Follow Me (part three)

Follow Me (part three)

Have you ever accepted someone new into a group of friends? That person may or may not end up having much influence on the group, depending on their personality. Just because someone is accepted into the group does not instantly make him a leader. Simply put, acceptance does not mean influence. Another example, have you ever accepted someone’s idea without agreeing? Nowadays you would be considered intolerant for not agreeing with someone else’s ideology. But that isn’t the case, in reality, someone can accept an idea without agreeing with it. So again acceptance does not mean agreement with etc. i feel that there are a lot of people who have accepted Christ, but they do not follow Him. Let’s look again at Jesus Words in Mark 1:17–ESV

Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men!

Notice, here that Jesus does not say, “Accept Me.” i think we have missed the mark a little by using terminology that leaves things at the point of acceptance rather than a life long journey of Following. If it were as easy as accepting Jesus, there would be far less Scripture for us to understand and the wide path we talked about a couple of weeks ago would be just fine for everyone. That my friends is not the case! We are to follow Jesus, abide in Jesus, obey Jesus, shine for Jesus! In John 15:1-17 (ESV[below]) we read about the importance of abiding in Jesus and bearing fruit for Him. It again gives only two options, abiding and not abiding. Those that abide are pruned that they may bear lots of fruit and those that do not, wither and die, to be thrown into the fire.

15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

12 This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants,[a] for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

i don’t know how one can misinterpret the importance of abiding and what it means to abide. Besides bearing fruit, we are commanded to love one another, and charged, “You are My friends if you do what I command you.” It is pretty simply, straight forward. This week i pray that we would begin to abide in Jesus, to follow Jesus, and to no longer be content with just accepting Jesus.

You are loved,

cj

Follow Me (part two)

Follow Me (part two)

There are so many facets to the statement made by Jesus, “Follow Me.” The one that should stand out that i think gets lost nowadays is the fact that following Jesus is not easy, nor is the road always blessed. The only promise is that we will be with Him and He with us, here now, and tomorrow in eternity. Listen to Jesus’ own words in regards to what it means to Follow Him.

“Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” Matthew 8:20

“Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.” Matthew 8:22

“If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, Follow Me.” Matthew 19:21

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink.” John 6:53-55

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will also keep yours.” John 15:18-20

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

These are just a few of the verses that we like to explain away or look past or neglect altogether, sadly. Is there an appropriate context for each of these verses, yes there is . . . However, they do quite nicely standing alone, as well as in context, for us, today. We cannot shy away from the hard sayings of Jesus because they make people uncomfortable. We cannot glance over or ignore His words and still say, we follow Jesus. He said these things for a reason. They are truth for the soul. We must seek to understand them or risk walking away altogether because we failed to gain wisdom from our knowledge of Him. After all, Jesus also said;

“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.” Luke 6:46-49

Are you ready to truly follow Jesus?

You are Loved,

cj

Follow Me (part one)

Follow Me (part one)

Did you ever play follow the leader as a kid? You know that game where one person leads a group and where ever they go you have to follow, and if they jump, you jump . . . That sort of thing? We don’t much play follow the leader anymore like that do we? We still follow; we follow someone who might know where they are going, and so we drive behind them, following them. We follow the directions of our boss. We follow the laws of the land. We even follow sports teams or individuals on social media, twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. Although, we aren’t kids and we don’t “play” the game, follow the leader, we still follow. There are in fact, only two leaders. One says, follow me and enjoy life’s pleasures, the other says, take up your cross and follow me. It’s a stark contrast, one is wide and the other narrow.

So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” Matthew 7:12-14 ESV

Some would say this is two separate thoughts; i would disagree. You see there are two ways, the wide gate, which is easy, and the narrow gate, that is hard to find. Why? Well, because, humans are selfish. Generally, one treats another as they are treated by them. Jesus flips this general rule of thought and says, no, you know how you like to be treated? This is how you should treat others. Let me tell you this, it is not EASY to treat someone, who doesn’t treat you well, in a way that you wish to be treated. In fact, for those who give it a try, it is a tough thing to do!

However, our example in all these things is Jesus. Jesus, who was mocked by His earthly family, deserted by His followers, mocked by the ruling class, the religious, the crowd; All the while treating them, except for righteous anger, with dignity and respect. Obedient all the way to the cross. So what is His secret? The answer is He submitted Himself to God and relied on the Holy Spirit. They were one. He invites us to this same place. He gives us a helper, the Holy Spirit. He invites us to be one as He and the Father are one, He in Him and He in us. It’s a fantastic reality.

