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

Although everyone is talking, no one is listening.

Although everyone is talking, no one is listening.

Hello, is this thing on? This week we have seen the “Global Climate Strike,” the “UN Climate Summit,” and countless celebrities mumbling; the President had a “Religious Freedom Summit” as well. The conservatives and the liberals are yelling back and forth at each other, pointing fingers of blame and guilt, no trial, no evidence, no reason, no understanding, no . . . Anything. With all this back and forth without discourse, discernment, or simple plain old listening, we are only a divided people that at a distance appear dysfunctional and confused.

It is happening in the church also, constant bickering without understanding. We are being tossed by every wind of change, discontentment, and interpretation, and the devil can’t be any more satisfied. We have been talking about putting on the “new self” the past few weeks, and although this is somewhat in line with that series, this is also a stand-alone topic. Let me share with you the words of Paul to the church in Ephesus.

And He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” Ephesians 4:11-17

We need to heed Pauls words here, as teachers, pastors, evangelists, and the like our responsibility is to equip the saints, the church, for the work of ministry. Sadly i see less and less equipping and more and more dividing, even with talks on unity. Because the unity that is being pushed is a false unity. There is no choice in the matter it is, for the most part, forced and therefore misleading in every way, and temporal at best.

Listen church, our focus needs to be Christ. He is sufficient for all things. Literally, we will lack nothing if we find ourselves in Jesus only. The devil wants us divided on everything so that we hold nothing as truthful. The tone of the discourse in the world is full of hate. Even when it screams peace. The stage is being set for a peacemaker. Hear me now church, the peacemaker the world is about to receive isn’t about peace. It will be a false peace, and it will fool many, even if possible, the elect. Do not be deceived, be watchful, in prayer, and seek Jesus above all else that you might stand against the schemes of the devil.

Putting on the new self requires an open heart and listening ears. It also requires a singular focus on Jesus-Christ, period. Once we take our focus off of the author and perfector of our faith, we begin to lose all perspective. We must be singularly minded in order to be successful in life, ministry, and attaining to true peace. But the world hates us! Jesus said, “as the world hates me, it will also hate you.” Those who are being puppeted by the king of this world cannot stand us, and we do not win by conceding. We love, but we speak the truth, we do for others without expectation, and we live in unity as a body of Christ because in that unity is where the world will recognize Jesus.

You are loved,

cj

Put on the new self . . . part two

Put on the new self . . . part two

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” Colossians 3:1-4 ESV

The idea that one must put on the new self runs contrary to our postmodern culture of relativism. Sadly, this now, cultural norm of postmodernism, has crept into the church at its most influential pillars, our Christian Universities, and mega-church structures. Postmodernism, at its core, runs contrary to Scripture. It is humanism, secularism, even Luciferian, to its most fundamental core. And it is echoed in the movement of cheap-grace.

Yet, over and over again, we read in Scripture the need to put on the new self. The need to root-out sin in our lives and not only seek forgiveness but also repent, which is to turn from, in essence, putting on the new self. In the opening words of Chapter 3 of Colossians, (above) we see that it isn’t in mans understanding that we are to rely upon, but on the truths presented above, in heavenly places, and revealed in Scripture; more specifically the person of Jesus the Messiah. It one hundred percent means we put the old self to death along with all of its immorality, as defined by Scripture.

Put to death, therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these, the wrath of God is coming. In these, you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” Colossians 3:5-10 ESV

Our present culture reminds me of Paul teaching to the intellectuals in Athens. However, with one slight difference, this age of enlightenment known as postmodernism is far less accepting of moral absolutes. Which makes it increasingly difficult to present the truth to this culture without offending someone to the point of unbalanced retribution. Yes, the message wasn’t universally received back in Paul’s day either we clearly see that, i simply point out that everyone seems to be offended, even within Christiandom. And that should really make you wonder at the words of Jesus when He said, “I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” Luke 18:8 ESV

So what does it look like to put on the new self, scripturally speaking? Well, it looks like this:

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,  bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.  And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.  And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.  And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:12-17 ESV

Clearly, Christianity isn’t the problem. Just read that again if you don’t believe me. Unfortunately, our inability to hold fast to our identity in Christ Jesus is the problem. If we don’t stand for the truth, we will fall for every lie.

You are loved,

cj

Greetings to the Seven Churches (part 8)

Greetings to the Seven Churches (part 8)

And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation.‘” Revelation 3:14

Laodicea, although on the banks of the river Lycus, it appears either the river ran underground or wasn’t always a steady flow as Laodicea is known for having an aqueduct system. The aqueduct brought water from a hot spring about five miles away and so it is believed that by the time the water reached the city itself, it was lukewarm or tepid. Laodicea isn’t just known for its appearance here in Revelation but is also mentioned in Paul’s writings to the Colossians. Which Colossea wasn’t too far away from Laodicea.

