Wholeheartedly

Wholeheartedly

Seek God daily, persistently, and wholeheartedly; You will find life in all its fullness, and it will transform the way that you love and serve others. Does it mean endless blessing? Your best life now? Folks, can i be totally honest? No, no it doesn’t. Moses sought God daily and wandered in the desert for forty years. Peter sought God daily and was nailed to a cross, upside down. Paul sought God daily, and he prayed three times for his thorn in the flesh to be removed, it wasn’t. John sought God daily and was exiled on an island until he died. If life gives you wandering, exile, or a thorn in the flesh, it does not mean you do not have God’s favor upon your life. Neither does it mean that God delights in causing you pain.

Life is full of challenges because the world is a dark place. Its ruler sits on the throne he created, and it is temporary. He succeeded in tempting Eve. He failed at killing the Messiah. Jesus, the Messiah, the One who conquered death, promises that for those who seek Him, they will receive an eternal reward. He also warns us, those that seek Him daily, He warns us not to lose heart. For those that do, He warns to return to our first love!

 “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write:

These are the words of Him who holds the seven stars in His right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands.  I know your deeds, your hard work, and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false.  You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.

Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God. (Revelation 2:1-7)

 Let us return to the love we had at first! Let us live our lives seeking God daily, persistently, wholeheartedly!

You are loved,

cj

“What must I do to be saved?”

“What must I do to be saved?”

Jesus said, “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17) We can read throughout the New Testament folks asking a very important question, “What must I do to be saved?” There are many faiths, some even claiming to be Christain the would answer that question with a list of works that must be carried out. But, let us explore some of the answers given in Scripture and see what we truly must do to be saved!

“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?’ And Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.'” Acts 2:37-38 ESV

“Then he brought them out and said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ And they said, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved you and your household.'” Acts 16:30-31 ESV

“For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:13 ESV

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV

“Thomas said to Him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'” John 14:5-6 ESV

We could keep going but these key passages show that Salvation comes by faith in Jesus only. That we cannot in any way work our way onto a list. No one is better or worse off in what is required of us to attain to salvation, repent and believe. i guess the tricky part comes in the idea of repentance. What does it truly mean to repent? Simply, to turn from sin. We were all once living in sin and darkness, and those who have come to repentance and faith in Jesus should no longer walk in sin. The following are not works of salvation but the mark of true faith, of a true believer.

“I appeal to you, therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:1-2

“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the siants and seek to show hospitality.” Romans 12:9-13

Again, we could explore so many more passages that talk about our response to God’s grace and salvation, but, these give us a good foundation. We are not to look like the world but be ambassadors to the Kingdom of God. Living as children of light, in a dark and fallen world. Repent and believe! And, live for the King of kings!

You are loved,

cj

In Step with the Spirit

In Step with the Spirit

Lent is an excellent time to take time and recalculate whether you are in step with the Spirit of God. The reality is that we as humans can, and often do find ourselves in the weeds of life. Sometimes knowingly, and other times unknowingly, but either way, taking a self-assessment to determine where you are is always a good idea; and what better time to do it than Lent. The period in which we look to the cross, the final sacrifice, the one that tore the veil into the Holy of Holies. Granting us access to the Father, the Alpha, and the Omega, the very Creator of the Universe, which includes you and me.

We know that there is a spiritual battle going on around us and actually in us. The struggle in us is that of the flesh versus the spirit. Paul writes to the Church in Galatia about this struggle.

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” Galatians 5:16-17 ESV

In the letter to the Romans we read:

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh, I serve the law of sin.” Romans 7:21-25 ESV

It is because of this war that we must remain vigilant to the schemes of the enemy. We know that the devil is prowling around like a lion, looking for someone to devour, waiting for that opportune time to strike! (1 Peter 5:8) Therefore, take heed, and some personal responsibility, to remain accountable to the Spirit of God. Here are some practical ways to stay vigilant in your journey with Jesus.

  1. Study the Word! Be in it, meditate on the Word, day and night! (Psalm 1:2) And, “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 complete, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV
  2. Pray! Jesus’ example to us on the importance of getting away to pray is written throughout the Gospels. We are also instructed to “pray without ceasing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17
  3. Journal. We are told to “Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart” Proverbs 3:3, In fact, we are told several times to write them on our hearts, and hands, and our very souls.
  4. Accountability! It is important to have trusted friends around you. To share your struggles with and to confess your sins to in order to be held accountable; to help keep you on the right path. “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10) Also, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” James 5:16

This short list isn’t a complete one, we could talk about the importance of a Church family or small group, the list continues. However, the above list will definitely help one stay vigilant on their Journey with Jesus. Let me close with a simple way to take your temperature to find out where you are:

But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things, there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.” Galatians 5:18-25

As you look at yourself, do you see more flesh or more Spirit? If more flesh, confess, pray, get in the Word, journal, and get accountable. If more of the Spirit, do not slack! Weed out what flesh is there, confess, pray, get in the Word, journal, and get accountable.

You are loved,

cj

Follow Me (part seven)

Follow Me (part seven)

Have you ever been in a situation where everything you thought was right, was actually, not? i mean not that you were completely wrong, you honestly thought that you had it together and everything was moving right along in life; until confronted with this paradigm shift, a new way to see. You are doing what you do, it’s how you have been raised, like it or not, you are in the throws of life around you and you have your mindset. Then, you meet someone. They’re full of wisdom and information, they tell you things and even if it isn’t new it seems new because they are giving you a new perspective. And it changes your life, whether or not you live out the new knowledge, you are forever changed.

