Advent (week 2) Peace

Advent (week 2) Peace

13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joesph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and His mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy Him.” 14 And he rose and took the child and His mother by night and departed to Egypt 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophets, “Out of Egypt I called my Son.” Matthew 2:13-15 ESV

Peace, each Christmas we look at the Advent, and we talk about peace. We know Jesus as Prince of Peace, yet, as we look at the story of His birth, peace is not the first thing that comes to mind. Joseph and Mary in order to comply with the senses travel to Bethlehem for the census. Mary is well into her pregnancy, and as they arrive, inevitably delayed by slow travel of a pregnant woman on foot or even a donkey, there is no room for them in the inn.  The Inn Keeper not being without heart things of the best he can do, a stable will have to do. Giving birth in a stable is probably far from what some would say is peaceful. Shepherds approach after being surprised in the field by angels. Certainly, brought some trepidation to the new parents. This scene does not have the earmarks of peace.

In the passage at the top, we read that Herod wanted to have the baby of this poor couple killed. So, in a flight for their lives, they head to Egypt in the dark of night. Hardly, peaceful! In fact, it wasn’t peaceful at all for the boys left behind. Many children were killed. Matthew 2:16-18 tells the story: “Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: ‘A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted because they are no more.‘” i do not see peace here either.

As Jesus grew up, under the radar for most of His life, we see relative peace. However, from the start of His earthly ministry, we don’t see peace. We see great things, don’t misunderstand me, but we do not see true, lasting peace. Here is why, Jesus, Himself said, “I did not come to bring peace but a sword.” This statement seems to go against His nature until you dive into it and see what is meant. True and lasting peace is from the Father and will not be present until Jesus’ earthly Kingdom is set. If we read in Revelation, we will see that even after the Millenial Reign of Jesus there is a time that Satan is loosed again and will deceive many, before being ultimately and forever defeated.  (See Revelation 20:7-10)

So, again, this peace is a peace of mind and heart in a world that is fraught with sin and deception from the chief liar, Satan. We find peace in Christ when we give our lives over to Him. He is the author and perfector of our faith. He is the Everlasting, the Alpha and Omega, He is the only One, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Although, the world decay around us, we have hope and we have peace that Jesus has overcome already, and our victory is in Him, Jesus our Lord!

You are loved,

cj

Christian (part seven)

Christian (part seven)

Life in the trenches. Ask any war vet and if they were in the trenches they will tell you some stories. True stories. They will be full of heroism, fear, the unknown, blood, guts, death, and life. They will say that they feared for their life but they pressed on for those they love and for those around them. Those fellow soldiers who were depending on them to keep pressing forward. It is a real thing, to both fear the unknown and run to it at the same time. It takes bravery and it takes faith, faith in those around you, faith in those back home, and they say even atheists pray in foxholes. For the past several weeks we have looked at this idea of “Christian” and i would submit to you that it is much like living in the trenches, a foxhole.

Life in the trenches as a Christian should not be marked with plush comfort, we are in a battle for the very souls that are around us, including our family. We need to be war ready. Now we do not fight this spiritual battle with human weapons, but with prayer, with love, with faith, with the Word. 

10 “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 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. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.” Ephesians 6:10-18

This passage in Ephesians is our battle prep, our war-room message from the commander. We are to be ready. It isn’t always easy the enemy is powerful or it wouldn’t be a battle. We have victory, yes, but it takes us fighting the battle! It takes sacrifice. It takes us laying down our lives daily, for the cause of Christ. Being ready, aware, listening for that direction to get up, to go, to do! Here is our final passage in this series, Romans 12:1-2

12 “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.2 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.”

Many of us are not prepared for a battle. We are not allowing the Lord to transform us, by renewing our minds. We are not discerning what is the will of God, or we are and choosing to say, “that is too hard for me!” But, it is good and acceptable and perfect! Therefore we must know that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13) and “But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:57) These are the facts. This is the mission. The trenches and foxholes are before us. Let us together, go to battle!

You are loved,

cj

Christian (part six)

Christian (part six)

We have been looking at this idea of “Christian” for weeks now and we could go on for weeks to come. However, i will be wrapping this up next week with part seven. Until then we have part six which you are reading now. Let’s start by looking at today’s passage, which is a look back at the verses just before (Romans 12:9-21) where we have been the last five weeks. Romans 12:3-8.

“For by the grace given to me, I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.” (9 Let love be genuine).

In all the devastation of the fires in California, especially the one that destroyed the town of Paradise there has been some hope. The surrounding towns and cities have jumped to attention and the outpouring of support and help has been unbelievable! The Churches in Chico and Oroville have come together as one body and are meeting the needs as best they can. People are bringing donations of goods and services as well as financial as they show the love and care of Jesus, the head of the Body, the Church. It is a remarkable thing. Each person giving where they are most gifted.

It is sad, in tragedy, when the church doesn’t come together and i have seen that too. Or those of influence not stepping up and leading or partaking in the work as a whole. We need to be about the quest, the task, the journey, of coming together and serving! It is vitally important that the Church not be on the sideline or in the stands as so often many are. The sign of a Christian is that they “get up” and spring into action! Many non-believers or folks that are not of the Way are giving selflessly. The Church should never be outdone! If we can’t meet a need it is important to have other services! Yes, we should be partnering together in crises. Doing all that we can, in the Love and Care, of Jesus!

