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

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

Break Time

Break Time

Well, can you believe it?! It is already November. We are a week away from Thanksgiving and the start of what has been the tradition of the Advent season leading up to Christmas. Which is something that we have been talking about as we have looked at paganism and the church.  So the struggle for me is real as i digest all this information and find my center, as well as appropriate Worship of our Lord Jesus in the context of a seemingly pagan holiday.

However, we are budding up against our annual fall/winter vacation week. Therefore i will be taking a break from my regular posting and then upon my return will be talking about how i am handling the Advent this year in the context of the church. We have already scheduled our calendar as far as Advent goes, including each Sunday evening in December. We will, however, be looking at Hanukkah as well this year as it lands on the week of our traditional Christmas. Definitely taking a different spin on our traditional Christmas this year.

We have themed it “Find the Light, the birth of THE King,” as i don’t see why we can’t celebrate that within the proper context and outside of anything pagan. Again, i am just now awakening to this and tearing down the false idols without tearing up the wheat.

“But He said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.'” Matthew 13:29-30

i understand that this is taken mostly out of context, i say mostly because it is still useful here as it relates to not being too aggressive as to not lose the weak or shallow-rooted. Yet, until then, as i said earlier, i will be taking a break as i vacation with the family. Although, as any writer knows, sometimes you get hit with something, and you just have to write it down. That may happen, but there will be no posting until the first week in December.

There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from Him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?” Ecclesiastes 2:24-25

You are loved,

cj

Paganism and the Church (part two)

Paganism and the Church (part two)

So comes our descent into the grand tradition of Christmas. The “holy” days or holidays as we know them. Full of culture, family, celebration, gifts, decorations, food, food, and more food. It’s a merry time, had by many. It brings out goodwill in the masses, a charity of heart to our neighbors. What could possibly be vile or evil in such a time as this? Indeed, Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus, the Messiah. Who came that we might have life and that to the full. (John 10:10)

What traditions within our celebration of Christmas were first observed within pagan festivals? Specifically, Saturnalia, Yule, and Egyptian beliefs. As well as similarity in the dates of the observance of the celebrations. Although, in the case of the Egyptian festivals, dates are not easily acquired because their calendar is, well, a wreck. Therefore in this instance, we will take the similarities of the festival and relate it the best we can. i do find it interesting that Satan is talked about as disguising himself as an angel of light, and each of these pagan traditions involves a sun god.

For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.” 1 Corinthians 11:13-15

In Ezekiel, we read a depiction of  Satan and his desire to rise to the place of God. He wanted to be above all the angels. Yes, we can see that Satan is an egomaniac, and any worship of him that he can generate, even indirectly, is to him a win. It is probably one of the many reason’s, not that any are needed, for God’s decree that we are not to worship him like the nations worship their pagan false gods. We are not to intermix worship practices but are told to eliminate them from our lives completely.

So this week, let’s look at some of the history of these festivals and our observance of Christmas, and you can decide which is right and how best to honor God. After all, it is you that will have to stand before Him one day and give an account, ignorance will not be an excuse, at least not anymore. For instance, although the early church did not have a specific day to honor the birth of Christ, we have a general understanding that it was still significant in the history and telling of Jesus as we read in the Gospels of Mathew, Luke, and referenced in John. At some point in the first century around the time of Telesphorus, believed to be the second Bishop of Rome began a set-aside time to honor Jesus’ birth called, “The Nativity of our Lord and Saviour.” It’s worth noting that at this time, the Nativity, was recognized in September along with the Feast of Trumpets.

In fact, for 300 years the Nativity was celebrated on many days depending on where one was in the world. The recognition of December 25, as Jesus’ birthday, was a move by the Roman Emperor and self-proclaimed Bishop of Rome Constantine. His desire was unity among the Christians and the pagans, as well as perhaps making Christianity more palatable for the pagans to convert. Saturnalia was a celebration of the sun god. It was celebrated from December 17th through the 24th. Part of the celebration included lighting bonfires in honor of the sun and with the idea of helping it defeat the darkness. When the days would begin to get longer generally recognizable around the 23rd. Although this date could be as late as the 26th. Later in 274 A.D. under the Roman Emporer, Aurelian proclaimed the date as “Natalis Solis Invicti,” the festival of the birth of the invincible sun and set the date as December 25th. In 320 A.D., Pope Julius I specified the 25th of December as the official date of the birth of Jesus Christ.

