Cold Brew

Moments in which you are given the opportunity to self evaluate need to be taken like you are making cold brew. Coffee that is cold brewed is steeped for 24 hours. Whereas a coffee pot or perk, even a pour-over are relatively instant . . . of course there is instant, but is that even coffee? In brewing cold brew coffee, you use a filter of some sort, like a teabag, and let the coffee grounds sit in the coffee. That’s it. There is no real secret: filter, coffee, cold water, and 24 hours.

In your moment of self-evaluation, you will need just a few things. A good filter, i would suggest you use the Word; everything in your life should be filtered through Jesus and God’s Word. You will need coffee, the substance, the experience, the action, the situation that is being evaluated. You will need cold water, clear your mind of distraction. Finally, you will need time; you should never rush but consider everything in order to get an accurate evaluation.

The Word will keep you honest. Life is life, and there is nothing new under the sun. God already knows, so lay out your life bare as you evaluate it. You will be distracted, you will be challenged, and you will want to walk away if you are really taking the evaluation of your life seriously. Therefore it will take time, time to clear your mind, time to remove distractions, and time to sit and listen.

Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God . . .” It is an excellent place to start as you sit in the counsel of the Word. Be still before the Lord and know that He is God, that He already knows, and He cares for you. Psalm 1:2 says, “but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on His law day and night.” The Word, although difficult at times, to understand, to follow, to take in, should still be delighted in. You should meditate on all of it, and as you read it in order to filter your life through it if you find something in it that is disagreeable to you . . . i can assure you, you are the one that is wrong and not the Word of God.

That is part of self-evaluation that nobody likes. The part in which, as one’s life is laid bare before God and His Word, there is no doubt conviction. That conviction isn’t intended to harm, but to grow you. Every situation in life is a learning opportunity to learn and grow. It can be very uncomfortable and feel very lonely; these two things are why many refuse even to attempt self-evaluation. Psalm 4:4 says, “Tremble and do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent.” It is in these moments, pure, open, honest moments, that life is found, and growth can happen.

Psalm 19:14 “May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”

You are loved,

cj

Be somebody else.

“Well, what else would you call a second chance?” she asks. “You don’t like the man you were. Very well. Be somebody else. There’s nothing stopping you, not anymore. As I said, I envy you. The rest of us are stuck with our mistakes.”

Have you ever woken up and thought how amazing it would be to be . . . someone else? Not another person, like your neighbor or a celebrity, but a new you? Your past wiped clean, and your future unwritten or uninfluenced by your history. A brand new start. i know that many do, it is written about, movies are made about it, and friends share thoughts, “if I had it to do it all again . . . I would . . .” fill in the blank.

i watched a Hallmark movie (don’t judge me) that had this lady get into a car accident and she had amnesia. She is taken in by strangers and takes a new name. For a short time, she gets to be someone completely new. Of course, she falls in love, remembers who she is, tries to return to her old life, realizes she doesn’t like that person, and returns to her new love, insert happy ending.

i am currently reading a book. It has started with a man who has amnesia. The more he finds out about the person he was, the more he wants to be someone else. That is where this line from the book comes in. It is a brilliant line! The book is “The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle,” the author is Stuart Turton. i am only to chapter 8 but plan on spending the rest of the day reading it. Anyway, that is where i got the line above. Again it is brilliant, and it sums up humanity’s view on new beginnings so very well. i even underlined it and made a footnote.

You wanna know something incredible? A new beginning IS possible, without having to suffer amnesia. Paul writes: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation.” 2 Corinthians 5:17-19

Paul also writes 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 . . .” (3:12-14)

It is a fresh start. No longer bound by your past in the eyes of God. You have essentially been given a “do-over” just like when we were little and playing a game . . . it was always a gracious move to give your opponent a “do-over.” God, through Jesus the Son, has given humanity the opportunity for a “do-over,” one only needs to receive it. Lamentations 3:22-23 tells us: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are NEW every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” Jesus teaches us about forgiveness in this way: “Then Peter came up and said to Him, ‘Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.’” Matthew 18:21-22

Every day, actually, every moment, every decision, you have an opportunity to “be somebody else.” You don’t like who you are? Then “be somebody else.” Make a mistake? Confess, repent, forget, move forward, be somebody else, be the person God created you to be. Be an ambassador for the Kingdom of Heaven. Be the change you want to see in the world. Be somebody else.

