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

Paganism and the Church (part three)

Paganism and the Church (part three)

There is a character who happens to be a wizard named Gandalf the Grey, later becoming Gandalf the White, who appears in the series of writings by J.R.R Tolkien, The Hobbit, and The Lord of the Rings series.  Gandalf is described to be a long-bearded fellow dressed in grey, later white, and carrying a staff. i was looking at photos today of Odin the Germanic pagan god, and thought, “wow, now there are some similarities here!” Could we begin to draw similarities between everything and in so doing, make everything sacred or everything unholy depending on our take? Yes, we could, and yes, we have, in many instances, on many topics. This is the main reason that i want to be very careful as we tred into custom, tradition, holiday’s, and paganism. i don’t want to lead anyone into confusion or misunderstanding, but in everything, cause you, the reader, to think critically and examine Scripture thoroughly.

Last week we talked about the history and timing of Christmas as it relates to pagan traditions, Saturnalia, Yule, and Egyptian sun god worship. There is a figure that each of these traditions has that have surprising similarities. In fact, build upon each other within the ongoing mixing of many of these celebrations. Most notably or recognizable in our current culture, we know him as Santa Clause. No need to dive into who he is or the tradition surrounding him. However, our present Santa is an evolutionary being, drawn from the mixing of cultures throughout time. Chiefly, Saint Nicholas, Sinterklaas, Father Christmas, Kris Kringle, and Odin.

Is Santa just a fun cultural icon who is only one of many characters within the secularization of the Christmas holiday? Or, is he a well placed pagan influence, put there purposefully by the prince and ruler of this world? Well, i will be the first to admit that i have always looked at Santa as just a fun cultural icon of the secular side of Christmas. i even have a costume, dressing up as Santa, i have placed gifts under the tree.  You could say it has been a tradition also as the kids have gotten older. They certainly know that it is me, they even know what they are getting, nerf guns. It’s the same every year, and everyone opens them at the same time, and then, traditionally, an epic battle ensues. Is this a pagan tradition? Are we worshiping Odin? i can unequivocally say, no, we are not.

However, with that being said, now that i know how this cultural icon has evolved, can i continue with a clear conscience? Can i continue to celebrate the birth of Jesus along the same lines as an ever-evolving holiday tradition we know as “Christmas?” The answer to that is also, no, i can not. If i want to celebrate within culture a holiday tradition i certainly am free to do so. Even still once i cross the line or blur the line of worshiping Jesus, my Lord, and Saviour, and use elements that are known by me and everyone else to have pagan history and influence, i am compelled by what i read in Scripture to stop.

And he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, according to all that David his father had done. He removed the high places and broke the pillars and cut down the Asherah. And he broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the people of Israel had made offerings to it (it was called Nehushtan). He trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel, so that there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those who were before him. For he held fast to the Lord. He did not depart from following him, but kept the commandments that the Lord commanded Moses. And the Lord was with him; wherever he went out he prospered. He rebelled against the king of Assyria and would not serve him.” 2 Kings 18:3-7

Notice here that King Hezekiah, to honor God, destroyed all the high places. The “high places” is another term for “holy” sights or places of pagan worship. He broke down the Asherah, again pagan symbols of worship and even the serpent that Moses was instructed by God to make when the children of Israel were being tormented by the serpents in the desert. You see, the Israelites took something God used for good and began to worship it as a god. We can and have done the same thing within the Christian culture. We have taken things God created for our good and have worshiped them instead of God. We need to be as bold as King Hezekiah and begin to tear down those things that we have elevated or given special honor over Jesus in our worship, through worship that is tainted by pagan cultural influences.

Do you have high places that you have built up? Have you set up Asherah poles or other forms of pagan worship within your worship of God? If so, tear them down! And do it now, and do it quickly! God does not want your pagan influenced religion. He wants you to seek Him with your whole heart, soul, mind, and strength. He desires to be worshiped in spirit and in truth, untainted by the world.

You are loved,

cj

Paganism in the church?

Paganism in the church?

Okay, here it is, as i have been studying the Scriptures and origins of pagan tradition it has led me to a crossroads. As i will begin to point out over the next several posts. Here i begin to lay the foundation of my case. i encourage you, the reader, to put in your two cents. i do not claim to have all the answers. As my blog heading states, this is my journey with Jesus. It is a journey, and i am walking it out in view. i say that because as new information comes to light, it will no doubt, if true, alter my perspective on a topic or point. If what i am learning is accurate, it will absolutely change the way i worship and view the holidays.

Constantine was a Roman Emperor who ruled between 306 AD and 337 AD. A significant character in the mixing of pagan tradition and the early Church. For it was he who legalized Christianity in 313 AD. At the time, the church was being led to some degree by a man named Gregory the first; tradition from protestants would call him the first “Pope”; however, Catholics, of course, view the first Pope as Peter. It is clear that the traditions of the church find their origins post 313 AD, which means the early church did not worship in the way we traditionally have even in all of its evolution.

Before 313 AD, Christianity was illegal. It was mostly underground at this point as Rome looked to stamp out both Judaism and Christianity. It appears that Constantine had come into a new understanding, perhaps the salvation of his soul, i wasn’t present, so i will refrain from passing judgment and will simply let the fruit speak for itself. First, let’s examine the prince and ruler of this world, as described in Scripture. In Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28, we see who is at the root of the global rebellion against God.

How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! You said in your heart ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.'” Isaiah 14:12-14

In Ezekiel 28:12-19, we have another picture and an understanding that Satan was one of the most splendid of angels, and he desired to be like God and was cast down. Since his fall he has been leading a rebellion against God that began in the garden, “Did God really say,  . . .” His lie continues to this day. Satan has two methods to his rebellion, two fronts if you will, religion and materialism. If satan can distract you with religion or if he can distract you with materialism or better yet both at the same time, he will and in the end, separate you from God by defiling you with sin.

