Wholeheartedly

Wholeheartedly

Seek God daily, persistently, and wholeheartedly; You will find life in all its fullness, and it will transform the way that you love and serve others. Does it mean endless blessing? Your best life now? Folks, can i be totally honest? No, no it doesn’t. Moses sought God daily and wandered in the desert for forty years. Peter sought God daily and was nailed to a cross, upside down. Paul sought God daily, and he prayed three times for his thorn in the flesh to be removed, it wasn’t. John sought God daily and was exiled on an island until he died. If life gives you wandering, exile, or a thorn in the flesh, it does not mean you do not have God’s favor upon your life. Neither does it mean that God delights in causing you pain.

Life is full of challenges because the world is a dark place. Its ruler sits on the throne he created, and it is temporary. He succeeded in tempting Eve. He failed at killing the Messiah. Jesus, the Messiah, the One who conquered death, promises that for those who seek Him, they will receive an eternal reward. He also warns us, those that seek Him daily, He warns us not to lose heart. For those that do, He warns to return to our first love!

 “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write:

These are the words of Him who holds the seven stars in His right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands.  I know your deeds, your hard work, and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false.  You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.

Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God. (Revelation 2:1-7)

 Let us return to the love we had at first! Let us live our lives seeking God daily, persistently, wholeheartedly!

You are loved,

cj

“What must I do to be saved?”

“What must I do to be saved?”

Jesus said, “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17) We can read throughout the New Testament folks asking a very important question, “What must I do to be saved?” There are many faiths, some even claiming to be Christain the would answer that question with a list of works that must be carried out. But, let us explore some of the answers given in Scripture and see what we truly must do to be saved!

“Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’ And Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.'” Acts 2:37-38 ESV

“Then he brought them out and said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ And they said, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved you and your household.'” Acts 16:30-31 ESV

“For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:13 ESV

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV

“Thomas said to Him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'” John 14:5-6 ESV

We could keep going but these key passages show that Salvation comes by faith in Jesus only. That we cannot in any way work our way onto a list. No one is better or worse off in what is required of us to attain to salvation, repent and believe. i guess the tricky part comes in the idea of repentance. What does it truly mean to repent? Simply, to turn from sin. We were all once living in sin and darkness, and those who have come to repentance and faith in Jesus should no longer walk in sin. The following are not works of salvation but the mark of true faith, of a true believer.

“I appeal to you, therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:1-2

“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the siants and seek to show hospitality.” Romans 12:9-13

Again, we could explore so many more passages that talk about our response to God’s grace and salvation, but, these give us a good foundation. We are not to look like the world but be ambassadors to the Kingdom of God. Living as children of light, in a dark and fallen world. Repent and believe! And, live for the King of kings!

You are loved,

cj

In Step with the Spirit

In Step with the Spirit

Lent is an excellent time to take time and recalculate whether you are in step with the Spirit of God. The reality is that we as humans can, and often do find ourselves in the weeds of life. Sometimes knowingly, and other times unknowingly, but either way, taking a self-assessment to determine where you are is always a good idea; and what better time to do it than Lent. The period in which we look to the cross, the final sacrifice, the one that tore the veil into the Holy of Holies. Granting us access to the Father, the Alpha, and the Omega, the very Creator of the Universe, which includes you and me.

We know that there is a spiritual battle going on around us and actually in us. The struggle in us is that of the flesh versus the spirit. Paul writes to the Church in Galatia about this struggle.

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” Galatians 5:16-17 ESV

In the letter to the Romans we read:

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh, I serve the law of sin.” Romans 7:21-25 ESV

It is because of this war that we must remain vigilant to the schemes of the enemy. We know that the devil is prowling around like a lion, looking for someone to devour, waiting for that opportune time to strike! (1 Peter 5:8) Therefore, take heed, and some personal responsibility, to remain accountable to the Spirit of God. Here are some practical ways to stay vigilant in your journey with Jesus.

