Until the Last

To help all of you understand before you make any important, major life changes or decisions, make sure of whose voice you are listening to and where you are getting advice from.

This will be my last entry of Java with Jesus.  Recent events in my life have severely shaken my faith and I cannot in good conscience continue to write this blog when I have been so shaken to my very core.  For those who look forward to these entries, I thank you for reading and following so loyally and I pray for the Lord to bring someone who will continue to inspire or provide insight for you.  With that being said, let’s go out with a bang.

There are a lot messages we get in this world.  Some good, some bad and some just plain nonsensical.  As Christians, we need to look at these messages with discernment and know which ones are truly from Him and which ones are not.  How do we do this?  By studying the Word of course and making sure what we are hearing, lines up with Scripture.

John 10:1-5

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”

You know Catherine used to tell me and others, “He knows his Bible.”  And while I can provide analysis and understanding of the Words of Scripture, I’d rather know the voice of the Shepherd.  You see before she and I got together, I had prayed and she had been praying.  What were we praying for?  That one person with whom we could spend our forever with and walk into eternity with.  Then we met and we started talking and before I even made an approach, I searched Scripture to make sure what I was thinking and feeling lined up with Him and it brought me to Proverbs 18:22, and that is when I knew and asked her out.  I had never been more sure of anything after that moment.  And if you read the Proverb in its entirety, I did obtain favor from the Lord, through the blessing of her and continual blessings outside of her.

What’s the point of this story?  To help all of you understand before you make any important, major life changes or decisions, make sure of whose voice you are listening to and where you are getting advice from.  First, bring the issue before Him.  Second, ask Him for discernment with regard to the Scriptures and which path to take.  Last, once your decision is made, search the Scriptures and make sure the decision you have made lines up.  If it does, then you have clearly heard the Lord on the matter.  If not, then you are just hearing the answer you want to hear and not doing what the Lord wants you to do.

A little long for the last entry, but I hope it blesses you.  Please pray for me.  May the Lord bless you and keep you all.

Are You Willing to Sacrifice?

Sacrifice is tough, but Jesus didn’t say it would be easy.  He also doesn’t leave it to ordinary folks.

“We are the bride of Christ.”  Ever hear that phrase?  It is saying we, Christians, are Christ’s bride that He is going to present to His Father in heaven.  Now I personally don’t look good in a dress, especially a white one.  However, I digress, Christ sacrificed Himself for us and in relationships, that is what we are often called to do, sacrifice what we want for the ones we love.

John 10:11-16

11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. 12 But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and, leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. 13 The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. 15 As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. 16 And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.

Sacrifice isn’t easy.  Giving up the things you want because you love someone else means an act of unselfishness, which we as humans are not prone to.  But here is the deal, what did Jesus sacrifice?  Well, for those who don’t know, He sacrificed His life for us.  He lived and died for us.  And that is what relationships are all about, living and dying for another person.

In John 15:13, Jesus says, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”  I personally have a lot of acquaintances, but not a lot of friends.  But the friends that I do have, I consider them ride or die.  I’d give up my life for them.  And for the one who has that single special place in my heart, she knows who she is, there is nothing I wouldn’t do for her.  So I make conscious choices to do or not do certain things.

Sacrifice is tough, but Jesus didn’t say it would be easy.  He also doesn’t leave it to ordinary folks.  He left the ability to those truly empowered by His Holy Spirit to do it.  And the sacrifice cannot be made grudgingly, or in a way that breaks your heart, it should be made with joy.  You are following His example.  After all, He lost community with His people by saying He was the Christ, His family thought He was nuts for saying that as well, so He lost them, and He lost His life.  Think about all that the next time you become bitter about a sacrifice you make and realize, your sacrifice isn’t really that big compared to what He sacrificed for you.

Precisely When He Means to

When you think God is taking too long or moving too fast, there’s a reason for it.

There is a quote from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Ring which states, “A wizard is never late, nor is he early. He arrives precisely when he means to. “  Ever think about that with God?  Here you are, in the deep waters of a desperate situation, needing prayers answered, not sure what you are going to do about it and then boom…He shows up, right on time.  Guess what, He planned it that way for a reason.