There is a “follow me” statement that is a paradigm shift, for the questioner, and all the other hearers . . . all the way to you and me. It is found in three of the Gospels, we will look at the account recorded by Mark in 10:17-31.

And as He was setting out on His journey a man ran up and knelt before Him and asked Him, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.’ 17-18 ESV

i have heard this story of the Rich Young Ruler, or Rich Young Man, countless times and in countless ways. i mean the different spins on it, some border on heresy others good and some great, i hope this lands in one of the later categories and not the first. i have read and prayed over this for some time. i find comfort in Jesus’ response, “Why do you call me good?” Not because in some way Jesus was calling Himself sinful, but rather already knew the purpose of this mans coming to Him. And in a nutshell answers him by stating, basically, that there is nothing one can do to earn their way into heaven. You can not work your way there, nor buy your way, only through God can one enter. For no one is good except God alone.

“‘You know the commandments: Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’ And he said to Him, ‘Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.’ And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, ‘You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.‘” 19-21 ESV

Jesus jumps right to the part of the Ten Commandments that refer to loving your neighbor as yourself. i think it is interesting here that Matthew is the only gospel that references the young man as asking a follow-up question, “What do I still lack?” (Matthew 19:20) Mark and Luke record Jesus offering the solution out of a deep love for the young man. “Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said . . .” Jesus saw this mans heart. He knew that the young man was looking for the easy road into the Kingdom. He knew that the young man had another god in his life that he wasn’t willing to give up. He had a net that was holding him back, it was his wealth. He was keeping part of the commandments but was violating the first; “You shall have no other gods before Me.” Exodus 20:3 ESV

There is a reason that is the first. You cannot be a partial keeper of the law. You can not follow after God half-way. It’s all or nothing. You either are willing to follow Jesus at all cost or not at all. It’s the question i have been stewing over for the past few weeks, “If He is your creator, are you willing to surrender to God no matter what He says?” or asked another way, “What are you NOT willing to give up to follow Jesus?” It boils down to the state of your heart.

Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” 22 ESV

He approached Jesus with boldness and humility, he left Jesus sorrowful, refusing the invitation to, “come, follow Me.” Jesus uses the opportunity to teach His disciples a lesson on surrendering all to follow after Jesus. But, He makes it clear, that without God, it is impossible, for man is unable on our own, yet, with God all things are possible.” Even a rich person to enter into the Kingdom.

When faced with a paradigm shift, we either choose our understanding or the new understanding. The only right answer with a God-sized paradigm shift is to choose God. It won’t be easy, in fact without God it will be impossible for you. That is why it is so important to follow Jesus, for He and only He, has the Words of eternal life!

You are loved,

cj

Follow Me (part six, Lent)

Follow Me (part six, Lent)

The whole idea of following Jesus is traced back to the beginning of the ministry of Jesus. He beckoned His disciples to “Follow Me.” At the beginning of Mark in verse 14 and 15 of Chapter one, we see the starting point. John the Baptist has been arrested. Jesus’ time has begun. His message was simple;

“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1:15 ESV

Part of following Jesus requires that we repent. To turn from sin, do a 180 degree, an about-face, from the sin in our lives. Then believe in the gospel. Gospel simply means Good News. Jesus is the Good News, we are to believe in Jesus.

As we begin the season of Lent, the 46 (40 not counting Sundays) day period of time in which we prepare ourselves for Resurrection Sunday and Holy Week leading up to the day Jesus conquers the death, the grave, and sin.  It is a period of prayer, repentance, fasting or self-denial, as we seek to right our hearts before a Holy God. The time begins with Ash Wednesday. i am sure you have seen folks walk around on Ash Wednesday with a smudge of black on their foreheads. Many feel as if this is strictly a Catholic event, or Lutheran, or a number of other more liturgical Churches. When in fact it is not.

The idea of repenting in ashes dates well back into the Old Testament. In which in times of National Crises or repentance one would put on sackcloth or a course, uncomfortable,  shawl type garment made of goats hair, with ashes on their head, which symbolized utter ruin. A lament of sorts in which they would cry out to God in mourning of their sin. As we look to Ash Wednesday now, we look at the putting on of Ashes as a reminder to repent and believe in the Gospel. It is also a time to remember that we are, “dust and to dust, we will return.”

“By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust, you shall return.” Genesis 3:19 ESV

“All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return.” Ecclesiastes 3:20 ESV

Taking time each year to specifically pray, examine ourselves, and repent, in order to remember and perhaps recommit to “believe in the gospel” afresh and new is, in my opinion, a great thing! And, if we follow this time up by dropping our nets, those things that hinder us, ensnare us, bind us, and maybe even torment us and leaving them behind; we can truly begin, in a new and deeper way to respond to Jesus who says, “Follow Me.” Will you prepare your hearts this Lenten season? Will you mark this time with prayer, repentance, and self-denial, so that you may gain a fresh perspective on who you are in Christ Jesus and what He calls you to do?

Will you Follow Him?

You are loved,

cj

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

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