  1. Study the Word! Be in it, meditate on the Word, day and night! (Psalm 1:2) And, “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 complete, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV
  2. Pray! Jesus’ example to us on the importance of getting away to pray is written throughout the Gospels. We are also instructed to “pray without ceasing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17
  3. Journal. We are told to “Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart” Proverbs 3:3, In fact, we are told several times to write them on our hearts, and hands, and our very souls.
  4. Accountability! It is important to have trusted friends around you. To share your struggles with and to confess your sins to in order to be held accountable; to help keep you on the right path. “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10) Also, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” James 5:16

This short list isn’t a complete one, we could talk about the importance of a Church family or small group, the list continues. However, the above list will definitely help one stay vigilant on their Journey with Jesus. Let me close with a simple way to take your temperature to find out where you are:

But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things, there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.” Galatians 5:18-25

As you look at yourself, do you see more flesh or more Spirit? If more flesh, confess, pray, get in the Word, journal, and get accountable. If more of the Spirit, do not slack! Weed out what flesh is there, confess, pray, get in the Word, journal, and get accountable.

You are loved,

cj

Follow Me (part seven)

Follow Me (part seven)

Have you ever been in a situation where everything you thought was right, was actually, not? i mean not that you were completely wrong, you honestly thought that you had it together and everything was moving right along in life; until confronted with this paradigm shift, a new way to see. You are doing what you do, it’s how you have been raised, like it or not, you are in the throws of life around you and you have your mindset. Then, you meet someone. They’re full of wisdom and information, they tell you things and even if it isn’t new it seems new because they are giving you a new perspective. And it changes your life, whether or not you live out the new knowledge, you are forever changed.

There is a “follow me” statement that is a paradigm shift, for the questioner, and all the other hearers . . . all the way to you and me. It is found in three of the Gospels, we will look at the account recorded by Mark in 10:17-31.

And as He was setting out on His journey a man ran up and knelt before Him and asked Him, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.’ 17-18 ESV

i have heard this story of the Rich Young Ruler, or Rich Young Man, countless times and in countless ways. i mean the different spins on it, some border on heresy others good and some great, i hope this lands in one of the later categories and not the first. i have read and prayed over this for some time. i find comfort in Jesus’ response, “Why do you call me good?” Not because in some way Jesus was calling Himself sinful, but rather already knew the purpose of this mans coming to Him. And in a nutshell answers him by stating, basically, that there is nothing one can do to earn their way into heaven. You can not work your way there, nor buy your way, only through God can one enter. For no one is good except God alone.

“‘You know the commandments: Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’ And he said to Him, ‘Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.’ And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, ‘You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.‘” 19-21 ESV

Jesus jumps right to the part of the Ten Commandments that refer to loving your neighbor as yourself. i think it is interesting here that Matthew is the only gospel that references the young man as asking a follow-up question, “What do I still lack?” (Matthew 19:20) Mark and Luke record Jesus offering the solution out of a deep love for the young man. “Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said . . .” Jesus saw this mans heart. He knew that the young man was looking for the easy road into the Kingdom. He knew that the young man had another god in his life that he wasn’t willing to give up. He had a net that was holding him back, it was his wealth. He was keeping part of the commandments but was violating the first; “You shall have no other gods before Me.” Exodus 20:3 ESV

There is a reason that is the first. You cannot be a partial keeper of the law. You can not follow after God half-way. It’s all or nothing. You either are willing to follow Jesus at all cost or not at all. It’s the question i have been stewing over for the past few weeks, “If He is your creator, are you willing to surrender to God no matter what He says?” or asked another way, “What are you NOT willing to give up to follow Jesus?” It boils down to the state of your heart.

Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” 22 ESV

He approached Jesus with boldness and humility, he left Jesus sorrowful, refusing the invitation to, “come, follow Me.” Jesus uses the opportunity to teach His disciples a lesson on surrendering all to follow after Jesus. But, He makes it clear, that without God, it is impossible, for man is unable on our own, yet, with God all things are possible.” Even a rich person to enter into the Kingdom.

When faced with a paradigm shift, we either choose our understanding or the new understanding. The only right answer with a God-sized paradigm shift is to choose God. It won’t be easy, in fact without God it will be impossible for you. That is why it is so important to follow Jesus, for He and only He, has the Words of eternal life!

You are loved,

cj

Follow Me (part five)

Follow Me (part five)

Today the snow is falling. i am sitting at my kitchen table and looking out at the big snowflakes fall and cover, well, everything. i am reminded of my time in Alaska and driving over Turnagain Pass during some of the craziest snow storms. Snow so heavy, and wind so hard, that the tire tracks of the person in front of you were being covered up almost instantly. Although, against everything they tell you while learning to drive a car in poor weather, rather than increase your following distance, you shorten it. You shorten it so that you can see where you are going and use the tracks in front of you to help make away through the storm.

