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

More than mere words…part two

More than mere words…part two

There is a point within the greaving process where one earns the right to speak life into a situation. However, even with that permission, there are a few do’s and don’ts to the process you should know about. Now before we enter the list of do’s and don’ts let me also say that there are exceptions, here are a few of them; 1, You are a trained professional and they have come to you seeking help. 2, You are a trusted close friend whom they have confided in and they have specifically asked you for your thoughts. 3, They have asked you for your thoughts. 4, They have come to you asking you for advice. 5, They sought you out and asked you for your input. 6, Are you catching the theme? Rule number 1, do not cross the greaving line if you haven’t been asked or given an opening through conversation.

Now for our do’s when speaking life into a greaving heart. First, be absolutely certain they are ready to receive whatever you are about to say if you aren’t absolutely certain, hold your tongue. If all the lights are green proceed with caution, be gentle, remain sympathetic and empathetic. Listen more than you speak. It is ok to use some Scripture, here is a good one, Deuteronomy 31:8; “Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.” Use real life, personal stories, they do not have to be yours just besure you have permission to share or change the names and places. Be optimistic but do not make promises or guarantees, with the exception of Jesus not abandoning them. Pray with and for them, at the moment.

Here are the don’ts. This list can really be a long one but i am going to try to keep it simple. Don’t overuse Scripture, i know you are going to want too and you are going to justify it in your mind…don’t do it.  Some is good, but too much is a bad thing. Encourage them to read the Word, and pray about it but just don’t quote Scripture. If they wanted a preacher they’d go to the pastor, (you could encourage them to talk to a pastor).  Don’t say, “I will pray for you.” (As written up in the do’s, pray for them on the spot, let them hear you!) DO NOT be like these guys, Jobs friends, because in the end, God said this to them, “I am angry with you [Eliphaz] and your two friends because you have not spoken the truth about me.” Job 42:7. Do not speak in cliche’s because most of them although said to be biblical are NOT!

When i have gone through difficult times i have needed empathy first, encouragement second and advice last. Besides, advice, given without request only sounds degrading. You may not use the words but i guarantee it sounds like this, “YOU SHOULD HAVE…” Capped with, “YOU IDIOT!” There may come a time for those words but i assure you, it won’t be early on and it better be coming from my best friend. Being there for someone going through tragedy is hard but it can be a blessing as well, as you show empathy, and encouragement, you will gain wisdom, and i can promise you that!

You are Loved,

cj

 

Bizarro Universe

Bizarro Universe

Sitting in a chair thirty thousand feet (30,000ft) in the air being served food (gingerbread cookies) and beverage (coffee black) is by far one of the most amazing advances in human technology. Some others, the phone that is in your hand or tablet or iPad that you are reading this from…another technically advanced achievement of mankind (humankind for my socially liberal or progressive friends).  That device and the information it contains, the things that it can do, once filled an entire room and even then only did 1/1000 of what your phone can do now (it takes and sends pictures and videos, not even kidding).

i recently purchased a bluetooth headset for my phone for this trip i am currently on (Alaska bound for a visit with my boys and some hockey). i turned it on, hit connect and that was it…no programing, no software downloads, no app required, just turned it on. Soon after i was listening to the music stored on my phone from another music source that basically has every song you can think of…which means i had endless possibility of music choice. While listening to my music a call came through, i was alerted by a beep, i clicked a button and talked through my wireless bluetooth headset that look like regular earbuds (my phone was in my pocket). The call concluded, my music resumed, i grabbed my phone from my pocket, clicked over to my news app and began reading a news story (related to the most recent election) from my phone that was still streaming music to my wireless bluetooth headset.  Did i mention i am writing this from 30,000ft thats thirty thousand feet in the air!

Shortly after takeoff i looked out my window, i have a window seat, and by the way, was given a free upgrade on this leg of my journey. It might have something to due with the fact that i wore my Skywest jacket…but neither i nor they mentioned it. However, this happens to be a flight operated by Skywest for Delta. Anyway, i looked out my window a bit ago and caught the glimpse of another plane flying in the opposite direction of the one i am traveling on. i couldn’t help but wonder about the passengers on that plane, where was it going and was there someone like me on that plane headed in the other direction? Like maybe my doppelgänger, you know my alternate universe twin, like bizarro superman or for my Seinfeld friends bizarro Jerry? Those people along with my possible doppelgänger traveling to who knows where for who knows what except them of course; i am left to wonder as they are for us on this plane, i wonder if anyone on that plane even saw us? Perhaps, bizarro cj.

This brings me to this question, have you ever wondered if you are the best version of yourself? We all have special quirks that make us who we are so i am not suggesting in anyway that our individuality is bad…but are we the best version of ourselves? Can we improve on aspects of our life to make us better humans? There is a line in a movie, As Good as it Gets, where the main character says to the leading lady, “You make me want to be a better man.” Of course she is flattered by his comment. That’s a movie however, the idea is still there; are their things, people, ideas, that make you want to be a better person? And if so what does that “better” version of you look like…more profoundly, how do we get to that “better” version of ourselves? In the bizarro world the character is the opposite of the other, so if one is good the other is bad. For example, Bizarro Superman is a villain because of course Superman is a hero. Which version of you, are you?

