With Fear and Trembling

With Fear and Trembling

When we are told in Philippians by Paul to “Work out our own salvation with fear and trembling,” doesn’t that fly in the face of “Fear not, for I am with you?” from Isaiah 41? This week i want to explore the thought that Paul raises in Philippians 2:12-13 about working out our own salvation, what does that mean? Well, i can tell you what it doesn’t mean, it doesn’t mean or even imply a works based salvation. It does not intend to put undue hardship on others, or ourselves for that matter . . . It does mean we need to take ownership of our journey. He will not contradict His Word, He is the same yesterday, today, and forever, however, my journey of salvation may look very different than yours.

We are told in Proverbs 9 that the “fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” This word for fear could be translated, respect. We are to respect the Lord, how does one show respect? By honoring them, listening to them, serving them, and obeying them, to name a few. But what about trembling? Well, it actually means to tremble. Have you ever seen the movie the Wizard of Oz? When Dorthy, Scarecrow, Tinman, and Lion, finally get an audience with the Wizard they enter with fear and trembling. They have a great deal of respect for the Wizard of Oz and how he has presented himself to them. This is an excellent picture of the meaning, “fear and trembling.” Now that you have the picture, God is not the Wizard of Oz; He is the creator of the Universe! Paul is making a distinction here that we often overlook because, well, “grace” and “God is Love.” However, He is still the creator of the Universe, and He is the one who will sit on the Throne during the judgment and separate the sheep from the goats.

So yes, we are to think about our salvation! Are we living as Jesus instructed us? Are we being obedient? The next verse 2:13 says, “for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” Isn’t that comforting? The creator of the Universe loves us so much, He is at work within us, giving us the ability to do and act in obedience. “I can do all things through Christ, which strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13. It isn’t impossible to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling when we know that the Living God is at work with us! We simply need to be obedient to His leading, and responsive to His prompting to do according to His good and perfect will.

You are loved,

cj

Christian (part four)

Christian (part four)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

you are loved,

cj

Christian (part three)

Christian (part three)

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

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

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.”

Our next verse, 11, states:

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

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

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

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

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” Romans 12:9-13

You are loved,

cj

Love, my conclusion (Part 1)

Love, my conclusion (Part 1)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You are LOVED,

cj

Jude (Part 1)

Jude (Part 1)

Let me start here: if you have not read Jude (an introduction), stop now and go read it . . . it will make more sense that way. However, as a reminder to those who did read it let me refresh your memory. Jude is one of four brothers of Jesus and at some point led the Church in Jerusalem. He came to faith after Jesus’ resurrection. This same Jude then pens this letter and it is powerful! As a call to repentance, as a reminder of judgment, and as a warning to stay alert as we contend for the faith.

He doesn’t waste time with small talk, antidotes, or gibber, he is very matter-of-fact. In the verses, we will look at this week, we will see his heart, and his understanding as the brother of Jesus and leader of the Church. Let’s look at verse 5, “Now I desire to remind you, though you know all things once for all, that the Lord, after saving a people out of the land of Egypt, subsequently destroyed those who did not believe.” Here is an interesting point, there are a couple manuscripts out there as well as a few versions of the Bible that use “Jesus” in place of “the Lord”. Could these early manuscripts be more accurate to Jude’s point? i think so. Jude had come to an understanding of who Jesus was and was not ashamed of it.

We love grace, i love grace. We preach grace, i preach grace, and it is glorious! However, we mustn’t lose sight of Jesus. Jesus, actively a part of the Old Testament, who is the same yesterday, today and forever, saves us by His cross. He leads us free from the chains of sin, out of bondage and into freedom. As the Israelites out of Egypt and still, subsequently (lit. the second time) He destroys those who did not believe. Folks, there is judgment. There is a hell and it has been preached since the formation of the Church. Do not be led astray. We must continue to contend for the faith in a world that would pervert the grace of God, even some in the Church.

Now I desire to remind you, though you know all things once for all, that [e]the Lord, after saving a people out of the land of Egypt, [f]subsequently destroyed those who did not believe. And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day, just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after [g]strange flesh, are exhibited as an [h]example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire. (NASB)

Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved[c] a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day— just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire,[d] serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire. (ESV)

Pray with me for insight, for understanding, for fresh revelation into God’s Word. Let the Spirit of God speak to our hearts through these words written by Jude inspired by the Spirit. May we grow in wisdom and faith, as we seek to walk humbly with Jesus, contending for the faith. Until next week . . .

you are loved,

cj

Praise the Lord!

Praise the Lord!

