Wholeheartedly

Wholeheartedly

Seek God daily, persistently, and wholeheartedly; You will find life in all its fullness, and it will transform the way that you love and serve others. Does it mean endless blessing? Your best life now? Folks, can i be totally honest? No, no it doesn’t. Moses sought God daily and wandered in the desert for forty years. Peter sought God daily and was nailed to a cross, upside down. Paul sought God daily, and he prayed three times for his thorn in the flesh to be removed, it wasn’t. John sought God daily and was exiled on an island until he died. If life gives you wandering, exile, or a thorn in the flesh, it does not mean you do not have God’s favor upon your life. Neither does it mean that God delights in causing you pain.

Life is full of challenges because the world is a dark place. Its ruler sits on the throne he created, and it is temporary. He succeeded in tempting Eve. He failed at killing the Messiah. Jesus, the Messiah, the One who conquered death, promises that for those who seek Him, they will receive an eternal reward. He also warns us, those that seek Him daily, He warns us not to lose heart. For those that do, He warns to return to our first love!

 “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write:

These are the words of Him who holds the seven stars in His right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands.  I know your deeds, your hard work, and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false.  You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.

Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God. (Revelation 2:1-7)

 Let us return to the love we had at first! Let us live our lives seeking God daily, persistently, wholeheartedly!

You are loved,

cj

“What must I do to be saved?”

“What must I do to be saved?”

Jesus said, “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17) We can read throughout the New Testament folks asking a very important question, “What must I do to be saved?” There are many faiths, some even claiming to be Christain the would answer that question with a list of works that must be carried out. But, let us explore some of the answers given in Scripture and see what we truly must do to be saved!

“Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’ And Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.'” Acts 2:37-38 ESV

“Then he brought them out and said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ And they said, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved you and your household.'” Acts 16:30-31 ESV

“For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:13 ESV

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV

“Thomas said to Him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'” John 14:5-6 ESV

We could keep going but these key passages show that Salvation comes by faith in Jesus only. That we cannot in any way work our way onto a list. No one is better or worse off in what is required of us to attain to salvation, repent and believe. i guess the tricky part comes in the idea of repentance. What does it truly mean to repent? Simply, to turn from sin. We were all once living in sin and darkness, and those who have come to repentance and faith in Jesus should no longer walk in sin. The following are not works of salvation but the mark of true faith, of a true believer.

“I appeal to you, therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:1-2

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

Again, we could explore so many more passages that talk about our response to God’s grace and salvation, but, these give us a good foundation. We are not to look like the world but be ambassadors to the Kingdom of God. Living as children of light, in a dark and fallen world. Repent and believe! And, live for the King of kings!

You are loved,

cj

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

“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

Advent (week three) Joy

Advent (week three) Joy

The Christmas carol (the song, not the movie) Joy to the World, was written by Isaac Watts way back in 1719, nearly 300 years ago; and it remains one of the most popular of all Christmas carols to this day. It’s lyric is both profound and simple, theologically meaty, yet blended making it easily digested. The funny part is, it wasn’t written as a song or hymn or Christmas carol at all, rather published in a book of poems and later set to music. It was Isaac Watts’ look at Psalm 98. Now, we have looked at some of the difficulties of Jesus’ birth, and since no one really likes a Debbie-downer, let’s just let joy be joy this week.

Let’s look at this verse:

Joy to the world, the Lord is come
Let earth receive her King
Let every heart prepare Him room
And Heaven and nature sing
And Heaven and nature sing
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing

Here is the reality, whether a person accepts Jesus or not, doesn’t, in any way, affect His being King. There is a popular statement going around since Donald Trump was elected President of the United States, “Not my President.” Well, i hate to break it to you, regardless of how you feel about him, he is the President of the United States, and if you are a citizen of the USA, he is your President. In Roman’s it is written; “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” (Romans 14:11) It is a direct reference to Isaiah 45:23. Paul refers to it in his letter to the Philippians 2:10-11; “so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” So, yes, Sir Isaac Watts, let earth receive her King! And let every heart prepare Him room!

And this verse to wrap things up:

No more let Sins and Sorrows grow,
Nor Thorns infest the Ground:
He comes to make his Blessings flow
Far as the Curse is found.

To the believer, this should be of great interest. “No more let sins and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground.” We are called to live in the righteousness of God. If then, Jesus dwells in us, should we keep on sinning? No, by no means is that possible. We are called to be holy as God is Holy! It is not by our own doing but Christ in me that makes me victorious over sin and death. Now the flesh is weak, and we are definitely in a spiritual battle but as is observed in Watts poem, “He comes to make His blessings flow, FAR AS THE CURSE IS FOUND!” That is joy!  So, this Christmas, as you sing this carol, sing it with Psalm 98 in mind:

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises! Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody!” (Psalm 98:4-5)

You are loved,

cj