Lessons from Shiloh

Do you have a dog? i do, and he is the best dog in the world. His name is Shiloh, he is a Mini-Aussie, and if my neighbor could get away with it, he most certainly would dognap my boy. He goes on every trip i take now, the countless trips to Colorado, and now most recently, my trips to Vegas to see my boys. He is an amazing traveler. He understands the concept of a pit-stop, jumping out of the car, doing his business quickly and jumping right back into the car without hesitation. He loves sitting out on our deck and just enjoying the fresh air as well as long walks. He enjoys his belly being rubbed, his chin being scratched as well as just below the ears. Once you start he won’t let you stop either.

When we are on a walk, i have him tethered on a leash. He doesn’t often pull but will take as much slack as i give him. When we reach the light, if it’s green, we walk right through, of course. However, if it’s red, we will stop, i will stop, and he will walk until either his slack is used up, and he is caught back, looking at me like, “let’s go!” or i say, “woah” or “stop” or “wait” or “sit.” He then will look up at me as he sits and wags his little nub of a tail, which is more hair than a nub actually. When we get back to the house, as we walk up the stairs, i will take the leash off, and he will head to the door. He stops, looks back, and waits for me. He will look at me and then the door as if to say, “Ok, open the door now.” He can be a tad impatient. Ok, maybe more than a tad. He doesn’t like waiting, doesn’t understand the why, especially at the light.

Jonny Lang is known for singing the blues, but he also sings gospel and rock, a songwriter and guitarist. He is very talented and one of my favorite musicians. i have seen him live, and he doesn’t disappoint. Two of my favorite songs, That Great Day, and Red Light, can be heard on my playlist and often i will hit repeat because i get lost in the lyric. The idea behind Red Light is the way life can change, decisions made, good ones and bad ones. It’s the pause.

God often uses red lights in our life; of course, He also uses yellow and green. Like Shiloh, if we aren’t tethered to Him, we will walk right into oncoming traffic. If we are tethered to Him when He stops at the light, and our slack runs out, that jolt can cause you to look back as to say, “let’s go!” Not realizing the danger that is just ahead. His word to us, “woah” or slow down, take it easy, we’ll get there. Or perhaps, “stop” that is not the direction i want for you. The hardest sometimes is “wait” because we want to know why and we rarely get the answer. “Sit” is also hard as we don’t often want to sit; we want to go and go fast. Yet, the reality is that each of these prompts is for our benefit. His desire for us is pure and Holy. We need to be willing to listen.

Some of you will say, “who wants to be tethered? The answer is nobody does. Yet, there is one who’s an example to us, both free and tethered.

So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of His own accord, but only what He sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son and shows Him all that He Himself is doing.” John 5:19-20

So Jesus said to them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on My own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me. And He who sent Me is with Me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.” John 8:28-29

i often wonder what Shiloh is thinking when he sits at the light, usually very patiently, even still eagerly awaiting the words, “let’s go.” i want to be like him, i desired to be tethered to the Lord, walking with Him so closely that i not only sense His presence i hear His voice and His gentle reminders, warnings, and commands. Woah, stop, wait, and sit. my favorite prompt now is sit, “sit in My presence, sit with Me, let’s hangout together, tell me about your day, how are you feeling?” Yes, i like to sit in His presence. Today may you find yourself tethered to Jesus, and may you obey His Word.

You are loved,

cj

Slightly Stale . . .

i was recently eating at a restaurant where they served chips and salsa. i love good chips and salsa, but who doesn’t, right? Anyway, as i anticipated the chips and salsa arriving at my table, i was hoping they would be warm. Why? Because that would indicate that they had been in the warmer and, therefore, would be crispy. Interestingly, last night i was out at a restaurant that served bread before the meal, again i found myself hoping that the bread would arrive warm. Why? Because that would indicate that they had ensured that freshness by warming it.

Have you ever had a slightly stale chip or piece of bread? A stale chip can be a little soft, whereas a stale piece of bread can be a bit firm or hard—the remedy for both heat. If you put the chip in the oven for a bit, it will crispen up . . . whereas the bread, if done correctly, will soften. Both will taste fresh again. A warm chip dipped in salsa is as heavenly as a warm piece of bread that melts the butter as you spread it on.