Jesus said, “Follow Me,” on many occasions, on one of those He said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12) We have over the course of this series talked about the importance of following Jesus. Let me stress now that it must be done closely. You see the world and life is full of storms. These storms come with no warning or all the warning in the world and still take us by surprise. That is why it is important to follow Jesus closely. To not lose sight of His tracks. In the rough times, (yes, all the time also) it is especially important to follow closely. Jesus says in Matthew 11:28-30:

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.”

When times get tough we have a tendency to close ourselves off to friends, family, the Church. We have different reasons why we do this but one reason is we don’t want to feel judged, or preached at, or looked down upon. Yet, it is in those times of deepest struggle and the harshest storm that we need to follow Jesus more closely and open ourselves up to friends and family and the Church. We need to plant ourselves in the Word and seek out the “light of the world,” Jesus. We need people praying with and for us.

So, when Jesus says, “Follow Me,” He doesn’t mean at a distance. He means to yoke up with Him, walk side by side with Him and learn from Him.

You are loved,

cj

Follow Me (part four)

Follow Me (part four)

Although Jesus said, “Follow Me,” there was one place that He said, they would not go, more specifically, Peter. Not that they wouldn’t all eventually walk that road, in some way-or-other, just that there was still more to be done. Here is the exchange between Peter and Jesus as recorded in John 13:36-38:

Simon Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, where are you going?’ Jesus answered him, ‘Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.’ Peter said to him, ‘Lord why can I not follow you now? I would lay down my life for You.’ Jesus answered, ‘Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times.'”

Jesus in all of His preparation had not yet completed that work, nor had they! There may come a time when we are called to lay down our lives for the cause of Christ. Yet, we shouldn’t go looking for it. Many times the disciples were arrested, but later escaped because it wasn’t their time. Eventually, each of the disciples came to a point where they followed Jesus, even to death. Some in the same way even, on a cross. All save one, John. He was exiled on the island of Patmos. Whether we give our lives as martyrs or we live a full life, we are called to follow.

There is no one else to follow. There is no other way to go. As we have explored over the past several weeks, to follow means to lay down our lives, figuratively, and quite possibly, literally. There is no question that His will must become our will, “not My will but Your will be done.” (see Matthew 26:39). Although the weight seems heavy, we have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us. Listen to Jesus’ words to His disciples after answering Peter; John 14:1-4:

Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.

We should be comforted in Jesus words to those who Follow Him. Who truly know Him, and seek to do His will. The disciples were confused by Jesus’ words, “And you know the way . . .” to the point that Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” To which Jesus replied; (John 14:5-6)

I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

If we follow Jesus, we come to know the way, the truth, and the life. And when this feeble life is over, we will enter the place prepared for us.

You are loved,

cj

Follow Me (part three)

Follow Me (part three)

Have you ever accepted someone new into a group of friends? That person may or may not end up having much influence on the group, depending on their personality. Just because someone is accepted into the group does not instantly make him a leader. Simply put, acceptance does not mean influence. Another example, have you ever accepted someone’s idea without agreeing? Nowadays you would be considered intolerant for not agreeing with someone else’s ideology. But that isn’t the case, in reality, someone can accept an idea without agreeing with it. So again acceptance does not mean agreement with etc. i feel that there are a lot of people who have accepted Christ, but they do not follow Him. Let’s look again at Jesus Words in Mark 1:17–ESV

Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men!

Notice, here that Jesus does not say, “Accept Me.” i think we have missed the mark a little by using terminology that leaves things at the point of acceptance rather than a life long journey of Following. If it were as easy as accepting Jesus, there would be far less Scripture for us to understand and the wide path we talked about a couple of weeks ago would be just fine for everyone. That my friends is not the case! We are to follow Jesus, abide in Jesus, obey Jesus, shine for Jesus! In John 15:1-17 (ESV[below]) we read about the importance of abiding in Jesus and bearing fruit for Him. It again gives only two options, abiding and not abiding. Those that abide are pruned that they may bear lots of fruit and those that do not, wither and die, to be thrown into the fire.

15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

12 This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants,[a] for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

i don’t know how one can misinterpret the importance of abiding and what it means to abide. Besides bearing fruit, we are commanded to love one another, and charged, “You are My friends if you do what I command you.” It is pretty simply, straight forward. This week i pray that we would begin to abide in Jesus, to follow Jesus, and to no longer be content with just accepting Jesus.

You are loved,

cj