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

From the beginning of time. . .

From the beginning of time. . .

“Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.”

From Genesis, all the way to Revelation, there is one story that is being unfolded, God and His relationship with mankind. It was present at creation, in the garden, painfully at the flood, frustratingly through Exodus, whispering in the silence, and victorious at the cross! Even in the midst of increasing corruption on the earth, God generously found one that was faithful, Noah.

The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and it grieved Him to His heart. So the Lord said, ‘I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.’ But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.” Genesis 6:5-8 ESV

We read here of God’s grieving heart for His creation and that even though He was sorry He created man, and in that was resolved to “blot out man” He, however, being the very essence of love, had mercy on one, Noah, who found favor with God. We are told that the days before Christ’s return will be like the days of Noah. It is no wonder that Jesus said, “I tell you, He will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8 ESV). i say, if He could find it in one Noah, He would find it again. Yet, in His forbearance, He set in motion the greatest redemption story of all time, Jesus.

As we look around our world today, i think it would be very easy to say that wickedness abounds and that it is increasingly true that the thoughts and intentions of the heart of man are on evil, and that continually. Will the Lord find one with faith on earth? Jesus is the Ark of our day, He is our redemption, as many scoffed at Noah building the Ark, so many scoff at the name of Jesus and all who would, and have, called on His name. The persecution will only increase as the days grow ever more wicked. We must remain vigilant.

The song, “Jesus Paid it All,” is one of my all-time favorite Hymns. i find myself singing the refrain often when i need a reminder that Jesus is all i need. He is the one who washed away all my sins; He paid it all, and for those who put their faith, and trust in Jesus . . . will ride the Ark of the Lord’s return.

i am putting a link here to Celtic Worship’s rendition of “Jesus Paid it All,” i hope you enjoy it as much as i do!

You are loved,

cj

Wholeheartedly

Wholeheartedly

Seek God daily, persistently, and wholeheartedly; You will find life in all its fullness, and it will transform the way that you love and serve others. Does it mean endless blessing? Your best life now? Folks, can i be totally honest? No, no it doesn’t. Moses sought God daily and wandered in the desert for forty years. Peter sought God daily and was nailed to a cross, upside down. Paul sought God daily, and he prayed three times for his thorn in the flesh to be removed, it wasn’t. John sought God daily and was exiled on an island until he died. If life gives you wandering, exile, or a thorn in the flesh, it does not mean you do not have God’s favor upon your life. Neither does it mean that God delights in causing you pain.

Life is full of challenges because the world is a dark place. Its ruler sits on the throne he created, and it is temporary. He succeeded in tempting Eve. He failed at killing the Messiah. Jesus, the Messiah, the One who conquered death, promises that for those who seek Him, they will receive an eternal reward. He also warns us, those that seek Him daily, He warns us not to lose heart. For those that do, He warns to return to our first love!

 “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write:

These are the words of Him who holds the seven stars in His right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands.  I know your deeds, your hard work, and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false.  You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.

Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God. (Revelation 2:1-7)

 Let us return to the love we had at first! Let us live our lives seeking God daily, persistently, wholeheartedly!

You are loved,

cj

“What must I do to be saved?”

“What must I do to be saved?”

Jesus said, “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17) We can read throughout the New Testament folks asking a very important question, “What must I do to be saved?” There are many faiths, some even claiming to be Christain the would answer that question with a list of works that must be carried out. But, let us explore some of the answers given in Scripture and see what we truly must do to be saved!

“Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’ And Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.'” Acts 2:37-38 ESV

“Then he brought them out and said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ And they said, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved you and your household.'” Acts 16:30-31 ESV

“For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:13 ESV

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV

“Thomas said to Him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'” John 14:5-6 ESV

We could keep going but these key passages show that Salvation comes by faith in Jesus only. That we cannot in any way work our way onto a list. No one is better or worse off in what is required of us to attain to salvation, repent and believe. i guess the tricky part comes in the idea of repentance. What does it truly mean to repent? Simply, to turn from sin. We were all once living in sin and darkness, and those who have come to repentance and faith in Jesus should no longer walk in sin. The following are not works of salvation but the mark of true faith, of a true believer.

