

This passage really speaks for itself but it also speaks for me and my heart, where i am on my journey. So, i wanted to share it with you. Read this passage yourself a few times, asking Jesus to show you through His Holy Spirit insight into your own walk with Him. Where are you in it, are you being called? Are you brokenhearted, mourning, bound? Hear the passage…Hear the Spirit…Listen!  Leave a comment or share a prayer request.

You are loved,

cj

#LifeIsMoreThanJustAHashtag

#LifeIsMoreThanJustAHashtag

i enjoy social media, probably too much. i like to scroll down and read stories, look at pictures, watch funny and thought provoking videos…oh and post some too.  i like Facebook for its functionality in seeing what my friends are up to…sometimes the posts break my heart, not always because a tragedy had taken place but because poor choices are being made. Twitter is another place i enjoy visiting. It is quick reads, with occasional links to longer stories. Snap shots into ones thoughts or experiences or views on life, love and laughter.

i can get so wrapped up in it that i spend time thinking of hashtags, you may know them as pound signs or the number symbol. Which ever way you remember them the hashtag is a line or words run together that makes a point and links your point to others making the same point.  For instance a popular hashtag is #MondayMotivation so if i were to write something like, “Monday’s are hard without my #coffee #MondayMotivation” i would be linking my tweet or FaceBook post with others talking about coffee or Monday Motivation. i say all that as if those reading this have no idea what a hashtag is having just woken from an 11 year coma.

Colossians 1:15-20 reads;

15 The Son is the image of the invisible God,
the one who is first over all creation,

16 Because all things were created by him:
both in the heavens and on the earth,
the things that are visible and the things that are invisible.
Whether they are thrones or powers,
or rulers or authorities,
all things were created through him and for him.

17 He existed before all things,
and all things are held together in him.

18 He is the head of the body, the church,
who is the beginning,
the one who is firstborn from among the dead
so that he might occupy the first place in everything.

19 Because all the fullness of God was pleased to live in him,
20         and he reconciled all things to himself through him—
whether things on earth or in the heavens.
He brought peace through the blood of his cross.

Let me put this into present day terms we might better understand, Jesus is our hashtag. When we live our lives in Christ, we live them linked together with Him and those that are linked with Him are also linked together by #Jesus. It is both and, not either or…we are linked if you are in Christ. Which means we are living each others lives, living the experiences, challenges, hopes, fears, triumphs, AND failures together. Our life joining hashtag is Jesus and with HIM comes community. The world says FaceBook or Twitter or by a half dozen other social networks we can share with others but the Word says, Jesus, and together, we are one, experiencing life together.  Let me close with this, life, is more than a hashtag, Jesus is more than a hashtag but if the language you speak is hashtag then #Jesus because #lifeismorethanjustahashtag.

You are loved,

cj

Nose Plugs

Nose Plugs

i want us to chew on this verse for a few days: Colossians 1:9-10

“9 Because of this, since the day we heard about you, we haven’t stopped praying for you and asking for you to be filled with the knowledge of God’s will, with all wisdom and spiritual understanding. 10 We’re praying this so that you can live lives that are worthy of the Lord and pleasing to him in every way: by producing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God”

Let me add this from last week. i have been learning to breath with a snorkel. This has been a chore. By instinct, because i have been doing it my whole life, i try to breath through my nose. This is not a good idea when you are underwater! i have had to receive this new information and inform my brain…it hasn’t been easy. i sought help, received some advice, and bought a nose plug. That simple little purchase has changed my ability to breath through the snorkel. i am becoming more accustomed to breathing through the snorkel.

In much the same way, grace is new, we don’t always understand it and it is hard sometimes to rely on Jesus when for so long we have relied on ourselves. You might need a “nose plug” to help train your brain to rely on Jesus in everything. This is the prayer that Paul had for the people in Colossae. That they would grow in the knowledge of God’s will, with all wisdom and spiritual understanding. Learning to lean on Jesus more and more in everything. It’s about growing, about becoming productive, and about getting nearer to God.

Here are a few “nose plugs” that you can use to help you along the way, training yourself to lean on Jesus:
1. Read the Word
2. Youth Group
3. Life Group
4. Sunday Edition
5. Coffee with Jesus
6. Hang our with others that follow Jesus
7. Have a mentor or someone you can talk to about tough things or choices you have to make
8. An accountability partner…someone who asks you tough questions about choices you are making or about to make
9. Pray
10. Be an active part of the Body, the Church

You are loved,

cj