Whatever is True

One of my favorite verses in scripture is “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things” Philippians 4:8. I admit I would think of this verse with warm feelings, maybe even a bit shallow. I would think of this wonderful paradise a sort of utopia or even comparable to that feeling on Christmas morning. As I have been reading and studying it other ideas began to pop out at me–a very different idea than I have had in the past.

The first virtue that the apostle Paul states was “whatever is true.” This got my wheels turning. Is truth easy to think about? Does it even maybe give us pain at times? When Isaiah saw the truth of God in all His holiness, He began to see the reality of His sinfulness. He said “Woe is me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” Isaiah was clearly in anguish over this revelation. He had been exposed. I don’t know about you, but I have encountered times in my life that I had to face the truth about something and it was painful and even sometimes traumatizing. This sort of puts a damper on the warm fuzzy feeling.

Can we really think genuinely of what is noble and right and pure, lovely and admirable if we don’t first come to know what is true? Truth is what gives reality meaning. If we don’t first define truth, we are left defining all the latter attributes by what standard? Without truth, you will have a false security in everything. I understand that the only way to genuine righteousness, genuine purity, genuine nobility, genuine compassion, genuine love, and genuine forgiveness is when I understand the very truth of my own brokenness. When we cross this threshold from death to self and walk into true life eternal within the person of Jesus, we will find the absolute blessed freedom that we longed for. He does not fail. He will not fail.

In His love,

Johanna

My Identity 

I come to the Father through the cross of Christ.

I will not be oppressed by my weaknesses and strength.

I will not be knocked down by the power of sin and death.

I boldly stand as the person I was made to be.

I am looking unto Jesus who is alive in me.

In His love,

Johanna

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 fellowship 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 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

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.