That Old Feeling?

I am a sucker for nostalgia. Even when I was a teenager, I was always after that feeling. It’s safe to say I might be one of the biggest Christmas fanatics. I love the smells, the decorating, the family and friend time, the music. When I was younger I would listen to Christmas music in the summer and I put up a little Christmas tree up in my room in September. So now that I have aired out my neuroses, I’ll get to my point. There are other ways in which we try to chase after a feeling, maybe it was a time in our life that we look back at fondly, or maybe it’s our childhood, or when we lived in another city or country. The funny thing is, that if we go back to the year or the place or the season that we are chasing after, we would not find what we are looking for. CS Lewis called it “longing” He suggested that if we trust in these things they will only disappoint.

“The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located
will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them,and what came through them was longing.
These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we
really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols,breaking the hearts of their worshippers.
For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.”

I have been thinking on the scripture, 2 Corinthians 4:16 “Though our bodies are dying, our spirit is being renewed day by day.” The fact is our bodies are dying, each day we get a little older, another year will have gone by, another decade, we can’t stop time here on earth no matter how hard we try, we can’t turn back time. That old feeling we chase after wouldn’t even be there even if we got there.  It’s a waste of energy and time.  Some might think it morbid to think of  this life as dying away, but it’s foolish to deny it and live as if we will live forever on this earth. Instead, replace it with renewing the inner man. Our bodies will perish, but our spirit will live forever. Renew the inner man, by spiritually feeding  with daily prayer asking the Lord to renew us and Bible reading, also being with other fellow believers to help us, and encourage us, and serving the Lord in our day-to-day life.

We have new things to look forward to  in each stage of our lives here. New doors will open. New opportunities. We don’t need to chase after our youth or some old feeling, what the Lord has for us today is much better. Living for Him each day will bring the most satisfaction. What we really desire is Him, and he can’t be replaced by anything else.

Lord help me to keep my time here on this earth in perspective. Help me to use my time to give you glory.

In Jesus name,

AMEN!

Do You Really Love the Lord?

When asked what is the greatest commandment, Jesus responded, “Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, and mind.”

This kind of love is not mistakable, this kind of love is not confused, this kind of love is not half-hearted, this kind of love involves all three components, heart, soul and mind; not just one of these. This kind of love is not ashamed, this kind of love is sacrificial, this kind of love is only found through Jesus, God in flesh. He makes it possible to love like this, when we genuinely seek Him.

When you really love with your heart, soul, and mind, you want to please Him. On the contrary when you grieve Him by disobeying, or getting out of step with Him, this would grieve you if you indeed loved Him. If you feel no grief in sin or aren’t affected by it, then the question must be pondered, do I really love Him if I am ok with grieving Him. I think we can honestly answer with a resounding No!

There are extremes that we need to beware of, the true genuine love for the Lord Jesus is neither legalistic or a free license. There is freedom in boundaries. God gave us boundaries, because he knows what is the absolute best for us. Don’t you think your creator knows you best?

We needn’t be so obsessed with our sins or past sins that we are tortured by them, this would not be living in freedom but oppression, but this does not mean that we swing all the way to the other side and care less about our sins, and we just do as we please since “God is gracious.”  Grace is not a license to sin. Both extremes are dangerous. There is a godly kind of balance, we want to stay within the boundaries that God set for us, because we love him and trust that he knows what’s best for us. On the flip side, when we go our own way and then face the consequence of stepping out on our own, we should feel the pain and grief for a time over our disobedience. It should initially grieve us, but then we  confess it and move forward not allowing ourselves to be condemned by it.

In the Bible the apostle Paul tells us “examine ourselves to see whether you are in the faith. Test Yourselves.” In the Psalms, “Search me, God and know my heart; test me..” Clearly we need to be concerned with sin, if we truly love Him who loved us first and died for us. Jesus, God in flesh, loved us so much, he sacrificed his life on the cross to make us in right standing with Holy God. Our fate was doomed before Jesus. Mankind’s sin kept us from having a direct relationship with Him, but because of Jesus work on the cross we can know God and have a living, real communion with our creator.

