In the beginning . . .

In the beginning . . .

“Once upon a time…” Many children’s stories begin this way. Star Wars, begins each of its movies with the tag line, “A long time ago in a galaxy far far away…” Every great story has a great catch, whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, if it doesn’t grab your attention, it’s hard to follow along much after. The Bible is often referred to as the good book, or the greatest book ever written! i know i am about to play semantics but to be 100% factual the Bible isn’t one book, but a collection of 66 books, written by some 40 different authors, over a thousandish years. Now think about that for a minute. So, the next time someone says the Bible is a boring book, you could start there as you express the idea that maybe they try reading it differently.

Unlike all other books the Bible, a collection of books is alive, it is a living breathing story of an Infinite God, who desires to reclaim His creation that once was good. Restoring that once intimate relationship He shared with those He placed in the garden. It is a dramatic story full of good versus evil. Read to the end we see that good does eventually conquer evil, but for a time it appears as though darkness and evil prevail. It has love letters and poetry, songs and instruction, wisdom and history, and it is chalked full of great mystery. As well as many of our catchphrases or slang terms are actually right from the Books of the Bible; “By the skin of their teeth,” “Jumpin Jehosaphat!” “Doubting Thomas,” “Drop in the bucket,” “A House Divided,” “Scapegoat,” and “To Everything, There is a Season,” just to name a few.

Earlier i mentioned tag lines or opening phases to catch the readers attention. Here are a few of those:

In the beginning God . . .” Genesis 1:1 Eckoed later in the Gospel of John, “In the beginning was the Word . . .”

May he kiss me with the kisses of his mouth! For your love is better than wine.” Song of Solomon 1:2

The Word of the Lord . . .” Many books begin this way.

Explore the living, breathing, Word of God and let it breathe life into you today!

You are Loved,

cj

Behold the Lamb! He is Risen!

Behold the Lamb! He is Risen!

This year my wife and i’s anniversary lands on a Sunday, May 26. We also have a special speaker scheduled to begin that day, and he will be speaking half the week. On top of that, we have my sister and brother-in-law coming to visit that same weekend. Needless to say, we will be celebrating our anniversary on a different day. That happens, doesn’t it? Some times life happens, and you have to change the day you celebrate, whatever it is, birthdays, anniversaries, or any other special event that is special to you. However, ideally, i think, each of us would say that celebrating on the actual anniversary would be the most desired or preferable day.

Did you know that given the start of Passover this year, 2019, which was Friday night, Jesus would have been arrested Saturday morning? He then would have faced part of his trial that day and been sentenced to death on Sunday; buried later that day, lay in the tomb on Monday and risen today! Yes, Today is the actual anniversary of our Lords Resurrection. i understand that the Church doesn’t usually gather on a Tuesday so remembering it on the Sunday before would be customary for most celebrations.  However, did you also know that there are years where Easter, the day celebrated as Jesus resurrection and the actual anniversary, Passover, are off by a month? In 2024, Easter will be on March 31, and Passover will begin April 22. The following year, 2025, Passover begins April 12, and Easter will be celebrated on the 20th of April.

Passover is the Jewish feast that remembers the Exodus from Egypt. As Christain’s, we believe that it is a foreshadowing of Christ’s Redemption on the cross. If you have ever sat through a Passover Seder, you would see the amazing redemptive story unfold. It is quite remarkable. If we follow the timeline of Christ’s crucifixion, we see that in that year Passover began on a Wednesday. He was arrested early Thursday, stood trial Thursday into Friday and was nailed to the cross that morning. At 3pm Joseph of Aramathia, requested the body of Jesus be taken down so that they could bury Him before the Sabbath that was to begin at sundown. Pilote honored the request. Jesus having died, was taken and laid in the tomb on Friday late afternoon. He remained there through Saturday, the Sabbath, the day of rest, think about that . . . And then early on Sunday, the tomb was opened, and Jesus was ALIVE!

We can read about the Conference of Niceae back in 325 AD where the split occurred, making Passover and Easter two separate events. Why? Even given all the explanations, it makes little sense. We don’t change the date of our Anniversary or Birthdays or anything else for that matter so why this? Why take the most Holy of Events, the pinnacle of the Christain faith and separate it from the event of Passover? Let’s look at a definition of Easter.

According to the New Unger’s Bible Dictionary: “The word Easter is of Saxon origin, Eastra, the goddess of spring, in whose honor sacrifices were offered about Passover time each year. By the eighth century Anglo–Saxons had adopted the name to designate the celebration of Christ’s resurrection.”

i could put a lot more in here about the origins of Easter outside of the Council of Niceae takeover of a Pagan Holiday. In fact, many scholars believe that one of the reasons for this was to attract pagans near Rome to the Church. If any of which is true goes directly against the Word of God. Let me point out a few verses here:

When the Lord your God cuts off before you the nations whom you go in to dispossess, and you dispossess them and dwell in their land, 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, for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods. Everything that I have commanded you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it.” Deuteronomy 12:29-32 ESV

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates… then take care lest you forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. It is the Lord your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by His name you shall swear. You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are around you, for the Lord your God in your midst is a jealous God, lest the anger of the Lord your God be kindled against you, and He destroy you from off the face of the earth.” Deuteronomy 6:4-9; 12-15 ESV

The children gather wood, the fathers kindle fire, and the women knead dough, to make cakes for the queen of heaven. And they pour out drink offerings to other gods, to provoke me to anger.” Jeremiah 7:18 ESV

Each of these passages in their context makes reference to the Exodus from Egypt which is celebrated with the Feast known as Passover. The very Feast that Jesus fulfilled with His death, as our Passover Lamb, and His victory over the grave with His resurrection. For those that would say this was for the Jews let me remind you of some New Testament passages that would disagree with that sentiment.

And this is God’s plan: Both Gentiles and Jews who believe the Good News share equally in the riches inherited by God’s children. Both are part of the same body, and both enjoy the promise of blessings because they belong to Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 3:6 NLT

Also, see Ephesians 2:11-13; 2:19 and Romans 11:17-24. When it comes to honoring God we are to do so completely as in the Deuteronomy 6 passage above and as mentioned by Jesus Himself when asked, “Which is the most important commandment?” He said, “To love the Lord your God with your whole heart. . .” Therefore, if mixing the customs of the pagans was wrong then it is most certainly still wrong today! But, some might still say, “we are free in Christ!” Let me remind us of Paul’s words to the Corinthians;

Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols? So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.” 1 Corinthians 8:9-13 NIV

i will close this, sorry this one is a long one, with noting what is said to us about knowing what is right. James 4:17, “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” So in conclusion, at least for me, i cannot in good conscience, continue to celebrate Easter. i will go back to celebrating Passover and the fulfillment of it through Jesus within the timing of the Jewish Feast. i believe this is just the beginning of this awakening that i am having as i return to the Scriptural fullness of Worship to the Lord.

You are loved,

cj

Follow Me (part six, Lent)

Follow Me (part six, Lent)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will you Follow Him?

You are loved,

cj

Follow Me (part 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