Longingly

Longingly

Yesterday my youngest son came home from being away since Christmas. i was so anxious to see him, i kept watching for him through the window of the doors in the back of the Church as i was in a prayer meeting. i was totally distracted! As we were sitting there the question was asked, “how much does God love you?” As those who shared said many great things i couldn’t help but think that God, loves me even more than i love my son. He waits, longs and looks for me to come through the doors. And, when i do, like i did when my son walked in, He gets up and embraces me.

He being, omnipresent, has this desire for each one of us. He can’t wait to embrace me, you, us, and looks longingly for us to approach Him. Just look at the story of the prodigal son, it is a reflection of God’s relationship with us when we return to right our relationship with Him. The wedding banquet is another image of His desire to be with us. i think about how much i love my children and how every time they come to visit or stay with us how i wait longingly for their arrival. Then i think Jesus, loves me even more than that! How much more does He long for me?! It is incredibly humbling. Here are some Words from Scripture, if you are feeling unloved or lost, or if you just need to be reminded that the Father in Heaven looks longingly for you!

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

“Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” Matthew 10:29-31

“For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39

“In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” John 14:2-3

“Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God, Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:3-4

You are love,

cj

Best by Far Moments

Best by Far Moments

There are several life lessons i have had a chance to bestow upon my 5-month-old grandson. Yes, he is only five months. But still. i have taken the Norwegian name for grandpa, bestefar. my words of wisdom to him are known as “best by far moments with bestefar.” So far he has been told about:

  1. Only always Jesus!
  2. Throwing fits are not appropriate responses to being upset.
  3. Some people are gonna make you mad, you love them anyway.
  4. Work hard at everything you do, even when you think no one is watching, someone is always watching.
  5. Enjoy every moment you can, cry, laugh, listen, be present!
  6. Don’t think that you know everything, someone always knows more, whether they do or not; yet, know your stuff so that you can discern truth from lies and remain teachable.

The starting points for these lessons come from Psalm 1 . . .

“What delight comes to the one who follows God’s ways! He won’t walk in step with the wicked, nor share the sinner’s way, nor be found sitting in the scorner’s seat. His pleasure and passion is remaining true to the Word of ‘I Am,’ meditating day and night in the true revelation of light. He will be standing firm like a flourishing tree planted by God’s design, deeply rooted by the brooks of bliss, bearing fruit in every season of his life. He is never dry, never fainting, ever blessed, ever prosperous. But how different are the wicked. All they are is dust in the wind-driven away do destruction! the wicked will not endure the day of judgment, for God will not defend them. Nothing they do will succeed or endure for long, for they have no part with those who walk in truth. But how different it is for the righteous! The Lord embraces their paths as they move forward while the way of the wicked leads only to doom.”

These lessons are good for all of us and i am still learning to walk in them each day.

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

Breaking In

Breaking In

Today i spoke with a publisher online. i am attempting to get my book, “Staying the Journey” published. It would be amazing if it were available by Christmas but at this point, i am not holding my breath. Anyway, the first publisher i sent it to waited eight weeks to tell me that they don’t publish my sort of book, on Christian Living and Spiritual Formation. Eight weeks. So, i started over. i have now sent it on to several publishers at once and even looked into getting a Literary Agent. Because, without one, it is an uphill battle for a first-time author. But it isn’t easy to convince an agent to represent you.  It is a wait and see sort of field, am i good enough? Is my writing good enough, is it clear, with good punctuation, did i dot all my i’s and cross all my T’s? Or am i an editors nightmare? Waiting isn’t fun.

This guy i spoke with today is part of a publishing company that has a division that does self-publishing but with a lot of help. They do this sort of 50-50 deal, it’s not really 50-50 but so that it is better understood and easier to explain let’s just say it’s 50-50. i put up some cash to start the process, in doing so, i unleash their expertise. If i were to 100% self-publish, i would have to do all the groundwork, getting my book into stores and online etc. With them, they do all that for me, along with much more, including websites and digital copies of my book for download. Breaking into this seemingly exclusive club known as professional writers is, well, not as easy as one would hope.

Isn’t it comforting to know that we don’t have to break into heaven? That we have an agent that makes entry into heaven seamless?

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ by grace you have been saved and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 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. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:4-10

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” 1 John 2:1-2

For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” 1 Timothy 2:5

We are blessed to have an agent who represents us. He not only represents us but when the God of the universe looks at us to gauge whether or not we are worthy, He sees our agent and our agent says, “this one is good enough, for their sins are forgiven.” Be encouraged my friends, Jesus, our advocate, mediator, agent, doesn’t look at our ability but rather our heart and in Him, we have boundless opportunity, for He loves us!

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 six, Lent)

Follow Me (part six, Lent)

The whole idea of following Jesus is traced back to the beginning of the ministry of Jesus. He beckoned His disciples to “Follow Me.” At the beginning of Mark in verse 14 and 15 of Chapter one, we see the starting point. John the Baptist has been arrested. Jesus’ time has begun. His message was simple;

“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1:15 ESV

Part of following Jesus requires that we repent. To turn from sin, do a 180 degree, an about-face, from the sin in our lives. Then believe in the gospel. Gospel simply means Good News. Jesus is the Good News, we are to believe in Jesus.

As we begin the season of Lent, the 46 (40 not counting Sundays) day period of time in which we prepare ourselves for Resurrection Sunday and Holy Week leading up to the day Jesus conquers the death, the grave, and sin.  It is a period of prayer, repentance, fasting or self-denial, as we seek to right our hearts before a Holy God. The time begins with Ash Wednesday. i am sure you have seen folks walk around on Ash Wednesday with a smudge of black on their foreheads. Many feel as if this is strictly a Catholic event, or Lutheran, or a number of other more liturgical Churches. When in fact it is not.

The idea of repenting in ashes dates well back into the Old Testament. In which in times of National Crises or repentance one would put on sackcloth or a course, uncomfortable,  shawl type garment made of goats hair, with ashes on their head, which symbolized utter ruin. A lament of sorts in which they would cry out to God in mourning of their sin. As we look to Ash Wednesday now, we look at the putting on of Ashes as a reminder to repent and believe in the Gospel. It is also a time to remember that we are, “dust and to dust, we will return.”

“By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust, you shall return.” Genesis 3:19 ESV

“All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return.” Ecclesiastes 3:20 ESV

Taking time each year to specifically pray, examine ourselves, and repent, in order to remember and perhaps recommit to “believe in the gospel” afresh and new is, in my opinion, a great thing! And, if we follow this time up by dropping our nets, those things that hinder us, ensnare us, bind us, and maybe even torment us and leaving them behind; we can truly begin, in a new and deeper way to respond to Jesus who says, “Follow Me.” Will you prepare your hearts this Lenten season? Will you mark this time with prayer, repentance, and self-denial, so that you may gain a fresh perspective on who you are in Christ Jesus and what He calls you to do?

Will you Follow Him?

You are loved,

cj