Christian (part four)

Christian (part four)

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” Romans 12:12-13

Regardless of what you are facing in life, there is always and i mean always, a reason to rejoice in hope. Hope is the sustaining force. In 1 Corinthians 13:13 it is one of the abiding principles, faith, hope, and love. Hope in tomorrow, hope in knowing that God is faithful. Hope will get you through tribulations in your life, it does require though, that you be constant in prayer. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 “Pray without ceasing” the word here is “adialeiptos” which actually means, constantly recurring. This is fascinating because of the legal definition of constantly recurring includes, “connected,” we are to be connected in prayer.

The one thing people facing depression, who are considering suicide, say about their outlook on life is, they feel hopeless. Hope is a powerful thing. The super successful, who fail time and time again before achieving that thing that made them successful, all say, “never give up hope.” Hope is a powerful thing. Paul writes to Titus, “. . . waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ . . .” This is the hope we long for it is the sustaining hope of every generation of the Way. We are a generation of the Way, therefore, our hope must be in the appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. We can rejoice that our hope has overcome the world.

Tribulations of every sort come at us daily. Temptations, persecution, deaths, sickness, hate, and the list continues. Some tribulations on a scale may appear harsher than others given everyone’s pain threshold whether that pain is figurative or actual physical pain. We are all wired differently, however, the one thing that ties us together in dealing with tribulation is the same. We need each other, we are connected, those of us of the Way. In each of these instances, we are called to be patient. Some very dear to me teens lost their dad recently, incredibly sad. It was unexpected, one minute he’s home with them and the next he isn’t. Their struggle in tribulation right now is so very real. It will be their patience during these very dark days that will help them wade through the emotional rollercoaster of grief. They will need to stay connected to those of the Way and continue steadfastly in their hope.

Prayer connects us. It connects us of the Way with each other and connects us with Jesus our Lord. The translation to pray without ceasing isn’t wrong, we are to pray continually in thought, in heart, in spirit, in word. It is that conduit that connects us to the Father and it is the tie that binds us together one with another as we seek the Father together. It is for all things, every situation, every circumstance, every every, Jesus taught us to pray this way . . . Matthew 6:9-13

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,
12 and forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from evil.

As we join together those of us of the Way our bond becomes stronger. It then allows us to tend to the needs of the saints as well as the ability to be hospitable. “Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” This is our duty as members of the Way.

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

He wept . . . Part 4 (Conclusion)

He wept . . . Part 4 (Conclusion)

Over the past several weeks we have looked at the three recorded instances where Jesus wept. By no stretch of the imagination do i believe, nor do i believe the Bible teaches, that Jesus only wept these three times. Just that these are the recordings given us as to peer into the heart of His [Jesus] humanity. The three recordings again, first, He wept over Lazarus recorded in John 11. Second, He wept over Jerusalem as we read in Luke 19. Finally, He wept over the world as the writer of Hebrews points out in Hebrews 4.

This idea of Christ’s humanity often gets lost i think in our retelling of these passages. Paul writes to the Romans in Chapter 12 vss 9-21  an eloquent and yet passionate plea to the church in Rome. His words echo through history into the future and here we are now listening in. May we take heed to its merits and begin to sync with the words of the page.

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Let me draw our attention to verse 15; “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” If i may remind us again of the humanity of Jesus and how in a world fallen, broken, lost, and confused, He sought to bring hope, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control. In so much as He lived among us as an example, being tempted in every way we are tempted. Yet, Jesus overcame the world through His humanity that we might live through Him and for Him. The idea that Jesus rejoiced and wept reveals the heart of a God that both rejoices and weeps with us and for us. Therefore we ought to rejoice and weep with others as the time allows.

Ecclesiastes 3 tells us that there is a time to weep. Jesus reveals 3 instances that should bring a tear to our eyes. Although the Lazarus account may seem a bit murky, i believe it shows we ought to weep, not simply at the passing on of others but for the suffering of others and for the fallen for we know how great a reward awaits those who call on the name of the Lord. For our cities and our towns and our country as so many reject Christ. They deny the one Messiah, King of kings and Lord of lords. Finally, for the world, for the many who are perishing. May our heartbreak and weep for the lost.

Next week we will look more into this passage and a few others as we begin a series, “Christian.”

You are loved,

cj

He Wept . . . part two

He Wept . . . part two

Jesus wept.” Known as the shortest verse in the Bible, John 11:35 is part of the Lazarus resurrection account. We read here another instance in which Jesus was brought to tears. This time it appears to have been over the passing of a friend. As was observed by the Jews present at the graveside of Lazarus, “See how He loved him!” Then there are the naysayers, “Could not He who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?” There is always at least one negative Nelly in the group. We all know one Church Curmudgeon who if given half a chance would complain about Jesus being talked about too much from the pulpit.

