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

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

Christian (part four)

Christian (part four)

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” Romans 12:12-13

Regardless of what you are facing in life, there is always and i mean always, a reason to rejoice in hope. Hope is the sustaining force. In 1 Corinthians 13:13 it is one of the abiding principles, faith, hope, and love. Hope in tomorrow, hope in knowing that God is faithful. Hope will get you through tribulations in your life, it does require though, that you be constant in prayer. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 “Pray without ceasing” the word here is “adialeiptos” which actually means, constantly recurring. This is fascinating because of the legal definition of constantly recurring includes, “connected,” we are to be connected in prayer.

The one thing people facing depression, who are considering suicide, say about their outlook on life is, they feel hopeless. Hope is a powerful thing. The super successful, who fail time and time again before achieving that thing that made them successful, all say, “never give up hope.” Hope is a powerful thing. Paul writes to Titus, “. . . waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ . . .” This is the hope we long for it is the sustaining hope of every generation of the Way. We are a generation of the Way, therefore, our hope must be in the appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. We can rejoice that our hope has overcome the world.

Tribulations of every sort come at us daily. Temptations, persecution, deaths, sickness, hate, and the list continues. Some tribulations on a scale may appear harsher than others given everyone’s pain threshold whether that pain is figurative or actual physical pain. We are all wired differently, however, the one thing that ties us together in dealing with tribulation is the same. We need each other, we are connected, those of us of the Way. In each of these instances, we are called to be patient. Some very dear to me teens lost their dad recently, incredibly sad. It was unexpected, one minute he’s home with them and the next he isn’t. Their struggle in tribulation right now is so very real. It will be their patience during these very dark days that will help them wade through the emotional rollercoaster of grief. They will need to stay connected to those of the Way and continue steadfastly in their hope.

Prayer connects us. It connects us of the Way with each other and connects us with Jesus our Lord. The translation to pray without ceasing isn’t wrong, we are to pray continually in thought, in heart, in spirit, in word. It is that conduit that connects us to the Father and it is the tie that binds us together one with another as we seek the Father together. It is for all things, every situation, every circumstance, every every, Jesus taught us to pray this way . . . Matthew 6:9-13

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,
12 and forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from evil.

As we join together those of us of the Way our bond becomes stronger. It then allows us to tend to the needs of the saints as well as the ability to be hospitable. “Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” This is our duty as members of the Way.

you are loved,

cj

Christian (part three)

Christian (part three)

The topic of Christianianity is a BIG one. There is no way around it actually in our society, as it is in nearly every facet of life. Today, we will focus on the politics of being a Christian. It is pushed by both major political parties, some would say, “exploited” for political gain, touching on the surface, our need to be compassionate. It’s a double-edged sword if you will because politics are ugly and yet i do believe we have a civic duty to participate in it. But we can not separate the two. i know the constitution makes a distinction of separation between Church and State. However, that separation is intended to protect the Church from the government not the government from the Church.

If you are a politically active Christian you must do so from a perspective of the values found in the passages of Scripture in which we hold so dear. To separate your beliefs in some attempt to appease a group of people is not within the guidelines of being Christian. Nor can we separate it out from our lives in any aspect. To do so would be a denial of our values, our faith, our Christ. So far in our previous two weeks of looking at this topic, we covered Romans 12:9-10 which state:

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.”

Our next verse, 11, states:

Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.”

Think of those in past times who basically risked everything in order to remain faithful to God. Namely, in this case, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, these guys put God above politics in everything they did that’s why they were hated by the others and set up. Even to the point of not denying their God for any reason even their very lives. We should be so bold! “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord!”

