So many sandwiches!

i want to say that a few Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday concerts were added while on the tour as my dad called local Churches along the way.

Sitting with my mom as she withers away is the most difficult thing i have ever done. Today, i sat with her and we listened to hymns together (some Christmas because my mom loves Christmas) as we held hands . . . She slept, i cried. Each hymn so sweet and just brought back so many memories. When i was younger we traveled as a family and sang in churches. One particular summer that i recall is my favorite summer of all time. i lived in two shirts and one pair of jeans, although i am sure i had more. The two shirts were from the movie, “Return of the Jedi”. Both were softball style shirts (if that makes sense) one was blue, that one was my favorite, the other red. i also lived in a fifth-wheel trailer.

That summer between concerts i remember the road trips, the stops, the hikes, the sandwiches, we ate so many sandwiches! i remember setting up for the concerts, eating at all the potlucks, so many potlucks, and the tearing down. i remember every concert was exactly the same and yet completely different and that is the best i can describe them. Shawnee our German Shepherd was the best traveler! She and i were buds. i remember all the family and old friends of my parents that we saw, some for me, meeting them for the first time. We even did a mini concert at the home of a cousin or family friend.

i remember all the historical sights we visited, some recently destroyed because humanity has gone mad. So many state and national parks too. i learned so much and am so thankful for those memories. It is the source of my appreciation for music and music of all kinds but especially my fondness of the hymns. my mom’s voice echoing through the sanctuary’s of big churches and little churches . . . Brick churches and log “cabin” churches, old wooden chapels and fancy plush churches. Her voice was angelic, she will definitely be featured in the heavenly choir where i am sure she will be found shortly upon her arrival into heaven.

Music is her life blood i think. my mom loves music. In heaven, the Bible says that the angels sing around the thrown. This will definitely be where mom is found. She will have that old voice back, strength in her bones, and air in her lungs, as she sings out around the thrown joining in with the angel choir, a new song! It is this image that fills my mind and heart with comfort and peace. i am reminded of Jesus words at what is referred to as the sermon on the mount.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3-10)

In these final days, moments, with my mom i am thankful for these words from Jesus. May His Kingdom come, may He reign in our hearts and minds and lives forever and ever, amen. Be blessed today knowing that He cares for you. How do i know? Because of sandwiches, so many sandwiches! He comforts through His word, through His Spirit, and through memories, so many great memories! i love you mom, may you enter your much deserved reward in peace; May your heavenly concert tour be as full of joy as our earthly ones.

You are loved,

cj

Feeling Helpless in a Familiar Place

my mother is dying. Six months, that’s the best the doctors think. Being a pastor i have sat with countless families as they have said goodbye to a loved one. i have been there to support, pray with/for, encourage, and cry with them. i have helped with final arrangements, from just giving ideas to even taking on the full planning of a funeral for those who just didn’t know or couldn’t plan it themselves. Now here i am with my mom, and its as if i am completely clueless. my brother has taken on the significant role of caretaker during these days of home hospice, nurses do come in, a few days a week, to check on things, but the day to day care, my brother has taken on, and all i can say is WOW! He amazes me. Again, i am clueless, i can’t even think of what to do. my sister is here as well, and she has stepped right in, and i just sit back . . . oh, i do some, when asked, or the task is obvious.

Did i mention that i have sat with many a family in this very situation and have had the whereabouts to know what, how, when, where, to do, and or give support. It’s like i am frozen here. i feel helpless, and it makes me feel selfish because the only one here who is genuinely “helpless” is my mom. Stuck in bed, dependent on her family and a team of nurses. i have tried and will continue to try and do all that i can, i am trying to change my mindset, move in different ways, trust more, pray more, be more . . . aware?!? Is that the right word? i don’t know. i want to honor her the best i can, for she has been the joy and inspiration of the family.

The commandment in scripture to “Honor your father and mother” (Exodus 20:12) is actually in reference to older or elderly parents, of course, the principle can also be applied to children and their parents. Although we mostly refer to it in the latter, it definitely is more the former. i stated above, i want to desperately honor my father and certainly now more than ever my mother in these final days. i believe that i have done a fair job to this point of my life, but at the same time, i think of all the times i fell short in this area. my mom would say if asked, that she is proud of me. That makes me happy, but i wonder, is it warranted? Have i earned it?