There have been a few thoughts tossed around as to what caused Jesus to tear up at this moment. Was it at the loss of a friend? The lack of faith of those who mourned Lazarus? Which could be two-fold in its understanding, they lacked faith that Jesus could or would raise him from the grave; and or, they lacked faith that they would once again see Lazarus at the coming of the Kingdom. There is also a wilder idea out there and that is that Jesus wept because He knew from where He was calling Lazarus back from. Could it be that Lazarus was in that “far better place” we often talk about our passed loved ones have moved on to?

Calling Lazarus back from his eternal reward, only to have to suffer and die again, would definitely be cause for tears in the one who knows best, Jesus. It still could have been the divine plan to give example to the power and authority of Jesus on earth. Even so, Jesus wept. He weeps for us, for our unbelief, for our lack of faith, for our doubt, for our weaknesses. Jesus’ deep concern for us is felt in the heart, it pours out in His words, and works. Is it true that He doesn’t take pleasure in seeing us mourn? Is it true He doesn’t enjoy seeing us greave or in pain? Yes, it is true. But i tend to agree that Jesus did not weep out of sadness for Lazarus, or for the lack of faith in this instance but rather for what Lazarus was being brought back from and what he would have to endure again.

i think it is revealed in His prayer, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” The Divine objective met in the revealed humanity of Jesus through His tears. His desire is that we all, everyone who believes, enjoy the eternity that was intended from the beginning, in the garden. His redemptive work is intended to restore humanity to its perfect relationship with the Father who walks in the garden and calls us by name, Lazarus come forth!

You are loved,

cj

He Wept . . . part one

He Wept . . . part one

And when He (Jesus) drew near and saw the city, He wept over it . . .” Jerusalem was a sight to see. Its magnificent temple, the buildings, and homes dotting the countryside, all surrounded by a great wall. The capital city of Israel since the time of King David. It was so beautiful, so compelling as a city, it beckoned on the weary Jewish traveler, ‘come home.’ Surely Jesus was not lost in the moment by its stately stature, no His tears were deeper than, for that i am certain.

Imagine coming to your own, as the prophecy had taught for hundreds of years. Finally, the long-awaited Messiah had arrived only to be rejected by a pious yet foolish people. Now on the eve of the most torturous event, on an undeserving man, the weight of it all begins to sink in. Here Jesus looks out upon the great city of Jerusalem a tear forms as He begins to weep “saying, ‘Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.'” (Luke 19:41-44)

We too even now often reject Jesus. Even in the church. We cuff Him and set time for Him. We structure our services “allowing” certain time for Him but in the end, we have our expectations, and our purpose, and our time frame. Oh sure we celebrate His arrival with shouts of praise but we limit His ability with our expectations. Oh that we would understand, “the things that make for peace!” or as the Message translations put it, “If you had only recognized this day, and everything that was good for you!” Jesus, clearly, makes a statement as to the heart condition of the Israelites of His day. Pious, yet foolish, caught up in “knowledge” but never coming to the understanding of the truth. As Paul writes to Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:7.

i fear that Jesus would look upon the USA, and many other countries, as He did Jerusalem, with a tear in His eye. May we begin to awake to His presence. To allow Him all the room in our lives, our homes, our families, our Churches, our friendships, and yes even our cities and towns, to move and be and do all that He desires, as we Worship Him.

You are loved,

cj

Today is my birthday.

Today is my birthday.

It’s 1979, i am turning 6 years old. Dinner is, by my choice, my mom’s lasagna. i will eat two pieces. The cake is simple, two-layer, round, chocolate with chocolate frosting. My gift that year, i can’t believe i remember, cap-guns with a holster and five hot-wheels cars. No friends, just family, my sister who is six years older, my brother who is four years older, and my parents who are just older. We are living in Sylmar, California which is in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles. It’s July, it’s hot, it’s lighter later, it’s later, dusk has set in. Sirens fill the air, they stop short, they are close by, close enough that we see the flashing red lights.

Cameron and David are brothers. They live down the alley, i don’t remember what side of the street if they were on our side or the other block, we always just went down the alley to get there. They are both six years old. They are not twins, separated by 11 months this is the short part of the year they share a number. i remember playing in their chicken coop, they didn’t have chickens, just a coop. i don’t know if they never had chickens, maybe it came with the house, i only know they didn’t have any chickens while i knew them and so we made it into a fort of sorts. Cameron was the leader of our little club, he made all the rules. Our motto, “We aren’t chicken!” Sadly none too bright either.

Cameron earlier that day would hear of a game called chicken. He didn’t tell what the game was. He said it would be fun. It was to be a club game. i would miss the first time playing because of my birthday celebration. i wish i had known, i would like to think i would have told him to not do it . . . but i did not know.

We walked to the end of the block to see what the fuss was. When we arrived there were two small sheets draped over two small bodies. One car in the middle of the road the driver sitting in the passenger seat with their legs outside the car. My mom, working as a nurse at the time was talking to the fire department. She returned, D.O.A. that’s all i heard before she told my sister to take me home, she did. We didn’t find out until later who it was and what they were doing.

