“The Hour has Come!”

In John 17 we read Jesus’ prayer  in the upper room with his disciples just before being arrested, tried, tortured and crucified.

“The hour has come.” 

What was he talking about? At this moment can you imagine the power behind these words?
A major shift was about to take place.
Everything was about to change from this point onward.
The ultimate sacrifice was about to be made for our sins that would finally atone so that God would now be able to look at us and have a direct line of communication. We from this point forward have been made clean through Jesus. We are asked to believe and accept.
For hundreds of years man was trying to do better to meet God’s standard to appease God, but………….
The hour has come, the trying is over. It will never do. The hour has come. Jesus is our redeemer. The hour has come. Jesus is our savior. The hour has come. Jesus paid it all. The hour has come. I can have communion with the living God. The hour has come. I am cleansed. The hour has come. Jesus is glorified. The hour has come. God the Father is glorified. The hour has come. It is finished. The hour has come. Believe and accept the free gift.

John 17:6-8
REVELATION – Jesus came and revealed himself as the son of the living God.

MESSAGE – Jesus delivered the message from the Father. Jesus is the only way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except by me(Jesus)

THE GIFT – Out of love, He gave of himself finally as the ultimate sacrifice for our sin cleansing us so that we may have eternal life. What is eternal life? It’s not living forever on a cloud or some abstract idea beyond this life. It is sharing in joy and communion and glory with God forever! How awesome!!

What was Jesus’ purpose? To glorify the Father. To point all to God the Father.
What is our purpose? To glorify Jesus which in turn glorify’s God the Father. When we receive the message Jesus sent, this glorifies God. When we come to him and accept his free gift of eternal life, this glorifies God. When we believe, this glorifies God. Jesus’ motivation and purpose in this prayer was none other than to glorify God. He was about to be crucified, and his eyes were set on God the Father being exalted and lifted up. What is your motivation for believing? Is it because you want to escape punishment? Is it because you want to be blessed? Is it because it seems like a good moral thing to do? Did you inherit your belief from your family? It doesn’t start with you and it doesn’t end with you. It starts with God and ends with God. He is the alpha and the omega the beginning and the end. Jesus prayed, “thy will be done.”

Prayer for protection, holiness and unity among believers. John 17:10-26
We as disciples are to bring glory to Jesus! This is a testimony to the world. Jesus clearly saw these three things very important. This was his chief concern for his disciples.
Protection – Jesus warned that we would have trouble in this world. We would be persecuted and hated by the world. We would have the world, the flesh, and the devil to contend with. He is sending us into the world, the world with all the trouble and persecution, yes, but he has shielded us with his protection, we will most certainly have to endure troubles, but no one can separate us from the love of God. Jesus specifically prays for protection as we should too, for ourselves and for each other.

Holiness – Jesus prayed that the disciples would be made holy, by truth and his word which is truth. Who said he was truth? Jesus said I am “the truth”. We can only be made holy by Jesus. He gave himself up as a holy sacrifice for us to be holy. He prayed for God the Father to teach them his word. We have a need to know what Jesus said. We have a need to read the scriptures. Jesus prayed this specifically. Holiness is a lifetime goal. We should pray and seek holiness and the holiness of our fellow believers. We are being perfected each day through our journey through this life.

Unity – Jesus prayed for his disciples to be in perfect unity as the Father and Son are. We are supposed to be examples to the world of God’s glory, of Jesus’ love. If we are not one with each other, what message is this to the world? The apostle Paul dealt with this very thing in all of the churches. Jesus is not a denomination. He is the way the truth and the life. He is not a doctrine. He is a living person who died to bring you and me into shared glory with God the Father. Lets join together in unity as believers to show the world that God is love and that He is glorified. Let’s not get caught up in our differences. Lets get caught up in Jesus who binds us all together in truth and love.

Jesus prayed for you and me. John 17:20. He prayed for all that would put their trust in Him and believe. THE HOUR HAS COME! Glorify God! Thy will be done! Amen!

What Garment do You Wear?

I wear a garment of perfectionism. Why do I wear it? I know that no one is perfect. Why would I put myself through that torture? What do I believe about myself?