So, what are we to do when the climate is so split, compassion over what? When sizing up candidates does one issue rule over another? Where is grace or mercy when it comes to pass indiscretions? How about moral failings? Or the candidates stated belief versus their present actions? There is so much to consider how does one possibly vote at all? i for a very long time was registered, independent. i didn’t want the label of a political party, in fact, i still don’t but when we moved i somehow selected an affiliation and just haven’t gone to fix it. In my heart of hearts, i remain an objective independent voter. Who Votes his beliefs over politics, over issues, over a person. As a Christian, i take into consideration my own grace, mercy, love and the charge to love others, in making my decisions on casting a vote for someone or some issue.

May we take into account such things always and in everything that we do, not just politics, but also, work, friendships, relationships, even when we are alone.

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 saints and seek to show hospitality.” Romans 12:9-13

You are loved,

cj

Love, my conclusion (Part 1)

Love, my conclusion (Part 1)

Instead of going on about the difference between the different forms of love used in Scripture, Agapa, Eros, Philia, and the less common but still relevant Storge. Which perhaps is a future post, i rather here just cut to the chase a bit. Let’s not get lost in rabbit trails of debate or even friendly conversation, which simply is the mascarade of confusion, doubt, and deflection. We fight being loved, so we don’t get hurt. We fight loving others because we don’t want to be disappointed, and we fight others loving others because we are jealous, cynical, and doubtful of genuine love. We wrap ourselves up in fairytale love stories and fantasies that actually warp any form of love and give false expectations of any sort of reality.

It almost sounds as if i have a cynical heart towards love. Perhaps i do. Perhaps that is why it intrigues me so. Even to the point of haunting my dreams, and peaking it’s head out through the pages of these words. You may remember a song by Tina Turner, called,
“What’s love got to do with it?” Here is the chorus to that song . . .

What’s love got to do, got to do with it
What’s love but a second-hand emotion
What’s love got to do, got to do with it
Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken

You want to talk cynical? There it is written in 1984 and i bet the sentiment goes centuries beyond that too. For my point, each verse talks about something different, the first verse about lust, the second verse, confusion, the third, protection. This is just one iconic song, there are countless others, i just happen to like the tune, and i can hear it playing in my head. So, with such a worldly view of love abounding around us, choking out our very hearts, what are we to do?

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this, the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent His only Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that HE loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins, Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us. By this, we know that we abide in Him and He in us because He has given us of His Spirit.” 1 John 4:7-12

If we claim to have love but we do not back it up with action then we are only fooling ourselves, no one else. We become the very thing everyone claims we as Christians are, hypocrites. Let us consider these verses from 1 John 3:11,12

“For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous.” 

Jealousy is a killer of love. Jealousy hides inside your heart, your mind, your anger, your fear, and it waits for an opportunity to reveal his hideousness in humanity by way of our fallen nature, surprisingly enough. It is why we ought to pursue the love of God with every fiber of our being! No rock left unturned, no shadow left cast, no door left unopened in our pursuit of love. For we are only capable of true, honest, sincere love when we are abiding in God and He in us for “His love is perfected in us” through abiding. i am not done. To be continued . . .

You are LOVED,

cj

Today is my birthday.

Today is my birthday.

It’s 1979, i am turning 6 years old. Dinner is, by my choice, my mom’s lasagna. i will eat two pieces. The cake is simple, two-layer, round, chocolate with chocolate frosting. My gift that year, i can’t believe i remember, cap-guns with a holster and five hot-wheels cars. No friends, just family, my sister who is six years older, my brother who is four years older, and my parents who are just older. We are living in Sylmar, California which is in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles. It’s July, it’s hot, it’s lighter later, it’s later, dusk has set in. Sirens fill the air, they stop short, they are close by, close enough that we see the flashing red lights.

Cameron and David are brothers. They live down the alley, i don’t remember what side of the street if they were on our side or the other block, we always just went down the alley to get there. They are both six years old. They are not twins, separated by 11 months this is the short part of the year they share a number. i remember playing in their chicken coop, they didn’t have chickens, just a coop. i don’t know if they never had chickens, maybe it came with the house, i only know they didn’t have any chickens while i knew them and so we made it into a fort of sorts. Cameron was the leader of our little club, he made all the rules. Our motto, “We aren’t chicken!” Sadly none too bright either.

