Follow Me (part one)

Follow Me (part one)

Did you ever play follow the leader as a kid? You know that game where one person leads a group and where ever they go you have to follow, and if they jump, you jump . . . That sort of thing? We don’t much play follow the leader anymore like that do we? We still follow; we follow someone who might know where they are going, and so we drive behind them, following them. We follow the directions of our boss. We follow the laws of the land. We even follow sports teams or individuals on social media, twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. Although, we aren’t kids and we don’t “play” the game, follow the leader, we still follow. There are in fact, only two leaders. One says, follow me and enjoy life’s pleasures, the other says, take up your cross and follow me. It’s a stark contrast, one is wide and the other narrow.

So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” Matthew 7:12-14 ESV

Some would say this is two separate thoughts; i would disagree. You see there are two ways, the wide gate, which is easy, and the narrow gate, that is hard to find. Why? Well, because, humans are selfish. Generally, one treats another as they are treated by them. Jesus flips this general rule of thought and says, no, you know how you like to be treated? This is how you should treat others. Let me tell you this, it is not EASY to treat someone, who doesn’t treat you well, in a way that you wish to be treated. In fact, for those who give it a try, it is a tough thing to do!

However, our example in all these things is Jesus. Jesus, who was mocked by His earthly family, deserted by His followers, mocked by the ruling class, the religious, the crowd; All the while treating them, except for righteous anger, with dignity and respect. Obedient all the way to the cross. So what is His secret? The answer is He submitted Himself to God and relied on the Holy Spirit. They were one. He invites us to this same place. He gives us a helper, the Holy Spirit. He invites us to be one as He and the Father are one, He in Him and He in us. It’s a fantastic reality.

The narrow way is difficult because it requires, no, it demands, that we live selflessly. That we consider others over ourselves. This does not come naturally. In fact, unless we follow Jesus, we will never find it. He says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6) Many will quit the journey because the way is to hard, yet what they don’t realize is that when we submit to the Lord, there is a Helper. The Holy Spirit who dwells in us, enables us, to live in such a way as this. We need only to follow the leader, we know as Jesus. You see, you have a choice to either follow Jesus, or you will be following the temporary ruler of this world, the devil. The devil, demands nothing from you but in the end, steals your soul. Jesus, demands your life but in the end, grants you eternity.

Jesus says, “Follow Me, and I will . . . save you, equip you, send you, help you.”

You are Loved,

cj

Advent (week 2) Peace

Advent (week 2) Peace

13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joesph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and His mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy Him.” 14 And he rose and took the child and His mother by night and departed to Egypt 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophets, “Out of Egypt I called my Son.” Matthew 2:13-15 ESV

Peace, each Christmas we look at the Advent, and we talk about peace. We know Jesus as Prince of Peace, yet, as we look at the story of His birth, peace is not the first thing that comes to mind. Joseph and Mary in order to comply with the senses travel to Bethlehem for the census. Mary is well into her pregnancy, and as they arrive, inevitably delayed by slow travel of a pregnant woman on foot or even a donkey, there is no room for them in the inn.  The Inn Keeper not being without heart things of the best he can do, a stable will have to do. Giving birth in a stable is probably far from what some would say is peaceful. Shepherds approach after being surprised in the field by angels. Certainly, brought some trepidation to the new parents. This scene does not have the earmarks of peace.

In the passage at the top, we read that Herod wanted to have the baby of this poor couple killed. So, in a flight for their lives, they head to Egypt in the dark of night. Hardly, peaceful! In fact, it wasn’t peaceful at all for the boys left behind. Many children were killed. Matthew 2:16-18 tells the story: “Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: ‘A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted because they are no more.‘” i do not see peace here either.

As Jesus grew up, under the radar for most of His life, we see relative peace. However, from the start of His earthly ministry, we don’t see peace. We see great things, don’t misunderstand me, but we do not see true, lasting peace. Here is why, Jesus, Himself said, “I did not come to bring peace but a sword.” This statement seems to go against His nature until you dive into it and see what is meant. True and lasting peace is from the Father and will not be present until Jesus’ earthly Kingdom is set. If we read in Revelation, we will see that even after the Millenial Reign of Jesus there is a time that Satan is loosed again and will deceive many, before being ultimately and forever defeated.  (See Revelation 20:7-10)

So, again, this peace is a peace of mind and heart in a world that is fraught with sin and deception from the chief liar, Satan. We find peace in Christ when we give our lives over to Him. He is the author and perfector of our faith. He is the Everlasting, the Alpha and Omega, He is the only One, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Although, the world decay around us, we have hope and we have peace that Jesus has overcome already, and our victory is in Him, Jesus our Lord!

You are loved,

cj

Christian (part three)

Christian (part three)

The topic of Christianianity is a BIG one. There is no way around it actually in our society, as it is in nearly every facet of life. Today, we will focus on the politics of being a Christian. It is pushed by both major political parties, some would say, “exploited” for political gain, touching on the surface, our need to be compassionate. It’s a double-edged sword if you will because politics are ugly and yet i do believe we have a civic duty to participate in it. But we can not separate the two. i know the constitution makes a distinction of separation between Church and State. However, that separation is intended to protect the Church from the government not the government from the Church.

If you are a politically active Christian you must do so from a perspective of the values found in the passages of Scripture in which we hold so dear. To separate your beliefs in some attempt to appease a group of people is not within the guidelines of being Christian. Nor can we separate it out from our lives in any aspect. To do so would be a denial of our values, our faith, our Christ. So far in our previous two weeks of looking at this topic, we covered Romans 12:9-10 which state:

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.”

Our next verse, 11, states:

Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.”

