Went Down to the Crossroads
There is an 80’s movie called CROSSROADS starring Ralph Macchio and I loved it. This movie is loosely based around the legend of blues guitarist Robert Johnson. “According to a legend known to modern blues fans, Robert Johnson was a young black man living on a plantation in rural Mississippi. Branded with a burning desire to become a great blues musician, he was instructed to take his guitar to a crossroad near Dockery Plantation at midnight. There he was met by a large black man (the Devil) who took the guitar from Johnson and tuned it. After tuning the guitar, the Devil played a few songs and then returned it to Johnson, giving him mastery of the guitar. This, in effect, sold Johnson's soul; and in exchange Robert Johnson became able to play, sing and create the greatest blues anyone had ever heard.”
What extremes do people go to to get the one thing they think they need? If you watch the news you will see a lot of people who go to some pretty amazing extremes to get what they want. An addict will rob a pharmacy in order to get drugs. A person who loses his job will rob a bank to get money to pay the bills. An executive will steal from the common man in order to get financial gain. What we humans do to get something that will fade away, rust or squandered away is amazing.
The story of Robert Johnson should be a reminder to us, that when we stand at the crossroads of life we need to decide what we are willing to sacrifice or give to God in order for him to be glorified in our lives and in this world. Are we willing to sacrifice anything and everything in order to be followers of Jesus? As I sit here and reflect on this story of Johnson I wonder how many of us have compromised our faith in order to attain something that has little eternal value. How many of us have sacrificed our families in order to have bigger homes? How many of us have sacrificed our morals for a quick fix (whether it be for drugs, alcohol or an affair)? Or worse yet how many of us have sacrificed our relationship with God and fellowship with believers simply because we just don’t feel like putting in the effort? I pray that as we stand at the crossroads that we can willingly give all to God and allow Him to truly be our hope, our heart, and our desire.
Is My "But" Too Big?
I am not sure if I have posted this previously or not, BUT I noticed it was posted four years ago on another blog I wrote and I thought I would share it again.
Have you ever had regrets? Maybe you had a once in a lifetime opportunity like taking a trip to a new or exotic place but didn’t go. Possibly you didn’t take a job that sounded great and had potential but you didn’t take it because it involved a change that you were afraid to make. There could have been an opportunity you faced that required you to get out of your comfort zone but you just weren’t willing to give up your comfort, so you opted for the "safe route" and ended up doing nothing?
God invites us to take risks. Sometimes these risks seem uncomfortable, foolish or outrageous. I look back on some decisions I regret and I realized that my “but” got in the way; in fact my “but” was too big. I think back on the times I have said (personally and in ministry), “I would love to do ____________ BUT I don’t think it will work.” Or “I think God is calling me or the church to ____________ BUT I don’t think people will respond in a positive way.” I am guilty of being a “But” head. The reality is that sometimes I do allow my “BUT” to get in the way of what God has for my life. I believe God is not a conventional God. He is a pretty extreme God and He does whatever it takes to accomplish his will and purpose. Look at Gideon in the book of Judges. Gideon builds an army of 20,000 men and God whittles the army down to 300 men. God uses these 300 men with clashing symbols, horns and obedience to defeat the city of Jericho. How outrageous is that? Can you imagine how many “buts” Gideon may have used in his conversation with God? “LORD, I know you are mighty BUT this seems ridiculous!” That’s what I love about God; He will use us no matter the size of our “BUTS”. I believe God invites us to take risks sometimes so he can display his power and in return strengthen our faith to give him the worship, glory and honor he deserves.
So why are we paralyzed by our “BUTS”? I believe there are two reasons..
1. Fear of Failure
2. Our Love of Comfort
Why don’t we take risks in life? Because we don’t want to fail AND we don’t want to change the way things are. Security is safe and I believe too much comfort can be dangerous. Sometimes comfort makes our faith stagnant and we can fall in love with our comfort more than God’s call. I think of a recent example when I did something I wasn’t overly comfortable doing. It seems silly now but it is applicable. Some friends blessed us with a trip to Maui a few years ago. One of the things everyone wanted to do was go snorkling. We booked a trip with a company and set out. So far doesn’t sound too risky does it? O did I fail to mention I am not a good swimmer and I can kind of freak out in water sometimes? So going out in the ocean with just a wet suit, goggles and a snorkle didn’t sound as fun to me as everyone else. Thankfully the company was very helpful in helping me along on this journey. As I swam and looked at the beautiful world below the clear waters off the shore of Maui I forgot all about my fears. At one moment I even looked back and saw we were a long way from the shore. With my fears behind me I spent a good long time viewing exotic fish, sea turtles and coral. It was literally paradise underwater. Initially I could have argued and not taken the snorkling tour. I could have justified my fear and insisted on sitting on the beach while everyone else explored. That would have been comfortable and safe. But I didn’t and I am glad I took the risk. It doesn’t seem like much to some but it was huge for me. I was so glad I didn’t allow my “But” to get in the way.
