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

Greetings to the Seven Churches (part 3)

Greetings to the Seven Churches (part 3)

To the Church in Smyrna

“And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: ‘The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life.

“‘I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 10 Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. 11 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.’

Jesus declares to the Church in Smyrna that He is aware of their struggles. Poverty, and slander by those according to the synagogue of Satan. This title, given to “those who say that they are Jews and are not . . .” should be to us a warning. You see this was written at a time when the Church was still meeting in the synagogues and Jews were still very much interested in the teachings of Jesus. However, this particular group was not even recognized as Jews for their hearts were far from God. It reminds me of 2 Timothy 3:5; “having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.” This can very easily apply to many in the Church today. 

This passage as a whole fly’s in the face of those who would preach a prosperity gospel. Clearly, this group is about to suffer some tremendous tribulations. Yet, they are instructed to “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.” Now to us, many followers of the Way are struggling in poverty, although they are rich, rich in perhaps faith, or rich in a way, as to be, not nearly as poverty-stricken as many others around the world. Regardless, it is easy to see that our prosperity will come with the crown of life. The reality of these Churches should reveal that yes some in prosper in ways others don’t. Still, other Churches will be successful while others struggle. For reasons that will be revealed only after this life. We aren’t called to worry about such things, only that we remain faithful with what we are given for as long as we are alive!

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.

You are loved,

cj

Christian (part three)

Christian (part three)

The topic of Christianianity is a BIG one. There is no way around it actually in our society, as it is in nearly every facet of life. Today, we will focus on the politics of being a Christian. It is pushed by both major political parties, some would say, “exploited” for political gain, touching on the surface, our need to be compassionate. It’s a double-edged sword if you will because politics are ugly and yet i do believe we have a civic duty to participate in it. But we can not separate the two. i know the constitution makes a distinction of separation between Church and State. However, that separation is intended to protect the Church from the government not the government from the Church.

If you are a politically active Christian you must do so from a perspective of the values found in the passages of Scripture in which we hold so dear. To separate your beliefs in some attempt to appease a group of people is not within the guidelines of being Christian. Nor can we separate it out from our lives in any aspect. To do so would be a denial of our values, our faith, our Christ. So far in our previous two weeks of looking at this topic, we covered Romans 12:9-10 which state:

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.”

Our next verse, 11, states:

Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.”

Think of those in past times who basically risked everything in order to remain faithful to God. Namely, in this case, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, these guys put God above politics in everything they did that’s why they were hated by the others and set up. Even to the point of not denying their God for any reason even their very lives. We should be so bold! “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord!”

So, what are we to do when the climate is so split, compassion over what? When sizing up candidates does one issue rule over another? Where is grace or mercy when it comes to pass indiscretions? How about moral failings? Or the candidates stated belief versus their present actions? There is so much to consider how does one possibly vote at all? i for a very long time was registered, independent. i didn’t want the label of a political party, in fact, i still don’t but when we moved i somehow selected an affiliation and just haven’t gone to fix it. In my heart of hearts, i remain an objective independent voter. Who Votes his beliefs over politics, over issues, over a person. As a Christian, i take into consideration my own grace, mercy, love and the charge to love others, in making my decisions on casting a vote for someone or some issue.

May we take into account such things always and in everything that we do, not just politics, but also, work, friendships, relationships, even when we are alone.

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 saints and seek to show hospitality.” Romans 12:9-13

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

More than mere words…part two

More than mere words…part two

There is a point within the greaving process where one earns the right to speak life into a situation. However, even with that permission, there are a few do’s and don’ts to the process you should know about. Now before we enter the list of do’s and don’ts let me also say that there are exceptions, here are a few of them; 1, You are a trained professional and they have come to you seeking help. 2, You are a trusted close friend whom they have confided in and they have specifically asked you for your thoughts. 3, They have asked you for your thoughts. 4, They have come to you asking you for advice. 5, They sought you out and asked you for your input. 6, Are you catching the theme? Rule number 1, do not cross the greaving line if you haven’t been asked or given an opening through conversation.

Now for our do’s when speaking life into a greaving heart. First, be absolutely certain they are ready to receive whatever you are about to say if you aren’t absolutely certain, hold your tongue. If all the lights are green proceed with caution, be gentle, remain sympathetic and empathetic. Listen more than you speak. It is ok to use some Scripture, here is a good one, Deuteronomy 31:8; “Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.” Use real life, personal stories, they do not have to be yours just besure you have permission to share or change the names and places. Be optimistic but do not make promises or guarantees, with the exception of Jesus not abandoning them. Pray with and for them, at the moment.

Here are the don’ts. This list can really be a long one but i am going to try to keep it simple. Don’t overuse Scripture, i know you are going to want too and you are going to justify it in your mind…don’t do it.  Some is good, but too much is a bad thing. Encourage them to read the Word, and pray about it but just don’t quote Scripture. If they wanted a preacher they’d go to the pastor, (you could encourage them to talk to a pastor).  Don’t say, “I will pray for you.” (As written up in the do’s, pray for them on the spot, let them hear you!) DO NOT be like these guys, Jobs friends, because in the end, God said this to them, “I am angry with you [Eliphaz] and your two friends because you have not spoken the truth about me.” Job 42:7. Do not speak in cliche’s because most of them although said to be biblical are NOT!

When i have gone through difficult times i have needed empathy first, encouragement second and advice last. Besides, advice, given without request only sounds degrading. You may not use the words but i guarantee it sounds like this, “YOU SHOULD HAVE…” Capped with, “YOU IDIOT!” There may come a time for those words but i assure you, it won’t be early on and it better be coming from my best friend. Being there for someone going through tragedy is hard but it can be a blessing as well, as you show empathy, and encouragement, you will gain wisdom, and i can promise you that!

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

Come now, and let us reason together

Come now, and let us reason together

Isaiah 1:18-19
18″Come now, and let us reason together,”
Says the Lord,
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They will be as wool.
19If you are willing and obedient…”

The Maker of heaven and earth, the One who formed you in your  mothers womb, says to you, “Come now, and let us reason together.” This is truly magnificent, He desires to dialog with you, have a conversation regarding life, love, sin, death, redemption, liberty, justice, forgiveness, hope, joy, heaven and hell. In order to reason one must be aware of truth, aware of life and aware of His voice calling out to you, “Come now, and let us reason together.” How will you respond today?

Take 30 minutes, 15 minutes, 10 minutes…take some time today to sit quietly, to listen to the Lord calling to you, “Come now, and let us (you and Me [Jesus]) reason together.”

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