The Christian life can be much the same thing. Believe it or not. We can find ourselves stale, in a place where we are too soft, or we have grown to firm or hard. Both positions are not good or healthy. And just like chips and bread, the solution to our problem is heat. How many worship songs do you know that talk about “Fire?” Are you feeling a bit flimsy in your walk with Jesus? Turn up the heat! Do you feel your heart hardening, especially seeing what is going on in this world? Turn up the heat!

We are called to stand firm in our faith and be at the ready with compassion. We are called to be prepared in season and out of season. It is easy to lose that freshness of when we first came to know Jesus; it’s also easy to lose that refreshing feeling you get from a camp or retreat or even a good sermon. Especially now, with all these restrictions and long periods of isolation. One could very easily find themselves growing stale in their faith or walk with the Lord.

In fact, with the way the world is going, this verse seems rather fitting: “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.” 2 Timothy 3:1-5

Peter gives a remedy: “Repent, therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time of restoring all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets long ago.” Acts 3:19-21

If you find yourself in a stale relationship with Jesus. If you find yourself growing weak or arrogant, you might want to repent and allow the Spirit of the Lord to refresh you. And keep yourself in the warmer.

I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence, there is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:8-11

This is not the time to allow ourselves to grow cold or stale. We need to remain HOT and FRESH for the battle that is before us. People who are looking for answers are not looking for stale Christianity. They want something real, authentic, refreshing, and pure. The Lord is coming again . . . Whether that is in our generation or one to come, the time is short . . . when He does, i pray He finds us faithfully about the Kingdom’s work.

You are loved,

cj

Beyond Blessed

As the world around us crumbles, and as my life seemingly crumbled around me, i can only say, “i am beyond blessed.” How can one make such a statement, how can i make such a statement? Easily! But first, you need to know the road i choose to travel. my road is much like yours in many ways, yet completely different, and that is the mystery of life. Everyone is the same, and yet completely different. To think otherwise is to be a fool. Furthermore, everyone is on a journey, influenced by others, affected by decisions, changed by events.

How one traverses these life influences and how these things imprint one’s life is one hundred percent the choice of the individual. It is called taking responsibility, being self-aware, and stopping to breathe and to use a skill often left in the annals of history, critical-thinking. You may not be able to stop what happens to you, but you can definitely determine how you respond to it.

Romans 15:13 —May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Romans 12:12 —Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.

Philippians 4:4 —Rejoice in the Lord alwyas; again I will say, Rejoice.

Galatians 5:22-23 —But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control . . .

Life might suck. Lord knows my 2020 has! i have shared before, besides all that is going on with the world, my mom was diagnosed with cancer and died four months later. Through a series of events, i find myself yet again divorced. It has forced me to step away from full-time vocational ministry after 20 plus years! This is the first summer that i have not had any of my son’s with me. With all the travel back and forth to visit my mom and be with family for the last four months, my finances are shaky at best. i have been eating out more. Taco Bell, mainly, as i am on a very tight budget, and i can get a meal for $3.50, which is actually far less than if i went to the store. Because when i cook like i did this morning, i make food for a family, and it reminds me of the fact i am alone. So how is it that i can say that i am beyond blessed?! Because of the road, i choose to travel, and on this road, i am never truly alone.

If not for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit within me, i would not. It is the hope that i carry within me that allows me to have joy unspeakable. i can’t even fully explain it. All i know is that i have a roof over my head, food in my belly, and an opportunity each moment to choose Jesus, to choose joy, to stand and say, “i am beyond blessed.” And it is true, no matter my circumstances, i am beyond blessed. You can be too! If you choose.

You are loved,

cj

The Church at Bugz’s

What is the Church, or where is the Church? Both of those are loaded questions. Of course, they both have simple answers. We are the Church, those of the Way, born new through Christ. Its location is the gathering of those of the Way. These are the prominent answers of the western church, and although they are correct, they are also far from right.

i could spend hours writing out the answers, but the problem with the western church is our answers. They are too theological and represent vast knowledge but lack simple wisdom, in the sense that the people who need to know don’t want that theological answer. They want simple, not for lack of intelligence but because they lack interest, and they aren’t coming to the Church to find out. What they see, doesn’t match what they are told, so what hope is there in that? Why would they want to be apart of something steeped in hypocrisy?