“I appeal to you, therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:1-2

“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 siants and seek to show hospitality.” Romans 12:9-13

Again, we could explore so many more passages that talk about our response to God’s grace and salvation, but, these give us a good foundation. We are not to look like the world but be ambassadors to the Kingdom of God. Living as children of light, in a dark and fallen world. Repent and believe! And, live for the King of kings!

You are loved,

cj

Breaking In

Breaking In

Today i spoke with a publisher online. i am attempting to get my book, “Staying the Journey” published. It would be amazing if it were available by Christmas but at this point, i am not holding my breath. Anyway, the first publisher i sent it to waited eight weeks to tell me that they don’t publish my sort of book, on Christian Living and Spiritual Formation. Eight weeks. So, i started over. i have now sent it on to several publishers at once and even looked into getting a Literary Agent. Because, without one, it is an uphill battle for a first-time author. But it isn’t easy to convince an agent to represent you.  It is a wait and see sort of field, am i good enough? Is my writing good enough, is it clear, with good punctuation, did i dot all my i’s and cross all my T’s? Or am i an editors nightmare? Waiting isn’t fun.

This guy i spoke with today is part of a publishing company that has a division that does self-publishing but with a lot of help. They do this sort of 50-50 deal, it’s not really 50-50 but so that it is better understood and easier to explain let’s just say it’s 50-50. i put up some cash to start the process, in doing so, i unleash their expertise. If i were to 100% self-publish, i would have to do all the groundwork, getting my book into stores and online etc. With them, they do all that for me, along with much more, including websites and digital copies of my book for download. Breaking into this seemingly exclusive club known as professional writers is, well, not as easy as one would hope.

Isn’t it comforting to know that we don’t have to break into heaven? That we have an agent that makes entry into heaven seamless?

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ by grace you have been saved and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:4-10

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” 1 John 2:1-2

For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” 1 Timothy 2:5

We are blessed to have an agent who represents us. He not only represents us but when the God of the universe looks at us to gauge whether or not we are worthy, He sees our agent and our agent says, “this one is good enough, for their sins are forgiven.” Be encouraged my friends, Jesus, our advocate, mediator, agent, doesn’t look at our ability but rather our heart and in Him, we have boundless opportunity, for He loves us!

You are loved,

cj

In Step with the Spirit

In Step with the Spirit

Lent is an excellent time to take time and recalculate whether you are in step with the Spirit of God. The reality is that we as humans can, and often do find ourselves in the weeds of life. Sometimes knowingly, and other times unknowingly, but either way, taking a self-assessment to determine where you are is always a good idea; and what better time to do it than Lent. The period in which we look to the cross, the final sacrifice, the one that tore the veil into the Holy of Holies. Granting us access to the Father, the Alpha, and the Omega, the very Creator of the Universe, which includes you and me.

We know that there is a spiritual battle going on around us and actually in us. The struggle in us is that of the flesh versus the spirit. Paul writes to the Church in Galatia about this struggle.

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” Galatians 5:16-17 ESV

In the letter to the Romans we read:

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh, I serve the law of sin.” Romans 7:21-25 ESV

It is because of this war that we must remain vigilant to the schemes of the enemy. We know that the devil is prowling around like a lion, looking for someone to devour, waiting for that opportune time to strike! (1 Peter 5:8) Therefore, take heed, and some personal responsibility, to remain accountable to the Spirit of God. Here are some practical ways to stay vigilant in your journey with Jesus.

