Follow Me (part six, Lent)

Follow Me (part six, Lent)

The whole idea of following Jesus is traced back to the beginning of the ministry of Jesus. He beckoned His disciples to “Follow Me.” At the beginning of Mark in verse 14 and 15 of Chapter one, we see the starting point. John the Baptist has been arrested. Jesus’ time has begun. His message was simple;

“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1:15 ESV

Part of following Jesus requires that we repent. To turn from sin, do a 180 degree, an about-face, from the sin in our lives. Then believe in the gospel. Gospel simply means Good News. Jesus is the Good News, we are to believe in Jesus.

As we begin the season of Lent, the 46 (40 not counting Sundays) day period of time in which we prepare ourselves for Resurrection Sunday and Holy Week leading up to the day Jesus conquers the death, the grave, and sin.  It is a period of prayer, repentance, fasting or self-denial, as we seek to right our hearts before a Holy God. The time begins with Ash Wednesday. i am sure you have seen folks walk around on Ash Wednesday with a smudge of black on their foreheads. Many feel as if this is strictly a Catholic event, or Lutheran, or a number of other more liturgical Churches. When in fact it is not.

The idea of repenting in ashes dates well back into the Old Testament. In which in times of National Crises or repentance one would put on sackcloth or a course, uncomfortable,  shawl type garment made of goats hair, with ashes on their head, which symbolized utter ruin. A lament of sorts in which they would cry out to God in mourning of their sin. As we look to Ash Wednesday now, we look at the putting on of Ashes as a reminder to repent and believe in the Gospel. It is also a time to remember that we are, “dust and to dust, we will return.”

“By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust, you shall return.” Genesis 3:19 ESV

“All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return.” Ecclesiastes 3:20 ESV

Taking time each year to specifically pray, examine ourselves, and repent, in order to remember and perhaps recommit to “believe in the gospel” afresh and new is, in my opinion, a great thing! And, if we follow this time up by dropping our nets, those things that hinder us, ensnare us, bind us, and maybe even torment us and leaving them behind; we can truly begin, in a new and deeper way to respond to Jesus who says, “Follow Me.” Will you prepare your hearts this Lenten season? Will you mark this time with prayer, repentance, and self-denial, so that you may gain a fresh perspective on who you are in Christ Jesus and what He calls you to do?

Will you Follow Him?

You are loved,

cj

Follow Me (part three)

Follow Me (part three)

Have you ever accepted someone new into a group of friends? That person may or may not end up having much influence on the group, depending on their personality. Just because someone is accepted into the group does not instantly make him a leader. Simply put, acceptance does not mean influence. Another example, have you ever accepted someone’s idea without agreeing? Nowadays you would be considered intolerant for not agreeing with someone else’s ideology. But that isn’t the case, in reality, someone can accept an idea without agreeing with it. So again acceptance does not mean agreement with etc. i feel that there are a lot of people who have accepted Christ, but they do not follow Him. Let’s look again at Jesus Words in Mark 1:17–ESV

Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men!

Notice, here that Jesus does not say, “Accept Me.” i think we have missed the mark a little by using terminology that leaves things at the point of acceptance rather than a life long journey of Following. If it were as easy as accepting Jesus, there would be far less Scripture for us to understand and the wide path we talked about a couple of weeks ago would be just fine for everyone. That my friends is not the case! We are to follow Jesus, abide in Jesus, obey Jesus, shine for Jesus! In John 15:1-17 (ESV[below]) we read about the importance of abiding in Jesus and bearing fruit for Him. It again gives only two options, abiding and not abiding. Those that abide are pruned that they may bear lots of fruit and those that do not, wither and die, to be thrown into the fire.

15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

12 This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants,[a] for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

i don’t know how one can misinterpret the importance of abiding and what it means to abide. Besides bearing fruit, we are commanded to love one another, and charged, “You are My friends if you do what I command you.” It is pretty simply, straight forward. This week i pray that we would begin to abide in Jesus, to follow Jesus, and to no longer be content with just accepting Jesus.

You are loved,

cj

Follow Me (part two)

Follow Me (part two)

There are so many facets to the statement made by Jesus, “Follow Me.” The one that should stand out that i think gets lost nowadays is the fact that following Jesus is not easy, nor is the road always blessed. The only promise is that we will be with Him and He with us, here now, and tomorrow in eternity. Listen to Jesus’ own words in regards to what it means to Follow Him.

“Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” Matthew 8:20

“Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.” Matthew 8:22

“If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, Follow Me.” Matthew 19:21

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink.” John 6:53-55

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will also keep yours.” John 15:18-20

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

These are just a few of the verses that we like to explain away or look past or neglect altogether, sadly. Is there an appropriate context for each of these verses, yes there is . . . However, they do quite nicely standing alone, as well as in context, for us, today. We cannot shy away from the hard sayings of Jesus because they make people uncomfortable. We cannot glance over or ignore His words and still say, we follow Jesus. He said these things for a reason. They are truth for the soul. We must seek to understand them or risk walking away altogether because we failed to gain wisdom from our knowledge of Him. After all, Jesus also said;

“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.” Luke 6:46-49

Are you ready to truly follow Jesus?

You are Loved,

cj

“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

What more can be said?

What more can be said?

What can be said, you know, more than what has already been said of Jesus? Besides the very Word of God, the clear picture we have of Jesus in the Gospels, and the glimpses of Him throughout the Old Testament. Really, what can be added that would do Him justice? Not to mention the books upon books that are out there and available, YouTub videos, devotionals, mini-series’, and the list goes on and on. Who am i to add to what is already available? How are my words going to present Jesus, the King of kings and the Lord of lords, any different or clearer? They are not! i can do and say nothing that will enlighten us any more than what is already available. So why do it then? Well, because to be silent, to keep quiet, to put my hands in my pockets, hang my head low, and walk about as if there was nothing to share, would indeed be negligent of my faith.