Cameron earlier that day would hear of a game called chicken. He didn’t tell what the game was. He said it would be fun. It was to be a club game. i would miss the first time playing because of my birthday celebration. i wish i had known, i would like to think i would have told him to not do it . . . but i did not know.

We walked to the end of the block to see what the fuss was. When we arrived there were two small sheets draped over two small bodies. One car in the middle of the road the driver sitting in the passenger seat with their legs outside the car. My mom, working as a nurse at the time was talking to the fire department. She returned, D.O.A. that’s all i heard before she told my sister to take me home, she did. We didn’t find out until later who it was and what they were doing.

Today is my birthday. It is 2018. As i look back on my years i have story after story, memory after memory of moments where an event or a decision give rise to thoughts in which i wonder, “what if i did this or that?” “what if” i could what if this story too. “What if i was there with them?” Or “what if i had thought to invite them to my birthday?” i could allow these thoughts to consume me or i can put them behind me, learn from them and press on making the most of every moment, every day, every year.

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.” Philippians 3:12-14

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these…” Matthew 6:25-34

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:31-32

that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” Colossians 4:4-6

i like to reflect on my birthday’s. Have i made the most of my year? Have done all that i can? Am i content with it? What changes do i need to make? How can i love more? Do more? Live better?

Today is my birthday.

You are loved,

cj

Jude (a final thought)

Jude (a final thought)

Let us consider for a moment, who was Jude? We know that from verse one he is the brother of James. We know of a few Jude’s in scripture, but only one who is a brother to James and that James was the half-brother of Jesus. Making Jude (a form of Judas) also a half-brother of Jesus. i didn’t mention this in the introduction because i didn’t want to influence your reading too much. i wanted you to go in and take each word without that influence because i think we have a tendency to over think things. Besides, i suppose there is some question as to whether or not it is true, i am of the camp that sees it as true.

Jude never mentions he is a brother of Jesus. Nor does James, rather, they identify themselves as bondservants. They had no special entrance into the Kingdom, they entered the same way you and i did/do, by faith in Jesus the Messiah. In fact, we can read that at one point Jesus’ family was not impressed by His declaration and thought maybe He had gone mad. They even tried to influence Him in Mark 3:31-32 we read, “And His mother and His brothers came, and standing outside they sent to Him and called Him. And a crowd was sitting around Him, ‘Your mother and Your brothers are outside, seeking you‘” Now it is unclear what their intentions were but many believe, as do i, that they were there attempting to “calm” Him down from His rhetoric because He was really beginning to stir the pot and bring shame in a sense to His family, “Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary? And are not His brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas (Jude)?” Matthew 13:55

Jesus’, response to them brings light to the nature of the Church. (Mark 3:33-35) “And He answered them, ‘Who are My mother and My brothers?’ And looking about at those who sat around Him, He said, ‘Here are My mother and My brothers! Whoever does the will of God, He is My brother and sister and mother.‘” Blood maybe thinker than water, but obedience to God’s will is paramount! Want to be included in the family of God? Be obedient to the will of your Heavenly Father. Jesus says, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (John 14:15 ESV) Later in that same chapter (v23-24) Jesus says, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.  Whoever does not love Me does not keep My words. And the word that you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent me.” 

Jude came to faith after Jesus was resurrected, as did James. It is another, proof, if you will, of the power of the resurrection and the truth of it! God, shows no partiality and recognizes those who obey His word as, family. Which brings us back to the stern warning in the book of Jude. That judgment is real, and there will be some that scoff, even within the “Church” and they will bring division. It is a great introduction to the book of Revelation, which starts out with its own warnings to the Churches. Therefore the true believer is to, “build yourselves up in your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.” Jude 20-23 (All Bible references are from the ESV).

You are loved,

cj