Life is full of new beginnings. Some we chose; Some are thrust upon us by different circumstances. Either way, seize the moment. Fear not for God is with you and be somebody else. The only person holding you back . . . is you. Today, i choose to be the person my dog thinks i am.

You are loved,

cj

Beyond Blessed

As the world around us crumbles, and as my life seemingly crumbled around me, i can only say, “i am beyond blessed.” How can one make such a statement, how can i make such a statement? Easily! But first, you need to know the road i choose to travel. my road is much like yours in many ways, yet completely different, and that is the mystery of life. Everyone is the same, and yet completely different. To think otherwise is to be a fool. Furthermore, everyone is on a journey, influenced by others, affected by decisions, changed by events.

How one traverses these life influences and how these things imprint one’s life is one hundred percent the choice of the individual. It is called taking responsibility, being self-aware, and stopping to breathe and to use a skill often left in the annals of history, critical-thinking. You may not be able to stop what happens to you, but you can definitely determine how you respond to it.

Romans 15:13 —May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Romans 12:12 —Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.

Philippians 4:4 —Rejoice in the Lord alwyas; again I will say, Rejoice.

Galatians 5:22-23 —But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control . . .

Life might suck. Lord knows my 2020 has! i have shared before, besides all that is going on with the world, my mom was diagnosed with cancer and died four months later. Through a series of events, i find myself yet again divorced. It has forced me to step away from full-time vocational ministry after 20 plus years! This is the first summer that i have not had any of my son’s with me. With all the travel back and forth to visit my mom and be with family for the last four months, my finances are shaky at best. i have been eating out more. Taco Bell, mainly, as i am on a very tight budget, and i can get a meal for $3.50, which is actually far less than if i went to the store. Because when i cook like i did this morning, i make food for a family, and it reminds me of the fact i am alone. So how is it that i can say that i am beyond blessed?! Because of the road, i choose to travel, and on this road, i am never truly alone.

If not for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit within me, i would not. It is the hope that i carry within me that allows me to have joy unspeakable. i can’t even fully explain it. All i know is that i have a roof over my head, food in my belly, and an opportunity each moment to choose Jesus, to choose joy, to stand and say, “i am beyond blessed.” And it is true, no matter my circumstances, i am beyond blessed. You can be too! If you choose.

You are loved,

cj

See you later 👋 . . .

my mom died today. How does one say that simply, without sounding callous? Really, just her body died as her spirit lives on. And although i said, goodbye, i also said, see you later.

This is my mom preparing for her annual Christmas party

Some say that faith in God or any god, for that matter, is a waste of time. Or they will say, “whatever helps you cope.” For those of us with faith, believing in the Great I Am, there is a comfort that comes when a fellow believer passes, even if that person is family, in my case i call her mom. So yes, it does help us cope. However, it’s so much more than that as well.

my mom’s joy is her testimony, as i wrote previously (see here). Her joy through tragedy in her own life. This has been my witness of my mom. It’s a lesson learned. She also taught us to fight, to not give up, and to get up each time you get knocked down, just keep getting up. She’s known for singing, and one song comes up every time in family discussions, “I Woke Up This Morning Feeling Fine.” She taught herself the piano and played by ear. Whenever there was a piano, which was often, you would hear her play, and without fail, this song echoed down the halls.

That is the assurance that comes in knowing Jesus. It’s unexplainable, but the peace, the comfort, the joy, the hope, the knowing . . . it’s amazing. For those that feel this is just a way to cope than so be it. For those of us, that know . . . It’s everything.

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.
‭‭1 John‬ ‭5:13‬ ‭ESV‬‬

i recently visited a gated community with twenty-four-hour manned security. You had to have credentials to enter the community. Do you live there? If not, you have to be on the “list.” In order to live in this community, you need to pay and pay a lot i am sure! i can’t imagine the homeowners association costs, they had a pool with lifeguards, tennis courts, trails, and a park, the upkeep alone on those things is enough to send the HOA costs through the roof, not to mention the twenty-four-hour manned guard shack. Now factor in the cost of the home! Folks actually live like this! i felt like such a peasant when i was there like i should be bowing and saying things like, “your majesty,” or “yes, my lord.” But everyone in that development paid to be there and paid a lot. To get on the “list,” which is temporary, you have to have a reason, and someone has to have told the gate guard you were coming, they had to put you on the “list.” But again, it was only temporary; only residents were allowed to stay, those that paid to be there.