The narrow way is difficult because it requires, no, it demands, that we live selflessly. That we consider others over ourselves. This does not come naturally. In fact, unless we follow Jesus, we will never find it. He says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6) Many will quit the journey because the way is to hard, yet what they don’t realize is that when we submit to the Lord, there is a Helper. The Holy Spirit who dwells in us, enables us, to live in such a way as this. We need only to follow the leader, we know as Jesus. You see, you have a choice to either follow Jesus, or you will be following the temporary ruler of this world, the devil. The devil, demands nothing from you but in the end, steals your soul. Jesus, demands your life but in the end, grants you eternity.

Jesus says, “Follow Me, and I will . . . save you, equip you, send you, help you.”

You are Loved,

cj

“Will I find Faith . . .”

“Will I find Faith . . .”

This week i want us to take a look at the Parable of the persistent widow, found in Luke 18:1-8. Here Jesus contrasts the actions of an unrighteous judge, being nagged by a widow, to the acts of a loving God, and the prayers of His faithful. Jesus ends His parable with;

And the Lord said, ‘Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to His elect, who cry to him day and night? Will He delay long over them? I tell you, He will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?’” Luke 18:6-8

The unrighteous judge grants justice to the widow who persisted, nagged him, to the point he responded. God who is loving and desires our good, will be all the more quick to respond. However, here is where the lesson gets deeper, “. . . will He find faith on earth?” Ouch, if that doesn’t sting, you are reading it wrong. Sometimes we get tired of waiting in prayer, having a persistent faith in God moving on our behalf. Let me remind you Joseph remained in prison for years as he waited in prayer for crimes he did not commit. He, of course, is finally vindicated and raised to such authority in Egypt that only Pharaoh had more authority. (see Genesis 39-41)

You see, God’s answers are not in our timing, and speed is relative, when talking about a God who doesn’t live within space or time as we know it. But, He is not slow to answer, and when He does answer, it is suddenly, and unexpectedly. Unexpected, because sometimes He doesn’t answer them the way we have been praying for them. He may be teaching us, waiting for us to mature before granting our answer. It may not be exactly what “we” wanted but, it will be what is true, right, impactful and “HIS WILL!” Remember, even Jesus prayed, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not My will, but Yours, be done.” (Luke 22:42)

In the meantime, we need to know that Satan is out and about looking for anyone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8-9, tells us, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.” He, the devil, is persistent. He doesn’t tire of doing evil, he is simply waiting for opportune times. When we are weak, or tired, or struggling . . . he prepares to pounce. Luke 4:13, says, “And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time.” If he was this persistent with Jesus, the Son of God, just how much more will he be with us who often battle with a lack of faith?

We live in a world that gives up far too quickly, because, giving up is easy to do. We move on to paths of least resistance. We quit because the task looks impossible. We look for happiness and fulfillment in others, in a man or a woman, in a job or a hobby, in something or anything else, when we feel God hasn’t answered our prayers. It is why i linger on, ponder more, pray unceasingly, and remind myself even of this line, “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” Will He, find us waiting faithfully for Him, in word, in deed, in love, in prayer . . . Let me finish the last bit of the passage in 1 Peter 5:10-11;

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To Him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.”

Be encouraged, don’t give up waiting in prayer, do not think God’s delays are a punishment but rather take the time in waiting to discover all that God has for you, in and through, Christ Jesus our Lord! Pray more, yet, listen more than you speak. Read more, pray what you read, that it would encourage you, listen to it as Jesus speaks to you. Allow the Holy Spirit to have His way in your heart and mind as you commune with the God of the universe, the Lord of your life, the one who calls you His friend.

You are Love,

cj

What more can be said?

What more can be said?

What can be said, you know, more than what has already been said of Jesus? Besides the very Word of God, the clear picture we have of Jesus in the Gospels, and the glimpses of Him throughout the Old Testament. Really, what can be added that would do Him justice? Not to mention the books upon books that are out there and available, YouTub videos, devotionals, mini-series’, and the list goes on and on. Who am i to add to what is already available? How are my words going to present Jesus, the King of kings and the Lord of lords, any different or clearer? They are not! i can do and say nothing that will enlighten us any more than what is already available. So why do it then? Well, because to be silent, to keep quiet, to put my hands in my pockets, hang my head low, and walk about as if there was nothing to share, would indeed be negligent of my faith.

Luke records Jesus saying, “He answered, ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.‘” (Luke 19:40) When we believe in something, such as a sports team, we generally speak up about them, even defend them against opposing sports team fans. We make our case for why our team is the better team! We hang banners, plan parties, invite friends, all to cheer on our teams. It doesn’t have to be sports teams, perhaps its a show. When i was a kid my mom and sister love the Soup Opera, Days of our Lives, they would watch it and talk about it, and if one missed an episode, they would fill each other in. One time i remember my sister stayed home sick from school to watch a particular episode because it promised to reveal something of a plot that had been building for months! We recently had a grandson. Our first grandchild! i have shared about him, talked about him, share pictures of him, and if someone were to say something against him, i would rush to his defense!