The closer we walk with God the more sensitive we are when we get out of step with Him.

The gospel is just this – God is a holy God, a perfect and righteous God. I am not. At the end of my life I will have to stand before a just and holy God, and I will be judged.  God became flesh, Jesus, to set straight the balances, something we could not do ourselves. Our good works could never be enough. If being good was good enough, why did Jesus even die on the cross?  Jesus, being perfectly sinless became the sacrifice for our sins and our redeeming grace so that when I stand before God one day he will let me in. We just have to genuinely accept this free gift and surrender to Him with our heart, soul and mind. We can reverse our eternal fate without God to living in his presence forever when we love and  trust him completely.  It is only then that we can have a loving relationship with our creator and when we behold him face to face at the end of this road, it will be a joyous meeting.

Will you love him with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind?

 

Know the Power of Forgiveness

God is a forgiver. I am so thankful he is a merciful God. In Psalm 51 the Psalmist is crying out to God continually over his sin. You can hear the sorrow in this Psalm. He knows the depth of his sin.

In the pulpits, everywhere, there is much talk about God’s forgiveness, and though this is true, we can not know the power and depth of that forgiveness and how that applies to us until we know the depth of our sin. This is nothing new, but it is something that we should never tire hearing. The reality of forgiveness comes with the reality of sin. There is no forgiveness if we know of nothing to be forgiven for. God delights in truth in our inward being, and that truth is we are unclean without Jesus. Rejoice in our brokenness because we know that life and forgiveness comes when we lay it down. Stare down sin, so you can know forgiveness in all of its power. Don’t dismiss the sin and jump to forgiveness; that would be a grave mistake. Stare it down, realize it, know it, see all the ugliness of it. Then and only then can we know the real blessing and joy of forgiveness. It will mean so much more. It will resonate to the inner being.

Every sacrifice that is made is worthless if we don’t first bring the sacrifice of a broken spirit. You can sacrifice your time, your money, your resources, your talents and gifts; it means nothing to God if a broken spirit does not precede it.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit for they shall see God!”

The vast ocean of forgiveness is given to us, but we won’t realize it or see it’s wonder working power until we stop ignoring the mountain of sin that stands between us and God.

“Create in me a clean heart, Oh God. And renew a right spirit within me.”

 

 

 

Fact – Christians Mess Up!

How many times do you hear people judging the Christian faith based on the way Christians act? I admit, I get really discouraged sometimes when I see Christians act in an un-Chrsit-like way and it is very easy to fall into the trap of judging the whole of Christianity based on Christians and then I am reminded that I am also at fault for not meeting that standard. Have I not messed up too? None of us can meet that standard and this is what makes Christianity different than other religions. Other religions are based on works; what I do determines my identity.

Christianity is different, our identity is not based on what we do or didn’t do.  If there is no grace then we are all doomed. Christians mess up. Christians are not perfect. Christians are no better than anyone else. The only one who is perfect, holy and righteous is Jesus, and it’s only through him that Christianity is defined, not through the actions of other Christians. If we had to live on a merit system, I would give up. If Christianity was based on what I did or am going to do, well I’d just throw in the towel on the whole thing. I could never hope to meet that standard.

So what do we really want? Are we judging Christians? Are we saying well if that person is a Christian why did she do that, or why did she say that? That’s not very Christian? Do we expect Christians to be perfect? If this is how we are viewing Christians then we need to turn around and look at ourselves and measure ourselves by the same manner? This is where it gets uncomfortable. We like mercy and grace when it’s coming our way but we don’t give it out so easy. I would venture to say that everyone would like to not be judged entirely on what they have said or done. I know I don’t. I have said and done some really stupid stuff. I want grace. I want mercy. That’s exactly what Christianity offers, if offers grace and mercy when I don’t deserve it. It offers the slate being wiped clean. Instead of God seeing all my mess ups, He sees Jesus right in the middle who took my place as the condemned. Instead of me on trial. Jesus went on trial on the cross. All I am asked to do is accept that free gift of exoneration. I don’t have to carry those chains anymore.