Yule dates back to as early as the 4th century A.D. It would later become known as Christmastide. Yule was a 12-day festival that landed between mid-November and early January. Interesting to note that January 7th, which often ended Yule is for many the day they observe the Nativity or Christmas day to this day (a few exceptions observe the 6th). Coptic Orthodox located in Eygpt and the Middle East as well as Central and Eastern Europe. Although there are many reasons it is notable to say that during this time, two calendar systems were in use, the Julian calendar that pre-dates the Gregorian calendar, which is commonly observed today. What is Yule, well they were original celebrations of the Wild Hunt, the god Odin, and the pagan Anglo-Saxon Mōdraniht.

Again the Egyptians worshipped many gods, including a sun god. However, their calendar was so confusing they didn’t even know how it worked resetting it often. So i will only state here that as we look at the traditions of these festivals more in-depth and begin to recognize how the church co-opted many of the pagan practices in their Christmas celebrations we will see Egyptian influence.

Let me close this entry with this, i am not in any way discouraging the celebration of the birth of Jesus. It is clear that the early church remembered the Nativity. However, it is my goal to get us to think critically and honestly as we walk this narrow road together worshiping the One True God, as He desires, and not as the pagans do.

“. . . take care that you be not ensnared to follow them after they have been destroyed before you and that you do not inquire about their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods?–that I also may do the same.’ You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way, for every abominable thing that the Lord hates they have done for their gods . . .” Deuteronomy 12:30-31 (in part)

For more you can listen to my podcast cjwillpodcastit on most platforms.

You are loved,

cj

i am becoming one of “those” . . .

i am becoming one of “those” . . .

But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship Him. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:23-24

This passage from Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well is highly regarded as justification for Christians to say, “I am doing this in worship of the Father, the other things don’t mean anything. I love God.” or some variation of the same. But, i ask you what Jesus was referring too here? It was customary for Jews to travel to Jerusalem to worship on particular feasts, Passover, Weeks, and Tabernacles. There are seven Hebraic Feasts; i say Hebraic lightly i will get to that in a bit.

Jesus, in His referring to worshiping in spirit and truth, was prophetic, in that He was the Messiah, and therefore He is the feasts. Thus, the location of worship was shifting from a physical place to a spiritual place . . . One primary reason is that Jerusalem was in the hands of the Romans and would soon destroy the Temple, the reason for the pilgrimage. He, in no way, was saying, anything goes, instead expressing a more personal focus because the relationship was about to become intimate.

Let’s take a look at each of the three pilgrimage feasts. First, Passover, they would come to present their sacrifice to the priests, and the Passover lamb would be sacrificed. It was to commemorate or remember the Exodus from Egypt, where those who had the blood on the doorpost were passed over by the angel of death. The final plague before Pharoah would let the people go. John the Baptist proclaimed, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” This was Jesus, the Lamb of God. In observing Passover in real-time, in that year, Jesus, as the Lamb, fulfilled the Feast. We should honor it today as a remembrance of our Passover Lamb, who takes away our sin.

Second, The Feast of Weeks occurs seven weeks or 50 days after the Sabbath of Passover. The interesting thing about this feast, it is a remembrance of the receiving of the law, and with the law comes the knowledge of sin. Its institution was to celebrate the ripening of the wheat harvest. Which is even more interesting! Think of it, Jesus said, “the harvest is plentiful, the workers are few, pray that the Lord of the harvest would send workers.” (Luke 10:2) Here is the cool thing, just as they received the law on Mt Sinai accompanied by smoke, fire, and clouds; so on the day of Pentecost 50 days from the Sabbath of Passover the disciples were gathered, and tongues of fire with a rushing wind came as they received the law written on their hearts as the Holy Spirit was given. We are the workers in the field that God has given.

