Best by Far Moments

Best by Far Moments

There are several life lessons i have had a chance to bestow upon my 5-month-old grandson. Yes, he is only five months. But still. i have taken the Norwegian name for grandpa, bestefar. my words of wisdom to him are known as “best by far moments with bestefar.” So far he has been told about:

  1. Only always Jesus!
  2. Throwing fits are not appropriate responses to being upset.
  3. Some people are gonna make you mad, you love them anyway.
  4. Work hard at everything you do, even when you think no one is watching, someone is always watching.
  5. Enjoy every moment you can, cry, laugh, listen, be present!
  6. Don’t think that you know everything, someone always knows more, whether they do or not; yet, know your stuff so that you can discern truth from lies and remain teachable.

The starting points for these lessons come from Psalm 1 . . .

“What delight comes to the one who follows God’s ways! He won’t walk in step with the wicked, nor share the sinner’s way, nor be found sitting in the scorner’s seat. His pleasure and passion is remaining true to the Word of ‘I Am,’ meditating day and night in the true revelation of light. He will be standing firm like a flourishing tree planted by God’s design, deeply rooted by the brooks of bliss, bearing fruit in every season of his life. He is never dry, never fainting, ever blessed, ever prosperous. But how different are the wicked. All they are is dust in the wind-driven away do destruction! the wicked will not endure the day of judgment, for God will not defend them. Nothing they do will succeed or endure for long, for they have no part with those who walk in truth. But how different it is for the righteous! The Lord embraces their paths as they move forward while the way of the wicked leads only to doom.”

These lessons are good for all of us and i am still learning to walk in them each day.

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 five)

Follow Me (part five)

Today the snow is falling. i am sitting at my kitchen table and looking out at the big snowflakes fall and cover, well, everything. i am reminded of my time in Alaska and driving over Turnagain Pass during some of the craziest snow storms. Snow so heavy, and wind so hard, that the tire tracks of the person in front of you were being covered up almost instantly. Although, against everything they tell you while learning to drive a car in poor weather, rather than increase your following distance, you shorten it. You shorten it so that you can see where you are going and use the tracks in front of you to help make away through the storm.

Jesus said, “Follow Me,” on many occasions, on one of those He said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12) We have over the course of this series talked about the importance of following Jesus. Let me stress now that it must be done closely. You see the world and life is full of storms. These storms come with no warning or all the warning in the world and still take us by surprise. That is why it is important to follow Jesus closely. To not lose sight of His tracks. In the rough times, (yes, all the time also) it is especially important to follow closely. Jesus says in Matthew 11:28-30:

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.”

When times get tough we have a tendency to close ourselves off to friends, family, the Church. We have different reasons why we do this but one reason is we don’t want to feel judged, or preached at, or looked down upon. Yet, it is in those times of deepest struggle and the harshest storm that we need to follow Jesus more closely and open ourselves up to friends and family and the Church. We need to plant ourselves in the Word and seek out the “light of the world,” Jesus. We need people praying with and for us.

So, when Jesus says, “Follow Me,” He doesn’t mean at a distance. He means to yoke up with Him, walk side by side with Him and learn from Him.

You are loved,

cj

Follow Me (part four)

Follow Me (part four)

Although Jesus said, “Follow Me,” there was one place that He said, they would not go, more specifically, Peter. Not that they wouldn’t all eventually walk that road, in some way-or-other, just that there was still more to be done. Here is the exchange between Peter and Jesus as recorded in John 13:36-38:

Simon Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, where are you going?’ Jesus answered him, ‘Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.’ Peter said to him, ‘Lord why can I not follow you now? I would lay down my life for You.’ Jesus answered, ‘Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times.'”

Jesus in all of His preparation had not yet completed that work, nor had they! There may come a time when we are called to lay down our lives for the cause of Christ. Yet, we shouldn’t go looking for it. Many times the disciples were arrested, but later escaped because it wasn’t their time. Eventually, each of the disciples came to a point where they followed Jesus, even to death. Some in the same way even, on a cross. All save one, John. He was exiled on the island of Patmos. Whether we give our lives as martyrs or we live a full life, we are called to follow.

There is no one else to follow. There is no other way to go. As we have explored over the past several weeks, to follow means to lay down our lives, figuratively, and quite possibly, literally. There is no question that His will must become our will, “not My will but Your will be done.” (see Matthew 26:39). Although the weight seems heavy, we have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us. Listen to Jesus’ words to His disciples after answering Peter; John 14:1-4:

Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.

We should be comforted in Jesus words to those who Follow Him. Who truly know Him, and seek to do His will. The disciples were confused by Jesus’ words, “And you know the way . . .” to the point that Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” To which Jesus replied; (John 14:5-6)

I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

If we follow Jesus, we come to know the way, the truth, and the life. And when this feeble life is over, we will enter the place prepared for us.

You are loved,

cj

Christian (part five)

Christian (part five)

The current political and social climate is really rather dark. We can look at the latest news on any channel and it definitely seems as if the sky is falling. It doesn’t stop there either, there is a radicalization of both sides and a few in-between that are for a wild-west solution, “meet me in the street at sunset” or Old Testament solutions, “an eye for an eye” sort of solution. It has been quoted, “If they go low we kick them!” or “Chase them out of restaurants, form mobs around them!” Even, images of decapitated bodies, threats, bomb scares, fear-mongering, and bully pulpits are the norm. So how is a Christian supposed to respond? And how can you tell if one is truly trying to live the life of one?