Jesus didn’t, nor does He expect us to earn His forgiveness. He gave freely of Himself on the cross to make us righteous and holy. What a gift! There is a song by Steffany Gretzinger called, “No One Ever Cared for Me Like Jesus.” WOW! What a powerful song and a fantastic voice! The opening lines of the song are so powerful; the song opens like this: (i will link to a video of the song at the bottom)

“If my heart could tell a story
If my life would sing a song
If I have a testimony
If I have anything at all

No one ever cared for me like Jesus
His faithful hand has held me all this way
And when I’m old and gray and all my days
are number on the earth
Let it be known, in You alone
My joy was found
Oh my joy, my joy

Let my children tell their children
Let this be their memory
That all my treasure was in heaven
and You were everything to me

This song is my mom. This has been her testimony, and it has been my challenge. i can’t listen to this song without getting lost in memories where my mom’s joy filled the air. She has been the bedrock of our family, the glue if you will, and she did it all with joy. And that joy was founded in her faith in Jesus. Her legacy, her testimony, can be found in this song by Steffany Gretzinger, and i am glad that i stumbled upon it. i hope that it blesses you and challenges you as much as it has me. i pray this becomes my testimony as well, for no one ever cared for me like Jesus . . . and Jesus, through my mom, is her testimony. May Jesus, through me, be mine.

No One Ever Cared for Me Like Jesus, Steffany Gretzinger

You are loved,

cj

a (not so gentle) farewell

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)

i have been attending church for my entire life. my grandfather was a pastor, evangelist, author, conference superintendent, and for a time was the director of interracial evangelism from 1956-1964. The family, my parents, and siblings traveled and sang in Church’s growing up, i went to camps, retreats, advances, and conferences. In my introduction, i talk about how i have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly of the church, and i choose to love her anyway. This is still true. i do love the church and will always love the church and do all i can to serve her. However, i am bidding the westernized church a farewell. It has become an institution, in my opinion, and it has left the ideals of Christ for a capitalist mindset, and i can’t take it anymore. Over twenty years in fulltime ministry with various experiences within the church as pastor, teacher, evangelist, and when i needed them, they wanted to know when they would get their money. Well, the check is in the mail.

When the concern for ones well being is superseded by money, or persuaded by gossip, that is a clear indicator that things have gone astray. (Let me be clear it wasn’t the whole church, some individuals clearly cared for me and desired for my well being even giving of themselves to help). That is what the “church” is supposed to be, yet when money is at stake, it is that issue that takes center stage, and that is just sad. i recently drove past a church that was building a new facility. A large sanctuary. i wondered for what? An hour a week, two at best. Maybe multiple services, but even still, is that genuinely justifiable? The amount of money that goes into a new build for minimal use could go for so much more. What about a rehab center? A homeless shelter, transitional housing, a halfway house? Oh, but where will we meet? How will we collect money to pay the bills and upkeep on the buildings we use once or twice a week or on craft day? How about VBS we have to have VBS! Where will all those children go?

Here’s the reality. The church is only a priority when it’s not hunting season, football, NASCAR, or whatever other sport happens to be on when Sunday rolls around. i use to get frustrated with such things, but now i think, “where could true organic ministry have happened?” Certainly not in the stale hollows of a building where gossip prevails. Or the woah is me attitude that permeates the fellowship with spiritual neediness, or should i say greediness? Yes, spiritual greediness is huge in the “church.” i am not being fed, i don’t like the music, why didn’t i get a hand out when you passed out food? The sermons are too long. i can’t anymore with this mindset, let them have their tired old established religion, just give me Jesus.

