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

“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

Advent (week one) Hope

Advent (week one) Hope

What is hope? And, what does it mean, that hope does not disappoint? Well, according to the online dictionary, it says; “a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.” As far as hope not disappointing, that’s something to be understood, not just spoken as cliche. i have hoped for a great many things in my life. Some, when they did not come to pass, were really somewhat disappointing at the time. Actually, some are still disappointing to remember back upon. Other things hoped for now that i look back were a blessing to not have happened the way i had hoped. So, what of Advent hope?

You can’t tell me that Mary hoped to see her son one day hanging on a cross, after getting beaten beyond recognition. You can’t tell me that Mary and Joseph desired to flee to Egypt out of fear for their lives. You can’t tell me that their hopes of their son sitting on an earthly throne, in the Kingdom of their ancestors, wasn’t their ultimate dream, given the words of the Angel to them. Yet, the things one could most definitely say were no hopes at all, but fears are what actually came to pass. When we talk about Advent hope, we think of things like the coming King, the Messiah, the Son of God! These thoughts instill a sense of hope in us because we have seen the ending. And, that my friends, is the essence of this Advent hope.

In Romans 5:1-5 it says . . .

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him, we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (ESV)

Our hope is not in earthly riches, fame, or anything of the like. Rather, our hope is in the faithfulness of God in His eternal reward received by faith in the one and only begotten Son, Jesus the Messiah! Life will let you down, humans will let you down, spouses, children, friends, jobs, vacations, neighbors, you catching on? The list is endless, hoping in any of these things eventually will only end in a feeling of hopelessness. The only hope is not Obi-wan Kenobi, but it is only in the one named Jesus! According to the Word, given through the prophet Isaiah, “so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth, it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:11

There is our Hope! Our Advent Hope is the eternal Word of God! His faithfulness is endless, His promises sure, His love never fails, His Joy is unspeakable, His peace is unexplainable, He is the giver of life, the author and perfecter of faith, and His mercy is new every morning! Hope in that!

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

Christian (part four)

Christian (part four)

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” Romans 12:12-13

Regardless of what you are facing in life, there is always and i mean always, a reason to rejoice in hope. Hope is the sustaining force. In 1 Corinthians 13:13 it is one of the abiding principles, faith, hope, and love. Hope in tomorrow, hope in knowing that God is faithful. Hope will get you through tribulations in your life, it does require though, that you be constant in prayer. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 “Pray without ceasing” the word here is “adialeiptos” which actually means, constantly recurring. This is fascinating because of the legal definition of constantly recurring includes, “connected,” we are to be connected in prayer.

The one thing people facing depression, who are considering suicide, say about their outlook on life is, they feel hopeless. Hope is a powerful thing. The super successful, who fail time and time again before achieving that thing that made them successful, all say, “never give up hope.” Hope is a powerful thing. Paul writes to Titus, “. . . waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ . . .” This is the hope we long for it is the sustaining hope of every generation of the Way. We are a generation of the Way, therefore, our hope must be in the appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. We can rejoice that our hope has overcome the world.

Tribulations of every sort come at us daily. Temptations, persecution, deaths, sickness, hate, and the list continues. Some tribulations on a scale may appear harsher than others given everyone’s pain threshold whether that pain is figurative or actual physical pain. We are all wired differently, however, the one thing that ties us together in dealing with tribulation is the same. We need each other, we are connected, those of us of the Way. In each of these instances, we are called to be patient. Some very dear to me teens lost their dad recently, incredibly sad. It was unexpected, one minute he’s home with them and the next he isn’t. Their struggle in tribulation right now is so very real. It will be their patience during these very dark days that will help them wade through the emotional rollercoaster of grief. They will need to stay connected to those of the Way and continue steadfastly in their hope.

Prayer connects us. It connects us of the Way with each other and connects us with Jesus our Lord. The translation to pray without ceasing isn’t wrong, we are to pray continually in thought, in heart, in spirit, in word. It is that conduit that connects us to the Father and it is the tie that binds us together one with another as we seek the Father together. It is for all things, every situation, every circumstance, every every, Jesus taught us to pray this way . . . Matthew 6:9-13

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,
12 and forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from evil.

As we join together those of us of the Way our bond becomes stronger. It then allows us to tend to the needs of the saints as well as the ability to be hospitable. “Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” This is our duty as members of the Way.

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

Love, my conclusion (Part 1)

Love, my conclusion (Part 1)

Instead of going on about the difference between the different forms of love used in Scripture, Agapa, Eros, Philia, and the less common but still relevant Storge. Which perhaps is a future post, i rather here just cut to the chase a bit. Let’s not get lost in rabbit trails of debate or even friendly conversation, which simply is the mascarade of confusion, doubt, and deflection. We fight being loved, so we don’t get hurt. We fight loving others because we don’t want to be disappointed, and we fight others loving others because we are jealous, cynical, and doubtful of genuine love. We wrap ourselves up in fairytale love stories and fantasies that actually warp any form of love and give false expectations of any sort of reality.

It almost sounds as if i have a cynical heart towards love. Perhaps i do. Perhaps that is why it intrigues me so. Even to the point of haunting my dreams, and peaking it’s head out through the pages of these words. You may remember a song by Tina Turner, called,
“What’s love got to do with it?” Here is the chorus to that song . . .

What’s love got to do, got to do with it
What’s love but a second-hand emotion
What’s love got to do, got to do with it
Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken

You want to talk cynical? There it is written in 1984 and i bet the sentiment goes centuries beyond that too. For my point, each verse talks about something different, the first verse about lust, the second verse, confusion, the third, protection. This is just one iconic song, there are countless others, i just happen to like the tune, and i can hear it playing in my head. So, with such a worldly view of love abounding around us, choking out our very hearts, what are we to do?

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this, the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent His only Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that HE loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins, Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us. By this, we know that we abide in Him and He in us because He has given us of His Spirit.” 1 John 4:7-12

If we claim to have love but we do not back it up with action then we are only fooling ourselves, no one else. We become the very thing everyone claims we as Christians are, hypocrites. Let us consider these verses from 1 John 3:11,12

“For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous.” 

Jealousy is a killer of love. Jealousy hides inside your heart, your mind, your anger, your fear, and it waits for an opportunity to reveal his hideousness in humanity by way of our fallen nature, surprisingly enough. It is why we ought to pursue the love of God with every fiber of our being! No rock left unturned, no shadow left cast, no door left unopened in our pursuit of love. For we are only capable of true, honest, sincere love when we are abiding in God and He in us for “His love is perfected in us” through abiding. i am not done. To be continued . . .

You are LOVED,

cj