When i moved into my little apartment, my new neighbor and i struck up a friendship. We will sit out on our shared deck and talk about life. One day he shared his passion for pool. He once upon a time was a ranked semi-pro pool player and participated in a U.S. Amateur Open Pool Tournament; he owns a million pool cues!

One Sunday i was headed to Church and then to drive. It would be my first Sunday in town in some time as i have spent many weekends on the road between here and Colorado with my family during my mom’s final performance this side of heaven. i was going to try a local Church out but as i was returning from a morning walk with my ride or die, Shiloh, he is a six-year-old mini-Aussie, and perhaps the coolest dog on the planet. Anyway, as i was entering my apartment, my neighbor was exiting his. “Hey, I am going to Bugz’s to shoot some pool, do you want to go?” Now for those who don’t know, Bugz’s is a bar/casino.

At first, i started to make an excuse for why i couldn’t go. After all, it was Sunday; one doesn’t go to a bar on a Sunday and definitely not to shoot pool! But something grabbed my tongue, and i ended up saying, “Yes, i will meet you there in a few.” And so i did. He shot pool while i pushed balls around with a stick. He showed me some ways to hit and plan and see the table as a whole, each shot, although, individual, is part of a greater plan. Even if you mess up, there are ways to redeem your previous shot. Don’t waste opportunities and sometimes the easiest shot is not the one you take, defense can be a good strategy, don’t slam your stick on the table, sorry, pool cue.

We talked about a lot of things around that pool table. Life, current events, Jesus, each moment was blessed. It reminded me of something; This is the church. It is living in community. It isn’t a place or a building or a set time. It is lived in the heart of the believer and pours out in moments of time, every encounter, every conversation, each relationship. Jesus in me, Jesus through me, because Jesus is for me.

“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but have itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill you ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:1-5)

i am not discouraging the assembling together of the saints. i am a firm believer in that! The Church should gather in groups to share life and worship. But as i have written previously, the Church cannot just be a building; it is not a set time; it is every moment, every encounter, every decision. Choose to be the Church today, love the unlovable, show mercy and grace, walk humbly.

You are loved,

cj

Life in a tiny apartment

R.O.U.S.

This morning my downstairs neighbor told me she thinks we have a rodent between the floors because when i am gone, she can hear gnawing. “When you leave that rodent comes out and gnaws on wires or something for hours,” i suggested it may be Shiloh, my mini Aussie, gnawing on his bone, he has two really yummy bones; not that i would know, they just look yummy. Anyway, she did not agree. Growing up, we lived in several apartments. One thing about them is everything, every noise, anytime you drop even a pin; it’s like setting off an atomic bomb or something. Knowing this i attempt to walk softly and minimize my clumsiness. When Shiloh does enjoy his bone, he uses his paw to press it firmly to the floor so that he can, well, gnaw on it. i am fairly certain this is the rodent.

my bike was stolen from my porch or deck or landing, whatever it’s called. i was away, you know if you have read any of my previous posts, at my parent’s home. When i returned, it was the first thing i noticed. It had a tire lock on it and a flat tire, so i am not sure how they managed to run off with it, but one thing is for sure, they did not ride off into the sunset. i hope they needed it, Jesus said, if someone steals your coat, give them your tunic as well. Basically, a tunic is a shirt, so if someone steals your coat, give them your shirt as well. In this instance, i should probably put a sign on my deck that says, “here is the key to the lock on the bike you stole.” Maybe add a footnote, “thanks for being my final excuse not to ride it.”

my apartment is so tiny it is like a studio; only it has a wall between the bedroom and the living room. i lived in a very small apartment when i first moved to Wasilla, AK. It was two bedrooms and although the square footage is probably not much more than this place . . . it now feels like a mansion in comparison. Have you ever seen the sketch, Joe’s Apartment? i am not recommending it, i just remember bits of it from my younger years. i don’t even know what the premise was except that Joe, the guy living in the apartment, had made a bond with the many roaches residing with him. Except for the fact i keep my home clean, and i don’t have roaches, and my name isn’t Joe, it’s basically the same thing. Although, it does appear that i have at least one R.O.U.S. that comes out when i leave. So who knows maybe a T.V. Show in the works, “cj’s apartment.”