All around us we see  broken people. I am one of those. Churches are full of the sick, full of the broken. If we are looking for Christians to have it all together then we will be sorely disappointed. If your faith is based on how Christians act then you won’t be a Christian long. If you are waiting for the Christian church to be perfect, you will be waiting forever.

Simple Solution – Take your eyes off of the way Christians act as the representative of all Christianity and put your eyes on Jesus instead. He is the only reason and representative. If we take our eyes from him, we are going down a slippery slope. What sustains your faith? Is your faith built on sand or on the ROCK?

It’s only through the cross of Christ that we can have hope and for that I am eternally thankful!

The Righteous Will Stand

When I was a toddler, I recited Psalm 1 to my Sunday School teacher. I could barely talk but I was able to memorize the words by watching my dad’s mouth when he preached. I didn’t understand what I said at the time, but that scripture has resonated with me all my life. It was a seed planted that truly has grown.

I am making an effort to go through the Psalms and praying through them. I was delighted of course to start with the familiar Psalm 1. Even though I know this scripture so well, I still get refreshed by it every time.

In todays culture the line is getting blurred more and more as to what is righteous and what is sinful. If you read through Psalm 1 how can you be confused?

The righteous WILL stand. No matter what, this is a promise. The righteous WILL overcome. This doesn’t mean we won’t go through rough seasons and suffering, but in the final analysis the righteous WILL stand.  Prospering doesn’t necessarily mean our health and wealth but something much greater than that. We have God on our side, so who could be against us. It’s all being worked out for His good. No power can defeat us ultimately even when by the world’s standards sometimes it might seem like we are being defeated. There is a bigger plan and God has it under control. His ways are higher than our ways. Lean not to your own understanding, but instead acknowledge Him and his ways. When we do this our thinking becomes much clearer.

So who is righteous?

  • Doesn’t walk with the wicked. We are to be set apart from the worlds ways. Seek after holiness.
  • Delights in the law of the Lord day and night. Christ is our first love.
  • Bears fruit. Our lives should be bearing fruit for the world to see that we are different so in turn God can be glorified.

Footnote – Its our righteousness through Jesus that is our firm foundation not on our own merit. Our good doing apart from Christ is not good enough.

In contrast who is the wicked? They will be none of the things above and the Psalmist describes the wicked like this;  they are driven away by the wind and they will ultimately perish. There is no firm foundation in anything they say or do, they do whatever the wind drives them to do at the time. We all know that winds come and they go. There is no stability and when there is no firm foundation when the wind comes the house falls down.

In our nation we elect leaders in public office, we are either going to elect  leaders with a firm foundation or those that get driven by the winds. Depending on who we elect will depend on whether our nation falls when the winds come or stands strong no matter what comes our way. We can’t elect the right leaders though unless the people who are doing the voting, seek righteousness. It really does start with you and me, the people.

Lord, help me to walk in your ways and not to stumble.  You are my delight. Keep the fire burning day and night. Help me to bear the fruit of your Son Jesus so that all that I come in contact with will see you. In everything I do may I prosper for your name’s sake.

In Jesus name

AMEN

Love? Good? Define.

In Romans 12:1 the apostle Paul says, “Let love be genuine, abhor what is evil, hold fast to what is good.”

With the redefinition of words, we can’t be too careful to examine love and goodness, and whether or not we are seeing it by the biblical definition or the worldly definition. These are polar opposites but one is cleverly disguised and can be very appealing and tempting. If we don’t know what good is, how can we know what love is?