The Kingdom of heaven will be even greater than this housing development. What about the cost? It is also very high. However, that price has already been paid. You just need to get your name on the list, and this list isn’t temporary. Who paid the price for us? Well, Jesus. Why? Well, love, that is the answer He loves you, me, us, so much, He paid the price for us to live in the Kingdom. So how do we get on the list? The book of Romans says; “For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’” (Romans 10:13) It is believed that Paul wrote the letter to the Romans. Peter is recorded as saying this in the book of Acts, written by Luke. “And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Peter was quoting Joel 2:32 “And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the Lord has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the Lord calls.”

Why the need? There is an issue of sin that needs to be dealt with, and it goes all the way back to the garden and the beginning of time recorded in Scripture. We are all born into sin, for which we become accountable when we reach an age of understanding. It is at this point a price is required. Either you attempt to pay for it yourself, which is impossible, or you call on the one who paid the price for you already.

my mom is on the list. She has called upon the name of the Lord. She dedicated her life to His service. When she arrived at the gate, the guard opened it and welcomed her home. i am thankful for this assurance. Although i will miss my mom, and i will miss her, that is temporary! For this wasn’t a goodbye, it was a see you later! Thanks to the blood of Jesus.

You, too, can have this assurance. If you don’t already, comment below or send me a message depending on where you see this, and i will gladly answer any questions you might have. You are so so loved. But let me stress this, everyone serves something, what is it that you serve? A system, a government, money, fame, etc. Joshua (In the book titled after him, the 6th book of the Bible) at the end of an epic speech says 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.”

The difference will be simple; it’s either “goodbye” or “see you later.”

To my mom, “i will see you later!” To you, i hope for the same.

You are loved,

cj

So many sandwiches!

i want to say that a few Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday concerts were added while on the tour as my dad called local Churches along the way.

Sitting with my mom as she withers away is the most difficult thing i have ever done. Today, i sat with her and we listened to hymns together (some Christmas because my mom loves Christmas) as we held hands . . . She slept, i cried. Each hymn so sweet and just brought back so many memories. When i was younger we traveled as a family and sang in churches. One particular summer that i recall is my favorite summer of all time. i lived in two shirts and one pair of jeans, although i am sure i had more. The two shirts were from the movie, “Return of the Jedi”. Both were softball style shirts (if that makes sense) one was blue, that one was my favorite, the other red. i also lived in a fifth-wheel trailer.

That summer between concerts i remember the road trips, the stops, the hikes, the sandwiches, we ate so many sandwiches! i remember setting up for the concerts, eating at all the potlucks, so many potlucks, and the tearing down. i remember every concert was exactly the same and yet completely different and that is the best i can describe them. Shawnee our German Shepherd was the best traveler! She and i were buds. i remember all the family and old friends of my parents that we saw, some for me, meeting them for the first time. We even did a mini concert at the home of a cousin or family friend.

i remember all the historical sights we visited, some recently destroyed because humanity has gone mad. So many state and national parks too. i learned so much and am so thankful for those memories. It is the source of my appreciation for music and music of all kinds but especially my fondness of the hymns. my mom’s voice echoing through the sanctuary’s of big churches and little churches . . . Brick churches and log “cabin” churches, old wooden chapels and fancy plush churches. Her voice was angelic, she will definitely be featured in the heavenly choir where i am sure she will be found shortly upon her arrival into heaven.

Music is her life blood i think. my mom loves music. In heaven, the Bible says that the angels sing around the thrown. This will definitely be where mom is found. She will have that old voice back, strength in her bones, and air in her lungs, as she sings out around the thrown joining in with the angel choir, a new song! It is this image that fills my mind and heart with comfort and peace. i am reminded of Jesus words at what is referred to as the sermon on the mount.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3-10)

In these final days, moments, with my mom i am thankful for these words from Jesus. May His Kingdom come, may He reign in our hearts and minds and lives forever and ever, amen. Be blessed today knowing that He cares for you. How do i know? Because of sandwiches, so many sandwiches! He comforts through His word, through His Spirit, and through memories, so many great memories! i love you mom, may you enter your much deserved reward in peace; May your heavenly concert tour be as full of joy as our earthly ones.