Why am i telling you these random things? Well, here goes; You never know what life is growing to throw at you. One minute, a family, a big house, and the next . . . um, not, that. One could easily give up, some do, but the story doesn’t have to end there or here. Each day, every moment really is another opportunity to see the good, to choose joy, to do what is just, to love mercy, and to walk humbly. A lot of introspection has and is going on in my tiny apartment. i suspect that will continue for some time. The one constant in my life, Jesus, i know He will always be with me. His mercy is new every morning, and His love is sure.

Here is a final note, don’t put your hope and your joy and your worth in possession, or influence, or others, YOUR WORTH is in knowing the LORD and in His presence, period.

“”Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Matthew‬ ‭6:25-34‬ ‭ESV‬‬

You are loved,

cj

See you later 👋 . . .

my mom died today. How does one say that simply, without sounding callous? Really, just her body died as her spirit lives on. And although i said, goodbye, i also said, see you later.

This is my mom preparing for her annual Christmas party

Some say that faith in God or any god, for that matter, is a waste of time. Or they will say, “whatever helps you cope.” For those of us with faith, believing in the Great I Am, there is a comfort that comes when a fellow believer passes, even if that person is family, in my case i call her mom. So yes, it does help us cope. However, it’s so much more than that as well.

my mom’s joy is her testimony, as i wrote previously (see here). Her joy through tragedy in her own life. This has been my witness of my mom. It’s a lesson learned. She also taught us to fight, to not give up, and to get up each time you get knocked down, just keep getting up. She’s known for singing, and one song comes up every time in family discussions, “I Woke Up This Morning Feeling Fine.” She taught herself the piano and played by ear. Whenever there was a piano, which was often, you would hear her play, and without fail, this song echoed down the halls.

That is the assurance that comes in knowing Jesus. It’s unexplainable, but the peace, the comfort, the joy, the hope, the knowing . . . it’s amazing. For those that feel this is just a way to cope than so be it. For those of us, that know . . . It’s everything.

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.
‭‭1 John‬ ‭5:13‬ ‭ESV‬‬

i recently visited a gated community with twenty-four-hour manned security. You had to have credentials to enter the community. Do you live there? If not, you have to be on the “list.” In order to live in this community, you need to pay and pay a lot i am sure! i can’t imagine the homeowners association costs, they had a pool with lifeguards, tennis courts, trails, and a park, the upkeep alone on those things is enough to send the HOA costs through the roof, not to mention the twenty-four-hour manned guard shack. Now factor in the cost of the home! Folks actually live like this! i felt like such a peasant when i was there like i should be bowing and saying things like, “your majesty,” or “yes, my lord.” But everyone in that development paid to be there and paid a lot. To get on the “list,” which is temporary, you have to have a reason, and someone has to have told the gate guard you were coming, they had to put you on the “list.” But again, it was only temporary; only residents were allowed to stay, those that paid to be there.

The Kingdom of heaven will be even greater than this housing development. What about the cost? It is also very high. However, that price has already been paid. You just need to get your name on the list, and this list isn’t temporary. Who paid the price for us? Well, Jesus. Why? Well, love, that is the answer He loves you, me, us, so much, He paid the price for us to live in the Kingdom. So how do we get on the list? The book of Romans says; “For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’” (Romans 10:13) It is believed that Paul wrote the letter to the Romans. Peter is recorded as saying this in the book of Acts, written by Luke. “And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Peter was quoting Joel 2:32 “And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the Lord has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the Lord calls.”

Why the need? There is an issue of sin that needs to be dealt with, and it goes all the way back to the garden and the beginning of time recorded in Scripture. We are all born into sin, for which we become accountable when we reach an age of understanding. It is at this point a price is required. Either you attempt to pay for it yourself, which is impossible, or you call on the one who paid the price for you already.

my mom is on the list. She has called upon the name of the Lord. She dedicated her life to His service. When she arrived at the gate, the guard opened it and welcomed her home. i am thankful for this assurance. Although i will miss my mom, and i will miss her, that is temporary! For this wasn’t a goodbye, it was a see you later! Thanks to the blood of Jesus.

