Johanna Russell -
I am a music teacher by day. I love bringing the gift of music to the young and the young at heart alike. I am married and I am a dog mama. I am blessed to have a wonderful, supportive husband. I created this blog because I love to write but most importantly I want to share the love of Christ. I pray that this blog is encouraging, helpful and uplifting to all who read it.
In Him we find life abundant!
“HOPE” – this is not a blind wishful thinking but a looking unto a firm foundation that stands in the fiercest storms. The cornerstone Jesus can not be shaken!
“PRAISE”- A continual heart of thanksgiving. Lifting high the name above every name, Jesus! We can praise not because of how we feel, but because of who He is! Latch onto that! He is worthy! He is our hope and salvation! Praise him on the mountain top. Praise him in the valley. Praise Him in the in between.
“REMEMBER” – We are a forgetful people. So easily, we can get smothered by the storms, the trials, the weariness of this life. Remember who God is! Remember what he has done! How? Through his Word! Also look to your Christian experience…remember how the Lord has seen you through past trials, how he has shown Himself faithful. Have you forgotten His steadfast mercy and grace?
The tears come. The world is weary. The burdens are heavy and yet this is not the last word.
I heard the still small voice of the Holy Spirit say,
“The offense is not towards you. I can handle the offense. I handled the offense on the cross. Give it to me. Love them and forgive them.”
If I’m honest, it hurts deeply to hear my Shepherd mocked. Like Peter, with the sword, I sometimes want to jump in and protect!
Jesus knows this hurt on an unimaginable scale, as he suffered and died bearing the weight of every one of my sins and the sins of others because of his unending love for me and you, and what did He say,
“Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”
Yes, there is a cost to being His disciple.
He didn’t say it wouldn’t sometimes hurt. He told us, “you will have trouble in this world, but take heart I have overcome the world.”
Jesus didn’t say “protect me.”
He said, “Follow me.”
Love is the only response.
This is not a shallow, fuzzy feeling.
It is weighty.
It is exactly the opposite of what the world defines as love.
It requires deep conviction with unshakable faith.
It requires endurance and patience.
It requires truth yet bathed in compassion.
It requires unwavering courage.
It requires a denial and death of self. Yes, all self interests are put to the side.
It’s love that results in faithful obedience.
Jesus lived and loved like this perfectly.
We cannot, but as we submit to Him and allow the Lord to work in our hearts and minds, we are promised the Holy Spirit to help us.
It is only through Jesus that we are capable of this radical love.
If you think, you’re too weak for this radical love, you are the prime candidate. The Holy Spirit only gives strength to the poor in spirit.
The Holy Spirit fills us when we have emptied ourselves.
It is not about YOU!
It is ALL HIM.
When we surrender to Him, holding nothing back from His great love, God then takes our shattered lives and makes a beautiful mosaic that shines for His glory.
Jesus doesn’t want to hear, “I’ll protect you Lord.” He wants to hear, “I love you. I will follow you Lord!”
God is the One protecting us!
We can’t even protect ourselves.
Who is the keeper and protector of our hearts, souls and minds?
OUR FATHER GOD! He is our keeper! And He has promised to never forsake us.
The next time we feel the need to protect God, take a look in the mirror, there may be pride showing it’s head. We may have for a brief moment forgotten who does the keeping.
Remember it is God protecting you even from yourself.
Give Him praise and love and share this love of Jesus with someone else even the one that hurt you.
“Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.”
Thoughts on Truth and Courage. Courageously, living in truth and acting in love!
•It takes great courage to go against the current and to speak what is not popular.
•Know what you believe and why you believe it, not just because it’s popular.
•No one wants to be disliked or rejected but this should never be the reason behind ones beliefs.
•It is easy to be nice and not tell the truth, but what integrity is in that? Instead let real love guide you into speaking the truth no matter the cost. This is where real honor is found.
•You will help someone climb their mountain by your loving honesty not by your vain praise.
•It takes courage to change your mind. It takes guts to face your own ego.
•Running away and hiding from accountability is cowardly. If you are living in truth there is no need to hide.
•Truth doesn’t need to stand behind a wall of defense. Truth just is. Truth stands whether it’s defended or not. You can’t defy the law of gravity, neither can you defy truth.
“Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Ephesians 6:14-17
Are we beating the gray pavement; a neutral life? Is this why we claim the Christian name and we are left wanting?
We have been living in our comfortable neutrality.
America proclaimed the promise of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.”
Except in our prosperity we have held tightly to things that ultimately we cannot keep at the expense of our souls.
It is never about comfort in this life first, is this what we have held tightly to?
Secondly, what has it cost us?
The gospel is black and white. Not gray. We have attempted to make it gray.
Jesus said there will be a cost for following me, but dare I say that maybe we have aimed for Jesus without the cost.
Jesus said, “foxes have holes and birds have nests but the Son of man has no where to lay His head.” Matthew 8:20
Have we been focusing on the comfort of the here and now to the point of idolatry?
Are we beating the gray pavement?
Christians in America, I have this to say to you and to myself.