Is your “But” getting in the way of taking a risk that God is inviting you to take? The truth is that if God is inviting you then there really isn’t a risk at all.
Hey Jude (Pt. 2)
Contend For the Faith
In verse three Jude gives us the purpose for writing the letter. He is writing with a heavy heart, because he initially wanted to write this as a letter of encouragement and affirmation. He wanted to edify the believers as he desired to write about the common salvation they shared. The common salvation he speaks of is the general faith they all shared. The word common is the word koinos in which we get the word koinoinia which means fellowship. Jude desired to fellowship with the believers and encourage them in their salvation to let them know they were on the right course.
Unfortunately his desire had to be placed on the back burner because of some very unfortunate events that were taking place in this fellowship. He found it necessary to urge the believers to “contend for the faith”. He was making an appeal to them to stand up against the heresies that had infiltrated their body of believers. It is believed that even as early as the mid 60’s A.D. heresies were creeping into fellowships. As we will soon see, some of those heresies were starting to surface in this group.
Jude encourages his readers to contend for their faith. The Greek word for contend is where we get our English word agonize. It means to fight, to struggle with strenuous zeal. He was urging this fellowship to be proactive in its fight against heresy. They were to actively struggle in the fight for the faith. The author was essentially telling them not to have an attitude of “We don’t want to offend anyone or cause people to leave or start any fights, so we will allow these teachings to go on and eventually they will stop.” No, Jude was urging them to stop what was going on or face the consequences.
They were encouraged to fight for the “faith”. The word faith is not just a general faith but is πίστις (Pisitis) which means a strong conviction of truth. In particular it means to have a conviction of belief respecting man’s relationship to God and divine things. These truths include…
Certain people had crept into the fellowship. These "wolves" were individuals who had infiltrated this body with false teachings and heresies. They had crept in unnoticed, the Greek word is pareisduno (par-ice-doo'-no) which means to enter in secretly or stealthily (parasites). According to Jude they were designated ahead of time for condemnation. This expression teaches that the condemnation of apostates has been determined long beforehand. These men may have crept in and taken the church by surprise however God in his sovereignty was not. They were designated before hand to be false teachers and God had taken measures to make sure these men were exposed.
MacDonald, W., & Farstad, A. (1997, c1995). Believer's Bible Commentary : Old and New Testaments (Jud 4). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
Hey Jude (Pt. 1)
The Epistle of Jude is a short letter (25 verses) written to Christians at an undisclosed location. This book seems to be written from a Jewish point of view and many have concluded that the letter was written to either solely Jewish Christians or a mixture of Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians who had an understanding of Jewish traditions. It was written around the mid-60’s A.D. by a man named Jude. We don't know much about Jude but know pretty certainly that he was the brother of James (who is believed to be the brother of Jesus). According to Matt. 13:55 & Mark 6:3 we conclude that Jude was also the brother of Jesus as well. In both passages they refer to Jude as Judas. The name Jude in the Greek is Ἰούδας (Ee oo das).
The purpose of this letter was a response to and a call to the recipients of this letter to contend for the faith as false teachers had infiltrated this body of believers.
Jude introduces himself as a servant of Jesus Christ. The word δοῦλοσ (doulos) means a bond servant or a slave. A bond servant is one who gives himself up to another’s will, it is one who is devoted to another to the disregard of one’s own interests. Jude's interests, causes and services were to Jesus Christ. He was a bond man to His savior and master and he spent his life preaching and advancing the Kingdom of Christ.
Jude's letter is written to those who are called – κλητός (Kletos) - invited by God in the proclamation of the Gospel to obtain eternal salvation in the Kingdom of Christ. Those who are divinely selected or appointed. In other words this letter is written to Christians (so his words can apply to us). I believe we fall into the category of kletos, because God has divinely appointed us to be His people. God has called us to eternal salvation and with this comes a great responsibility to walk according to His ways and share His gospel message. Jude also says the called are also the “beloved in God”. avgaphto, - agapetos - To love dearly to be well pleased, esteemed dear. Not only are we divinely appointed Christians but we are also loved dearly by the Father. We are divinely called to be followers of Christ, dearly loved by the Father and “kept” in Jesus. The word “kept” – τηρέω (tereo) means to preserve, to guard, attend carefully. In Christ we are preserved and guarded. To those who are in Christ there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God. We are kept secure by Him.
Jude concludes his greeting with "may mercy, peace and love be lavished on you."(NET)
This is a beautiful greeting. Jude is not only saying may you just know mercy, peace and love, he is saying, “may it be lavished on you” or multiplied and increased among you. It is constant, active and ever growing. May this be the kind of mercy, peace and love that we experience and show in our daily walks with Jesus.
Jeff has been in ministry for well over two decades. He currently serves as Campus Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Southside Campus in Bradenton, Florida.
Jeff Has authored an Advent Devotional (The Advent of Jesus) and a devotional on the book of James (James: Where Faith and Life Meet). Both are available on Amazon.
He is married to Carrie and they have four children, Micaiah, Gabe, Simon, and Berea.
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