I am my worst judge, I put myself in the courtroom everyday, “You didn’t do this right!” “Did you see so and so do it better!” “Why can’t you add up to that!” “Get it together or they are going to find you out sooner or later!” “Do you really think you can do that!” “B+ is not good enough!” The thoughts scream at me no matter what I do. This garment does me no good. It is really a very heavy garment that weighs me down. Its extremely difficult to wear. I continue to wear it and then someone says “oh wow! You did that very well!” And the judge shuts up for just a minute, long enough for me to take another step forward, and then the judge is at it again.

The Lord had another wardrobe in mind that is lighter, and cooler. A garment that may not be the fanciest by man’s standards but is by far the richest. My wardrobe of guilt and shame and perfection and anxiety and frustration have been replaced with love, compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, and discipline. God had this wardrobe picked out for me all along and I chose another wardrobe. I have shed the old heavy garment, but I admit it still hangs in the closet. It is not gone for good, but I am working on at least keeping that door shut. He who began a good work in me will see it through until the day of completion. Philippians 1:6
Until then, I press on. It’s not what I think, it’s not what anyone thinks, it’s what God thinks. I am His and He is mine. Its not about what I can do, it’s about what He can do through me.

Thank you Lord! Put the judge in me at rest and take my garment of perfectionism and cast it into the furthest sea. Open up the blinds so that that the real me in You will be seen. Clothe me with your righteousness.

Colossians 3:12 (The Msg)
So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.

The Redemption Story in 4 part harmony

As I listen to sacred choral music of the Renaissance period and read Isaiah 52:7(see at bottom of the page), it is fitting. The music has a soaring sound as if traveling from the top of a mountain and raining down on those below. Technically speaking the bass and soprano are on the outer parts of choral voicing. It has an encompassing, surrounding effect. The frequency that these voices create in and of themselves serve that purpose. The basses lay a firm foundation while the lofty sopranos have a lifting effect. They both surround the tenor and alto filling out the chord and complimenting. Music can make its most dramatic and full effect when its all working together. Random sounds and chaos don’t create a very nice sound.

This is how I hear it……..

The basses sing, “How lovely is our Savior that entered mankind walking the lowly path. How blessed are the feet of Jesus that walked in our place.

He brought good news when up to that point the news was tragic. Jesus died in our place laying the foundation but the story doesn’t end there.

The sopranos sing, “HE IS RISEN! HE REIGNS! This is the good news of salvation!”

The basses sing, Jesus’ sacrifice is our firm foundation!”  

The sopranos declare,  “His resurection is our hope and salvation.”

The alto and tenors sing, “Let us receive this blessed gift! He surround us, and we will follow His lead.”

What a glorious sound when we all together sing:

The bass, soprano, alto and tenor sing, We are His hands and feet bringing good news to a tragic world. How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news! OUR GOD REIGNS! OUR GOD REIGNS! FOREVER HE REIGNS!”

“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!” Isaiah 52:7

Who Knows? He Knows!

I know what it feels like to get cut out of communion and communication based on standing firm on what you believe in. I also know the pain it causes because of the love I have for the other person. Grief. Suffering. Hurt. I know the temptation to lash out at the other person for being rejected. I know the temptation to give up on the one who has rejected me.

In Hebrews 4:15 it states, “We do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weakness, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.”

Jesus, our King,  knows first hand what this feels like and his response looks like this: He LOVES. He is rejected. He LOVES. He is mocked. He LOVES. He is cast out. He LOVES. He is scorned. He LOVES. He was beaten. He LOVES. He bled. He LOVES. He was killed. HE LOVES. HE LOVES. HE LOVES. He rose above all of that literally! He is alive! He is risen! We can rise above it too, through the power of Jesus. We are conquerers! Love conquers all and God is love. He is the beginning and the end. What is the answer? Jesus is the answer! He knows my weakness and sympathizes with me. He says, “Johanna, I know how you feel. Rest in me. Take heart daughter. I have overcome all of this. Come unto me, my burden is light. Trust me.”

2 Corinthians 1:5 -“For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.”

It’s a comfort beyond anything I know to have a savior who knows how I feel and now I know a taste of what he felt when I shut him out. He loved me. He didn’t lash out at me. He loved me. He didn’t give up on me. HE LOVES ME! Thank you Jesus!