Unlike the bizarro universe, we are not stuck being any version of ourselves that we don’t want to be. In fact because of Jesus we are able, through His transforming power, to become better people. Paul writes to the Ephesians in Chapter 2 the following:

But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead.”

There is the answer to the new life. Jesus in us because of God’s great mercy and love. Paul writes to the Corinthians in his second letter the following:

5:17 “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”

New life. We no longer need to settle for who we once were because we are bing made new in Christ. We need only to allow Him to do what He wishes in us to make us more and more into His image. That we might carry the light into dark places in our world. We can even enter the bizarro universe and shed light there too!

you are loved,

cj

Discovery

Discovery

Discovery, so deep there is a channel dedicated to it, ships named for it, TV series dedicated to it and seminars teaching how to do it. It’s as awesome, and intriguing as it can be when it doesn’t involve us. You know, watching a Discovery Channel program can be really interesting but when it comes to self discovery it can be much less interesting and rather intimidating.

No one likes looking deep into their life and soul for fear of finding that thing that they have been suppressing since their childhood. Then having to deal with it. Yet what we don’t understand sometimes is that “thing” we choose to ignore will eventually surface and 99% of the time it will be at the wrong or most inopportune time.

There is good news however, Jesus! He’s the good news, Jesus is there wanting to walk with you through the journey of self discovery. Let’s just look at this verse from Romans 8:31-37;

“31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;

we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

There is nothing too dark, too bad, too distressing, too dangerous, too overwhelming that Jesus can not help you through. He is for you not against you, He desires to bring you hope for a future with Him.
You are loved,

cj

Come now, and let us reason together

Come now, and let us reason together

Isaiah 1:18-19
18″Come now, and let us reason together,”
Says the Lord,
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They will be as wool.
19If you are willing and obedient…”

The Maker of heaven and earth, the One who formed you in your  mothers womb, says to you, “Come now, and let us reason together.” This is truly magnificent, He desires to dialog with you, have a conversation regarding life, love, sin, death, redemption, liberty, justice, forgiveness, hope, joy, heaven and hell. In order to reason one must be aware of truth, aware of life and aware of His voice calling out to you, “Come now, and let us reason together.” How will you respond today?

Take 30 minutes, 15 minutes, 10 minutes…take some time today to sit quietly, to listen to the Lord calling to you, “Come now, and let us (you and Me [Jesus]) reason together.”

You are loved,

cj

Trees of Righteousness

Trees of Righteousness

When i have writers block…sitting at my computer just staring at the blinking curser, growing ever more frustrated as nothing comes to mind (i know that most of you can understand somewhat of what i am trying to express) anyway, at the point of absolute frustration i put on music. It is usually my favorite album of all time, David Crowders Neon Steeple Deluxe Edition, and grab my “magic” Bible and just flip it open and begin reading.
Today i opened to one of my favorite passages in Isaiah. In chapter 61:1-3 is says this: (NKJ)

61 “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me,
Because the Lord has anointed Me
To preach good tidings to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
And the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord,
And the day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all who mourn,
3 To console those who mourn in Zion,
To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” 

This passage really speaks for itself but it also speaks for me and my heart, where i am on my journey. So, i wanted to share it with you. Read this passage yourself a few times, asking Jesus to show you through His Holy Spirit insight into your own walk with Him. Where are you in it, are you being called? Are you brokenhearted, mourning, bound? Hear the passage…Hear the Spirit…Listen!  Leave a comment or share a prayer request.

You are loved,

cj

#LifeIsMoreThanJustAHashtag

#LifeIsMoreThanJustAHashtag

i enjoy social media, probably too much. i like to scroll down and read stories, look at pictures, watch funny and thought provoking videos…oh and post some too.  i like Facebook for its functionality in seeing what my friends are up to…sometimes the posts break my heart, not always because a tragedy had taken place but because poor choices are being made. Twitter is another place i enjoy visiting. It is quick reads, with occasional links to longer stories. Snap shots into ones thoughts or experiences or views on life, love and laughter.

i can get so wrapped up in it that i spend time thinking of hashtags, you may know them as pound signs or the number symbol. Which ever way you remember them the hashtag is a line or words run together that makes a point and links your point to others making the same point.  For instance a popular hashtag is #MondayMotivation so if i were to write something like, “Monday’s are hard without my #coffee #MondayMotivation” i would be linking my tweet or FaceBook post with others talking about coffee or Monday Motivation. i say all that as if those reading this have no idea what a hashtag is having just woken from an 11 year coma.

