i said it . . .

i said it . . .

i did it. On Sunday i said, “hell,” and it wasn’t a curse word. It isn’t the first time, however, and it certainly won’t be the last. Although it is becoming more and more uncommon to hear the word in any sermon or message of any popularity. Hell is a very uncomfortable subject, more so even, then when it is 110 degrees outside and the air conditioner is broken. We can debate the definition of the terms, several are used in scripture, or the physical location all we want but let me tell you what isn’t debatable the honest meaning of the word, “Eternal Separation from God,” period.

Think about that for a moment. The message of the Gospel is hope to a dying world. Hell is it’s destination if it is unaltered. The freedom to choose is on the table for everyone. Choose to believe and enter into eternal glory, choose to ignore or not believe and it is eternal separation. Of course with believing comes repentance and allowing the Holy Spirit to work in and through you but let’s just focus on the believing part for today. It is clear that one must believe before they can repent otherwise there is no need, in the mind of the individual.

Scripture tells us to Repent and be baptized, Acts 2:38. Prior to this statement, following Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended upon those who had been praying, it states this: “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?'” You see they believed, and in verse 21 Peter is very clear, “And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Saved from what? The eternal separation from God, hell.

Most people reading this already believe so what is my point in writing to you the need to believe? If we know that belief is the first step. If we truly believe this what are we doing about it? You know how many people you come in contact with every day who are on a road that leads to hell? It is greater than 50% i would imagine. What are you doing about it? i wrestle with that question personally a lot, “what am i doing about it?” If i know that there is a bridge that is out at the top of a hill and cars driving up that hill can’t see it until it is too late. Therefore, they plummet to their death, shouldn’t i do all that i can to get their attention and tell them, to get them to believe me, to stop and turn around?

That is it. We have the message of Hope for the world. We see that the bridge ahead is out and that there is a detour where one can cross over. Should we not then do all that we can to tell the people?

14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?[a] And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 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!”                 Romans 10:14-15

For those who follow me or know me, i have written a book, “Staying the Journey, the narrow road.” The premise is Christian living within our culture. i hope you will pick one up. You can follow this link HERE, or it is also available at ChurchSource, Faithgateway, Barnes and Noble, and also on all EReader platforms.

You are loved,

cj

How will 2020 look different for me?

How will 2020 look different for me?

i have taken the last couple weeks off from writing here . . . mainly for the holidays. However, not entirely. i have been at a loss of words, writer’s block some might say. That might be partially true but not completely. It is amazing what the feeling of appreciation brings, acceptance, even understanding within disagreement; feelings of joy and the spirit of motivation. Of course, with that said, the opposite is also true. When feeling defeated, opposed, ridiculed, and unappreciated for the attempt to do what God has placed on my heart; this brings a tired feeling, a spirit of pessimism. Obedience isn’t always easy when faced with human weakness, in myself or others. Yet, easy or not, it is required.

6 Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists[a] arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brothers,[b] pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty.But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them.

And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.  (Acts 6:1-7 ESV)

i have had a rough couple of years. i have attempted to do a lot while refusing to do everything. Some things i will admit i should have paid closer attention, other things i should have handed off to others. As someone who is in leadership knows sometimes you just get things wrong. That is where grace should step in not opposition. We should not be lying in wait for someone to fail but rather encouraging them and spurring them on to faith and good works as Hebrews 10:24 says, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.

So to answer the question, “How will 2020 look different for me?” Simple, i will be more resolute to walk in obedience to God’s call on my life. i will take every thought captive and live out my hope in Jesus, not putting my hope in man. i will continue to pray for wisdom and to preach the Word with boldness. In short, i will seek to be less influenced by how man sees me and more worried about how God sees me.

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matthew 10:28

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

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

Put on the new self . . . part one

Put on the new self . . . part one

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:15 ESV

This passage comes after Paul’s writings on putting on the new self in chapter four of Ephesians. There is a requirement on our part beyond merely accepting Jesus into our lives. We have to allow Him the ability to change us. Which means taking thoughts captive, it means dying to ourselves daily, it means taking the steps necessary in your life, it means taking ownership of your decisions, it means changing for there is no growth without change. However, without the Holy Spirits influence, we are hopelessly lost in an endless cycle of sin.

Can there be personal growth without the Holy Spirit? Yes, just look around you at some of your friends who without knowledge of God personally, they seem to make positive changes in their lives. But we are not simply talking about physical changes, we are talking about heart changes, spiritual changes, changes in how the mind thinks and reacts and does. Hear the words of Paul to the Corinthians:

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:18 ESV

That is us. Now here it is in Ephesians four in contrast to the non-believing person. There is a stark contrast to the mind of someone living outside of God’s grace as opposed to one living within it, all though the grace of God is available to all.

Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ! assuming that you have heard about Him and were taught in Him, as the truth is in Jesus . . .” Ephesians 4:17-21 EVS

Notice two things from this passage above, first, “futility of their minds” and “their hardness of heart.” Here, very clearly, one cannot separate the mind and the heart as they appear to work in tandem. Jesus deals with the heart clearly. He dwells there with His Spirit, ever-present, ever whispering, ever softening. In the mind, however, resides the carnal nature and therein lies the change that is required. Here is the last bit of this section in Ephesians.

. . . to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” Ephesians 4:22-24 ESV

We must begin to change the way we think to sometimes not think anything at all! The mind and the carnal nature that dwells there is “deceitful!” It has a mission from the carnal to lead you by misleading you. To clear the mind of thought so that we can focus clearly on the heart of Christ is absolutely necessary! However, not in all things as the mind is incredible! Without it, we don’t breath, our bodies stop functioning as all processes run through the motherboard of our bodies the mind or our brains. It is useful, and it is necessary, it is however flawed and therefore requires a renewing, a daily renewing. We must put it in check always taking every thought captive and giving it to Jesus within the heart and filtering it there.

You are loved,

cj

Greetings to the Seven Churches (part 8)

Greetings to the Seven Churches (part 8)

And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation.‘” Revelation 3:14

Laodicea, although on the banks of the river Lycus, it appears either the river ran underground or wasn’t always a steady flow as Laodicea is known for having an aqueduct system. The aqueduct brought water from a hot spring about five miles away and so it is believed that by the time the water reached the city itself, it was lukewarm or tepid. Laodicea isn’t just known for its appearance here in Revelation but is also mentioned in Paul’s writings to the Colossians. Which Colossea wasn’t too far away from Laodicea.

“I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. ” Revelation 3:15-16

There are two popular interpretations of this verse above. One is that being hot or cold, or on fire for the Lord, zealous even, was far greater than being lukewarm and that God would rather one not even say they believe but be cold entirely than to say they believe but do so in a lukewarm manner. The second idea of popular interpretation is using the concept of the aqueduct. Hot water is useful, it is suitable for sanitizing, cooking, even drinking; as is cold water good for many things, especially for being satisfying on a hot day. So whether one was cold or hot, neither better than the other but rather equally useful is better than being tepid or lukewarm. Have you ever been hot and go to get a drink of cold water only to find out it’s tepid and you spit it out? That is what is being described here, the lukewarm will be spit out of the mouth of God.

What brings one to the point of being lukewarm in faith? Is it contentment, and not the contentment Paul refers to when saying, “I have learned to be content in all circumstances.” (Philippians 4:11) But perhaps an overestimation of one’s well being? Here in Revelation 3:17, John will address the why or how the lukewarmness has taken hold.

“For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.” Revelation 3:17

Does this at all sound like the western church of today? We are content in our riches! We have broadway stage productions every Sunday in countless churches across the country to appeal to the desire of man. Smile and seek wealth and prosperity because that is God’s desire for you, is being preached by more and more “pastor’s.” When in reality we need to see that we are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked . . . We need a Saviour. We need to realize that it is far more critical that we spread the gospel than build a new center. That our riches are not in earthly possesions but in heavenly treasure. Here are the words the Lord advises us here to do:

“I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.” Revelation 3:18-19

Again, let me remind us that this is being written to the church. This should both be alarming and comforting. If you find yourself in a state in which you have grown content in your riches, there is hope, and there is life, and there is grace if we respond.

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into him and eat with him and he with me. The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Revelation 3:20-22

This verse has some folks all wound up because it is used in evangelical messages where the Gospel is being presented to non-believers. i don’t really see a problem. Yes, in its context, it is written to the church. Yes, there are many verses that are taken out of context that cause overall harm to the Gospel. However, this is not one of those times. We know that; “God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son . . .” John 3:16. We also know that God desires “all to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:19. This verse conveys that message that behold He stands at the door and knocks, and if anyone opens that door, He will come into them. Besides we also understand that many are the hearers at a revival or evangelistic crusade and therefore to some in the church these words are fitting.

Do you need to open the door to Jesus again, do you need that fresh start? He desires to take a meal with you to feed and nourish your soul, mind, and body. He wants a relationship with you. Won’t you open the door for Jesus today?

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