Betrayal, what the enemy thought for evil, the Lord uses for good . . .

Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray Him to them. And when they heard it, they were glad and promised to give him money. And he sought an opportunity to betray Him. (Mark 14:10-11)

Imagine hand selecting your inner circle of closest friends. Walking with them for three and a half years and then having one of those friends betray you. Some of you don’t have to imagine because you have lived through it . . . maybe not the death part, but for some of you, it could have felt as threatening. i know that i have had some close to me betray me, and it hurts.

We are in a time in history where many are looking at what is going on in our country and crying, “betrayal!” It could very well be true. Many are disheartened because they prayed and have not seen God move. They have been told of specific outcomes, and those outcomes have not come to pass, and time is growing increasingly short.

Jesus took his closest friends into a garden to pray. The burden so heavy drops of blood fell from His face like sweat. Jesus prayed, “Let this cup pass from me.” His desire was not for what was ahead of Him. Could you blame Him? He was to suffer a tremendously torturous death. If i knew that was the way i was to die, i would be pleading with God also. Yet, Jesus finished His prayer, “not My will, but Your will be done.”

Sometimes we don’t see the whole picture. Sometimes when we pray, we don’t fully understand all that is going on. This is why we are called to be patient. This is why i have such an issue with name it and claim it preaching. God promises this, “If you ask anything in My name, I will do it” (John 14:14), But they so easily forget the “not My will, but Your will be done.” part of prayer. In 1 John 5:14-15, it says this: “And this is the confidence that we have toward Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of Him.” These are true sayings; however, there is also this idea of prayer “HIS WILL.”

For Jesus, it was death on a cross. He was tortured in the most horrific way. Yet, as Jesus prayed in the garden, He understood that although the road was difficult, God’s will was being accomplished, and through it, you and i, and countless others have been able to have the hope of eternal life in glory with Jesus.

Jesus said, “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.” (John 14:2-3) Could it be that although we desire one outcome because we see it as being best, we have blinded ourselves to the idea of “Your will be done.” Because of the weight that it brings, the difficulty we know comes with it?

We know that in the end, perilous times will come. They will be difficult, and many will be betrayed by family and friends. We will be brought into the synagogues, and we will be hated for His name’s sake, even beheaded. These are unpleasant thoughts, and i imagine anything would be better but as we pray for the future of our country, and the world, let us not forget the part, “not my will but Yours be done” because as awful as our potential future, nothing compares to the glory that awaits us in Heaven! Just because God doesn’t answer our prayers the way we want Him to doesn’t mean He isn’t listening!

So, keep the faith. Seek not your will, but “His Will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Do not fear, for He says, “When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour.” (Matthew 10:19) i believe we are headed into a very difficult season. Do not lose hope, do not lose faith, do not lose sight of our mission, “To make Christ-like disciples.” And always remember, “Not My will, but Yours be done!”

You are loved,

cj

“I Don’t Wanna Go” (part 1 of 5)

“I Don’t Wanna Go” (part 1 of 5)

Sometimes we have the best of intentions. Our desires are not against the Word, in fact, it might even be that our hearts long to worship and obey in ways we see as beneficial and glorifying to God as a whole. i remember once as a youth pastor that i desperately wanted to start up a youth worship band. i wanted it not for anything other than to build the ministry and to have the teens lead in ways that would, in my opinion, help them to grow in the Lord. Without much prayer, i just set out to do, because, hey it’s for God! Sadly, it wasn’t long and it was nothing but a sore spot, a thorn in the flesh if you will.

i learned a lot from that in that just because i wanted it doesn’t mean it is within God’s desire or timing. There is a song by Chris Renzema, that depicts this thought so very well! i will link to it’s YouTube video at the end. It is called, “I Don’t Wanna Go,” hence the title of this blog entry. In its opening lines, you get the heart of this idea of the desire to honor God as he brings to light King David’s heart of wanting to build God a Temple, a permanent structure. David’s heart was in the right place, he declared, why should the king live in a palace, while God is dwelling in a tent? David made this declaration to Nathan the Prophet, and Nathan seemed in the moment to agree, it does sound good! “Do all that is in your heart, for God is with you.” (See 2 Samuel 7; & 1 Chronicles 17)

However, that night the Lord speaks to Nathan and says, “Nope, not today.” (Ok i paraphrased that a little) In this whole thing God reveals His desire, Nathan shares it with king David, and David prays to the Lord in gratitude. Sometimes, we won’t fully understand God’s plan. That is OK, but we still have to accept God’s plan. Back to my days as a youth pastor, although it wasn’t time in that season to have a youth band, God did eventually bless me with one. i am completely humbled by His faithfulness. Here is the verse of the song by Chris Renzema:

Like David and the temple
I wanna bring You praise
But like David and his temple plans
Your ways are not my ways
You don’t need me to build a temple                                                                                     to know that You love me still, oh

You are loved,

cj

Here is a link to the song by Chris Renzema, I Don’t Wanna Go: https://youtu.be/nZ_LUCVdh-o

“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

Jude (Part 1)

Jude (Part 1)

Let me start here: if you have not read Jude (an introduction), stop now and go read it . . . it will make more sense that way. However, as a reminder to those who did read it let me refresh your memory. Jude is one of four brothers of Jesus and at some point led the Church in Jerusalem. He came to faith after Jesus’ resurrection. This same Jude then pens this letter and it is powerful! As a call to repentance, as a reminder of judgment, and as a warning to stay alert as we contend for the faith.

