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 four)

Follow Me (part four)

Although Jesus said, “Follow Me,” there was one place that He said, they would not go, more specifically, Peter. Not that they wouldn’t all eventually walk that road, in some way-or-other, just that there was still more to be done. Here is the exchange between Peter and Jesus as recorded in John 13:36-38:

Simon Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, where are you going?’ Jesus answered him, ‘Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.’ Peter said to him, ‘Lord why can I not follow you now? I would lay down my life for You.’ Jesus answered, ‘Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times.'”

Jesus in all of His preparation had not yet completed that work, nor had they! There may come a time when we are called to lay down our lives for the cause of Christ. Yet, we shouldn’t go looking for it. Many times the disciples were arrested, but later escaped because it wasn’t their time. Eventually, each of the disciples came to a point where they followed Jesus, even to death. Some in the same way even, on a cross. All save one, John. He was exiled on the island of Patmos. Whether we give our lives as martyrs or we live a full life, we are called to follow.

There is no one else to follow. There is no other way to go. As we have explored over the past several weeks, to follow means to lay down our lives, figuratively, and quite possibly, literally. There is no question that His will must become our will, “not My will but Your will be done.” (see Matthew 26:39). Although the weight seems heavy, we have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us. Listen to Jesus’ words to His disciples after answering Peter; John 14:1-4:

Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.

We should be comforted in Jesus words to those who Follow Him. Who truly know Him, and seek to do His will. The disciples were confused by Jesus’ words, “And you know the way . . .” to the point that Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” To which Jesus replied; (John 14:5-6)

I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

If we follow Jesus, we come to know the way, the truth, and the life. And when this feeble life is over, we will enter the place prepared for us.

You are loved,

cj

Follow Me (part two)

Follow Me (part two)

There are so many facets to the statement made by Jesus, “Follow Me.” The one that should stand out that i think gets lost nowadays is the fact that following Jesus is not easy, nor is the road always blessed. The only promise is that we will be with Him and He with us, here now, and tomorrow in eternity. Listen to Jesus’ own words in regards to what it means to Follow Him.

“Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” Matthew 8:20

“Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.” Matthew 8:22

“If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, Follow Me.” Matthew 19:21

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink.” John 6:53-55

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will also keep yours.” John 15:18-20

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

These are just a few of the verses that we like to explain away or look past or neglect altogether, sadly. Is there an appropriate context for each of these verses, yes there is . . . However, they do quite nicely standing alone, as well as in context, for us, today. We cannot shy away from the hard sayings of Jesus because they make people uncomfortable. We cannot glance over or ignore His words and still say, we follow Jesus. He said these things for a reason. They are truth for the soul. We must seek to understand them or risk walking away altogether because we failed to gain wisdom from our knowledge of Him. After all, Jesus also said;

“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.” Luke 6:46-49

Are you ready to truly follow 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

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