Follow Me (part four)

Follow Me (part four)

Although Jesus said, “Follow Me,” there was one place that He said, they would not go, more specifically, Peter. Not that they wouldn’t all eventually walk that road, in some way-or-other, just that there was still more to be done. Here is the exchange between Peter and Jesus as recorded in John 13:36-38:

Simon Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, where are you going?’ Jesus answered him, ‘Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.’ Peter said to him, ‘Lord why can I not follow you now? I would lay down my life for You.’ Jesus answered, ‘Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times.'”

Jesus in all of His preparation had not yet completed that work, nor had they! There may come a time when we are called to lay down our lives for the cause of Christ. Yet, we shouldn’t go looking for it. Many times the disciples were arrested, but later escaped because it wasn’t their time. Eventually, each of the disciples came to a point where they followed Jesus, even to death. Some in the same way even, on a cross. All save one, John. He was exiled on the island of Patmos. Whether we give our lives as martyrs or we live a full life, we are called to follow.

There is no one else to follow. There is no other way to go. As we have explored over the past several weeks, to follow means to lay down our lives, figuratively, and quite possibly, literally. There is no question that His will must become our will, “not My will but Your will be done.” (see Matthew 26:39). Although the weight seems heavy, we have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us. Listen to Jesus’ words to His disciples after answering Peter; John 14:1-4:

Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.

We should be comforted in Jesus words to those who Follow Him. Who truly know Him, and seek to do His will. The disciples were confused by Jesus’ words, “And you know the way . . .” to the point that Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” To which Jesus replied; (John 14:5-6)

I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

If we follow Jesus, we come to know the way, the truth, and the life. And when this feeble life is over, we will enter the place prepared for us.

You are loved,

cj

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

Come now, and let us reason together

Come now, and let us reason together

Isaiah 1:18-19
18″Come now, and let us reason together,”
Says the Lord,
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They will be as wool.
19If you are willing and obedient…”

The Maker of heaven and earth, the One who formed you in your  mothers womb, says to you, “Come now, and let us reason together.” This is truly magnificent, He desires to dialog with you, have a conversation regarding life, love, sin, death, redemption, liberty, justice, forgiveness, hope, joy, heaven and hell. In order to reason one must be aware of truth, aware of life and aware of His voice calling out to you, “Come now, and let us reason together.” How will you respond today?

Take 30 minutes, 15 minutes, 10 minutes…take some time today to sit quietly, to listen to the Lord calling to you, “Come now, and let us (you and Me [Jesus]) reason together.”

You are loved,

cj

are you available?

are you available?

Have you availed yourself to the means of grace this week? This is the question that has stirred my heart and mind for the past several weeks, in fact i cannot let go of it.  It continues to be the focus of thought for me.  In so much as i am unable to set it aside i have decided to embrace it and make it a part of who i am.  The questions origin is from John Wesley who asked it of his house church leaders and congregants of those groups started by Wesley on his missionary journey’s.

i have broken it down like this; Have you made yourself available to God’s grace this week?  In the hurry of life even if we find time to go to a gathering of the church as in Sunday or a small group, it doesn’t mean that we have made ourselves available to God.  i do believe that at times in our lives there are stages or seasons in which we “go through the motions”.  It can become a habit and one not easily broken, if we don’t slow down and take time to ask the question, “Have you made yourself available to God’s grace this week?”

Have you allowed yourself to enter into worship freely?  Have you read the Word?  Have you prayed?  Have you gathered on purpose with the Body of Christ?  Have you partaken in the Lord’s Supper?  Have you given yourself to be baptized?  Have you made yourself available to Christian Charity or Hospitality?  These are not works, these are ways in which we make ourselves available to God’s grace for us…it flows freely from the thrown of grace, freely receive it, by making yourself available.

Let me encourage you, if you find yourself going through the motions in which you haven’t made yourself available to God’s grace this week, with this from Colossians 1:9-14. i will let this read us out.

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; 11 by being strengthened through his glorious might so that you endure everything and have patience;12 and by giving thanks with joy to the Father. He made it so you could take part in the inheritance, in light granted to God’s holy people. 13 He rescued us from the control of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son he loves. 14 He set us free through the Son and forgave our sins.

You are Loved,

cj

For We Are All One

For We Are All One

Today, as i sat in the building in which a small portion of the Church gathers, i listened to our pastor’s impassioned plea for unity.  It hit me, as i heard his words and saw a glimpse of his heart that this is the same conversation i have been having with Rachel our Axiom manager. Just a regular woman, who just happens to be dark complected, a person of color, black, to be PC, African~American.  i can’t pretend to know how it feels to be a person of color, any color other than white, in America.

We could spend lots of time arguing i am sure, all points and sides, from “Black Lives Matter” to “All Lives Matter”.  Simultaneously arguing the same points but blind because neither side can truly understand the other completely.

So, as i sat in the building with the Church i was reminded of this passage in Galatians Chapter 3…beginning with verse 26;

26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. 

The CHURCH must rise up above the racial tension in America. It must begin to show unity in tangible ways to those around us. This isn’t a political issue, although it has been made into one…it is rather a social one.  The Church for all of its flaws, has an opportunity to show Christ. To live out this principle in Galatians. To live out the mandate of Scripture to love, show mercy, have compassion, and live in a place of grace and forgiveness…it is for us, the Church, to walk humbly.

i am thankful that we took 30 teens to camp last week and we were the most diverse group there. i am proud of that fact and felt even better when one of the counselors was talking to me and pointed out the fact.  To be honest, i hadn’t thought about it.  i like to think that i don’t see color, that i live out Galatians everyday.  Not that i am already perfected, but forgetting what is behind, i press on toward the goal of Christ Jesus.