Isaiah the prophet warned, “woe to them that call evil good, and good evil. Even thousands of years ago people were trying to redefine what is good. So this has been an age-old problem. Satan’s cunning way to deceive us is to get us to believe that evil is not actually evil but instead good. The world has been painting a picture with the redefinition of marriage and if you aren’t on your guard and rooted in scripture you will be second guessing the truth about marriage. You will be painted a hater, a bigot, and the pressure could possibly get you to back down and give in. No one wants to be the bad guy, but the true Christian that stands up for scripture and Jesus will make you feel like the bad guy sometimes. If we aren’t careful, that feeling will make us think I am not loving or I am not good. It’s a lie from the pit of hell. The enemy wants to steer you far from the real meaning of love and goodness. He is clever, slick, and if you think you aren’t capable of being deceived, beware he already has you deceived by your own self-righteousness. We are all capable of being deceived. The only way to prevent this is to stay sober-minded, guarding our hearts with the truth of scripture and prayer.

Revenge can also look like “good.” In the movies, don’t we love to see the bad guy get beat, hit, and killed. It is not as popular to see  the good guy stand strong, set boundaries yes, but act mercifully and forgive. It is just not as satisfying is it? When that man opened fire in a Methodist church recently, the world was shocked at the response of the families to the killer. They were grieving, hurt, and I am sure angry, but they didn’t repay evil for evil, they chose to forgive and show mercy. This is not natural and it is only done by obeying what scripture says and going against your feelings. I am quite sure that they had feelings that were not as honorable. It would be easy to get a shot-gun, go hunt the guy down and kill him and then say loudly, this was good! He deserved it! I am a hero! It is a feeling that will not satisfy and will leave us empty. What is good? Not repaying evil for evil.

Goodness and fairness are not one in the same. This is a lie. Don’t be deceived by this. Goodness is not equality. We sure do hear a lot about equal rights. Philippians 2:6 says, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself by taking the form of a servant being born in the likeness of men.” Almighty God humbled himself becoming one of us, he came not with crowns and material riches, but as a lowly servant. This is not popular by the world’s standards. The world says get what you deserve, this is good. You deserve it.

The biggest redefinition of good is when we stand before God after this life and He says, depart from me I never knew you.” …….But God, I went to church every week, I gave to the poor, I loved my family, I took communion, I was baptized, I WAS GOOD! Being good doesn’t get you into heaven. Jesus, who is perfectly righteous and good is our only way to heaven. If we try to get to heaven on our definition of good, it won’t work. 

Everything good comes from God. Jesus is the ultimate definition of good. We can choose to do a lot of good things but that alone doesn’t define goodness. All the good acts will mean nothing when we stand before God without Jesus. Don’t try to measure goodness without Jesus because it will never add up. The fact that we can even do anything good is through the grace of God. We need to be reminded of this truth.  Lets not get confused with the definition of love and goodness. When we view goodness as only coming down from the Father above, we are also seeing genuine love. Genuine love is in Jesus. It is not a feeling. Don’t be deceived and ruled by your feelings. You will come up empty every time.

I Skipped Over Kindness

Kindness is oh so easy when people are kind to you but when they are against you, the very last natural thing to feel is kindness. Yesterday I had an incident that tested me on this. I implemented some new policies in my music studio and i had a parent protest. She threatened to maybe quit lessons. I tell you my first response was anxiety and defense. I had been preparing for a revolt. After a few professional  email exchanges I thought to myself, “I am being reasonable. Why can’t she get that?” Later that night, I was in bed doing some reading and I realized I had skipped “kindness” in the fruit of the Spirit blogs. I thought, “Lord are you telling me what I think you are telling me? This lady needs kindness?! But Lord……….she doesn’t value me, she is taking advantage of me. I can’t!