The shortest chapter in the Bible is Psalm 117, it is just two verses. Yet these two verses are immensely profound in their simplicity. You want to boil things down to the minimum and just look at the core of human existence? Then here you go:

“Praise the Lord, all you nations! Worship Him, all you peoples! Because God’s faithful love towards us is strong, the Lord’s faithfulness lasts forever! Praise the Lord!”

It doesn’t get much simpler than this, Praise the Lord. Worship Him. Because, He is faithful. His love is strong towards us and He is forever faithful. Thus, we should, Praise the Lord! No matter what you are facing, no matter what difficulties or trials befall you, Praise the Lord! In the good and in the bad, Praise the Lord! In the sun and in the rain, Praise the Lord! In life and in death, Praise the Lord! In sickness and in health, Praise the Lord! In the hardest of times and in the best of times, Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!

Praise the Lord,

you are loved,

cj

A life of dependance . . .

A life of dependance . . .

We all depend on someone or something for life. Some will say they don’t depend on anyone, well that simply says, “I depend on myself.” So the reality is everyone depends on something for their existence. It may be work, that job you hate going to every Monday, or it may be a spouse, or a relative of some sort. It could be the Government, a retirement investment or an inheritance. Some who are very ill depend on machines or medicine for life, without them they die. So whether we like to think in these terms or not we are all dependent upon something or someone for life.

Being dependent upon riches or popularity or even other people, yourself included leads to disappoint, despair, even tragedy. Oh there might be momentary pleasure, riches, even glimpses of happiness. However, we can name person after person of influence who has struggled with fame, fortune, popularity and riches. A quick google search will show us these facts to be true. And whether we like to admit it or not we are dependent by nature. So, lets talk about for a second, the idea of being dependent. For if we are by nature dependent then we should find the true source of our dependence.

i offer up to you this passage from Jeremiah 17:5-8;

Wisdom from the Lord

This is what the Lord says:
“Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans,
    who rely on human strength
    and turn their hearts away from the Lord.
They are like stunted shrubs in the desert,
    with no hope for the future.
They will live in the barren wilderness,
    in an uninhabited salty land.

“But blessed are those who trust in the Lord
    and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.
They are like trees planted along a riverbank,
    with roots that reach deep into the water.
Such trees are not bothered by the heat
    or worried by long months of drought.
Their leaves stay green,
    and they never stop producing fruit.

 

John D. Rockefeller, (July 8, 1839 – May 23, 1937)  said, “If your only goal is to become rich, you will never achieve it.” Now this coming from a man who arguably was the richest man in modern history. Yet, although rich as could be his dependence was not on his wealth, as this quote here will show, “This Sunday School has been of help to me, greater perhaps than any other force in my Christian life, and I can ask no better things for you than that you, and all that shall come after you in this great band of workers for Christ, shall receive the same measure of blessedness which I have been permitted to have.”

You might argue that it was easy for him to have his dependence on Jesus because he was so wealthy. Well, to that i say what about Horatio G. Spafford. Here is a man who lost everything, with the exception of his wife, “saved alone” from a shipwreck. He went on to pen one of, if not the greatest hymn of all time, “It is well with my soul”. Read his full story here. Today, where do you find your dependence, i submit to you that if your answer is anything but Christ alone, you need to stop what you are doing and reevaluate life and put your hope, trust, confidence . . . dependence on the only one who can and will see you through, Jesus the Messiah.

You are loved,

cj

13 Years and Counting

13 Years and Counting

i have been writing a book for 13 years, that’s right you heard me, 13 years. i guess you can say that i am persistent or lazy. i would say, i am self-conscience of ability. However, one day that book will be completed, and it will be read by at least two people, my mom, and my dad. Now imagine this, the Bible which many refer to as the “Good Book” is actually a collection of works, both books, and letters. There are 66 of them written by 40 different authors over a period of…well…thousands of years.

The influence that the Bible has had over the years is unfathomable. It has had both good and bad impacts on the world depending on who was doing the interpreting. It is an adventure story, love story, comedy, history, and wisdom. It is if read correctly, the answer to all of life’s questions…and by life’s questions i mean any and every question you might have ever in your life.

In 2 Timothy 3 we read in verses 16 and 17 “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” And again in 2 Peter 1:20-21 we read, “But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” There are a few other places that talk about this idea of the impactfulness and importance of Scripture, google it some time.

The book that i have been writing will not take thousands of years…at best i only have about 50ish years left to live. It will not even come close to impacting the world as the Bible has either. There have been countless books written, but none have claimed so much, promised so much, explained so much and been right so much ever! There is no book that has outsold or been stolen more than the Bible either…how’s that for distribution?