Luke records Jesus saying, “He answered, ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.‘” (Luke 19:40) When we believe in something, such as a sports team, we generally speak up about them, even defend them against opposing sports team fans. We make our case for why our team is the better team! We hang banners, plan parties, invite friends, all to cheer on our teams. It doesn’t have to be sports teams, perhaps its a show. When i was a kid my mom and sister love the Soup Opera, Days of our Lives, they would watch it and talk about it, and if one missed an episode, they would fill each other in. One time i remember my sister stayed home sick from school to watch a particular episode because it promised to reveal something of a plot that had been building for months! We recently had a grandson. Our first grandchild! i have shared about him, talked about him, share pictures of him, and if someone were to say something against him, i would rush to his defense!

This is exactly, no not exactly, because it would still be inadequate of how we should talk about Jesus. We need to speak up! Talk to our friends, our loved ones, and frankly anyone who would listen! Talk about what we know is true, talk about and share our struggles, confusions, misunderstandings, so that we might grow in our faith and ability to share. In 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Paul writes, “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 competent, equipped for every good work.”  Jesus should be our “watercooler conversation;” He should be the topic of our celebrations, we should have parties and gatherings around the idea of discussing Him, enlightening others to the Truth of the Gospel and of a God who cares for them! When someone misses out on a service, we should desire to fill them in, and they should desire to be filled in.

Here is some good news and a challenge:

“For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. (That is the good news, now for the challenge). But how are they to call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news! But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?’ So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” Romans 10:13-17

You are loved,

cj

I Surrender

I Surrender

The year is 1877, it’s October, it’s cold, and there are many, many dead. Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce tribe of Native Americans, weighs his heart against the injustice and the desire for peace. He thinks of his family, his people, and he pleads for peace. On the fifth of October 1877, he gave this speech;

I am tired of fighting. Our chiefs are killed. Looking Glass is dead. Toohoolhoolzote is dead. The old men are all dead. It is the young men who say, ‘Yes’ or ‘No.’ He who led the young men [Olikut] is dead. It is cold, and we have no blankets. The little children are freezing to death. My people, some of them, have run away to the hills, and have no blankets, no food. No one knows where they are — perhaps freezing to death. I want to have time to look for my children and see how many of them I can find. Maybe I shall find them among the dead. Hear me, my chiefs! I am tired. My heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands I will fight no more forever.”

This incredibly sad story does not have a happy ending as the promises made by General Howard, were not kept. Whether it was indeed out of the General’s authority or ability to meet the promises or not isn’t relevant to this except to say, man’s promises are void of the pure ability to deliver. What makes this story even sadder is that Chief Joseph was leading his people north-west to Canada and at the time he surrendered they were only 40 miles from the border.

Often times we are too quick to surrender to man and not quick enough to surrender to God. Metaphorically speaking here. We try and try in our own strength to beat the evils that surround us daily to no avail. We end up tired and broken. We surrender ourselves to the demons of our hearts, and in our minds to find momentary relief. But, it’s just that, momentary. We live this life of constant struggle, and in the end, we die, broken-hearted and separated from God. For what? Chief Joseph died in 1904 and the cause of death reported by his doctors, a broken heart.

For us spiritually there is hope!

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” Galatians 2:20

and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.” Romans 6:13

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual act of worship.” Romans 12:1

And without faith, it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” Hebrews 11:6

In all this surrender, there is victory!

For the Lord, your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.” Deuteronomy 20:4

I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world, you will have troubles. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:57

Are you tired of fighting? i invite you to surrender to the only one who is able to bring you true victory in all things! Jesus is our victory!

You are Loved,

cj

New Year, New You!

New Year, New You!

How many of you waited till January 1st to start that new diet? Get back to the gym? Starting reading more? Or take that class at the community college to finally get your degree? i am not here to write a blog about how terrible you are for not starting sooner! Nor am i here to write about how most New Year’s resolutions fail within the first month and almost 90% won’t make the changes stick. Actually, i am here to write about being new! i am writing about making resolutions and then seeing them through to the end, and not being afraid to tweak them as needed because making changes or corrections to a resolution isn’t a failure at all but an avenue to success.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to improve yourself, make life changes, seek to develop your mind, heart, relationships, or anything for that matter. There is also, absolutely, nothing wrong with choosing a day to do it and the beginning of a new year seems like a reasonable starting point. In Joshua we read this:

“Now, therefore, fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the river and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the river or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (italics and bold print added)

Here is where i would challenge your New Year’s Resolution, every day is a new day in the Lord. And every day is exactly one year from that same day, for example, June 10th, 2019 will be exactly one year from June 10th, 2018. So every day is new and has the potential for you to be new too.

Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:18-19 ESV

Do not dwell on the former, even the failings of yesterday! The mercies of the Lord are new every morning, therefore, renew your compassion for yourself and others in the same manner!

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, says my soul. Therefore I will hope in Him.” Lamentations 3:22-24 ESV

Take hold of the newness you have in Christ!

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV

Take hold of the victory you have in Christ!

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:57 ESV

Finally, a reminder, no matter your past, remember these words of Paul to the Philippians.

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because, Christ Jesus has made me His own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.” Philippians 3:12-16 ESV (italics and bold print added for emphasis)

You are loved,

cj