Then I thought about the fact that Jesus still set boundaries. Kindness doesn’t mean that you don’t stand firm or let people run you over. In Matthew 10 Jesus told the disciples go and preach and if they hear you, stay and if they don’t, leave. Jesus was saying we can’t control anyone’s response. We just have to send the message. The message is kind, it is looking for the person’s best interest. The gospel message is kind but it is also offensive. It inconveniences our selfish life.

My policy that I put into place was for the benefit of my students to get the very best from me as a teacher. I can’t control her response. I have to let it go. If she won’t listen and hear, I have to shake the dust off my feet and leave in peace. This is kindness. Trying to prove myself or defend myself is stirring up more strife and that wouldn’t be kind. Being gentle yet firm and respectful in my responses is kind. Letting go and not feeling resentful is kind. Letting her make her own decision and not manipulating her is kind.

Jesus loves us so much, He died for us. Jesus doesn’t force us to come to him. This is kindness, even though we miss out on the eternal benefits when we walk away from Jesus. It is still kindness when we allow others to make their own decisions. God didn’t create robots. He wants us to come to him willingly.

So in short, Jesus set boundaries. Jesus was kind in setting those boundaries. It’s not just good enough to set a boundary, we need to do it with kindness. Don’t skip over kindness.

Gentleness and Goodness Exam

Gentleness.

What do you picture when you think of gentleness? I think of words like, delicate, meek, humility. What’s the opposite of gentle? Careless, reckless, prideful, harsh. Gentleness is definitely a Christian characteristic. If you are a Christian, how does this fruit of the spirit fit into your daily life? Are you doing a good job of representing Jesus by being gentle?  Is there a sense of calm and humility that you show towards God and to others? Are you worried about equality or are you like Jesus, coming as a servant?

Goodness.

When I am sick, God is good. When I am well, God is good. When I am rich, God is good. When I am poor, God is good When I am alone, God is good. When I am not alone, God is good. When I am happy, God is good. When I am sad, God is good. I could name a million circumstances and feelings and God will always be good. God will always be perfectly righteous and holy making everything right no matter what my circumstance or feeling. “God works all things together for good of those who love him, to him that are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

Feelings and circumstances come and go, but God is always good. I rejoice in this because in this upside down, fleeting world with so many changes, I can rest in knowing that God is the same yesterday today and forever.  There could be nothing good without Him. He is the creator of everything good. Every good gift is from the Father above. Goodness displayed in us would be  wanting what is right, honorable, and true, for God and others. Goodness can be demonstrated in all kinds of ways, but it always is up-right, true and honorable. Does your life show the goodness that comes through God alone?

We need Jesus everyday to display gentleness and goodness. It’s easy to fall into wanting our rights, equality first above everything else. Seek Jesus and when you do ask him for more of his gentleness and goodness so that more people would see Jesus and come to repentance.

Jesus, Give me more gentleness and goodness.

Spiritual Exam – Patience 

I’m sorry I haven’t posted a blog in a while. I’m running these summer band camps and it’s been real busy. I hope you will be patient with me. I intend to get back to writing. Speaking of patience, patience was next on the fruits of the spirit. The last blog, I started a spiritual examination based on the fruits of the spirit. We looked at love, joy, and peace. Let’s look at patience.

We live in a culture where we don’t need to practice much patience. We have so much convenience right at our fingertips that this age we live, l’m afraid, is losing a grip on how to have patience. We hardly have to wait for anything and when we do have to wait we are so frustrated that we have to wait. The other day I was at the post office and I got in the line that was out the door and I began to feel my skin crawl. I hadn’t even stood there 30 seconds, when the lady behind the counter saved me from a panic attack. She said, “if all you need is a stamp you can use the self serve machine using your credit card.” Awesome! I now only had to wait behind one person instead of 10. I can make it. We just don’t like to wait. Our very human nature wants everything now! Patience is not an automatic response, I think it’s a learned discipline. We have to practice it.