John 11:1-6

Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. It was that Mary who anointed the Lord with fragrant oil and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. Therefore the sisters sent to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.” When Jesus heard that, He said, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”  Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was. Then after this He said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.”
Now for those who skipped Sunday school that day, spoiler alert.  Lazarus did die, Jesus arrived four days after He’d been dead, and Jesus brought him back.  But today’s entry isn’t about that nor is it about, given Memorial Day, Jesus was willing to risk His life to go and resurrect His beloved friend.  It’s about time.
Re-read the Scripture verses from today’s reading.  If you look at the time table, Jesus showed up exactly when He intended to, but not for any other reason than to make sure people saw God, not the situation.  Jesus knew He’d be bringing Lazarus back and timed everything accordingly.  He hasn’t changed anything since that moment.
When you think God is taking too long or moving too fast, there’s a reason for it.  It’s His intent to deliberately slow you down or get you moving.  In both cases, He is the One not only setting the pace, but also giving you the strength to get through it.  He provides the means of dealing with whatever it is you are dealing with and shows up exactly when He is planning to make sure of one thing to quote the apostle Paul, For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

Just a Rental

These bodies and this world are not our permanent residence, but Jesus cares for them the same way He would if this were our permanent home.

You’ve all read that I have been blessed with a new apartment.  It’s an affordable place with two bedrooms, bi-level in a nice quiet neighborhood.  It also has a backyard which is rare in New York state for an apartment to have.  Only one drawback, it needs a paint job.  Most of the rooms are a really gross yellow.  Thankfully, my landlord is allowing me to paint it and painting I am, with the help of Catherine and my adopted parents.

John 14:2-4

In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know.”

When I imagine my mansion in heaven, it’s got one room, with a typewriter, a bed, a weight set and a coffee maker.  It also overlooks the ocean.  My mansion is not going to need a paint job, have cracks or holes in the wall or need curtains because Jesus will have already prepared it for me.

That’s what He is doing for all of us spiritually.  He’s cleaning us out out, sealing the cracks, repairing the holes and doing any other repairs in our souls that we need.  Like my new apartment some of us need a paint job, others need to be completely gutted.  This world and its views have us so twisted we really have no idea which way is up, so it requires a complete overhaul.  We just have to let Him work in us and do the work needed to be done.

I’ve been asked why I am investing so much in a place that isn’t exactly mine or some place permanent.  My answer is this, my body is a lot like my apartment, simply a rental.  These bodies and this world are not our permanent residence, but Jesus cares for them the same way He would if this were our permanent home.  He cleans them, makes repairs and prepares them for the next step in our journey with Him.  So that is what I am going to do with the place He has blessed me with here.  What’s the next step?  Heaven of course.  So whether you need a paint job, a patched hole or are move-in ready, let Him work in you so your spirit can be ready and prepared for that mansion in heaven.

 

A Measure of Success

God doesn’t measure success by what you have, the size of your wallet, how much you give to a particular ministry or the size of your bank account. He measures your success by how big of a branch you are on the vine…

Fair warning, today’s entry is going to be a hard one to swallow.  It’s coming from the apostle John’s first epistle.  Don’t get confused, it’s not the John’s Gospel, but his epistle…the epistle is further back in the Bible.

1 John 2:26-27

26 These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you. 27 But the  anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.

First, let’s give a little background on this epistle.  It was written in 85 A.D. from Ephesus and was written as a message to all believers.  John was the author of the gospel that bears his name and was an eyewitness to all Christ had done.  In addition, it is believed that at this point in time, he was the only living apostle left.

Now, why is today’s entry a hard one?  Well because it counters the prosperity gospel a lot of modern Bible teachers and programs put out there.  What is the prosperity gospel?  Have you ever heard people on television or radio saying, “If you are truly righteous, you will send us your money to keep this ministry going” or “You don’t have the things you want because your belief is not strong enough?”  Yeah, those are the messages I’m talking about; the messages that measure your faith by how successful you are according to this world’s standards.

Earlier in the epistle, and ironically enough, it was part of the message from my pastor at church this week, it mentions loving the things of this world, lust of the flesh and eyes and the pride of life.  But that’s the world’s measure of faith, not God’s.  So when you are hearing teachings in that manner, you really need to question where the person teaching you is coming from, a place of true faith or worldly faith.

