And God * said, ​”because you are free,​ it is ok to do as the pagans do!” (*never)

And God * said, ​”because you are free,​ it is ok to do as the pagans do!” (*never)

This is me wading into the muck of a cultural tradition steeped in paganism. The question, should Christians celebrate Halloween? The answer, first, let me ask you a question. If Jesus were alive today, would He attend a pagan festival, dressed as a zombie? No, given the many times in Scripture, we are told not to do as the pagans. Would He attend the festival to preach to the attendees? Unlikely, perhaps He would stand outside of it preaching? Maybe. We don’t know because there isn’t a pagan festival written in the New Testament, so what we have is Jesus’ words regarding worship and the Old Testament. So when in doubt, search the Scriptures and seek the leading of the Holy Spirit.

Let me tackle the idea that we are not to put on others our own convictions, which, i hear often. The verse most widely used is found in Galatians 5:1 — “For freedom, Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Another prominent verse is 1 Corinthians 6:12 — “‘All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful for me,’ but I will not be dominated by anything.‘” We could also look at Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8 here, but we will touch on those in a bit. Our freedom gives us, well, freedom. But, not license to sin by committing idolatry. i have been reading and studying Halloween for some time now, and these are the things that i have learned.

  1. It dates back to a Celtic festival known as Samhain. In which the Celts believed that a portal between worlds, life, and death, was opened. They would dress up in costume to ward off evil spirits.
  2. The Celts date back to 1800 B.C. However, The existence of the Celts was first documented in the seventh or eighth century B.C. The Roman Empire, which ruled much of southern Europe at that time, referred to the Celts as “Galli,” meaning barbarians.
  3. In the early Church, roughly the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honor all saints; soon, All Saints Day incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain. The evening before was known as All Hallows Eve and later Halloween.
  4. It was believed that if the church incorporated some of these traditions, it would make it easier for pagans to convert to Christianity.

There is so much more i could write regarding the traditions and origins of those traditions but suffice it to say all of them are pagan. Therefore, they should be avoided. Look at this passage in Deuteronomy 6:13-15 we read:

“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.”

In 1 Thessalonians 5:21-23, we have Paul instructing the Thessalonians to avoid evil.

“but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely . . .”

Two things here stand out. First, abstain from EVERY form of EVIL. Would you say that Halloween in its former and present state is filled with evil? i know i sure do! Second, “sanctify you,” sanctify means to set apart from. As Christians, we are to be different than the world not blend in so well that no can tell the difference. Let me share a few more verses just to add some perspective for our thought.

“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” Colossians 2:8

“for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.” Ephesians 5:8-11

“He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?” Matthew 15:3

We could discuss here the eating of meat that had been sacrificed to idols, but i will just add this . . . The intent here is to not be a stumbling block to others by our understanding.  So let me pose the question, are you confident in your celebration of a clearly pagan festival isn’t laying a stumbling block for your neighbor? That is the test! Let me end this with a passage from Ezekiel and really, the reason i am writing was inspired here.

“If I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked person shall die for his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, or from his wicked way, he shall die for his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul.” Ezekiel 3:18-19

Can you warn someone of wickedness, evil, and idolatry, and still keep the same festival you are warning them about? No, you cannot. So, therefore, in my humble opinion we as Christians should not partake of the pagan festival known as Halloween regardless of its human tradition. Let me add, this was a natural conclusion, but a difficult decision. Why? Because i love tradition and i grew up on Halloween. i even helped my sister put on a haunted trail for a park she worked for not many years ago. However, my conviction over this grows more and more every day as i see the day of the Lords return getting ever closer. We must wake up and proclaim the truth!

You are loved,

cj

Have we wearied the Lord?

Have we wearied the Lord?

“You have wearied the Lord with your words. But you say, ‘How have we wearied Him?’ By saying, ‘Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and He delights in them.’ Or by asking, ‘Where is the God of justice?'” Malachi 2:17

This looks and sounds a lot like what we have today in our culture. It is in fact what is warned about in Isaiah 5:20 That in the last days. . . “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” And not just in the Old Testament writings but also in the New. “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions.” 2 Timothy 4:3 And in 2 Peter 2:1 “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.” There are so many more, but i will only add one last warning from Revelation 21:8 “But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

Have we as a culture wearied the Lord by watering down His grace because we have removed judgment? Rather than wrestle with challenging topics, we simply say, “God is love.” There is no denying that, seems a legitimate way to end an argument. However, it is a false hope for without judgment, there is no grace, and without repentance, there is no hope for mercy. As history always does, it is repeating itself again. i worry that as a culture, and by that i mean Christian Culture, that we are wearying the Lord with our acceptance of evil as good or just our lack of ability to call evil, evil by saying, “God is love.”