Get out of the bleachers, get off vacation, get off the sideline, get out of your house and do something based on your gifts. And don’t wait for a crisis, we should always be about the work of the Kingdom, but in crises, we should be all the more attentive. As God has blessed you, so go and bless others, using those abilities, talents, resources, experiences,  gifts, etc.

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

Christian (part one)

Christian (part one)

Just put “Christian” in any search engine and you will end up with information overload! The good, the bad, and the ugly! Hit pieces, glorified pieces, historically flawed and accurate pieces, endless, endless information. What to believe? How can one tell? What is true and what is false? As i add yet one more piece to the web of information, i hope to at least shed light on how one can honestly tell truth from fiction. Our key text for this series is Romans 12:9-21. There will be plenty of supplemental scriptures as well as written works to look at as we travel this question together, Christian?

Let’s begin with the dictionary definition of Christian.

as an adjective

  1. of, relating to, or derived from Jesus Christ or His teachings: a Christian faith.
  2. of, pertaining to, believing in, or belonging to the religion based on the teachings of Jesus Christ: Spain is a Christian country.
  3. of or relating to Christians: many Christian deaths in the Crusades.

as a noun

  1. a person who believes in Jesus Christ; adherent of Christianity.
  2. a person who exemplifies in his or her life the teachings of Christ: He died like a true Christian.

The actual definition of “Christ’ian” is little Christ. It was mainly a derogatory term in its early form. Early names for believers in Christ were, Disciples, referred to as people of “the way” or Disciples [Students] of Jesus. As there were many teachers who had disciples. What was the distinguishing mark of the early Church (the body of Christ)? In Acts 2 we read, “And they [the Church] devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.” The signs of the early believers were evident in their daily life. Although, it quickly became watered down and tainted by false teachers and time. It is what we face today.

So now here we are, Disciples, of Jesus, People of the Way, the Church, 2000 years from its formation and struggling to define ourselves in a sea of “Christians”. How might we tell true believers from those who claim the title “Christian”? We read in Galatians 5, “But the fruit of the Spirit [the indwelling presence of Jesus] is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control . . .”  Which brings us to our Romans 12 passage.

9″Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.” We won’t get any further than this today. First, true Christians love is genuine. It’s real, it’s from deep within, it’s Jesus centered because we are really incapable of genuine love in and of ourselves. The “genuineness” of our love comes only from the Holy Spirit dwelling in us. Second, a true Christian abhors evil. That’s right abhors, which is to say, “regard with disgust and hatred”. That is powerful and yet how many of us, for the sake of tolerance, tolerate sin? Whether it is in our own lives or those around us, within the Church even? i get the need for grace, mercy, etc . . . however, not at the expense of the soul! We are to ABHOR what is evil. Third and finally for today, a true Christain “hold[s] fast to what is good.” That is to say, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8)

Let us have a genuine love for everyone, all people, everywhere. May we live from a heart of compassion. Let us abhor what is evil, there should be no tolerance for wickedness. That is clear. How we deal with it will speak volumes however of our “True Christianity.” Finally, let us hold fast to what is good. Fellowship with one another, strengthen one another, lean on and support one another in the Body of Christ that others will see our community and desire to be apart.

You are loved,

cj

He wept . . . Part 4 (Conclusion)

He wept . . . Part 4 (Conclusion)

Over the past several weeks we have looked at the three recorded instances where Jesus wept. By no stretch of the imagination do i believe, nor do i believe the Bible teaches, that Jesus only wept these three times. Just that these are the recordings given us as to peer into the heart of His [Jesus] humanity. The three recordings again, first, He wept over Lazarus recorded in John 11. Second, He wept over Jerusalem as we read in Luke 19. Finally, He wept over the world as the writer of Hebrews points out in Hebrews 4.

This idea of Christ’s humanity often gets lost i think in our retelling of these passages. Paul writes to the Romans in Chapter 12 vss 9-21  an eloquent and yet passionate plea to the church in Rome. His words echo through history into the future and here we are now listening in. May we take heed to its merits and begin to sync with the words of the page.

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Let me draw our attention to verse 15; “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” If i may remind us again of the humanity of Jesus and how in a world fallen, broken, lost, and confused, He sought to bring hope, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control. In so much as He lived among us as an example, being tempted in every way we are tempted. Yet, Jesus overcame the world through His humanity that we might live through Him and for Him. The idea that Jesus rejoiced and wept reveals the heart of a God that both rejoices and weeps with us and for us. Therefore we ought to rejoice and weep with others as the time allows.

Ecclesiastes 3 tells us that there is a time to weep. Jesus reveals 3 instances that should bring a tear to our eyes. Although the Lazarus account may seem a bit murky, i believe it shows we ought to weep, not simply at the passing on of others but for the suffering of others and for the fallen for we know how great a reward awaits those who call on the name of the Lord. For our cities and our towns and our country as so many reject Christ. They deny the one Messiah, King of kings and Lord of lords. Finally, for the world, for the many who are perishing. May our heartbreak and weep for the lost.

Next week we will look more into this passage and a few others as we begin a series, “Christian.”

You are loved,

cj