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” John 15:12

A Pebble that Shines for Him

Do you ever feel like God is not there? Does his presense sometimes seem far away? I have felt this at times. One time in particular, I was feeling depressed. I continued to pray and read the scriptures, but I was getting these thoughts like “There is no God listening to you.” I knew this was not the case, but the feelings of being alone still were there. “Where are you God?” “Why can’t I feel your presence?” Notice one common word, “feel”, “felt”, “feelings”. I knew I couldn’t put my faith in my feelings.
I stumbled on Romans 11 where the apostle Paul tells of the branches being grafted into the tree. I read “The Message” translation and one verse stood out that said, “You do not uphold the root, the ROOT upholds you.” I thought about how it’s not what I do or how I feel that makes me a Christian instead it’s what Christ has done in me and is continuing to do in me and in all circumstances.
I went out to go walk on the bayou in our neighborhood that we recently moved into. My neighbor kept telling me I should go see it. I kept putting it off, but I finally went out and did it. As I was walking down the pebble paved walkway, I began to look ahead and in the pebbles some of them were glistening beautifully and some even brighter. My eyes gravitated towards the shinning pebbles. It was beautiful! As I kept walking, I crossed under a tree; the pebbles stopped glistening. The thought at that moment occurred to me that it was not the pebbles themselves that were glistening but the bigger LIGHT above shinning on the pebbles reflecting that bigger LIGHT. God was saying, “I am here! I have always been here! I am upholiding you!” God will never leave us or forsake us. Even when we have crossed under a cloud, He is still there. We can’t put faith in a feeling. Feelings are feelings and that is all. Let the truth of Jesus govern above all else. Let Him shine and radiate through your life.

Romans 1:20 For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.

At the brink of disaster, He grabbed me!

Here I am an empty vessel. I thirst, I hunger, my longings never cease. I want and I need. Its a constant crave cycle. I need to be filled up, emptiness will never do. Oh, I try to fill it up with nostalgia, with family, and fun, approval, even going to church. These things I know will never fully satisfy. My trust can’t be put in anyone of these single things. These things are all good, but they won’t leave me fully satisfied. This I know to be true with my entire being, because I have tasted the Water of Life; it wasn’t by my own might or power. I did nothing, accept dive into His arms – spirit to Spirit. When I knew I had no hope and I was at the brink of disaster, I didn’t stop and analyze the statistics and weigh my options. I had no other option. I knew this to be true; spirit to Spirit. I jumped. In mid air I went from death to life. He caught me and made me fully alive. I am filled up spirit into His Spirit. I am His and He is mine, not by might not by power but by His Spirit! This old nature is still to be wrestled with, and until I reach glory, I have to jump into His arms daily spirt into His Spirit!

Make me spiritually alive. Fill me up dear Savior!
Amen!

Stranger or Lord?

The setting – Three days had passed. Jesus had just been crucified. Two men were on the road to a village called Emmaus. The story unfolds in Luke 24:13-35

On the road to Emmaus, the men were grieved. They were reasoning and conversing when Jesus drew near to them. Jesus draws near in suffering and sadness and searching, but in this grief they couldn’t recognize him. Jesus was a stranger to them. We often are clouded by our own feelings. As a result, we cannot see the reality and truth.

The stranger asked “What are you discussing?” They explained, are you the only one who doesn’t know these things that have happened; the tragedy, the grief? He answers “What things?” Jesus presents the questions so they can talk it out and search it out and be responsible for what they believe. Where is our perspective? Are we focused on the feeling and clouded by a feeling? It might be the very thing keeping us from seeing Jesus.

They explained all the events that had transpired over the past 3 days. They explained that Jesus was a prophet and that they had hoped that he would be the One but he was betrayed captured and crucified, and now they are saying there is an empty tomb but Where is Jesus? Suffering and sacrifice was not in their plan of how it was all suppoesed to happen.
The stanger said, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Don’t you see the Messaiah had to suffer and only then enter into his glory?” The stranger began to show them everything in scripture.
Jesus was standing in flesh and blood and yet they didn’t even know and recognize him as he was walking and talking with them. This is a clear indication that you can know a lot about Jesus and think you know him but if you don’t acknowledge the cross and our need and own brokenness we won’t be able to see Jesus.
Our foolishness comes out when we trust our own ways and not His. “Trust the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”

The men pressed the stranger to stay and have dinner with them. They felt a pressing need for him. And so the stranger stayed. He sat at the table. “Taking the bread, he blessed and broke and gave it to them.” The two men immediately recognized him! Its Jesus! They were able to then place correctly the feelings that they had.
That great need they felt drew Jesus in and when he broke bread as a symbol of his body being broken for us they saw Jesus!
We recognize Jesus at the cross. There is no other way to see him. His body was broken for us because of our sinfulness. We must be crucified with him. Our old self must be put to death so that Jesus can live in us and through us.