  1. Study the Word! Be in it, meditate on the Word, day and night! (Psalm 1:2) And, “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 complete, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV
  2. Pray! Jesus’ example to us on the importance of getting away to pray is written throughout the Gospels. We are also instructed to “pray without ceasing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17
  3. Journal. We are told to “Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart” Proverbs 3:3, In fact, we are told several times to write them on our hearts, and hands, and our very souls.
  4. Accountability! It is important to have trusted friends around you. To share your struggles with and to confess your sins to in order to be held accountable; to help keep you on the right path. “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10) Also, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” James 5:16

This short list isn’t a complete one, we could talk about the importance of a Church family or small group, the list continues. However, the above list will definitely help one stay vigilant on their Journey with Jesus. Let me close with a simple way to take your temperature to find out where you are:

But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things, there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.” Galatians 5:18-25

As you look at yourself, do you see more flesh or more Spirit? If more flesh, confess, pray, get in the Word, journal, and get accountable. If more of the Spirit, do not slack! Weed out what flesh is there, confess, pray, get in the Word, journal, and get accountable.

You are loved,

cj

Follow Me (part seven)

Follow Me (part seven)

Have you ever been in a situation where everything you thought was right, was actually, not? i mean not that you were completely wrong, you honestly thought that you had it together and everything was moving right along in life; until confronted with this paradigm shift, a new way to see. You are doing what you do, it’s how you have been raised, like it or not, you are in the throws of life around you and you have your mindset. Then, you meet someone. They’re full of wisdom and information, they tell you things and even if it isn’t new it seems new because they are giving you a new perspective. And it changes your life, whether or not you live out the new knowledge, you are forever changed.

There is a “follow me” statement that is a paradigm shift, for the questioner, and all the other hearers . . . all the way to you and me. It is found in three of the Gospels, we will look at the account recorded by Mark in 10:17-31.

And as He was setting out on His journey a man ran up and knelt before Him and asked Him, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.’ 17-18 ESV

i have heard this story of the Rich Young Ruler, or Rich Young Man, countless times and in countless ways. i mean the different spins on it, some border on heresy others good and some great, i hope this lands in one of the later categories and not the first. i have read and prayed over this for some time. i find comfort in Jesus’ response, “Why do you call me good?” Not because in some way Jesus was calling Himself sinful, but rather already knew the purpose of this mans coming to Him. And in a nutshell answers him by stating, basically, that there is nothing one can do to earn their way into heaven. You can not work your way there, nor buy your way, only through God can one enter. For no one is good except God alone.

“‘You know the commandments: Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’ And he said to Him, ‘Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.’ And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, ‘You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.‘” 19-21 ESV

Jesus jumps right to the part of the Ten Commandments that refer to loving your neighbor as yourself. i think it is interesting here that Matthew is the only gospel that references the young man as asking a follow-up question, “What do I still lack?” (Matthew 19:20) Mark and Luke record Jesus offering the solution out of a deep love for the young man. “Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said . . .” Jesus saw this mans heart. He knew that the young man was looking for the easy road into the Kingdom. He knew that the young man had another god in his life that he wasn’t willing to give up. He had a net that was holding him back, it was his wealth. He was keeping part of the commandments but was violating the first; “You shall have no other gods before Me.” Exodus 20:3 ESV

There is a reason that is the first. You cannot be a partial keeper of the law. You can not follow after God half-way. It’s all or nothing. You either are willing to follow Jesus at all cost or not at all. It’s the question i have been stewing over for the past few weeks, “If He is your creator, are you willing to surrender to God no matter what He says?” or asked another way, “What are you NOT willing to give up to follow Jesus?” It boils down to the state of your heart.

Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” 22 ESV

He approached Jesus with boldness and humility, he left Jesus sorrowful, refusing the invitation to, “come, follow Me.” Jesus uses the opportunity to teach His disciples a lesson on surrendering all to follow after Jesus. But, He makes it clear, that without God, it is impossible, for man is unable on our own, yet, with God all things are possible.” Even a rich person to enter into the Kingdom.

When faced with a paradigm shift, we either choose our understanding or the new understanding. The only right answer with a God-sized paradigm shift is to choose God. It won’t be easy, in fact without God it will be impossible for you. That is why it is so important to follow Jesus, for He and only He, has the Words of eternal life!

You are loved,

cj