This is exactly, no not exactly, because it would still be inadequate of how we should talk about Jesus. We need to speak up! Talk to our friends, our loved ones, and frankly anyone who would listen! Talk about what we know is true, talk about and share our struggles, confusions, misunderstandings, so that we might grow in our faith and ability to share. In 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Paul writes, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”  Jesus should be our “watercooler conversation;” He should be the topic of our celebrations, we should have parties and gatherings around the idea of discussing Him, enlightening others to the Truth of the Gospel and of a God who cares for them! When someone misses out on a service, we should desire to fill them in, and they should desire to be filled in.

Here is some good news and a challenge:

“For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. (That is the good news, now for the challenge). But how are they to call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 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! But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?’ So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” Romans 10:13-17

You are loved,

cj

New Year, New You!

New Year, New You!

How many of you waited till January 1st to start that new diet? Get back to the gym? Starting reading more? Or take that class at the community college to finally get your degree? i am not here to write a blog about how terrible you are for not starting sooner! Nor am i here to write about how most New Year’s resolutions fail within the first month and almost 90% won’t make the changes stick. Actually, i am here to write about being new! i am writing about making resolutions and then seeing them through to the end, and not being afraid to tweak them as needed because making changes or corrections to a resolution isn’t a failure at all but an avenue to success.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to improve yourself, make life changes, seek to develop your mind, heart, relationships, or anything for that matter. There is also, absolutely, nothing wrong with choosing a day to do it and the beginning of a new year seems like a reasonable starting point. In Joshua we read 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.” (italics and bold print added)

Here is where i would challenge your New Year’s Resolution, every day is a new day in the Lord. And every day is exactly one year from that same day, for example, June 10th, 2019 will be exactly one year from June 10th, 2018. So every day is new and has the potential for you to be new too.

Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:18-19 ESV

Do not dwell on the former, even the failings of yesterday! The mercies of the Lord are new every morning, therefore, renew your compassion for yourself and others in the same manner!

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, says my soul. Therefore I will hope in Him.” Lamentations 3:22-24 ESV

Take hold of the newness you have in Christ!

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV

Take hold of the victory you have in Christ!

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:57 ESV

Finally, a reminder, no matter your past, remember these words of Paul 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. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.” Philippians 3:12-16 ESV (italics and bold print added for emphasis)

You are loved,

cj

Advent (week three) Joy

Advent (week three) Joy

The Christmas carol (the song, not the movie) Joy to the World, was written by Isaac Watts way back in 1719, nearly 300 years ago; and it remains one of the most popular of all Christmas carols to this day. It’s lyric is both profound and simple, theologically meaty, yet blended making it easily digested. The funny part is, it wasn’t written as a song or hymn or Christmas carol at all, rather published in a book of poems and later set to music. It was Isaac Watts’ look at Psalm 98. Now, we have looked at some of the difficulties of Jesus’ birth, and since no one really likes a Debbie-downer, let’s just let joy be joy this week.

Let’s look at this verse:

Joy to the world, the Lord is come
Let earth receive her King
Let every heart prepare Him room
And Heaven and nature sing
And Heaven and nature sing
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing

Here is the reality, whether a person accepts Jesus or not, doesn’t, in any way, affect His being King. There is a popular statement going around since Donald Trump was elected President of the United States, “Not my President.” Well, i hate to break it to you, regardless of how you feel about him, he is the President of the United States, and if you are a citizen of the USA, he is your President. In Roman’s it is written; “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” (Romans 14:11) It is a direct reference to Isaiah 45:23. Paul refers to it in his letter to the Philippians 2:10-11; “so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” So, yes, Sir Isaac Watts, let earth receive her King! And let every heart prepare Him room!

And this verse to wrap things up:

No more let Sins and Sorrows grow,
Nor Thorns infest the Ground:
He comes to make his Blessings flow
Far as the Curse is found.

To the believer, this should be of great interest. “No more let sins and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground.” We are called to live in the righteousness of God. If then, Jesus dwells in us, should we keep on sinning? No, by no means is that possible. We are called to be holy as God is Holy! It is not by our own doing but Christ in me that makes me victorious over sin and death. Now the flesh is weak, and we are definitely in a spiritual battle but as is observed in Watts poem, “He comes to make His blessings flow, FAR AS THE CURSE IS FOUND!” That is joy!  So, this Christmas, as you sing this carol, sing it with Psalm 98 in mind:

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises! Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody!” (Psalm 98:4-5)

You are loved,

cj