Where are you on the raod? What mile are you on?

Are you in deep grief? Are you asking questions?  Are you confused? Do you see the empty tomb but you don’t see Jesus? Do you feel the need for Jesus? Have you broken bread with Jesus? Have you been to the foot of the cross? Have you been crucified with Christ? Is you heart burning as you search and seek?

Bad? Me? Naah. 

Compared to him, I’m a saint. Compared to her, I really have it together. What about all the good I’ve done, doesn’t that count for something?

The Bible says, “there is no one good, no not one”

Do we really believe this? I have a hard time believing it sometimes. Proverbs 21:2 says, “man’s ways are right in his own eyes, but God looks at the heart.” I want to only look at the good or find the good within myself. It’s a weights and balances right? I’m not all that bad. The good outweighs the bad right? The truth is God doesn’t operate this way. He doesn’t keep points on our goodness. He also doesn’t keep points on the badness. We have all missed the mark. None of us could do enough good to meet God’s standard. We are all sinful in need of redemption. Jesus is our redeemer. All he asks is for us to accept the gift of salvation offered through his grace.

What would ever posses us to not accept this amazing free gift?! Idols. Idol of pride. Idol of power. Idol of control. Idol of success. Idol of money. Idol of approval. We have to lose the idols and admit our nothingness and our need before the free gift seems of any value to us. Some people claim they have received the free gift but I think maybe they are carrying around a gift card that needs to be cashed in. They are carrying around the gift card as an option but they are still holding on to the precious idols. They like having the “Jesus gift card” with them, but they aren’t fully convinced of its real value.

Oh dear Lord help those that are struggling with being a “card holding Christian.” Help them cash that card in. Go all in, holding nothing back. Give up the idols. They will do nothing but devour you inch by inch and rob you blind of all the eternal riches, fullness, and joy that only comes through Jesus.   Don’t let your idols be your demise.

Lord help me to seek you and you alone casting all else aside that would hinder the work of your Spirit.

CS Lewis said,

When a man is getting better he understands more and more clearly the evil that is still left in him. When a man is getting worse he understands his own badness less and less.

My Soul Cries Out, “At Last I’m Whole!”

My soul cries out
lack of self,
redeem myself.
It cries again,
heal this pain
just love to gain.
And still again
full of wonder
as strong as thunder.
And once again
take my heart
a brand new start.
Release my soul
that I may fly.
Let not thy wonder
pass me by.
Much to gain
and naught to lose.
My self desires
I bid goodbye.
My soul sings out
a brand new story;
full of love, full of joy.
It sings again
with not a word
yet still is heard.
And still again
I can feel.
I know He’s real.
At last I’m whole
just ask my soul.

Original poem by Johanna Russell

God’s Dwelling Place

1 Kings 9:3 I have heard the prayer and plea you have made before me; I have consecrated this temple, which you have built, by putting my name there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there.

Describe the kind of home you would like to be for Him:

Pure / Clean
Full of love
Sweet fragrance
Giving / full of gifts to give
Clutter free – get rid of distractions
colorful / personality showing Jesus
Always welcoming / hospitable / open door / House of service
Bright / Shining His light
thoughtful / organized….everything in its proper place
Stress free / anxiety free 

Lord, I pray today that you would wash this house, deep clean my soul. Fill me with love and sprinkle Your sweet fragrance so that all would sense your Spirit. Lord, I give all that I have. Let this house be your house of gifts, providing blessings to all those around me. De-clutter this dwelling so that there is less of me and more room for you. Color the walls of this house. Let the personality and gifts that you have given me sparkle for you. Let me be an open door to your Spirit, welcoming Jesus, treating all those around with heart of service. May this house shine with the brightest light of Your Son, so that in whatever darkness may come, this Light will never be extinguished. Father God, renew my mind and organize my thoughts. Put them all in their proper place. May I always put you at the front. I will serve you always in this house. I know that you will supply my needs. There is no need for stress or anxiety when you rule in this house. Thank you for being owner of this house. Praise the Lord now and forever!
In Jesus name,
AMEN