Now, I will use myself as an example.  I am in no way, shape or form successful by the world’s standards.  I live paycheck to paycheck just like any other individual in this world.  I don’t have much in the way of savings, but you know what I do have, faith in the Lord to get me through each week, each day and sometimes even each minute.  I have faith in Him to teach me the lessons that I need to know to move from one stage of life to the next.  And it’s the blessings I receive through those lessons, spiritually, by which I measure how successful I am.  Sometimes I need the lessons more than once because I’m a little hard-headed, but I get the message after a bit.  So here’s the hard lesson from what I write today, there may be a teacher online or in a church that you love to hear.  What they say may make you feel good, but if they are teaching something that sounds like a prosperity gospel, you might want to make a change.  God doesn’t measure success by what you have, the size of your wallet, how much you give to a particular ministry or the size of your bank account.  He measures your success by how big of a branch you are on the vine, John 15:Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.

Ruler of this World

The more we are standing up and the more we are doing for God, the more the enemy fights against us.

Did you know the enemy rules this world?  It’s true.  Don’t believe me, just take a look at some of the negative things that are going on in this world.  Ever since Adam was disobedient to God and handed over the deed to this world to the enemy, he has ruled it.  But the enemy doesn’t rule us.  Today’s reading come from John 14 and there are two verses in it that really stuck out to me from this reading:

John 14:20, John 14:30

20 At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.

and

30 I will no longer talk much with you,for the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me.

Now please hear my heart, I am not trying to take Scripture out of context, but examining it with these two verses.  Far too many preachers try to take Scripture to suit their purposes and I work hard not to to that.  For me, both of these Scriptures are speaking on the same subject, the enemy not ruling in our lives personally.

The first part of the equation is about Jesus dwelling in us.  You see when we gave our lives to the Lord, the Holy Spirit came to dwell within us.  He now sits on the throne of our lives.  Sure we may rebel and resist what the Lord wants us to do, but we can either yield to Him or yield to the enemy, which is where the second part of the equation comes into play.

As long as the enemy is running around this world and making trouble, he’s going to try and rule our lives.  Sometimes he will make things easier to try and draw us from the Lord, giving us the things we want and getting in our head so that we no longer have the Lord on the throne of our lives.  Other times, he will make life more difficult and then show easier ways out, so that you aren’t growing in the Lord.  In either case, the second part of what hit home with me for today’s reading comes into play, specifically the last five words, “he has nothing in Me.”

The more we are standing up and the more we are doing for God, the more the enemy fights against us.  If you think you are too small for the Lord or the enemy to take notice, think again.  The more people the enemy can draw from the Lord, the happier he is.  Be cautious and wary.  When the Lord is telling you to do something, keep doing it.  Don’t let the enemy draw you away or get into your head or heart.  Remember, you have the power through the Holy Spirit, not through yourself, to fight the enemy.  And if the Lord is in you as the first part of today’s Scriptures say, then the enemy has nothing in you, as it has nothing in Him.

Alone But Not Alone

Without the Holy Spirit, we’d not feel that little pang of conviction every time we sinned. We also wouldn’t recognize sections of Scripture the Lord wants us to really examine within ourselves.

Have you ever felt alone in the world, even in a room full of people?  There could be a party going on, and yet you still feel as if you are the only one there. I know I have personally felt this way.  Now imagine being Jesus on the night of His crucifixion.  He had disciples and followers and no matter how many times He told them what they were going to do, leave Him to face trial and punishment alone, they wouldn’t believe Him.

John 16:32

Indeed the hour is coming, yes, has now come, that you will be scattered, each to his own, and will leave Me alone. And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me.

Can you say you have that level of comfort and confidence?  Do you have the ability to simply be alone?  I can honestly tell you it’s some of the most precious time you can have with Him.  You must understand, as a believer, you are never truly alone.  The Holy Spirit is with you.

Earlier in this chapter, Jesus explained to the disciples He had to die and be resurrected, otherwise the Holy Spirit couldn’t come.  Without the Holy Spirit, we’d not feel that little pang of conviction every time we sinned.  We also wouldn’t recognize sections of Scripture the Lord wants us to really examine within ourselves.

I enjoy alone time.  Time for myself where I can just be with the Lord and have full on conversations with Him.  Usually I look like a madman talking to myself, but during those times that I take to myself, really spending time with Him, where there is no one else around, I gain insight, perspective and peace about situations.  So I urge you today to take the time and be alone.  Don’t be afraid of being alone.  As the Scripture verse from today says, even though you are alone, you aren’t truly alone.  As a believer, the Father is with you.