What is Giving Our Best to God?

“Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High, and call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.” Psalm 50:14,15

In the beginning of the chapter the Psalmist describes a picture of the people of Israel making prized animal sacrifices to God(as was done in the Old Covenant), they are good but not what God really desired.

What is giving our best to God? The Israelites were concerned with giving the prized bull or venison. God says, though these things are good, do you think that this is what I need? They were caught up in thinking this is what was the best. It says “sacrifice thank offerings.” When I think of the word sacrifice, I think of giving when there seems no way to give or when it involves trust and faith. Its real easy for a millionaire to give $100 but a whole other thing to someone who just made a $100 days wages and decided to give that away. Which one seems more of the sacrifice? How about the widow’s offering in Luke 21. Jesus said this woman gave more than all the others. The others gave out of their abundance but she gave out of poverty and gave all she had to live on.
Apply this to our own thankfulness, of course always having a heart of thankfulness is the way we should be, but how easy is it to be thankful when all is great; the “sacrifice of thank offerings” comes when we give thanks when things don’t seem so good. The apostle Paul says “give thanks in ALL circumstances.” Giving this sacrificial thanks and praise requires faith and trust in God and this comes from the heart.

God doesn’t need your money or your good deeds, or your willingness to sit in the pew on Sunday morning. These are all good things but they are not what God looks at. I Samuel 16:7 says, “The Lord doesn’t look at the things human beings look at. People look at the outward appearance but the Lord looks at the heart.”
God wants us to give thanks and praise from a heart full of Jesus. Good deeds should be the result of a thankful heart, but sometimes good deeds are used as a way to get to God. There is only one way to the Father and it was a gift and his name is Jesus.

The verse continues on saying “fulfill your vows to the Most High.” The Message translation says serve High God with a feast of kept promises. This is important passage because when we genuinely care and love someone we make sure to let our yes’s be yes and no’s be no. The day we said “Lord I am yours. I turn from my ways,” we told our King I choose you and I say no to my sinful self. God honors and loves our faithfulness to keep our promises.

The last part of the verse is Gods promise to us. When His children call on Him, He will deliver in times of trouble. He will always deliver. God is saying I am not going to let you leap out and let you fall. Our sacrifices and kept promises will be honored by the most High. He will always reach out and make a way when we can’t conceivably find a way. It requires full dependence on Him. This is where He wants us to be. He delights in our willingness and faithfulness to trust Him completely. His desire is a relationship.

So go ahead and give your best to God! Give Him everything you have. He won’t let you fall! He always makes a way.

Lord, I am thankful for all you are and all you do. You sustain me. Help me to show more sacrifice in my thank offerings, so my trust in you will grow. Let my yes’s be yes and no’s be no. I seek to serve you. Lord I know that you are faithful to your children to deliver in time of trouble, you will deliver and I will honor you.

In Jesus name,
Amen

In His love,

Johanna

I am a Rock with that Special Element of Mastery!

I always thought the study of rocks seemed kind of boring, I mean, rocks, really? Even Charlie Brown was bummed when he got a rock. Remember in “The Great Pumpkin,”  when the kids went trick or treating and all the kids were excited about receiving their treats, and poor Charlie Brown was shafted, He exclaimed,”I got a rock.” Well, after doing a mini geology study, I got a little more excited about rocks. What can a little rock tell us about anything? Turns out, quite a lot. Studying rocks, seems to be simultaneously teaching us about the past to prepare for the future. Really cool, right!? It got me thinking, about how sometimes we want to bury the past, run from it, ignore it, deny it. As painful as the past is sometimes, there is lessons to be learned from it. We don’t know why some things happen, but we know that each part of our lives is preparing us for the future. When I see my life through this lens, it blows me away! There is purpose, there is meaning. So what are rocks? They are combinations of different minerals. There are many different rocks. No two rocks are the same. Each has different characteristics  that make them unique. There are three main types of rock though, Sedimentary, Igneous,  and Metamorphic. Geologists say that 75% of rocks around us are Sedimentary. They are the norm of the rocks. These rocks are soft in comparison to the others and can crumble and fall apart more easily. The igneous rocks form when hot magma cools, they become coarse, and grainy with pockets of air bubbles. When I was reading this I thought about us and our past. Some of us let our past make us soft and we crumble and fall apart, others let our past erupt in us and then when it cools, we are left hard, and coarse, with pockets of emptiness. So what about this last rock, Metamorphic? Metamorphic start out no different from the other two types, but when placed under extreme amounts of heat and pressure they don’t melt they go through a metamorphosis. They change! Are you getting excited?! I sure am. These rocks become denser and can have shiny crystals. Geologists say that metamorphic rocks hold a special element of mastery. Who is the master? I know who he is! Geologists even say they can continue to change with the right amount of heat and pressure. We are ever-changing becoming more like Christ. Every high heat, and high pressure event is changing us. Philippians 1:6 says “He who began a good work in you, will see it through to the day of completion, until the day of Jesus Christ.” The final metamorphosis.

This is reason to praise God in the midst of our trials. Are we going to be a rock that crumbles and falls or maybe becomes hard and coarse, or will we allow Jesus to refine us, to change us, to make us more like him?

These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold–though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. 1 Peter 1:7

Walking through the fire is something that has to happen if we want to come out more than a mere rock that might crumble and fall apart.