When we give up the gray instability being tossed to and fro by every wind, we will then be ready to move forward in the race and our joy will be made complete. We will be satisfied.
The gray road is unstable.
The gray road cares more about safety and comfort.
The gray road has a fear of man.
The gray road will just be silent.
The gray road lacks conviction and truth.
The gray road may on the outside look like it cares about others but really is self exalting and self preserving at its core. The gray road lacks courage.
I have news; it is a mirage.
We spend days, months and years walking down the gray pavement, we keep chasing a mirage. “We saw it! It must be there!” We even looked up now and again and saw the sun shining down on it as if that was a sign to keep chasing it.
How long will we beat the gray pavement chasing the mirage?
All the goodness and beauty we have, material and otherwise is given from above. If we chase anything but the Giver we will never arrive upon it. In our attempts to get just a little closer, it will always fade away. But when we aim at the Giver He only becomes more real and more lovely as we draw closer.
So stop aiming at the gray pavement.
“Aim at Heaven and you will get Earth ‘thrown in’: aim at Earth and you will get neither.”
God has brought you out of darkness and into His marvelous light. Yes black to white!
What now? Proclaim the good news!
That’s it! This is what we are called to. Walk in the light as He is in the light.
Ask the Lord to give you opportunities to share His good news! We aren’t reforming the world, we are messengers to a dying world that there is redemption and hope through the cross of Jesus. It’s not about a world being reformed, it’s about hearts being transformed. Step out of the gray and walk confidently in the Light of our Savior Jesus!
“If you be a Christian, be a Christian, and be a marked and distinct one.” Charles Spurgeon
Have you ever been given a job or something to do that you felt you just weren’t qualified for? Then you went by faith and you began to learn and grow as you walked in it.
Maybe you’ve heard, “God does not call the qualified. He qualifies the called.”
We can be sure that God always finishes what He starts.
We are presently complete in Him and yet He is continuing to complete us. God is molding and refining us.
If the LORD has adopted us as His children then we cannot be snatched from our Father’s Hand.
A child desires to please her parents, and she brings them a picture with a bunch of scribbles that can hardly be deciphered and says, “Daddy, here is my picture. I love you.” She brings all she knows and has in her possession and offers it. The father receives it with love but goes on to teach and mold the child. The scribbles then become more clear as the father trains up the child.
Like our lives, when we desire to please Him, we come to God with a big messy picture and He receives us with love but He knows and can decipher exactly what’s on the picture. As we walk with Him, He takes our hand and teaches us. As we grow, the messy picture becomes more refined; our lives start to become more clear and God helps shape our colors, lines and shadings so that we shine for Him more clearly as we move on in our Christian life.
Havergal says, “As the seasons pass on, it will seem as if there was always more and more to be done; the very fact that He is constantly showing us something more to be done in it, is proving that it is really His ground. Only let Him have the ground, no matter how poor or overgrown the soil may be.”
If you still feel like you aren’t qualified, then Praise the Lord, you are getting somewhere in your consecration.
We asked the Lord to take our life, He took it. Do we believe it? We ask the Lord to keep it and He is keeping it. Do we rest in it?
God is clearing out and digging up and as the seasons pass we will see God’s hand working in our lives all for His glory!
It is only through the cross of Jesus that we are acceptable to God. Jesus our mediator stands in the gap between our mess and a perfect God. Our offering is acceptable to God through the cleansing fountain of the cross.
When we offer it, we are cleansed and we are being cleansed.
Thank you Jesus for bringing beauty out of my shattered mess.
All things work together for good to those that love Him and are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28
This my reflections on the book, Kept for the Master ‘s Use by Frances Havergal
You might say, “all of that aiming high in the Christian life just isn’t for me. I believe. I’ve received. I do love Jesus, but I think I’ll just stay in the background for a while longer. Seems easier.”
The question is how satisfied are you really? Yes, the world has lovely blessings and pleasures that we can give God glory for. God gives us much! His mercies are new every morning!
But what is our mind really set on? What does our social interactions consist of? Our jobs? Our relationships? Are we experiencing lasting satisfaction knowing that we are walking in His strength? Or maybe we are burned out, tired, searching, wanting, and we find that any little bit of so called satisfaction is fleeting and in a moment we are parched and left dehydrated.
When I eat a well balanced, nutritional meal I feel full but I also feel satisfied and nourished, and it sustains me for a great length of time, but when I eat junk, I might feel really full for a moment, but it doesn’t take long and I’m starving, and I felt as if I had nothing to eat.
Havergal says, “Look into your own heart and you will find a copy of that inscription already traced, ‘shall thirst again.’”
She pushes further in saying this inscription only presses deeper into our hearts when we seek after anything other than Him fully and completely.
Jesus told the woman at the well, when she drank from His well, she would never thirst again. All the spinning around in a hamster wheel of disappointment ceases.
CS Lewis stated, “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
Jesus doesn’t disappoint! Give Him everything and see for yourself! There is joy unspeakable that only He can give, but you can’t taste it while you’re still playing around in the mud.