An actual letter by a selfish church goer without a spin to sign their name

The above letter received is just one example of the attitude within the church today. By the way, many of the parents would say that their children loved the services. Which i find rather amusing, wasn’t it Jesus who said, “let the little children come and do not hinder them.” Jesus had a heart for the youth and i believe He knew, “better get them while they are young because the older they get, the lazier they are in their faith.” It’s sad, but oh so true. To the last point in the letter above, “people will likely stop attending.” This veiled threat is tiresome, please, for all that is holy, stop attending!” But, really, i am actually for the reverse or opposite now, let these selfish people have the dusty building and let the true church step out and be the church, for it isn’t in a building.

i am starting a Bible study in my home in the coming weeks. In so doing we that gather will have the fellowship that the Word encourages, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25) We will also be able to encourage one another on to love and good deeds without the worry of financing a building. We will be taking our meals together as the early church did in Acts, and we will bathe each other in prayer. In fact, i have had a more organic ministry in the last two months than the previous two years, that is for sure. In fact, i would even say that it has been more simple, more faithful to the Word, than perhaps much of the ministries i have been apart of where a board reigns, money dictates, and a building governs.

i believe it is critical that we begin to do this more and more! The church in western culture is a waste of time and space! And to the final part of the verse in Hebrews, “and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” This is now, if you can’t see the Day is drawing near, then you probably have taken offense to this post, and to that i simply say, i am sorry. However, i only write what i am inspired to write, and i am only governed by the will of the Spirit of God, the one who reigns from on high.

You are loved,

cj

Social Distancing

Social Distancing

Today my friend and i were in Natural Grocers, where we ran into a mutual friend. This friend is a hugger, and so we hugged it out in the produce section. Beside us was a woman with a bag over her hand as she selected her organic vegetables. Another woman in the store was pushing her cart around, gloved, and with a medical type mask on. As we stood with our friend near the apples and talked conspiracy theories and Scripture, i heard over the loudspeaker a plea for social distancing. “For the safety of all our customers, Natural Grocers is practicing social distancing. We ask all our customers to please observe these practices, stand 6 feet apart, and limit contact and touching.” i don’t know if that was said because of us or something that the store just announces ever so often to keep folks aware, but we continued talking. Although we weren’t in each other’s laps, we definitely weren’t practicing social distancing. We did wrap up our conversation a bit later and went about our shopping.

These are some crazy times that we live in! Just yesterday a pastor in Florida was arrested for holding services on Sunday. Today in Louisiana another pastor who held services on Sunday had a warrant issued for his arrest as well.  Both of these pastors ignored the government’s restrictions on large gatherings, based on the idea of social distancing. This applies to all large gatherings, the church is not being singled out. However, these pastors feel that their faith is enough to protect them, and in almost every other case, i would agree. However, here it seems they have ignored Romans 13:1-2 which simply states that we are to honor the government.

Given these two scenarios, my grocery store encounter and these pastors holding services, is either justifiable? To what degree is it proper to follow the directives of the government? Do we, as Christians, have an obligation to adhere to every edict the government has decreed? Given the absolute panic, some folks are faced with in these trying times are we as Christians too loose with our freedoms in Christ?

As we stood talking i could visibly see one of the checkers uncomfortable with our little gathering of 3 persons. Her uncomfortable look made me slightly uncomfortable as well, and so i stepped back a little and over towards an empty case as to make room for shoppers around us; was my freedom and fearlessness out of line at that moment, i wondered. Shortly after leaving the store, we went to another to get one other item before heading home. Here we saw an older gentleman with a mask that had a ventilator. Was he wearing it out of fear or caution?

i have a lot of unanswered questions and more questions every day. i do worry for my family. Am i doing all that i can to keep them safe? As the priest of my home am i leading them spiritually? Am i being enough of a comfort to them or am i adding to any of their anxieties? i don’t have all the answers in all of this . . . but i do know that as i ponder these thoughts i am drawn back to the words of Paul.

19 For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews, I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law, I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law, I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak, I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means, I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. (1 Corinthians 9:19-23)

We are living in unprecedented times. We can either be paralyzed by them or we can find ways to love others better in them. i choose the latter.

You are loved,

cj

Four Dimensions

Four Dimensions

What is our mission or goal in life? We hear all the time that we are to run the race to win it! That isn’t wrong. We hear that we are to strive to be the very best version of ourselves! That isn’t wrong either. We hear that we are to put others first, above ourselves, to be second. That isn’t wrong either. Yet, when we consider all of these things together, we get a pretty mixed impression of our mission or goal in life. So what is it, and how do we achieve it? Well, let us consider together for a moment the puzzle of these three statements.