Third, Tabernacles, this feast was in remembrance of the Hebrew nations wandering in the desert living in temporary shelters. They would again make their pilgrimage to Jerusalem and worship there. Looking to the future, it is symbolic of the return of the King and Jesus ruling and reigning among His people as we tabernacle together with the King of kings and the Lord of lords. Here’s a cool fact, the Feast of Tabernacles was open to all people and nations to come and be with the Lord. Reminds me of the Sabbath day and the Day of Atonement, another feast in which it is stated that even the foreigner within your gates should do no work. As Jesus declared, “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath,” so we should consider the Sabbath God made for us, to rest and reflect on the goodness of our Lord.

Each of the other feasts is equally significant, and in Leviticus, we read that they are not Hebraic but rather God’s feasts.

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, These are the appointed feasts of the Lord that you shall proclaim as holy convocations; they are My appointed feasts.‘” Leviticus 23:1-2

But we don’t really celebrate these feasts, we pass them off as being strictly Hebraic. However, that isn’t even implied in Scripture, for it is Israel who was to be God’s mouthpiece to the world. And as the writer of Hebrews tells us, we are all grafted in together as one people before God. Again here in Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” The intention of the feasts, most certainly the final one known as the Feast of Tabernacles, is to unify us in the worship of God. To draw our attention to the Most High.

If God, so intently, marked out His desired Feasts, for His people to honor Him. He was even reminding them that these were forever feasts, being both remembrance and prophetic. If Jesus observed the Feasts and the early church followed the Feasts, i feel it right to do so now.

Now let me ask you; if you were one of the first century Christians, and as such, you, as they did, observe the Feasts with both the remembrance factor and the prophetic one in mind. Looking back and looking ahead, would you allow for a mingling of pagan cultural practices to interfere with those feasts? Would you desire to take on the worship of pagan gods to enhance the worship of God? i hope that your answer is NO WAY! It certainly is God’s answer:

You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way, for every abominable thing that the Lord hates they have done for their gods, for they even burn their sons and their daughter in the fire to their gods. Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it.” Deuteronomy 12:31-32

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.” Joshua 24:14-15

(Note, read all of 1 Corinthians 10) “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.” . . . “Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than He?” 1 Corinthians 10:14 & 22

We are to flee anything evil. We are not to intermingle pagan worship with the worship of God. These things have not changed, and yet we do. The majority of Christians in the west and some beyond do. Christmas and Easter both have their origins in paganism. These have been central holidays within the church for centuries. Why did the church allow this to happen? How did they not see? Why am i just now waking up to the truth? This isn’t an undue hardship or yoke, this is central to the Worship of God. i am not talking diets or fabrics or circumcision, i am speaking to what the Lord desires and what we were ultimately created for . . . Worship. If you think it is evil to worship the Lord, then don’t, as Joshua said.

Now to Halloween, i once thought it was actually the one rooted most in the faith with All Saints Day, but i was wrong there too. It is ripe with its roots in paganism, and there is no redeeming it, nor should we try. There is no need for an alternative either, for we have seven feasts to the Lord, and each one is a party, a grand celebration! We are called to be different, to come out of the culture and be the Kingdom here and now. When Jesus said we were to Worship in Spirit and in Truth, i am certain He didn’t include pagan rituals in there regardless of your “intent.”

In my next few postings, i will be touching on Halloween and its true origins and then Christmas in the same way. i hope to show why i am choosing to walk away from these traditions. i will also write again about Easter, although i have already done that if you go back in my history of posts. This is a massive step for me, it hasn’t been easy, but it is right. i am becoming one of “those” Christians, and it is not a burden placed on me . . . It is actually a point of self-denial to put away the ways of the world that i might honor the Lord. To love Him with my whole heart, soul, mind, and strength. Yes, i am becoming one of those Christians, the one i should have been from the beginning. And you should too!

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