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

How will 2020 look different for me?

How will 2020 look different for me?

i have taken the last couple weeks off from writing here . . . mainly for the holidays. However, not entirely. i have been at a loss of words, writer’s block some might say. That might be partially true but not completely. It is amazing what the feeling of appreciation brings, acceptance, even understanding within disagreement; feelings of joy and the spirit of motivation. Of course, with that said, the opposite is also true. When feeling defeated, opposed, ridiculed, and unappreciated for the attempt to do what God has placed on my heart; this brings a tired feeling, a spirit of pessimism. Obedience isn’t always easy when faced with human weakness, in myself or others. Yet, easy or not, it is required.

6 Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists[a] arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brothers,[b] pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty.But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them.

And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.  (Acts 6:1-7 ESV)

i have had a rough couple of years. i have attempted to do a lot while refusing to do everything. Some things i will admit i should have paid closer attention, other things i should have handed off to others. As someone who is in leadership knows sometimes you just get things wrong. That is where grace should step in not opposition. We should not be lying in wait for someone to fail but rather encouraging them and spurring them on to faith and good works as Hebrews 10:24 says, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.

So to answer the question, “How will 2020 look different for me?” Simple, i will be more resolute to walk in obedience to God’s call on my life. i will take every thought captive and live out my hope in Jesus, not putting my hope in man. i will continue to pray for wisdom and to preach the Word with boldness. In short, i will seek to be less influenced by how man sees me and more worried about how God sees me.

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matthew 10:28

You are loved,

cj

The Merriest of Christmases

The Merriest of Christmases

It was 198?. i was 8ish years old. We lived in Burbank, CA. on Keystone Street. It was a budget crunch year for the family, and we had the option of a Christmas tree or buying a Christmas present for the grandparents. The parents left it up to us kids. The three of us decided on buying our grandparents a gift. That meant no tree. However, not entirely. We did own a small, and by small, i mean not much more than a foot tall fake tree. We decorated it and placed it on the coffee table. So, in the end, it was three feet tall.

i don’t recall what we purchased for the grandparents. i am sure it was lovely. i can tell you, however, what i got that year! With great anticipation, looking under the coffee table, i wondered for weeks, “what could these gifts be?!?” i would pick them up and give them a shake or two, no hint was revealed. Finally, the day arrived! Christmas!!! i was so excited. But we waited. No gifts that year until after the Christmas dinner. We waited for our relatives to arrive. They did. With them, MORE GIFTS! i believe this picture (featured image above) was taken on Christmas day just before we opened the gifts . . . But i could be wrong.

Here is a list of my gifts. From my parents that year i received, i don’t remember. From my sister i received, yeah, i don’t remember that either. From my brother . . . Again, nothing comes to mind, oh, he got me something, they all did, but i don’t remember. What i do remember is i received the memory of the merriest of Christmases. i remember that year; my dad read the story of Christmas from the Gospel of Luke. i remember the joy of my Aunt Helen as she played her accordion that was twice the size she was. i remember the birthday cake my mom made for Jesus and singing Happy Birthday to Him.

i miss that Christmas. It was to me the sweetest most merriest of Christmases. This year my prayer for you is that you will experience the sweetest most merriest of Christmases. May it not be about what is under the tree, but WHO is in your heart. Enjoy the family, read the story in Luke, out loud, bake Jesus a cake, and sing Him happy birthday.

“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased!” Luke 2:10-14

“For to us a child is born, to us, a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6

You are loved,

cj

Paganism and the Church (הסוף)

Paganism and the Church (הסוף)

i feel the need to end this series for a time. Sadly, paganism and the church is a big deal. It has been a part of the church for hundreds of years, if not tens of hundreds. So much so that the majority in the church are so blind to it that when you even point in its direction, they become defensive and irritable. Precisely the devil’s plan. Just think if he can fool so many with a little levin, just get one of the marks ever so slightly. Those that are not genuine students of the word will be easy targets when the great deception takes place. Let’s be honest most “Christians” are 1-2 Sunday’s a month pew Christians that may have access to a Bible but rarely even crack it at church.

Here’s the problem. The “Stronger” Christians need to be even greater light. Here’s why the great deception that is coming has the potential of even fooling the elect. What does that word “elect” mean? First, here is the passage i am referring to in its context.

23 Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. 25 See, I have told you beforehand. (Matthew 24:23-25)

The word “elect” comes from the word, eklektos, in Greek and in Hebrew, ἐκλεκτός, it means in its root form, select; by implication, favorite:—chosen, elect. There are three groups of people given the title elect, the Hebrew Nation, the Church, and those who come to faith during the Great Tribulation. Each one of these groups is found in this passage in Matthew regarding the end-times. So which one is being referred to here? It is my opinion as i read through this that it is referring to the people of God. Which group are the real people of God? ALL THREE! i have read many different versions, and many commentaries, i have listened to different sermons on this as well. Each one is trying to align it to a particular group of the three named above. There isn’t a true consensus. Therefore, one must draw the conclusion that maybe, just maybe, God didn’t want one drawn at this point. For this particular use of elect. The deception is going to be so great, so believable that those who are of God in those days, if possible, could be fooled. 

It is why we are told to be alert, to study the scriptures, and to not be taken aside by whims and culture. God is a jealous God. He doesn’t want our worship to be two-faced. He doesn’t want our worship to resemble in any way the pagan culture around us. He says it in multiple places, including 1 Corinthians 10:20-22.

20 No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. 22 Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?

Oh, i am sure i will hear, this is about food. Look, my friend’s food is the least of our worries. Would you buy a ouija board because it is sold in the toy department and just call it a game? Would you decorate your home with Hindu statues because you happen to like elephants or cows? Would you practice pagan worship posses because it is culturally acceptable to do so? Sadly, for many Christians, the answer is yes. Oh, if only we would be so quick to defend the Word of God, rather than to justify the traditions of man. What of God in all of this? What does He think?

12 Take care, lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land to which you go, lest it become a snare in your midst. 13 You shall tear down their altars and break their pillars and cut down their Asherim 14 (for you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God) – Exodus 34:12-14

i write these things, i share these things, not as condemnation, but as a warning. i desire only the Will of God, Him glorified. i hope that it causes one to pause and think critically of how and why they celebrate and worship. For one day, we will stand before God, and we will give an account of our actions, of our worship, and of our life. i want to be able to stand before Him and say, “As You oh God instructed, i did all i could to proclaim, all that You put on my heart, whether popular or unpopular, i proclaimed. Even still oh’ Lord, Thank You for the grace and mercy in my short-comings.”

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