Run the race to win it . . . based on 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” ESV

Pretty clearly, one could understand, how, one might perceive, the need to be a cut-throat Christian.  However, this is only one perspective of the same cube.

Striving to be the very best version of ourselves . . . based on Philippians 3:12-14, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” ESV

By this, one could easily conclude that we strive to be the best we can. Doing everything in our power to strain for that perfect version of ourselves.

Putting others first . . . based on Philippians 2:3 “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” ESV

Here, one could easily conclude that a Christian is best described as a doormat. Always and forever, second place. Each of these obviously is true. But there is more! A fourth dimension, if you will.

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved. Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1 ESV

Alright, then here we have the four corners if you will. We as imitators of Christ are to run the race as to win! Train hard every single day, and beat our bodies, to mean our fleshly desires, into submission. To have self-control. We will make mistakes, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and keep going, striving for that heavenly crown.

Meanwhile, when you see your brother stumble, stop and help them up! Our goal, although it is to run to win! It is also to cross the finish line with as many people as we can! And to do so without giving offense, you will not be able to do this 100% of the time. However, we are to sill try! We are to love all equally, yet declare the truth of God boldly.

So run to win. Do all that you can to better yourself, start by listening to the Holy Spirit. Put others before yourself, considering their needs above your own. And finally, do everything in love as to be imitators of Christ.

You are loved,

cj

Visiting Memory Lane

Visiting Memory Lane

**This blog was originally posted on December 6, 2011, at 3:15 pm Alaska Time as part of my “Coffee? Yes, Please!” Blog. Since i can’t sit in a coffee shop at the moment with the nation’s response to the covid19 virus, i thought i would get all retro and nostalgic, with this blast from the past, memory lane, post! i hope you enjoy a look at my coffee shop life.**

i think it’s funny how anytime i want to go someplace downtown i will say, “Hi Galaxy” (that’s my phone). She reply’s, “At your service cj,” i laugh every time. i will then say, “Navigate to ____________” and she will proceed to give me directions and they usually always go like this, “continue down dewberry and turn right onto 88th, stay on 88th and continue onto Northwood, turn right onto Raspberry and take the Minnesota North on-ramp. Turn right onto Todor, turn left onto C st. It’s at this point in the trip that it changes, today i turned right onto Benson.  i like to think about our “navigation” to heaven. There are a few steps that are for everyone, and it never changes; however, there is a point in the journey that it becomes very individual as each person’s personal relationship is different. Of course, the destination is the same, but for some our journey may cross other bridges and go down other roads as we each struggle with different issues and God works in us in His timing and as long as we continue to listen to the GPS (God’s Providing Spirit).

If i make a wrong turn on my journey, my phone says, “recalculating,” and then from that point gets me back on track, if i follow its instruction. Sometimes i have made such a wrong turn that it simply says, “Turn around when possible.” God is that way too, sometimes i mess up, and from that point, He simply recalculates (in away), taking my errors into account and redirects me redeeming the error for His glory. Other times He simply says, “Turn around,” which is code for “repent,” which means to turn from sin, literally to turn around from the error of my ways.

i walked into Cafe Felix this afternoon and was greeted at the door by statues, Hindu, Buddhist, and others, each one staring at me.  i caught myself staring back, and then from behind the counter, the clerk said, “Can i help you?” i wondered if he could, was I in the wrong place? i thought. Catching my thoughts, i saw from the corner the cafe part of this establishment. i said, “Nope, i see it now, thank you, though,” and with a smile, i turned into Cafe Felix.

i walked up to the counter, the barista greeting me with a warm smile asked if she could help me (i must really have looked lost).  i asked for a menu, ordered an americano and a grilled cheese, the sandwich came with feta, cheddar, tomato, and bacon, and was super yummy! Served with tortilla chips and salsa…tortilla chips seem to be the chip of choice for Cafes in Anchorage. The coffee was exceptional, an organic Brazilian blend, smooth and not bitter in the least bit with an earthy flavor.  The room is arranged like a thrift store exploded with different tables and chairs and table cloths. In the center of the room, four chairs around a gas wood stove and in the corner a small stage for open mic night or like events.

