Rise and Pray that you may . . .

Rise and Pray that you may . . .

Have you ever been daydreaming, or have your mind wander off into thought, only to have to shake the thought free, thinking, “where did that come from?” Having been a thought or desire to sin; Whether it be a lustful thought, a thought of doubt, perhaps one to do harm to another or yourself, or a thought to call into question your own faith even? These little thoughts if left unchecked can become a real problem! Sadly, many Christain’s fear confessing these types of thoughts because they don’t want others to think bad of them. So, instead, they live in these secret thoughts, these little temptations that overtake the weak, the weary, the naive, even the seasoned because of apathy. Jesus, knowing the nature of man warned His disciples to pray in such a way that they wouldn’t give into temptation.

Our Father in heaven, hallowed by your name. Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Matthew 6:9-13

This idea of lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil reminds us that Jesus was led into the wilderness by the Spirit, where He was tempted but the devil. This instruction in the Lord’s prayer is a reminder for us to pray that no matter what trials or temptations befall us, and there will be countless, that we would not give in to them but rather choose obedience over disobedience. For example, Jesus in the garden tells His disciples to pray that they would “not enter into temptation.”

And He came out and went, as was His custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed Him. ANd when He came to the place, He said to them, ‘Pray that you may not enter into temptation.’ And He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, ‘Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.’ And there appeared to Him an angel from heaven, strengthening Him. And being in agony He, prayed more earnestly; and His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. And when He rose from prayer, He came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, and He said to them, ‘Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.‘” Luke 22:39-46

Here we read this about this incredible moment in the garden where Jesus is nearly overcome by grief and sorrow. He tells His disciples to pray, and then He goes and prays, and i believe that this prayer is Jesus praying against temptation. The movie “The Passion of the Christ” i think does a great job of depicting the agony and the thought and the spiritual battle that was taking place at that moment. As we read in the garden account, Jesus takes every thought captive and turns it over, “not My will, but Yours be done.” We are to take every thought captive and if we do it is a step in the right direction against the trials and temptations that come our way.

For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.” 2 Corinthians 10:4-6

Let us, as Paul did, take every thought captive to obey Christ!

Behold the Lamb! He is Risen!

Behold the Lamb! He is Risen!

This year my wife and i’s anniversary lands on a Sunday, May 26. We also have a special speaker scheduled to begin that day, and he will be speaking half the week. On top of that, we have my sister and brother-in-law coming to visit that same weekend. Needless to say, we will be celebrating our anniversary on a different day. That happens, doesn’t it? Some times life happens, and you have to change the day you celebrate, whatever it is, birthdays, anniversaries, or any other special event that is special to you. However, ideally, i think, each of us would say that celebrating on the actual anniversary would be the most desired or preferable day.

Did you know that given the start of Passover this year, 2019, which was Friday night, Jesus would have been arrested Saturday morning? He then would have faced part of his trial that day and been sentenced to death on Sunday; buried later that day, lay in the tomb on Monday and risen today! Yes, Today is the actual anniversary of our Lords Resurrection. i understand that the Church doesn’t usually gather on a Tuesday so remembering it on the Sunday before would be customary for most celebrations.  However, did you also know that there are years where Easter, the day celebrated as Jesus resurrection and the actual anniversary, Passover, are off by a month? In 2024, Easter will be on March 31, and Passover will begin April 22. The following year, 2025, Passover begins April 12, and Easter will be celebrated on the 20th of April.

Passover is the Jewish feast that remembers the Exodus from Egypt. As Christain’s, we believe that it is a foreshadowing of Christ’s Redemption on the cross. If you have ever sat through a Passover Seder, you would see the amazing redemptive story unfold. It is quite remarkable. If we follow the timeline of Christ’s crucifixion, we see that in that year Passover began on a Wednesday. He was arrested early Thursday, stood trial Thursday into Friday and was nailed to the cross that morning. At 3pm Joseph of Aramathia, requested the body of Jesus be taken down so that they could bury Him before the Sabbath that was to begin at sundown. Pilote honored the request. Jesus having died, was taken and laid in the tomb on Friday late afternoon. He remained there through Saturday, the Sabbath, the day of rest, think about that . . . And then early on Sunday, the tomb was opened, and Jesus was ALIVE!

We can read about the Conference of Niceae back in 325 AD where the split occurred, making Passover and Easter two separate events. Why? Even given all the explanations, it makes little sense. We don’t change the date of our Anniversary or Birthdays or anything else for that matter so why this? Why take the most Holy of Events, the pinnacle of the Christain faith and separate it from the event of Passover? Let’s look at a definition of Easter.

According to the New Unger’s Bible Dictionary: “The word Easter is of Saxon origin, Eastra, the goddess of spring, in whose honor sacrifices were offered about Passover time each year. By the eighth century Anglo–Saxons had adopted the name to designate the celebration of Christ’s resurrection.”

i could put a lot more in here about the origins of Easter outside of the Council of Niceae takeover of a Pagan Holiday. In fact, many scholars believe that one of the reasons for this was to attract pagans near Rome to the Church. If any of which is true goes directly against the Word of God. Let me point out a few verses here:

When the Lord your God cuts off before you the nations whom you go in to dispossess, and you dispossess them and dwell in their land, take care that you be not ensnared to follow them, after they have been destroyed before you, and that you do not inquire about their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods? that I also may do the same.’ You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way, for every abominable thing that the Lord hates they have done for their gods, for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods. Everything that I have commanded you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it.” Deuteronomy 12:29-32 ESV

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates… then take care lest you forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. It is the Lord your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by His name you shall swear. You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are around you, for the Lord your God in your midst is a jealous God, lest the anger of the Lord your God be kindled against you, and He destroy you from off the face of the earth.” Deuteronomy 6:4-9; 12-15 ESV

The children gather wood, the fathers kindle fire, and the women knead dough, to make cakes for the queen of heaven. And they pour out drink offerings to other gods, to provoke me to anger.” Jeremiah 7:18 ESV

Each of these passages in their context makes reference to the Exodus from Egypt which is celebrated with the Feast known as Passover. The very Feast that Jesus fulfilled with His death, as our Passover Lamb, and His victory over the grave with His resurrection. For those that would say this was for the Jews let me remind you of some New Testament passages that would disagree with that sentiment.

And this is God’s plan: Both Gentiles and Jews who believe the Good News share equally in the riches inherited by God’s children. Both are part of the same body, and both enjoy the promise of blessings because they belong to Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 3:6 NLT

Also, see Ephesians 2:11-13; 2:19 and Romans 11:17-24. When it comes to honoring God we are to do so completely as in the Deuteronomy 6 passage above and as mentioned by Jesus Himself when asked, “Which is the most important commandment?” He said, “To love the Lord your God with your whole heart. . .” Therefore, if mixing the customs of the pagans was wrong then it is most certainly still wrong today! But, some might still say, “we are free in Christ!” Let me remind us of Paul’s words to the Corinthians;

Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols? So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.” 1 Corinthians 8:9-13 NIV

i will close this, sorry this one is a long one, with noting what is said to us about knowing what is right. James 4:17, “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” So in conclusion, at least for me, i cannot in good conscience, continue to celebrate Easter. i will go back to celebrating Passover and the fulfillment of it through Jesus within the timing of the Jewish Feast. i believe this is just the beginning of this awakening that i am having as i return to the Scriptural fullness of Worship to the Lord.

You are loved,

cj

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 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

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