You are loved,

cj

a (not so gentle) farewell

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)

i have been attending church for my entire life. my grandfather was a pastor, evangelist, author, conference superintendent, and for a time was the director of interracial evangelism from 1956-1964. The family, my parents, and siblings traveled and sang in Church’s growing up, i went to camps, retreats, advances, and conferences. In my introduction, i talk about how i have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly of the church, and i choose to love her anyway. This is still true. i do love the church and will always love the church and do all i can to serve her. However, i am bidding the westernized church a farewell. It has become an institution, in my opinion, and it has left the ideals of Christ for a capitalist mindset, and i can’t take it anymore. Over twenty years in fulltime ministry with various experiences within the church as pastor, teacher, evangelist, and when i needed them, they wanted to know when they would get their money. Well, the check is in the mail.

When the concern for ones well being is superseded by money, or persuaded by gossip, that is a clear indicator that things have gone astray. (Let me be clear it wasn’t the whole church, some individuals clearly cared for me and desired for my well being even giving of themselves to help). That is what the “church” is supposed to be, yet when money is at stake, it is that issue that takes center stage, and that is just sad. i recently drove past a church that was building a new facility. A large sanctuary. i wondered for what? An hour a week, two at best. Maybe multiple services, but even still, is that genuinely justifiable? The amount of money that goes into a new build for minimal use could go for so much more. What about a rehab center? A homeless shelter, transitional housing, a halfway house? Oh, but where will we meet? How will we collect money to pay the bills and upkeep on the buildings we use once or twice a week or on craft day? How about VBS we have to have VBS! Where will all those children go?

Here’s the reality. The church is only a priority when it’s not hunting season, football, NASCAR, or whatever other sport happens to be on when Sunday rolls around. i use to get frustrated with such things, but now i think, “where could true organic ministry have happened?” Certainly not in the stale hollows of a building where gossip prevails. Or the woah is me attitude that permeates the fellowship with spiritual neediness, or should i say greediness? Yes, spiritual greediness is huge in the “church.” i am not being fed, i don’t like the music, why didn’t i get a hand out when you passed out food? The sermons are too long. i can’t anymore with this mindset, let them have their tired old established religion, just give me Jesus.

An actual letter by a selfish church goer without a spin to sign their name

The above letter received is just one example of the attitude within the church today. By the way, many of the parents would say that their children loved the services. Which i find rather amusing, wasn’t it Jesus who said, “let the little children come and do not hinder them.” Jesus had a heart for the youth and i believe He knew, “better get them while they are young because the older they get, the lazier they are in their faith.” It’s sad, but oh so true. To the last point in the letter above, “people will likely stop attending.” This veiled threat is tiresome, please, for all that is holy, stop attending!” But, really, i am actually for the reverse or opposite now, let these selfish people have the dusty building and let the true church step out and be the church, for it isn’t in a building.

i am starting a Bible study in my home in the coming weeks. In so doing we that gather will have the fellowship that the Word encourages, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25) We will also be able to encourage one another on to love and good deeds without the worry of financing a building. We will be taking our meals together as the early church did in Acts, and we will bathe each other in prayer. In fact, i have had a more organic ministry in the last two months than the previous two years, that is for sure. In fact, i would even say that it has been more simple, more faithful to the Word, than perhaps much of the ministries i have been apart of where a board reigns, money dictates, and a building governs.

i believe it is critical that we begin to do this more and more! The church in western culture is a waste of time and space! And to the final part of the verse in Hebrews, “and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” This is now, if you can’t see the Day is drawing near, then you probably have taken offense to this post, and to that i simply say, i am sorry. However, i only write what i am inspired to write, and i am only governed by the will of the Spirit of God, the one who reigns from on high.

You are loved,

cj

We need more Grace in this world . . .

We need more Grace in this world . . .

There is an old song, hymn really, called “Grace Greater Than All Our Sin.” It dates back to 1911, and it is full of . . . well, grace. Here is the refrain:

Grace, grace, God’s grace,
grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
grace, grace, God’s grace,
grace that is greater than all our sin.