Our battle, as written in Ephesians 6:12 (quoted below in the ESV), is one in which the ruler of this world, Satan, fighting for our heart in an epic spiritual battle that attempts to deceive us into believing the lie, “Did God really say . . .?”

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

Awake! God is not mocked! Sanctify yourself and work out your salvation with fear and trembling. You are loved so much that God, through Jesus Christ, made a way for us to enter into the holiness of God; Even still, we are being called to be holy by a holy God.

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

Throw it away! Putting on the new self (part three)

Throw it away! Putting on the new self (part three)

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you:” Colossians 3:5 ESV

Put off your old self” Ephesians 4:22 ESV

Our old self was crucified with Him.” Romans 6:6 ESV

Do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance,” 1 Peter 1:14 ESV

What causes you to stumble? What causes you to sin? What causes you to conform to your old self? THROW IT AWAY! Literally, throw it away! What is your struggle? Sometimes we mistake our struggle for our cross to bear when in reality, the only reason we are struggling is that we refuse to throw “it” away and bare ourselves before God. Ask any alcoholic in recovery, in the beginning, at least, they needed to eliminate ALL alcohol from their lives. It wasn’t a matter of just not drinking and having a six-pack in the refrigerator. No, that is a recipe for failure. The same is true for everything that causes us to sin. We must eliminate from our lives completely!

If your sin is porn on your phone, throw it away. Get a cheap phone from WalMart that has only talk and text. Is TV causing you to sin? Get rid of it!  In some cases, IT IS that easy. Is there a friendship that is causing you to sin? End it! This all might seem a bit harsh and out of balance. It is, because of culture. However, we are called to live as citizens of heaven on earth. His Kingdom come, His Will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. i am not making this up, it is as clear as a crisp spring day. Jesus said, “if your right-hand causes you to sin, cut it off. No, He wasn’t being literal. However, He was making this illustration, throw away what causes you to sin.

Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you. 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8 ESV

“Do so more and more” is an instruction to walk in a manner pleasing to God, not a suggestion. Further, God desires that we are sanctified, which is set-apart, for the cause of Christ. In the world but not of the world, as Ambassadors of our heavenly home, in a broken and fallen world in need of redemption in Jesus alone. He doesn’t leave us helpless to do this on our own, either. He has given us a helper, the Holy Spirit, to enable us, strengthen us, enlighten us, to walk in His truth.

You are loved,

cj

Greetings to the seven Churches (part 6)

Greetings to the seven Churches (part 6)

Sardis

And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of Him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent…” Revelation 3:1-3 (3 in part) ESV

Wow, wow, wow, here is for the first time zero atta-boys but a firm rebuke and call to repentance right out to the gate. Sardis was the capital city of the Lydian Empire. They had great halls and buildings and temples. In fact, one of the seven largest Greek temples founds it home in this metropolis, the one to Artemis, goddess of the hunt, the moon, and fertility. As a capital city and one of such great stature and prominence, it is easy to see how the church may have gotten a bit off track. It is easy to see actually, and there are, as i read them, many similarities between this ancient Greek capital and my own home country, the whole thing. Not only that but as i read this i wonder, “how many in the western church would fall into this description, ‘You have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.'”

i see so many, what appears to be, great full of life churches; i have been a part of a few. One i would say, without a doubt, was alive! The other appeared alive to many but as i sat in the inner circle we were far from thriving, in fact, we were on death row. We, collectively, needed to repent. Instead, as the warning continues to the Sardis church, so was the fate of this “church” it imploded. It has yet to recover. We also see so many Mega or large churches that seem alive fall in the blink of an eye, as another Sardis church crumbles. Let us look at the remainder of this letter to Sardis in Revelation 3.

Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent.  If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before His angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'” Revelation 3:3-6

There is a remnant, there is always a remnant! If you feel stuck in a church and in your spirit, you know that it is all a show, that although the “church” appears alive, you know it is not, here is what you need to do. First, pray! Pray for wisdom and discernment on when and how to bring up your concerns with the pastor or ministry leader. If they will listen, great! If not, find a few others who share your concern. Again, pray for wisdom and discernment. Then collectively approach your pastor or ministry leader. If they will listen, great! If not, shake the dust from your feet and leave. Go and find a church that is truly alive and seeking the will of the Lord daily. Be the remnant. Be the unsoiled. Be the conquerer.

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

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