You, too, can have this assurance. If you don’t already, comment below or send me a message depending on where you see this, and i will gladly answer any questions you might have. You are so so loved. But let me stress this, everyone serves something, what is it that you serve? A system, a government, money, fame, etc. Joshua (In the book titled after him, the 6th book of the Bible) at the end of an epic speech says this; “Now, therefore, fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”

The difference will be simple; it’s either “goodbye” or “see you later.”

To my mom, “i will see you later!” To you, i hope for the same.

You are loved,

cj

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

Paganism and the Church (part three)

Paganism and the Church (part three)

There is a character who happens to be a wizard named Gandalf the Grey, later becoming Gandalf the White, who appears in the series of writings by J.R.R Tolkien, The Hobbit, and The Lord of the Rings series.  Gandalf is described to be a long-bearded fellow dressed in grey, later white, and carrying a staff. i was looking at photos today of Odin the Germanic pagan god, and thought, “wow, now there are some similarities here!” Could we begin to draw similarities between everything and in so doing, make everything sacred or everything unholy depending on our take? Yes, we could, and yes, we have, in many instances, on many topics. This is the main reason that i want to be very careful as we tred into custom, tradition, holiday’s, and paganism. i don’t want to lead anyone into confusion or misunderstanding, but in everything, cause you, the reader, to think critically and examine Scripture thoroughly.

Last week we talked about the history and timing of Christmas as it relates to pagan traditions, Saturnalia, Yule, and Egyptian sun god worship. There is a figure that each of these traditions has that have surprising similarities. In fact, build upon each other within the ongoing mixing of many of these celebrations. Most notably or recognizable in our current culture, we know him as Santa Clause. No need to dive into who he is or the tradition surrounding him. However, our present Santa is an evolutionary being, drawn from the mixing of cultures throughout time. Chiefly, Saint Nicholas, Sinterklaas, Father Christmas, Kris Kringle, and Odin.

Is Santa just a fun cultural icon who is only one of many characters within the secularization of the Christmas holiday? Or, is he a well placed pagan influence, put there purposefully by the prince and ruler of this world? Well, i will be the first to admit that i have always looked at Santa as just a fun cultural icon of the secular side of Christmas. i even have a costume, dressing up as Santa, i have placed gifts under the tree.  You could say it has been a tradition also as the kids have gotten older. They certainly know that it is me, they even know what they are getting, nerf guns. It’s the same every year, and everyone opens them at the same time, and then, traditionally, an epic battle ensues. Is this a pagan tradition? Are we worshiping Odin? i can unequivocally say, no, we are not.

However, with that being said, now that i know how this cultural icon has evolved, can i continue with a clear conscience? Can i continue to celebrate the birth of Jesus along the same lines as an ever-evolving holiday tradition we know as “Christmas?” The answer to that is also, no, i can not. If i want to celebrate within culture a holiday tradition i certainly am free to do so. Even still once i cross the line or blur the line of worshiping Jesus, my Lord, and Saviour, and use elements that are known by me and everyone else to have pagan history and influence, i am compelled by what i read in Scripture to stop.

And he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, according to all that David his father had done. He removed the high places and broke the pillars and cut down the Asherah. And he broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the people of Israel had made offerings to it (it was called Nehushtan). He trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel, so that there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those who were before him. For he held fast to the Lord. He did not depart from following him, but kept the commandments that the Lord commanded Moses. And the Lord was with him; wherever he went out he prospered. He rebelled against the king of Assyria and would not serve him.” 2 Kings 18:3-7

Notice here that King Hezekiah, to honor God, destroyed all the high places. The “high places” is another term for “holy” sights or places of pagan worship. He broke down the Asherah, again pagan symbols of worship and even the serpent that Moses was instructed by God to make when the children of Israel were being tormented by the serpents in the desert. You see, the Israelites took something God used for good and began to worship it as a god. We can and have done the same thing within the Christian culture. We have taken things God created for our good and have worshiped them instead of God. We need to be as bold as King Hezekiah and begin to tear down those things that we have elevated or given special honor over Jesus in our worship, through worship that is tainted by pagan cultural influences.

Do you have high places that you have built up? Have you set up Asherah poles or other forms of pagan worship within your worship of God? If so, tear them down! And do it now, and do it quickly! God does not want your pagan influenced religion. He wants you to seek Him with your whole heart, soul, mind, and strength. He desires to be worshiped in spirit and in truth, untainted by the world.

You are loved,

cj