You know what we lack in these days? You might have guessed it, grace! Just look at the comment section of any hot topic on Facebook or Twitter or any social media platform, and you will see some of the ugliest comments imaginable. Not only that, but you will see that many folks will agree with the comment, judgment, or condemnation. For instance, i was reading an article on the arrest of the Florida Pastor who went against the state orders to not congregate. The comment section was alarming, scary even. Here are some:

“Should arrest all of the people that showed up as well and put them on the front lines without any PPE’s working as volunteers in the emergency room since they clearly don’t think they ‘re going to be affected.”

“Plays right into his favor. He and his followers will delight they are being persecuted for their beliefs, and will count it as a blessing. They will pray harder and sing louder, and most importantly, rejoice they are being persecuted in god’s name and getting coverage.”

“Arrest him, jail him, and gain access to his money. Take away his tax-exempt status.”

“Every fool that attended the services should be last in line for ventilators or ICU beds. The pastor and his wife shouldn’t even be allowed into a hospital parking lot. They can self-heal at home.”

Regardless of how you feel about this or the decision to continue to meet against the government’s orders. The reality is there is a huge lack of grace or compassion expressed in these replies. And that should alarm anyone, believer or non-believer. We must always err on the side of grace. How many times are we to forgive someone? “and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.” (Luke 17:4) That doesn’t necessarily say that there will be no consequence for the action. It only puts that consequence in the hands of the ones who can enact them. Romans 13:1-2; 1 Peter 2:13-17; 1 Peter 3:13-17 . . .

Here is my point. We need more grace in this world! We need to live out the forgiveness that we ourselves claim in the name of Jesus. We must live in such a way that brings honor and glory to our Heavenly Father. Be more grace-filled today!

Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,
grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt,
yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured,
there where the blood of the Lamb was spilt.

Grace, grace, God’s grace,
grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
grace, grace, God’s grace,
grace that is greater than all our sin.

You are loved,

cj

It’s Time.

It’s Time.

It is time to grow up. Move on from the elementary lessons and on to the meat of the matter. We don’t want that, though, because it requires something of us. Yet, we must begin a new, and greater process of letting go of our selves. A journey in which we die to our selves daily, that we might take up our cross to follow the only one who knows the way, The Way. Paul writes this to the Corinthians:

“But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? For when one says, ‘I follow Paul,’ and another, ‘I follow Apollos,’ are you not being merely human?” 1 Corinthians 3:1-4

This isn’t the only passage that calls us to maturity. There are countless others. Each one rings true to the fact that we must grow-up! To remain toddlers or babies in Christ is to live a meaningless life that will be rift with crisis after crisis, swaying you and blowing you about in an endless torrent of catastrophe. The writer to the Hebrews writes:

“About this, we have much to say, and it is hard to explain since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” Hebrews 5:11-14

How does one begin to move from the elementary to the secondary, from the milk to the meat? It is done daily. It is done intentionally. It is done moment by moment and decision by decision. It requires death. Death to your old self and a putting on of the new self in Christ Jesus. It requires prayer, and meditation, meditate on the Word, day and night. It requires us to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly. It is a choice, and only you can make it. Be encouraged by Paul’s words 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.” Philippians 3:12-14

You are loved,

cj

I DON’T WANNA GO (PART 2 OF 5)

I DON’T WANNA GO (PART 2 OF 5)

Ever feel like the Lord led you into a dead-end or just making you wander around in a desert? i remember when i was half-heartedly in ministry. i was 20 something, married, one kid, at the time. i was working retail, and taking each step, i felt the Lord directing, to advance my career. We attended a little church where we were active with the ministry. i worked with the teens and worked full time in retail. i said yes Lord! i will serve You! However, i was only half-way in the pool.

When i was eight years old, ok probably more like 12, but i don’t actually remember, i had a paper route. i so loved being a paperboy. At the end of my route was a sweet lady who invited me and my friends to use her pool at the beginning of summer. Well, on the first hot day we didn’t hesitate! We headed over and into the backyard, then into the pool. That was a huge mistake! The pool was so cold we could barely move! i am convinced that had we stayed in the water any longer, we would all have died of hypothermia. None of us went in more than waste deep. We were too cold. Even though after getting out, the lady jumped in and did a few laps. We were just too chicken and afraid. We didn’t trust the lady and we didn’t trust the thermometer.

As we continue our look at the song by Chris Renzema (see part one for a link to the song) i want us to ponder the second verse.