He doesn’t waste time with small talk, antidotes, or gibber, he is very matter-of-fact. In the verses, we will look at this week, we will see his heart, and his understanding as the brother of Jesus and leader of the Church. Let’s look at verse 5, “Now I desire to remind you, though you know all things once for all, that the Lord, after saving a people out of the land of Egypt, subsequently destroyed those who did not believe.” Here is an interesting point, there are a couple manuscripts out there as well as a few versions of the Bible that use “Jesus” in place of “the Lord”. Could these early manuscripts be more accurate to Jude’s point? i think so. Jude had come to an understanding of who Jesus was and was not ashamed of it.

We love grace, i love grace. We preach grace, i preach grace, and it is glorious! However, we mustn’t lose sight of Jesus. Jesus, actively a part of the Old Testament, who is the same yesterday, today and forever, saves us by His cross. He leads us free from the chains of sin, out of bondage and into freedom. As the Israelites out of Egypt and still, subsequently (lit. the second time) He destroys those who did not believe. Folks, there is judgment. There is a hell and it has been preached since the formation of the Church. Do not be led astray. We must continue to contend for the faith in a world that would pervert the grace of God, even some in the Church.

Now I desire to remind you, though you know all things once for all, that [e]the Lord, after saving a people out of the land of Egypt, [f]subsequently destroyed those who did not believe. And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day, just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after [g]strange flesh, are exhibited as an [h]example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire. (NASB)

Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved[c] a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day— just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire,[d] serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire. (ESV)

Pray with me for insight, for understanding, for fresh revelation into God’s Word. Let the Spirit of God speak to our hearts through these words written by Jude inspired by the Spirit. May we grow in wisdom and faith, as we seek to walk humbly with Jesus, contending for the faith. Until next week . . .

you are loved,

cj

Praise the Lord!

Praise the Lord!

The shortest chapter in the Bible is Psalm 117, it is just two verses. Yet these two verses are immensely profound in their simplicity. You want to boil things down to the minimum and just look at the core of human existence? Then here you go:

“Praise the Lord, all you nations! Worship Him, all you peoples! Because God’s faithful love towards us is strong, the Lord’s faithfulness lasts forever! Praise the Lord!”

It doesn’t get much simpler than this, Praise the Lord. Worship Him. Because, He is faithful. His love is strong towards us and He is forever faithful. Thus, we should, Praise the Lord! No matter what you are facing, no matter what difficulties or trials befall you, Praise the Lord! In the good and in the bad, Praise the Lord! In the sun and in the rain, Praise the Lord! In life and in death, Praise the Lord! In sickness and in health, Praise the Lord! In the hardest of times and in the best of times, Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!

Praise the Lord,

you are loved,

cj

Nose Plugs

Nose Plugs

i want us to chew on this verse for a few days: Colossians 1:9-10

“9 Because of this, since the day we heard about you, we haven’t stopped praying for you and asking for you to be filled with the knowledge of God’s will, with all wisdom and spiritual understanding. 10 We’re praying this so that you can live lives that are worthy of the Lord and pleasing to him in every way: by producing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God”

Let me add this from last week. i have been learning to breath with a snorkel. This has been a chore. By instinct, because i have been doing it my whole life, i try to breath through my nose. This is not a good idea when you are underwater! i have had to receive this new information and inform my brain…it hasn’t been easy. i sought help, received some advice, and bought a nose plug. That simple little purchase has changed my ability to breath through the snorkel. i am becoming more accustomed to breathing through the snorkel.

In much the same way, grace is new, we don’t always understand it and it is hard sometimes to rely on Jesus when for so long we have relied on ourselves. You might need a “nose plug” to help train your brain to rely on Jesus in everything. This is the prayer that Paul had for the people in Colossae. That they would grow in the knowledge of God’s will, with all wisdom and spiritual understanding. Learning to lean on Jesus more and more in everything. It’s about growing, about becoming productive, and about getting nearer to God.

Here are a few “nose plugs” that you can use to help you along the way, training yourself to lean on Jesus:
1. Read the Word
2. Youth Group
3. Life Group
4. Sunday Edition
5. Coffee with Jesus
6. Hang our with others that follow Jesus
7. Have a mentor or someone you can talk to about tough things or choices you have to make
8. An accountability partner…someone who asks you tough questions about choices you are making or about to make
9. Pray
10. Be an active part of the Body, the Church

You are loved,

cj