Satan has known the way of redemption from the garden, for in Genesis 3, God reveals that it will be the offspring of the woman that will eventually crush him. From that moment, he has been working, scheming, plotting, and planning against the offspring of the woman. He has done so through death and through copy. Since the Tower of Babel, we see the formation of many religions, and each of them has an interesting similarity to what satan knew of his demise. There are a mother and her son. Take a look at this:

Mother                                  Son                                 Region

Samiramis                            Tammuz                       Babel

 Ishtar                                    Tammuz                      Assyria/Syria

Asharoth/Astarte                 Baal                              Phoenicia

Isis                                          Horus/Osiris               Egypt

Aphrodite                             Eros                              Greece

Venus                                    Cupid                            Rome

Anytime you read in Scripture about Mystery Babylon, you can assume it comes from these traditions. And with all these mother, son traditions, it isn’t any wonder why we read time and time again of Kings and Pharaohs trying to kill the sons? Satan has been trying to destroy God’s plan from the beginning. Each of these fables from above also shares something else in common with Christianity; each of these son’s died and was resurrected. We will be getting into more of that in weeks to come.

Let me try to wrap up this post by setting the standard offered by Paul in 1 Corinthians 10

What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?” 1 Corinthians 10:19-22

Rebellion against the Creator is the common thread of these and all world religions, and behind them is a demonic power. Why would we want to cross-contaminate, or intermix the worship of God the Creator and these pagan gods by introducing into worship pagan practices? As promised in my last few posts, we will look at the traditions of the holidays. We discussed Halloween last week. i felt the need to lay this foundation for the coming weeks. Next week we will dive into paganism and the Spring Feasts, followed by paganism and the fall feasts, ending with paganism and the church.

Please feel free to comment here any questions or helpful resources or on my Facebook page Coffee with Jesus or on twitter @cjwill73 or Instagram @simplycoffeewithjesus.

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

To Write a Symphony

To Write a Symphony

Johann Sebastian Bach – 1685-1750 – Known as one of the greatest composers of all time drew much of his influence from classic hymns of his day using them to write Cantatas for the Lutheran Church as Thomaskantor in Leipzig. His work, of course, far more reaching than this still drew from his religious roots. As in the case of many great musicians and composers, his work was never truly finished, as displayed in his latter days, he spent most of his time coping, transcribing, expanding or programming music in an older polyphonic style until his death. Great work is never truly finished; there is always room for the master to tweak and expand.

Our life is much like a symphony that the Lord is writing. Each life is unique, gifted, and beautiful in its own way and never truly finished until the day one hears, “well done, good and faithful servant.” For many of us putting on the new self is a one time deal and then we are just marking time. We sit impatiently waiting in the quiet ticking of a hand-less clock, for the Lord’s return. We were not created to sit stagnant in time waiting; rather, we were created for such a time as this! Each day when we wake up, the day is half over. “There was evening, and there was morning . . .” This is how time is recorded in Scripture; Sunset marks the beginning of a new day. While the world sleeps, God is busy laying out His will for us. He has been setting things up and now in the middle of the day asks us to join Him. Our lives are His masterpiece. Until we cross over to the other side, we are a work in progress of the Thomaskantor.

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace,[a] both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. Philippians 1:3-11

So, stop thinking you are perfect or that you need to be perfect. Stop thinking there is nothing you can do or there isn’t anything to do. Stop thinking you are useless, or washed up, or worn out.  And start asking the Lord, what are You up to today, Lord? What work do you have for me to do, inwardly and outwardly?

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 two

Put on the new self . . . part two

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” Colossians 3:1-4 ESV

The idea that one must put on the new self runs contrary to our postmodern culture of relativism. Sadly, this now, cultural norm of postmodernism, has crept into the church at its most influential pillars, our Christian Universities, and mega-church structures. Postmodernism, at its core, runs contrary to Scripture. It is humanism, secularism, even Luciferian, to its most fundamental core. And it is echoed in the movement of cheap-grace.

Yet, over and over again, we read in Scripture the need to put on the new self. The need to root-out sin in our lives and not only seek forgiveness but also repent, which is to turn from, in essence, putting on the new self. In the opening words of Chapter 3 of Colossians, (above) we see that it isn’t in mans understanding that we are to rely upon, but on the truths presented above, in heavenly places, and revealed in Scripture; more specifically the person of Jesus the Messiah. It one hundred percent means we put the old self to death along with all of its immorality, as defined by Scripture.

Put to death, therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these, the wrath of God is coming. In these, you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” Colossians 3:5-10 ESV

Our present culture reminds me of Paul teaching to the intellectuals in Athens. However, with one slight difference, this age of enlightenment known as postmodernism is far less accepting of moral absolutes. Which makes it increasingly difficult to present the truth to this culture without offending someone to the point of unbalanced retribution. Yes, the message wasn’t universally received back in Paul’s day either we clearly see that, i simply point out that everyone seems to be offended, even within Christiandom. And that should really make you wonder at the words of Jesus when He said, “I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” Luke 18:8 ESV

So what does it look like to put on the new self, scripturally speaking? Well, it looks like this:

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,  bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.  And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.  And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.  And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:12-17 ESV

Clearly, Christianity isn’t the problem. Just read that again if you don’t believe me. Unfortunately, our inability to hold fast to our identity in Christ Jesus is the problem. If we don’t stand for the truth, we will fall for every lie.

You are loved,

cj