Rejoicing always, i attempt to let my gentleness be an outward expression of who lives within me.  i try not to be anxious but in everything though prayer i am thankfully hopeful. i am paraphrasing parts of Philippians, but let me close with this quote from the same 4:8,9

8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

You are loved,

cj

Happy Resurrection Day

Happy Resurrection Day

Tonight, i watched a Christmas show. It’s not Christmas, if you were wondering. It is however, the Jewish Feast of Passover. To put it into perspective, if Jesus were fulfilling the Messianic prophecies in 2016, we would be looking for His resurrection tomorrow. i know what you are thinking, we celebrated “easter” already. You are right…but…i hate easter!

WHAT!? No, really, i hate “easter”. Wait, let me clarify for the record, its the term or label, “easter” that i hate, and yes, i do “hate” it. i struggle with it every year about this time…until it has passed and then i struggle with other things. i have enough struggles to keep me occupied all year. Now, since we find ourselves in the Spring of the year and with it the season of “easter” i only found it fitting to write about it here.

i have friends on either side of this discussion, (mostly in favor of the term…ok all of them really and) all of which are far more intelligent than i and yet i still struggle. Why, you ask? i know not, except that it burns with in me each and every time someone refers to the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus, as “easter”. First however, my copout, i mean my disclaimer; this is my struggle, it is not intended to be your struggle but i write to find some release.

Somewhere around two thousand years ago an event occurred, of such great magnitude that it has shaped history ever since. It’s scope and grandeur are of epic proportions, yet its origins were simple. A young couple, poor and weary, find themselves in a place more fit for beast than man. A meager beginning, finds a baby, wrapped in rags lying in a manger. A moment, witnessed by shepherds, heralded by angels and later visited by Magi; it was the beginning of things told of generations before.  (Read some Awesome Scriptures here)

The reason for this child’s birth, death. Not just any death, a sacrificial death. Innocent yet guilty as He bore our sins all the way to the grave. His motive, Love. Redemptive love. The “Passion of the Christ” is more than a Mel Gibson film. It is a love story that is still unfolding today. You see what the world saw as an end, death, and burial. We know as triumph, “it is finished,”  wasn’t a gasp of giving up, but rather a shout of victory. “Up from the grave He arose…” On the third day the stone that was placed over the tomb was found rolled away and the tomb lay empty.

What sort of language is there, a word that can describe such an event? Well the feast that this week of Passion fulfills is known as “Pesach” or “Passover”. It was after all what Jesus and His disciples were celebrating in the upper room that fateful night of His betrayal. We as Christians should remember Passover, when we remember His death and Resurrection as the two are really un-separable. Part of the Sedar Meal was looking ahead at the coming of the Messiah, the Deliverer, the King. Jesus was that fulfillment right down to the broken bread and spilt wine. That is where we get the Christian tradition of the “Lord’s Supper” or “Communion”. And of this tradition we are told to remember, “do this in remembrance of Me.” Luke 22:19

Yet in light of this we choose to celebrate “Easter”, often times apart from the passover, as they don’t always aline. i don’t mind that so much as we celebrate it as it happened for the most part given the Jewish leaders cries to have it finished before the Sabbath day, Saturday. And Passover follows a lunar calendar and varies in when it is celebrated not always aligning each year as was the case this year, as you pointed out already, we already celebrated “easter”. However, the Passover Feast on the Jewish calendar is this week.  i believe we should try to keep the two close and always remember the Passover regardless of where it lands. But the term Easter, has some questionable origins. If they are true, and again there are far smarter, more learned folks than i on this, yet my struggle continues; why would we choose the term Easter for our most Holy Week? What is the origin that i question, well, it is said, that Easter gets its name from “Astarte” (there is a lengthy description of this you can read online by looking up that name or Estre, Estara, Eastre, Ostara…etc.) i recently read an article put out by “Answers in Genesis” in favor or just not opposed to the term Easter, you can read it here.

 1 Peter 1:13-16 “So roll up your sleeves, put your mind in gear, be totally ready to receive the gift that’s coming when Jesus arrives. Don’t lazily slip back into those old grooves of evil, doing just what you feel like doing. You didn’t know any better then; you do now. As obedient children, let yourselves be pulled into a way of life shaped by God’s life, a life energetic and blazing with holiness. God said, “I am holy; you be holy.”

Let’s say, for arguments sake, that the origins i fear are true and accurate. That Easter does derive from Astarte and she was the goddess of fertility. How would one celebrate fertility? Maybe with eggs? But probably not a bunny…although you know what they say about bunnies!? i just think that we as a Church should be different than the world instead of conforming to it. i am not a fan of easter egg hunts, i have come to the point in my struggle that i no longer participate in them. As a pastor i did not ban them but i was as little help in that department as possible. Again, this struggle is ongoing, i did share my opinions but i also understand the heart of the idea. “We don’t use easter eggs, we have Resurrection Eggs.” So, they’re empty? Usually not.

But i digress. my point is simply this, why use a term, “Easter” to describe something so amazing as Victory over the Grave through the “Resurrection of our Lord Jesus”? Isn’t “Resurrection Sunday” or “Resurrection Day” a more fitting term? Why do we not put more emphasis on the Passover? Although we do, for the most part highlight “Good Friday”, i just think we need to get back to basics. Back to a simple understanding with simple terms that are not easily misinterpreted or lost in translation. We don’t need anymore confusion in the minds of our Children…so this “Easter Season” i mean Passover, share the good news of the Resurrection, the empty tomb, the Passion of the Christ, the Love of the Messiah, in that, through His blood…we will be passed over, in a good way, by the angel of death.

Happy Resurrection Day my friends,
You are Loved,

cj