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

Jude (a final thought)

Jude (a final thought)

Let us consider for a moment, who was Jude? We know that from verse one he is the brother of James. We know of a few Jude’s in scripture, but only one who is a brother to James and that James was the half-brother of Jesus. Making Jude (a form of Judas) also a half-brother of Jesus. i didn’t mention this in the introduction because i didn’t want to influence your reading too much. i wanted you to go in and take each word without that influence because i think we have a tendency to over think things. Besides, i suppose there is some question as to whether or not it is true, i am of the camp that sees it as true.

Jude never mentions he is a brother of Jesus. Nor does James, rather, they identify themselves as bondservants. They had no special entrance into the Kingdom, they entered the same way you and i did/do, by faith in Jesus the Messiah. In fact, we can read that at one point Jesus’ family was not impressed by His declaration and thought maybe He had gone mad. They even tried to influence Him in Mark 3:31-32 we read, “And His mother and His brothers came, and standing outside they sent to Him and called Him. And a crowd was sitting around Him, ‘Your mother and Your brothers are outside, seeking you‘” Now it is unclear what their intentions were but many believe, as do i, that they were there attempting to “calm” Him down from His rhetoric because He was really beginning to stir the pot and bring shame in a sense to His family, “Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary? And are not His brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas (Jude)?” Matthew 13:55

Jesus’, response to them brings light to the nature of the Church. (Mark 3:33-35) “And He answered them, ‘Who are My mother and My brothers?’ And looking about at those who sat around Him, He said, ‘Here are My mother and My brothers! Whoever does the will of God, He is My brother and sister and mother.‘” Blood maybe thinker than water, but obedience to God’s will is paramount! Want to be included in the family of God? Be obedient to the will of your Heavenly Father. Jesus says, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (John 14:15 ESV) Later in that same chapter (v23-24) Jesus says, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.  Whoever does not love Me does not keep My words. And the word that you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent me.” 

Jude came to faith after Jesus was resurrected, as did James. It is another, proof, if you will, of the power of the resurrection and the truth of it! God, shows no partiality and recognizes those who obey His word as, family. Which brings us back to the stern warning in the book of Jude. That judgment is real, and there will be some that scoff, even within the “Church” and they will bring division. It is a great introduction to the book of Revelation, which starts out with its own warnings to the Churches. Therefore the true believer is to, “build yourselves up in your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.” Jude 20-23 (All Bible references are from the ESV).

You are loved,

cj

Jude (Part 5)

Jude (Part 5)

We have come to the “Doxology” of Jude, verses 24-25. A doxology is a hymn or form of words containing an ascription of praise to God. Here is Jude’s doxology, “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Jude, here, is simply recognizing that everything he has just stated is really only doable with Jesus. “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling…” We must remain in the vine, committed and connected to Jesus, in prayer, in study, in desire. The fact is Jesus wants to! It will bring Him great joy to present us blameless before His throne. It is His glory, His majesty, His dominion, and His authority. It lasts from yesterday, today, and tomorrow. His ability, through His authority, over His dominion, by His Majesty, and for His glory.

These three things, prayer, study, and desire are a ring of truth that feeds into and off each other. Prayer, more than talking to God, it requires a time of quiet meditation in order to listen so that we might hear. Sometimes an audible voice, to some pictures, dreams, visions, or a word. Still other times through others to us, 1 Thessalonians 5:17,20-21 reminds us, “Pray without ceasing…Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good…” Talking with Jesus is critical to maintaining in the vine. So is studying.

Study,  as 1 Thessalonians states “test everything,” this is a reminder to me of Acts and how the Thessalonians were called out on this by a comparison made to the Bereans. Acts 17:11 “Now these Jews were nobler than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” We must stay diligent in our study or we will easily be led astray and find ourselves detached from the vine. So we have prayer and study together for, as we study in prayer God reveals truth through His word, which creates and stirs desire.

The more one pursues something the greater the desire becomes. If one is truly committed to studying a subject a desire for more information is created. It is true in any relationship as well. The more i pursue, the more i study, the more i talk with my wife, my desire for her increases. It is why when i allow the world to distract me it influences my relationship with my wife. It is the same with Jesus. In fact, the Word declares in Ephesians 5:25 “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” This idea of giving up our selves, our earthly desires, for a heavenly pursuit is vital. Jesus was tempted on at least a couple of occasions to take an easier road. Yet, He chose to pursue a greater purpose and in so doing left us with an example of prayer, study, and desire.

May your prayers lead to study and may your study lead to greater desire which leads to more prayer, and more study, which increases your desire . . .

You are loved,

cj

Jude (Part 1)

Jude (Part 1)

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

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

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

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

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

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

you are loved,

cj

Praise the Lord!

Praise the Lord!

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

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

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

Praise the Lord,

you are loved,

cj