“I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. ” Revelation 3:15-16

There are two popular interpretations of this verse above. One is that being hot or cold, or on fire for the Lord, zealous even, was far greater than being lukewarm and that God would rather one not even say they believe but be cold entirely than to say they believe but do so in a lukewarm manner. The second idea of popular interpretation is using the concept of the aqueduct. Hot water is useful, it is suitable for sanitizing, cooking, even drinking; as is cold water good for many things, especially for being satisfying on a hot day. So whether one was cold or hot, neither better than the other but rather equally useful is better than being tepid or lukewarm. Have you ever been hot and go to get a drink of cold water only to find out it’s tepid and you spit it out? That is what is being described here, the lukewarm will be spit out of the mouth of God.

What brings one to the point of being lukewarm in faith? Is it contentment, and not the contentment Paul refers to when saying, “I have learned to be content in all circumstances.” (Philippians 4:11) But perhaps an overestimation of one’s well being? Here in Revelation 3:17, John will address the why or how the lukewarmness has taken hold.

“For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.” Revelation 3:17

Does this at all sound like the western church of today? We are content in our riches! We have broadway stage productions every Sunday in countless churches across the country to appeal to the desire of man. Smile and seek wealth and prosperity because that is God’s desire for you, is being preached by more and more “pastor’s.” When in reality we need to see that we are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked . . . We need a Saviour. We need to realize that it is far more critical that we spread the gospel than build a new center. That our riches are not in earthly possesions but in heavenly treasure. Here are the words the Lord advises us here to do:

“I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.” Revelation 3:18-19

Again, let me remind us that this is being written to the church. This should both be alarming and comforting. If you find yourself in a state in which you have grown content in your riches, there is hope, and there is life, and there is grace if we respond.

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into him and eat with him and he with me. The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Revelation 3:20-22

This verse has some folks all wound up because it is used in evangelical messages where the Gospel is being presented to non-believers. i don’t really see a problem. Yes, in its context, it is written to the church. Yes, there are many verses that are taken out of context that cause overall harm to the Gospel. However, this is not one of those times. We know that; “God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son . . .” John 3:16. We also know that God desires “all to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:19. This verse conveys that message that behold He stands at the door and knocks, and if anyone opens that door, He will come into them. Besides we also understand that many are the hearers at a revival or evangelistic crusade and therefore to some in the church these words are fitting.

Do you need to open the door to Jesus again, do you need that fresh start? He desires to take a meal with you to feed and nourish your soul, mind, and body. He wants a relationship with you. Won’t you open the door for Jesus today?

You are loved,

cj

Greetings to the Seven Churches (Part 2)

Greetings to the Seven Churches (Part 2)

Ephesus was considered a great city in its day. The Capital City of the Roman province known as Asia Minor, it was also rich in culture and a center for commerce. Ephesus was also a religious hub including a sect known as Christians or at the time, “followers of the Way.” It just so happens it is our first stop on our tour of the seven Churches written about in Revelation. As i stated last week i believe the Churches written about in Revelation are both, historical, as they were written to, as well as, future, they will be present throughout history and even at the time of Jesus’ return. As you read through these letters, my hope is that you will see yourself and if called to repent, you will do so! If encouraged, you would be so! If challenged, you would live so!

To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of Him who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands.” Revelation 2:1

Very clearly from the start, we read that Jesus is an active participant in the churches. He desires to lead, but we must be willing to listen and to follow.

I know your works, your toil, and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary.” Revelation 2:2-3

What high praise! They are diligent in their work, toil, patience, they disdain evil, they test those who teach to ensure they are truly of the Way. In all this, they have not grown weary. Wow, this is definitely all good things! Yet, still, Jesus desires something of them:

But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.” Revelation 2:4-5 (5 in part)

Here we read and learn that the journey that we are on has moments of running hot and cold. Like in our own relationships with others, there are times that we are really connected and times we are aloof. It appears the church in Ephesus was in a period of “going through the motions” they lost the reason and significance of what they were doing! The work was there the passion was not! They became more about the task than about the person of Jesus! At this, they are called to repent! To return to their first love and the love they had at first. Can you remember when you first followed Jesus? The desire to know Him more and more intimately. Your love at first ran HOT! Where are you now? Do you know why you do what you do or do you do because you have simply always done? There is a warning! A call to repentance! So there must be a reason and here it is:

 “If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.” Revelation 2:5 (5 in part)

He isn’t just speaking to fill the air with His voice! There is a reason and that reason is holiness! Yes, we are covered in the blood of Jesus and made holy in Him! But that does not give us a license to live outside of holiness. We must rise above, through the power of the Holy Spirit and live as called.

Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.” Revelation 2:6

The Nicolaitans were apparently a group calling themselves “Christians” or “Followers of the Way” but obviously they were only fooling themselves. Can you think of groups of folks calling themselves Christian today and teaching and doing falsely? We need to be alert and we, like the Lord, must hate their works, for they are doing more harm than good as they lead astray those that are not rooted in Truth!

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” Revelation 2:7 ESV

Do you have ears? Then hear and listen! Become a conquerer, and on that day Jesus appoints you will hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter your rest.” You will enjoy the fruit of your labor from the tree of life in the paradise of God!

You are loved,

cj

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