“Coming to him as a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus.” 1 Peter 2:4

I GOT A ROCK! THE LIVING ROCK! THE ROCK OF AGES!  I am a rock with that special element of mastery, his name is JESUS!

“I have learned to kiss the wave that slams me into the Rock of Ages!” Charles Spurgeon

I am Disgusted with Gossip!

Gossip happens everywhere. It happens at work, at school, among family members, and yes even in churches. Gossip is lethal, and yet so many people thrive on it and love to get some juicy details. What does God think of gossip? Well simply put, He hates it. It is an abomination to God. He hates lying. Whether gossip that is spread is in fact true; if it is causing discord among brothers, God hates it. It is to me one of the most easy traps to fall into. If you find yourself getting excited and entertained with gossip, this is the first sign that there is a deeper problem. The tongue is unruly and it can be the most destructive thing on our bodies. What comes out of our mouth is a reflection of what is in the heart and what does God look at? He looks at the heart. Our mouths are evidence of where our heart is. If we love God why would we want to do something that he hates?

In the church, it can become easy to get sucked into gossip like if we think we are doing something righteous or just being honest about our feelings, or just wanting to find out details about members in the church. We have to guard our hearts. and test our motivations. If our motivations are anything less than edifying, and giving glory to God, then we might want to reconsider saying what we want to say. If it is a selfish motivation, if it is a prideful motivation. if it is vengeful motivation, if it is simply an emotional response, watch out! Guard your heart! Out from the heart, the mouth speaks! Don’t let emotions take control of you and spew garbage. If Jesus is living in you, let him guide your heart and mind.

Christians are supposed to be showing the world that we are different because of Jesus, but if we aren’t acting any different than the world, what testimony is this.

Lord, I know how easy it is to let the tongue loose. It’s as if it’s like a wild animal. Guard my heart, so that I can speak with grace, truth and love so that you will be glorified and the power of Jesus would be known! AMEN!

Jesus Doesn’t Care About the Easter Nod.

Well here it is again…….easter eggs, peeps, chocolate bunnies, lilies, and the biggest church attendance day out of the year. Now wait, I am not being cynical. Don’t yell at me. I like bunnies, and I like painting easter eggs. Peeps are great too, especially when you let them get a little stale. I am really NOT the Easter nazi. Here me out.

What is Easter about? We know it’s  about the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, but what does this really mean? It’s about the power of the cross of Christ. It’s about restoration with the Lord. It’s about being formed into the likeness of him. It’s about Jesus paying for our sins. It’s about Jesus giving new life. It’s about Jesus living in me. It’s about the love that he poured out on the cross for me. It’s about the fact that I am no longer condemned. I am free! I am forgiven.  It’s about having unending joy through Jesus. It’s about everlasting peace, by way of the Prince of Peace. It’s about my savior, my Lord, who I serve forever. THIS IS BIG STUFF! This is EVERYTHING! Jesus doesn’t look at a holiday and say, “why thank you for observing me this one day out of the year.” The true meaning of Easter is not about a single day of the year, that we decide to put on our Sunday’s best and pay homage to this man named Jesus. The true meaning of Easter is Jesus IS alive! He’s not just alive one day a year. NO! NO! NO! When we accept his gift by way of the cross, Jesus is alive in us everyday of every moment of the year. I want to start waking up every morning shouting “HE IS RISEN!” I want every normal day to be a declaration of the Risen Savior. I want the end of my life to have one message, his name is Jesus!

So no, God doesn’t give points for the Easter nod. God looks at the heart. He wants YOU! All of YOU! Once you taste this Water of Life, you won’t want anything else. You won’t just want to give an Easter nod, you will want to live your life for Him. 

 Will you declare with me not just this Easter but every day, HE IS RISEN! This old natural life is put to death by way of the cross. Keep coming back to the cross. I AM MADE ALIVE THROUGH JESUS! 

 HAPPY EASTER!

The Longing 

I go to sleep in search for a new day that will fully satisfy. It never comes. 

I wake up, open my eyes, “Am I there yet?” I’m not there. I work hard, but the work is not enough. Comfort, convenience and money are not enough. Friends and family are a blessing, and yet it falls short.
Am I home yet? This world is not our home. I know the one who satisfies. He is our living water. He is our daily bread. He is our prince of peace. He is our shepherd. He is our king. He is our light. He is our friend.
He is Jesus our savior.

“The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing to reach the Mountain, to find the place where all the beauty came from my country, the place where I ought to have been born. Do you think it all meant nothing, all the longing? The longing for home? For indeed it now feels not like going, but like going back.” C. S. Lewis

Jesus King – His Way Right Away!

Instead of Burger King’s slogan “Your Way Right Away,”  I’ll take Jesus King – His Way Right Away!

The Way

My way is a crooked line.
His way is straight by the Vine.
My way is self serving.
His way is give to God and then to others.
Now that’s the way you get to livin’

My way, there’s no hope just dark and despair,
His way, the Son shines bright, my soul He repairs.
My way is left incomplete.
His way says it is finished, see His hands and His feet.

My way says at birth life begins.
His way says put it to death to find life in the end.
My way, good works tries to quench the thirst.
His way, its filthy rags; when Christ is not first.

“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