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be conceited. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:14-21

There are several elements that we can take out of this passage. Let me highlight this one, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” Here is the key, if possible. Let me stress that it will not always be possible to live peaceably as it takes two to bring peace. You can try until you are blue in the face but if the other does not want peace . . . what we do is, “leave it to the wrath of God.” In so doing we live the higher road, the one less traveled and puts us in a position of influence later on in that situation or in life.

Not only is this the command of God to us of the Way, but it also leaves justice to the one who judges righteously. When we live a life of love to those who persecute us we allow God’s Spirit room to move in our lives and their lives. It will be either a blessing or a curse depending on their openness. It will either bring goodness or “burning hot coals” and not like you might think but metaphorically speaking. God’s ability to bring wrath is greater than anything we could ever imagine so let us be about the task of love. Loving our neighbors. Loving those who spitefully use us. Love our enemies. Love our families. Love.

You are loved,

cj

He wept . . . Part 4 (Conclusion)

He wept . . . Part 4 (Conclusion)

Over the past several weeks we have looked at the three recorded instances where Jesus wept. By no stretch of the imagination do i believe, nor do i believe the Bible teaches, that Jesus only wept these three times. Just that these are the recordings given us as to peer into the heart of His [Jesus] humanity. The three recordings again, first, He wept over Lazarus recorded in John 11. Second, He wept over Jerusalem as we read in Luke 19. Finally, He wept over the world as the writer of Hebrews points out in Hebrews 4.

This idea of Christ’s humanity often gets lost i think in our retelling of these passages. Paul writes to the Romans in Chapter 12 vss 9-21  an eloquent and yet passionate plea to the church in Rome. His words echo through history into the future and here we are now listening in. May we take heed to its merits and begin to sync with the words of the page.

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Let me draw our attention to verse 15; “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” If i may remind us again of the humanity of Jesus and how in a world fallen, broken, lost, and confused, He sought to bring hope, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control. In so much as He lived among us as an example, being tempted in every way we are tempted. Yet, Jesus overcame the world through His humanity that we might live through Him and for Him. The idea that Jesus rejoiced and wept reveals the heart of a God that both rejoices and weeps with us and for us. Therefore we ought to rejoice and weep with others as the time allows.

Ecclesiastes 3 tells us that there is a time to weep. Jesus reveals 3 instances that should bring a tear to our eyes. Although the Lazarus account may seem a bit murky, i believe it shows we ought to weep, not simply at the passing on of others but for the suffering of others and for the fallen for we know how great a reward awaits those who call on the name of the Lord. For our cities and our towns and our country as so many reject Christ. They deny the one Messiah, King of kings and Lord of lords. Finally, for the world, for the many who are perishing. May our heartbreak and weep for the lost.

Next week we will look more into this passage and a few others as we begin a series, “Christian.”

You are loved,

cj

He Wept . . . part two

He Wept . . . part two

Jesus wept.” Known as the shortest verse in the Bible, John 11:35 is part of the Lazarus resurrection account. We read here another instance in which Jesus was brought to tears. This time it appears to have been over the passing of a friend. As was observed by the Jews present at the graveside of Lazarus, “See how He loved him!” Then there are the naysayers, “Could not He who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?” There is always at least one negative Nelly in the group. We all know one Church Curmudgeon who if given half a chance would complain about Jesus being talked about too much from the pulpit.

There have been a few thoughts tossed around as to what caused Jesus to tear up at this moment. Was it at the loss of a friend? The lack of faith of those who mourned Lazarus? Which could be two-fold in its understanding, they lacked faith that Jesus could or would raise him from the grave; and or, they lacked faith that they would once again see Lazarus at the coming of the Kingdom. There is also a wilder idea out there and that is that Jesus wept because He knew from where He was calling Lazarus back from. Could it be that Lazarus was in that “far better place” we often talk about our passed loved ones have moved on to?

Calling Lazarus back from his eternal reward, only to have to suffer and die again, would definitely be cause for tears in the one who knows best, Jesus. It still could have been the divine plan to give example to the power and authority of Jesus on earth. Even so, Jesus wept. He weeps for us, for our unbelief, for our lack of faith, for our doubt, for our weaknesses. Jesus’ deep concern for us is felt in the heart, it pours out in His words, and works. Is it true that He doesn’t take pleasure in seeing us mourn? Is it true He doesn’t enjoy seeing us greave or in pain? Yes, it is true. But i tend to agree that Jesus did not weep out of sadness for Lazarus, or for the lack of faith in this instance but rather for what Lazarus was being brought back from and what he would have to endure again.

i think it is revealed in His prayer, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” The Divine objective met in the revealed humanity of Jesus through His tears. His desire is that we all, everyone who believes, enjoy the eternity that was intended from the beginning, in the garden. His redemptive work is intended to restore humanity to its perfect relationship with the Father who walks in the garden and calls us by name, Lazarus come forth!

You are loved,

cj