Think of those in past times who basically risked everything in order to remain faithful to God. Namely, in this case, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, these guys put God above politics in everything they did that’s why they were hated by the others and set up. Even to the point of not denying their God for any reason even their very lives. We should be so bold! “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord!”

So, what are we to do when the climate is so split, compassion over what? When sizing up candidates does one issue rule over another? Where is grace or mercy when it comes to pass indiscretions? How about moral failings? Or the candidates stated belief versus their present actions? There is so much to consider how does one possibly vote at all? i for a very long time was registered, independent. i didn’t want the label of a political party, in fact, i still don’t but when we moved i somehow selected an affiliation and just haven’t gone to fix it. In my heart of hearts, i remain an objective independent voter. Who Votes his beliefs over politics, over issues, over a person. As a Christian, i take into consideration my own grace, mercy, love and the charge to love others, in making my decisions on casting a vote for someone or some issue.

May we take into account such things always and in everything that we do, not just politics, but also, work, friendships, relationships, even when we are alone.

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 saints and seek to show hospitality.” Romans 12:9-13

You are loved,

cj

Christian (part two)

Christian (part two)

Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” This is verse 10 of our passage in Romans 12:9-21 and our focus for the day. i am not sure if this will be a verse by verse or if at some point we will tackle a few but for now, this is it. Now, here me on this, this passage is on the marks of a true Christian as a whole, i want to, however, spend some time talking to you married couples. Then i will tie it all together for us in the idea of being Christian.

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord . . . Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.” We have talked at length before about marriage but i want to draw the parallel of the marks of being Christian into the context of marriage because the symbolism is referenced by Jesus himself as well as Paul here in Ephesians 5. Submission, to the greater work of the Kingdom, is paramount to being “Christian”.  This reference to wives is in no way my attempt to make women submit, far from. For just a few verses later Paul writes, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her, that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word.” We, husbands, are to love our wives sacrificially, and righteously, based on and filled with the Word of God.

This goes to Jesus’ teaching, “Love the Lord your God with your whole heart, soul, mind, and strength . . . and love your neighbor as yourself.” In this parallel, and in some was a paradox, we see that it isn’t impossible or absurd to think that this is possible. In fact, to think otherwise demonstrates a lack of faith in the ability of the Holy Spirit in our lives. It is also a daily decision. When you wake up you must make the decision to love, unconditionally. To wait for “feelings,” or to wait for “reason,” i heard once an individual say, “I am waiting for my spouse to give me a reason to love them.” Let me give you a reason, “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” There isn’t a stipulation in there nor in the passages in Ephesians, which is directed at the marriage specifically. It is simply commanded, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and WE will come to him and make our home with him.” (John 14:23) And there is also a promise . . . “We will come to him and make our home with him.” That fact that Jesus says, “We will come to him” references the presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of the “Doer of God’s Word,” the “Disciple of Jesus,” the person of “the Way,” the “Christian.”

The parallel for the Christain and marriage is this if we are the body we are all the bride of Christ, therefore, our love for one another ought to be one of submission. It also, is that of Christ, as we are to be and do and go as He directs therefor loving each other just as Christ loved the church. It is both and, not either or.

To quote the great Jedi, Yoda, “Do or do not, there is no try.” When we choose to love as commanded. To love like Jesus, we either do it or we don’t. It is that simple. Not to say that it will be perfect, but the more we “do” the easier it gets, the more fulfilling it becomes, and the more the Spirit fills us with His presence enabling us to love even more. So, i say to us today, LOVE ONE ANOTHER.

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

In our weakness, standing in Your strength, Thy Kingdom Come

In our weakness, standing in Your strength, Thy Kingdom Come

Weakness, who would admit to it? We are taught from the beginning, strength wins. Survival of the fittest. There is quote after quote about the need to be strong and independent. Even in the Church, we have quotes such as, “God helps those that help themselves.” None of them truly helpful, and rarely actually Biblical. Oh sure, some are really great. They are motivators for us to press on in difficult times. They encourage us at times even give us a new perspective on life and ourselves. i recently read a men’s devotional in which it talked about our need to be physically fit, strong even. Although it made some very valid points, i think it was leaning too hard on our strength and how God wants to use our strength.

In reality, God wants to use our weaknesses. In order for that to happen, we must embrace our weakness, understand it and live in a place that allows God to use our weaknesses to His glory. We need to realize that we are made perfect in weakness. We need to humble ourselves even in areas of strength and rely on God’s strength. Will He use our strengths? Absolutely! But when we become dependent on our own ability, we will soon lose perspective and reliance on God and His strength. In Everything, we need to seek the Lord, His will, His strength, His leading and in the end His glory not our own.

This is not a popular message by any stretch of the imagination. Many will disagree. However, i would just point back to the fact that God uses our strengths, yes He does…i contend, however, that He uses our weakness more, in fact, He desires to use our weakness more than our strength. That is a very comforting thought if you think about it honestly. It is the Apostle Paul who wrote in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (NLT)

9 “Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.”

Let’s look at this passage in the Message in a fuller context looking at verses 7-10:

7-10 “Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first, I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me,

My grace is enough; it’s all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness.

Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.

Here in 1 Corinthians 1:27 Paul says, “Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful.” (NLT) Yes, He has given us gifts, and talents, but often the gift and the talent for particular missions are found in the weakest of men (and women). God’s Kingdom is built on His strength, His Kingdom has come. Jesus said, “12 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father.” (John 14:12 NASB) and, “Then I will ask the Father to send you the Holy Spirit who will help you and always be with you.” (John 14:16 CEV)

Let me point to this, in conclusion, the final verse of Psalm 27 (NASB read the whole chapter by clicking the link)…Be strong yes, as you wait on the Lord.

Wait for the Lord;
Be strong and let your heart take courage;
Yes, wait for the Lord.”

Embrace your weakness.

You are loved,

cj