Like Israel on the shore,                                                                                                           All I see is crashing waves,                                                                                                   Like Israel on the shore,                                                                                                           Through the wild you make a way,                                                                                            I will go where You go,                                                                                                                 I will stay where you stay

i love this lyric. When the Lord led the Israelites out of Egypt it is easy to see why the people worried when they reached the edge of the Red Sea. Of course, hindsight is 20/20 so we, of course, know the whole story, and we even think, “after all, God did they were still afraid.” (See Exodus 14) However, i imagine our response might actually be similar to that of the Israelites, unfortunately. After the Lord parts the sea and they begin their desert journey we see the Lord never left them. They were instructed to “stay” where the Lord’s presence rested and “go” when the Lord’s presence lifted. They were told to follow the Lord as He presented Himself in their midst as a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Even still it was a struggle for them, a constant struggle.

Why then do we think it will be any different for us? There will come times of struggle when we don’t fully understand the Lords leading. If you find yourself wandering in a desert or at what seems to be a dead-end, i can assure you it isn’t because the Lord has failed you or somehow given up on you. The question in those moments becomes, “are we still trusting in Him?” And as this verse ends, we must be willing to declare and follow-through, “I will go where You go, I will stay where You stay.” i had to make a decision as a young servant of the Lord, husband, and father, to step all in and immerse myself into ministry. The road has led to many places. Some appeared as dead-ends, others as a desert, yet all served a purpose as i have grown in faith and wisdom. my prayer for you is this, if you find yourself at a dead-end, or in an endless desert, that you will declare; “I will go where You go, I will stay where You stay.”

You are loved,

cj

Sit, Stay, Roll-Over

Sit, Stay, Roll-Over

He said, “sit,” and he sat. He said, “lay down,” and he laid down. He said, “roll over,” and he rolled over. He said, “beg,” and he sat up, leaned back slightly with his paws up as he looked longingly into his master’s eyes. He said, “BANG!” And he fell back and played dead. It is amazing what you can teach a dog to do. And these are just simple tricks. i have seen some dog acts where i think the dogs are part human or something. Dogs are trained to help police, military, the blind, and disabled, they are used as emotional support animals in hospitals, and homes. They are remarkable animals. They are always happy to see you, no matter how long you have been gone, 10 seconds, 10 hours, or 10 days. Even 10 months or more! i have watched some emotional videos of soldiers coming home after deployment, and their dogs go absolutely insane with joy. “Dogs, a man’s best friend,” that is what they say anyway.

i have had a few dogs in my lifetime. None could do many tricks. Shake, sit, and lay down, simple commands were about it. You know what most of them could do, though? Get into the trash, relieve themselves in the house, bark at nothing, dig up the yard, shed all over the house more fur than could possibly be imagined, and yet they never went bald, if i were only so lucky. Yet in all of this, they were loved, correction quickly forgotten, and belly rubbings promptly reinstated. Why all this for a dog? Loyalty, that is really the only word i can come up with, loyalty. Dogs are loyal to the very end. It is what makes forgiving them so easy. If only we were able to forgive others as quickly if only others were so loyal.

The parable of the Prodigal son found in Luke 15:11-32 tells a tale of a greedy and ungrateful son. He wanted his inheritance while his father still lived. His father obliged. After squandering his inheritance, he found himself destitute and wishing he could even just eat like the pigs. But not even that was offered. He reasoned to go home where his father’s servants had food to spare. Determined to seek his father’s forgiveness and beg to be treated like one of his servants, he set out for his former home. What greeted him, he was not prepared. His father gave him the best, returned the family ring, and killed the fatted calf in celebration for his son, who was dead, was now alive again. Not dead in the physical sense but gone in the emotional sense had returned humbled by life with sorrow in his soul.

Jesus goes on in this story to relate it to how our Heavenly Father looks at us. We are not dogs, trained to do this or that, but we are dogs that even when we mess up, love is just behind the correction. Forgiveness awaits the sorrowful, repentant heart. Never be so proud to come home, never feel so lost that you can’t seek the Father. The Lord, who loves you, waits eagerly for you, He is watching the horizon for a glimpse of your approach. When He sees you, He runs to meet you, love you, and celebrate your return! Come to Jesus! Come back to Jesus! He longs to have mercy on you.

You are loved,

cj