Colossians 1:15-20 reads;

15 The Son is the image of the invisible God,
the one who is first over all creation,

16 Because all things were created by him:
both in the heavens and on the earth,
the things that are visible and the things that are invisible.
Whether they are thrones or powers,
or rulers or authorities,
all things were created through him and for him.

17 He existed before all things,
and all things are held together in him.

18 He is the head of the body, the church,
who is the beginning,
the one who is firstborn from among the dead
so that he might occupy the first place in everything.

19 Because all the fullness of God was pleased to live in him,
20         and he reconciled all things to himself through him—
whether things on earth or in the heavens.
He brought peace through the blood of his cross.

Let me put this into present day terms we might better understand, Jesus is our hashtag. When we live our lives in Christ, we live them linked together with Him and those that are linked with Him are also linked together by #Jesus. It is both and, not either or…we are linked if you are in Christ. Which means we are living each others lives, living the experiences, challenges, hopes, fears, triumphs, AND failures together. Our life joining hashtag is Jesus and with HIM comes community. The world says FaceBook or Twitter or by a half dozen other social networks we can share with others but the Word says, Jesus, and together, we are one, experiencing life together.  Let me close with this, life, is more than a hashtag, Jesus is more than a hashtag but if the language you speak is hashtag then #Jesus because #lifeismorethanjustahashtag.

You are loved,

cj

Nose Plugs

Nose Plugs

i want us to chew on this verse for a few days: Colossians 1:9-10

“9 Because of this, since the day we heard about you, we haven’t stopped praying for you and asking for you to be filled with the knowledge of God’s will, with all wisdom and spiritual understanding. 10 We’re praying this so that you can live lives that are worthy of the Lord and pleasing to him in every way: by producing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God”

Let me add this from last week. i have been learning to breath with a snorkel. This has been a chore. By instinct, because i have been doing it my whole life, i try to breath through my nose. This is not a good idea when you are underwater! i have had to receive this new information and inform my brain…it hasn’t been easy. i sought help, received some advice, and bought a nose plug. That simple little purchase has changed my ability to breath through the snorkel. i am becoming more accustomed to breathing through the snorkel.

In much the same way, grace is new, we don’t always understand it and it is hard sometimes to rely on Jesus when for so long we have relied on ourselves. You might need a “nose plug” to help train your brain to rely on Jesus in everything. This is the prayer that Paul had for the people in Colossae. That they would grow in the knowledge of God’s will, with all wisdom and spiritual understanding. Learning to lean on Jesus more and more in everything. It’s about growing, about becoming productive, and about getting nearer to God.

Here are a few “nose plugs” that you can use to help you along the way, training yourself to lean on Jesus:
1. Read the Word
2. Youth Group
3. Life Group
4. Sunday Edition
5. Coffee with Jesus
6. Hang our with others that follow Jesus
7. Have a mentor or someone you can talk to about tough things or choices you have to make
8. An accountability partner…someone who asks you tough questions about choices you are making or about to make
9. Pray
10. Be an active part of the Body, the Church

You are loved,

cj

are you available?

are you available?

Have you availed yourself to the means of grace this week? This is the question that has stirred my heart and mind for the past several weeks, in fact i cannot let go of it.  It continues to be the focus of thought for me.  In so much as i am unable to set it aside i have decided to embrace it and make it a part of who i am.  The questions origin is from John Wesley who asked it of his house church leaders and congregants of those groups started by Wesley on his missionary journey’s.

i have broken it down like this; Have you made yourself available to God’s grace this week?  In the hurry of life even if we find time to go to a gathering of the church as in Sunday or a small group, it doesn’t mean that we have made ourselves available to God.  i do believe that at times in our lives there are stages or seasons in which we “go through the motions”.  It can become a habit and one not easily broken, if we don’t slow down and take time to ask the question, “Have you made yourself available to God’s grace this week?”

Have you allowed yourself to enter into worship freely?  Have you read the Word?  Have you prayed?  Have you gathered on purpose with the Body of Christ?  Have you partaken in the Lord’s Supper?  Have you given yourself to be baptized?  Have you made yourself available to Christian Charity or Hospitality?  These are not works, these are ways in which we make ourselves available to God’s grace for us…it flows freely from the thrown of grace, freely receive it, by making yourself available.

Let me encourage you, if you find yourself going through the motions in which you haven’t made yourself available to God’s grace this week, with this from Colossians 1:9-14. i will let this read us out.

9 Because of this, since the day we heard about you, we haven’t stopped praying for you and asking for you to be filled with the knowledge of God’s will, with all wisdom and spiritual understanding. 10 We’re praying this so that you can live lives that are worthy of the Lord and pleasing to him in every way: by producing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God; 11 by being strengthened through his glorious might so that you endure everything and have patience;12 and by giving thanks with joy to the Father. He made it so you could take part in the inheritance, in light granted to God’s holy people. 13 He rescued us from the control of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son he loves. 14 He set us free through the Son and forgave our sins.

You are Loved,

cj