The choice is ours! We can stay playing in our tub of dirt to our oblivious glee or we can open our eyes and see the reality of the mud we are in and to our joy, find that we are standing at a cleansing fountain that will never run dry. He is ready to pour over us at the moment we trust Him with our all! I’ll say it again, Jesus doesn’t disappoint!
My reflections on “Kept for the Master’s Use” by Frances Havergal
We may come to another temptation that only leads to disappointment.
Is our “trusting” instead, really “trying”?
What I am saying is are you, in your own power “trying” and “willing” over what God has already taken and kept?
Havergal says, “We can no more trust and keep on trusting than we can do anything else of ourselves. Even in this it must be Jesus only.”
How many times do we TRY to show God how strong we are or how competent we are or how good we are doing for Him? The only reason God can look at us is because of Jesus! Thank you Jesus! You lifted me out of this mess so now I trust you to take even my fragile faith and KEEP it.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of an over zealous faith at times. Take Peter for instance, he confidently said he would never deny Jesus, and just as soon as he made his declaration, he denied Jesus 3 times. Who was Peter trusting in? It sounds like he was trusting in his own trust. He learned later a painful lesson what was required, Jesus asked Peter, “do you love me?”
So the question is what is the aim of my trusting?
I will leave it here with a quote that says it all.
Havergal says, “Not for me at all but for Jesus; not for my safety, but for His glory; not for my comfort, but for His joy; not that I may find rest, but that he may see the travail of His soul, and be satisfied. Yes for Him I want to be kept. Kept for His sake; kept for His use; kept to be His witness; kept for His joy! Kept for Him, that He May show forth some tiny sparkle of His light and beauty; kept for Him that His work in His own way; kept it may be, to suffer for aHis sake, kept for Him, that He may do what seemeth Him good with me; kept so that no other lord shall have anymore dominion over me, but that Jesus shall have all there is to have; —little enough, indeed, but not divided or diminished by any other claim. Is not this, O you who love the Lord—is not this worth living for, worth asking for, worth trusting for?
Love for Jesus is our aim. Those of us who have been crucified with Christ let us go on walking in the Spirit. He has taken the life that we have offered Him and He is keeping it.
These are my notes and thoughts from “Kept for the Master’s Use” by Frances Havergal. Her exact words are in quotations.
“For with the deepest and sweetest consciousness that He has indeed taken our lives to be His very own, the need of His active and actual keeping of them in every detail and at every moment is most fully realized.”Frances Havergal
Taking the first step is meant to be just that the first step. If we keep taking the first step again and again, it makes sense that we would be dissatisfied with our experience. We would be left wanting. Are we to not go on to maturity? If we are standing in the same place it’s logical to see that we aren’t going anywhere fast. No progress. When we have taken that first step saying “Take my life…” and we believe it and receive it, we are now placed on course, positioned and empowered by the covering of Jesus, to run the race that is set before us.
Since we cannot do anything apart from Christ, our prayer now is simply KEEP my life.
“For I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to KEEP that which I’ve committed unto Him against that day.” 2 Timothy 1:12
This is a promise we can take to the bank! If we don’t trust this promise we won’t see the fuller blessing. The experience won’t be realized. Havergal states, “For unclaimed promises are like uncashed cheques; they will keep us from bankruptcy, but not from want.”
Should experience be even considered? Some might say we are being presumptuous. What right do we have to have such great expectations?
When we have fully entrusted to God, ourselves, our circumstances, our bodies, our gifts, our money our minds; have we ever found God to be a liar? Has He not shown Himself always faithful? Instead, pull out the microscope and look deeper, we will find that it was us that was holding something back from the Lord.
“Scrutinize your past experience as you will, and it will only bear witness against your unfaithfulness, never against His absolute faithfulness.”
Let us go on to next steps, confessing what needs to be cleansed by His blood and moving into entrusting to Him more of ourselves because we know without a shadow of a doubt, He has taken us and He is keeping us.
These are my paraphrasing, and highlights from, “Kept for the Master’s Use” by Frances Havergal. Her exact words are in quotations.
“But suppose our hearts do not condemn us in this matter,(believing God really heard our heart when we came to Him)our disappointment may arise from another cause.” Frances Havergal
What is this other cause?
Havergal shows us another area where we may find a stumbling block in our moving forward in our Christian life. It might not be that you didn’t take Him at His word, but maybe you doubted He took you at your word. This serves to stir up all kinds of entanglements. The only right step now is to pull down any stronghold, destroy it by asking the Lord humbly to search our hearts to find out any hidden areas that are preventing His grace to flow freely. Find the leak Lord. The Lord is tender and gentle with us, but He is exact. It may hurt but we cannot know the fullness of joy and abundant life unless we allow the great Physician to do His work in us. So when we ask humbly to find any wicked way, don’t run away when he reveals the very thing to our conscience. He is ready to heal, are you ready to receive it?
“The heart that is not entrusted to Him for searching will not be undertaken by Him for cleansing; the life that fears to come to the light lest any deed should be reproved, can never know the blessedness and the privileges of walking in the light.”
My paraphrasing, and highlights from, “Kept for the Master’s Use” by Frances Havergal. Her exact words are in quotations.