The internet was down, so i tried yet another feature of my galaxy phone, wifi hotspot. Excellent! As i sat and watched people come and go, there is a large verity of clientele, but i had a feeling that they each shared a common understanding of where they were as opposed to me. Still a bit confused, was it the eclectic blend of music playing? Literally from Bluegrass, Country, Frank Sinatra, Top 40, and Christmas music…what? My ears didn’t know what to think. Or was my confusion the result of the potpourri explosion that occurred? Or incense or maybe the scented candles? Either way, the smells mixed with coffee and grilled cheese confused me, i am sure. As the place cleared out and i really began to think i was reminded of my GPS.

God’s Providing Spirit. This place, as i thought about it, would be an excellent location for a coffee with Jesus meeting. As i prepare to launch several options during the week, this place has won (at least for the moment) a spot on the circuit. I don’t think it was an accident that i found this place but rather on purpose. When Paul saw the many altars in Athens, he didn’t run away, he went into the heart of it and proclaimed the Truth. Everyone’s journey must start with, believing Jesus died for them, ask for forgiveness, accepting the gift of salvation, repenting of their sin and begin to walk in a manner that is pleasing to God. Jesus said,  “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything i have commanded you. And surely i am with you always, to the very end of the age.” So why not take the message into the heart of a place that has many altars to other gods? Yes, i think i will.

**For those wondering, Cafe Felix in Anchorage AK, received 4 out of 5 coffee mugs. ☕️☕️☕️☕️**

You are loved,

cj

If Not Today . . .

If Not Today . . .

i had a great routine of going to the gym three days a week faithfully. It was awesome. It was California, and they had a heated pool so, i was able to swim every day. That is my favorite workout, swimming. In fact, when i lived in Wasilla Alaska, i swam four to five days a week, sometimes even six or seven, depending. It is a great workout. Now i am no swimmer mind you, i definitely don’t have a swimmer’s body, and my swimming technique probably looks more like flailing about rather than swimming, but i can keep a steady pace for about a mile. i am a member of a gym now, and they have a pool, but it isn’t a lap pool it is more like a giant bathtub for water-aerobics or small children learning to swim. Needless to say, i lack a strong motivation to go to the gym anymore.

i tell myself, if only they had a lap-pool i would be at the gym every day! i say things like, “Monday, Monday! i will start back at the gym. Only to have Monday come and go without a trip to the gym. i think we can all relate in some way to this, whether it be the gym or some other “thing” that you keep putting off for “Monday,” only to have Monday come and go without a “thing” to show for it.

This same principle can be applied to our walk with Jesus. “Oh, I will go to church next Sunday.” “I will start reading my Bible daily on Monday.” “I will begin that daily devotional or attend that Wednesday Night Bible Study this week.” Many have good intentions only to have those Sunday’s, Monday’s, Wednesday’s, those start days, come and go with only regret for not doing what you said you would do.

i think the best way to begin to form good habits and break bad habits is to just start! Don’t wait for Sunday or Monday or Wednesday or “this or that day” to begin. And then when you start, don’t do it for yourself, although you will benefit. Don’t do it for your spouse, although they will benefit. Don’t do it for anyone but do it for the Lord. He ultimately is the one we should be living for! And this idea doesn’t just apply to Church or studying the Bible or going to a study or group, it applies to any and everything you do.

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord, you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” Colossians 3:23-24 ESV

You don’t wait until you are in shape to go to the gym, you don’t wait until you are skinny or healthy to start a diet or change your eating habits, and you shouldn’t wait to begin to live your life wholly for Jesus in everything that you do.

You are loved,

cj

How will 2020 look different for me?

How will 2020 look different for me?

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

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

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

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

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

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

You are loved,

cj

The Merriest of Christmases

The Merriest of Christmases

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

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

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

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

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

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

You are loved,

cj

Paganism and the Church (הסוף)

Paganism and the Church (הסוף)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You are loved,

cj