In Romans 12:12 the apostle Paul reminds us that we should “rejoice in hope, BE PATIENT in tribulation and be consistent in prayer.” This is how we should treat every circumstance. I didn’t say it was easy, but we can make a choice to grumble or rejoice no matter what.

I’ll be back writing soon. Be patient. 😉

Johanna

Spiritual Exam Part 1

Its the end of the school year and students all around are taking their exams. Exams are good and healthy. We do them in school, we do them for our bodies. There are all kinds of ways we do examinations. How much more should we examine our spiritual lives?

Sometimes in our Christian witness we don’t need to say anything at all. How we live can sometimes speak louder than words. This does not mean that we shouldn’t make every effort to speak of Jesus when given the opportunity, yes we are commanded to preach the gospel of Jesus unashamed. I want to examine Christian character lived out in and through our lives. The Bible speaks of many qualities that a Christian should bear. How about the fruits of the spirit? Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23) I think it’s a good idea to examine our lives and see how we are fairing in our own actions. Which of these do we feel stronger in? More importantly where do we have the biggest weakness? Where are we lacking or missing the mark? From time to time each of these qualities are put to the test. I am going to do a few blogs examining what Christian character looks like. I hope you will go along with me on this exam and feel free to share your own experiences. We are in this together.

LOVE

The apostle Paul listed love first and rightly placed because we can’t really have any of the other qualities without first being rooted and grounded in love. Love is easy when the other person is being lovable but NOT so easy when the person is the contrary. Where the confusion starts is how we define love. If love to me is a warm feeling, then I am going to have a REAL hard time showing love to someone being difficult or hateful, but if love means acting out in the persons best interest above mine, then that is real love and the definition of love becomes a choice not a feeling. Does love mean being sweet all the time? Does love mean giving hugs? Love can include those things but those things don’t always mean love. Sometimes loving someone means telling them the truth about something that might initially hurt but you know it’s the right thing to tell them. Love is honest and respects the other person. Can you love someone and be angry with them? Yes. Anger is a feeling. I can still feel that but not allow the anger to make me act in an unloving manner. Jesus was the perfect example of real love. He was gracious. He told the truth. He got angry sometimes with unrighteousness. He put others needs above his own. He wasn’t interested in pleasing himself. He came to give of himself for us. He gave of himself in every way and finally sacrificed himself for us. This is real love. How are we fairing in our display of love to the people around us?

JOY

The next quality listed is joy. The common synonym for joy is happiness. When what happens to us is favorable, we are happy, but when unfavorable we are unhappy. How easy is it to get those confused. The Bible speaks of having joy even in the midst of trials, so clearly joy is not the same thing as happiness. Happiness is usually based on our happenings. Here is a quote from an article in Gospel for Asia’s newsletter:

“The steady rain beat against the mud walls. Drops of rainwater seeped through the battered roof onto the dirt floor, quickly forming puddles between the men and women crowded below. Plastic tarps, draped over the hut to protect it from the elements, flapped violently in the wind. Clouds grew large and dark above the little mud house. But the joy of the people who gathered inside the house could outshine any storm.”

How in the world could they find joy in such a uncomfortable situation? Simply they understood what joy really is.  Joy is much deeper and really is nothing like happiness. Joy is in Jesus. We can’t have joy any other way. It’s a deeper more profound state that endures through whatever circumstance. Do you compare joy with happiness or your happenings? Can you outshine the storms in your life? Only through Jesus is it possible.

PEACE

Peace is easily confused with trying to never argue or never have disagreements. “Let’s just keep the peace.” The Bible’s description of peace is quite different. Even Jesus didn’t always keep the peace. He stirred up a lot of war. The peace that Jesus brought was an eternal peace with God not with man. Does your whole life have a sense of general peace and contentment or are you always agitated and restless? Peace with God won’t leave us restless. God fills that void. Jesus is the Prince of peace. Are you living in the peace that passes all understanding?

Stay tuned for part 2 of the fruits of the Spirit