Today is my birthday. It is 2018. As i look back on my years i have story after story, memory after memory of moments where an event or a decision give rise to thoughts in which i wonder, “what if i did this or that?” “what if” i could what if this story too. “What if i was there with them?” Or “what if i had thought to invite them to my birthday?” i could allow these thoughts to consume me or i can put them behind me, learn from them and press on making the most of every moment, every day, every year.

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.” Philippians 3:12-14

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these…” Matthew 6:25-34

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:31-32

that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” Colossians 4:4-6

i like to reflect on my birthday’s. Have i made the most of my year? Have done all that i can? Am i content with it? What changes do i need to make? How can i love more? Do more? Live better?

Today is my birthday.

You are loved,

cj

Jude (a final thought)

Jude (a final thought)

Let us consider for a moment, who was Jude? We know that from verse one he is the brother of James. We know of a few Jude’s in scripture, but only one who is a brother to James and that James was the half-brother of Jesus. Making Jude (a form of Judas) also a half-brother of Jesus. i didn’t mention this in the introduction because i didn’t want to influence your reading too much. i wanted you to go in and take each word without that influence because i think we have a tendency to over think things. Besides, i suppose there is some question as to whether or not it is true, i am of the camp that sees it as true.

Jude never mentions he is a brother of Jesus. Nor does James, rather, they identify themselves as bondservants. They had no special entrance into the Kingdom, they entered the same way you and i did/do, by faith in Jesus the Messiah. In fact, we can read that at one point Jesus’ family was not impressed by His declaration and thought maybe He had gone mad. They even tried to influence Him in Mark 3:31-32 we read, “And His mother and His brothers came, and standing outside they sent to Him and called Him. And a crowd was sitting around Him, ‘Your mother and Your brothers are outside, seeking you‘” Now it is unclear what their intentions were but many believe, as do i, that they were there attempting to “calm” Him down from His rhetoric because He was really beginning to stir the pot and bring shame in a sense to His family, “Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary? And are not His brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas (Jude)?” Matthew 13:55

Jesus’, response to them brings light to the nature of the Church. (Mark 3:33-35) “And He answered them, ‘Who are My mother and My brothers?’ And looking about at those who sat around Him, He said, ‘Here are My mother and My brothers! Whoever does the will of God, He is My brother and sister and mother.‘” Blood maybe thinker than water, but obedience to God’s will is paramount! Want to be included in the family of God? Be obedient to the will of your Heavenly Father. Jesus says, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (John 14:15 ESV) Later in that same chapter (v23-24) Jesus says, “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.  Whoever does not love Me does not keep My words. And the word that you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent me.” 

Jude came to faith after Jesus was resurrected, as did James. It is another, proof, if you will, of the power of the resurrection and the truth of it! God, shows no partiality and recognizes those who obey His word as, family. Which brings us back to the stern warning in the book of Jude. That judgment is real, and there will be some that scoff, even within the “Church” and they will bring division. It is a great introduction to the book of Revelation, which starts out with its own warnings to the Churches. Therefore the true believer is to, “build yourselves up in your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.” Jude 20-23 (All Bible references are from the ESV).

You are loved,

cj

Jude (Part 3)

Jude (Part 3)

We now find ourselves in a unique place in Scripture, the 14 verse of Jude 1. Here he references a Prophet named Enoch. We read of him in the old testament book of Genesis, the beginning. In Chapter 5 we read that Enoch was the seventh from Adam. He had children. He lived 365 years and “Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him.” Enoch never died but was taken into heaven, there is only one other we know of who was taken to heaven before death, Elijah. In Jude, he quotes Enoch saying, “Behold, the Lord came with ten thousands of His holy ones, to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.

Interestingly, there is a book of Enoch, it is not in the Canon of Scripture, never was, the Jews did not include it in their collection either. It wasn’t written by Enoch, best we know, although he was taken so, well you never know i guess. However, Jude thought so well of it that he quotes Enoch 1:9 in Jude 1:14-15. The writer of Hebrews also thought to include Enoch in his writing in Hebrews 11:5 all-be-it not as inclusive as Jude. Yet, here we are faced with the idea of Enoch and what or why did Jude include him in his warning? If you were to read Enoch in Chapter 1:2 you will see that the book is written for a generation yet to come, “…but not for this generation, but for a distant generation that will come.” So Jude taking this prophecy somewhat seriously to have included it in his writing to the Church.

The fear of the Lord is a real thing and in it, we must conclude that fear and respect, humility and self-control are absolutely required characteristics of the Church, and of the individual Christian. For here is the description of the other, “These are grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires; they are loud-mouthed boasters, showing favoritism to gain advantage.” Jude 1:16

This is a difficult passage. Not because of its teaching, but because of its implications to the whole. Judgment, wrath, and doomsday are real ideas, thought so highly of by one of the Fathers of the Church that he writes a very poignant letter of warning. Should we not then take heed of it? Let us sit here, pray, listen, and wait for the Lord to reveal to us His truth.

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