Nose Plugs

Nose Plugs

i want us to chew on this verse for a few days: Colossians 1:9-10

“9 Because of this, since the day we heard about you, we haven’t stopped praying for you and asking for you to be filled with the knowledge of God’s will, with all wisdom and spiritual understanding. 10 We’re praying this so that you can live lives that are worthy of the Lord and pleasing to him in every way: by producing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God”

Let me add this from last week. i have been learning to breath with a snorkel. This has been a chore. By instinct, because i have been doing it my whole life, i try to breath through my nose. This is not a good idea when you are underwater! i have had to receive this new information and inform my brain…it hasn’t been easy. i sought help, received some advice, and bought a nose plug. That simple little purchase has changed my ability to breath through the snorkel. i am becoming more accustomed to breathing through the snorkel.

In much the same way, grace is new, we don’t always understand it and it is hard sometimes to rely on Jesus when for so long we have relied on ourselves. You might need a “nose plug” to help train your brain to rely on Jesus in everything. This is the prayer that Paul had for the people in Colossae. That they would grow in the knowledge of God’s will, with all wisdom and spiritual understanding. Learning to lean on Jesus more and more in everything. It’s about growing, about becoming productive, and about getting nearer to God.

Here are a few “nose plugs” that you can use to help you along the way, training yourself to lean on Jesus:
1. Read the Word
2. Youth Group
3. Life Group
4. Sunday Edition
5. Coffee with Jesus
6. Hang our with others that follow Jesus
7. Have a mentor or someone you can talk to about tough things or choices you have to make
8. An accountability partner…someone who asks you tough questions about choices you are making or about to make
9. Pray
10. Be an active part of the Body, the Church

You are loved,

cj

Learning to Swim

Learning to Swim

i recently purchased a snorkel for my lap swimming that i enjoy so much.  i am no Michael Phelps when it comes to swimming, my technique isn’t even probably a sight to behold…or it might be just not in a complimentary way.  i have always had a hard time breathing so swim with my head lifted out of the water which after swimming for 30 minutes or more really begins to give you a crick in the neck. i have seen others use them, have always wanted one and finally so (because of a gift card i received for my birthday) i purchased one.

i do not regret my purchase but man oh man, it has definitely taken some getting use to…some adjustments were needed.  i have noticed however, now with some time under my trunks, that i am focusing more on my technique.  i am more aware of where i am, how i am kicking, my arm strokes, each breath even.  At first it was completely foreign all i could think about was breathing underwater!  i was underwater, for all intents and purposes anyway, and breathing isn’t something you do underwater…unless you are a fish.

Often times we as Christians can flail about trying to figure out how to “live” as a “Christian”.  We know some practical things and well, it doesn’t make sense that we are free in Christ.  When we feel bound by the world that we are so familiar.  So, we try beating against the wind in vain attempts at figuring out “how” to be “good enough”.

Let me start here: Ephesians 2:4-5  “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)“…  It’s Jesus who makes us ALIVE, not anything we do!  When i figured out that that snorkel was making it so that i could breath, that it wasn’t me breathing underwater but this device was in affect breathing, supplying the oxygen to my lungs, it help with the prospective which allowed me to be free in the water.

Understanding, that Jesus fills us, enables us and grants us both mercy and grace while loving us…gives us the opportunity to see things from a new prospective a freeing one.  We didn’t do anything but choose to accept the gift of grace.  The process of learning to live within the Grace God has so richly provided through His Son Jesus is just that a process.  Paul writes to the Philippians, “Not that I have already attained perfection or that I have already arrived, but forgetting the past, I press on…toward Jesus!”

Like learning to swim with a snorkel it does get easier…but you have to allow yourself room to understand that it isn’t you that is making water into air but that you are reliant upon the snorkel.  The same is true in faith, in learning and growing we must realize that it isn’t under our own ability that we are saved but we are reliant upon Jesus.  We are called to run the race diligently, prepare earnestly, be prepared in season and out to give the reasons for the hope that we have.  We are on a journey that requires the ability to rely on someone else…even when the culture tells us to be self-reliant.

Not that we will ever be perfect or never need reminding but there will come a day that as we walk this road called “Faith” that we will begin to live….What good did our pride do us? What good were our wealth and pretension? These things have all passed away like a shadow. They’re gone like old news. They’re gone like a ship passing through a storm-tossed sea: once it has passed, it leaves no trace of its passing; its keel leaves no lasting mark on the waves. That’s all disappeared in the way a bird flies through the air and leaves no hint of its path: it beats its wings against the thin air, dives with a rush, uses its wings to circle round—yet afterward there’s no sign in the air that the bird was ever there. It’s all vanished like an arrow that’s shot at its target: the air opens up as the arrow flies through it but immediately closes up behind the arrow, and no one can detect any trace of the arrow’s path. (taken from Wisdom 5:8-12 a book found in the Apocrypha). 

You are loved,

cj