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

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Aliens Are Real.

Alienated. Communication cut off. No longer close. Communion broken. I still love and this is why it hurts. I’m in anguish, but I can’t control another. Separated. Cast aside. I still love and this is why it hurts.

I am not the only one. There was another that walked among us. He, like me, felt estranged. He walked in a world that alienated him, cut him off. He was pushed aside and yet he loved. His sorrow was for me. Yes, I too am guilty. I once cast him out. I once alienated him. I once went my separate way, but he loved me all the same. His love hurt to the point of death. He took my place. I should have been the one. He hurt for me because he loves me. He suffered for me because he loves me. I know I am not alone. I’m estranged but not from my Lord. He loves me. He rose from the dead and conquered it all.

The glory that will be revealed is not worth comparing to our present suffering, but instead rejoice that we don’t walk alone. We share in his suffering but not in vain, all for the insurmountable glory of Christ Jesus! The world hated Him and the world will hate us because of Him. This would be a bleak picture IF this world was our home. We are estranged, cut off, hated, separated, cast aside. We are aliens in a foreign land. Our citizenship lies beyond this world, this is why the soul continues to have that longing for home. We just can’t fit in here. We weren’t created to fit in here. As Christians, we are aliens. The more that we become like Christ the less we understand the language of the world and the less we feel comfortable or integrated. The more we become like Christ the more segregated we become from this world. It doesn’t mean we go hide under a rock and throw out our televisions, it simply means that our understanding and allegiance is not on the things of this world. I am not just living for the things of this world anymore, but I live for Him. We are aliens, yes but we are here not to isolate ourselves from the world but to shine His light so that others can finally see too, the light of our Lord Jesus to which they also were created for. These same people who are living day by day trying to fit into this world but can’t find ultimate fulfillment.

We may be aliens here on earth but our home is not far off. In the blink of an eye, we will be home with our Lord.

Philippians 3:20
“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,..”

Romans 8:18

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”

“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” – C.S. Lewis

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

Joy in trials? You must be kidding!

“Consider it pure joy, when you face trials of many kinds” James 1:2

No root = fall away

No foundation = fall down

Be prepared!
My heart is heavy. Oh God please hear my prayer. You said you will never leave me or forsake me. You are Lord of Lords and King of Kings. I run to you. I take refuge in you. I need the outstretched arm of the mighty one. This life is full of trials. You are my root. You are my foundation. In you I will put my trust. The joy of the Lord is my strength. Your word says “consider it all joy when facing trials.” This seems impossible Lord.

Its not the joy of Johanna. Its not the joy of approval. Its not the joy of family. Its not the joy of money. Its not the joy of success. Its not the joy of a prosperous life. Where do we get our strength and in turn our joy? Joy comes from the Lord. No other thing or person can give us fullness of joy.

A test, you have to prepare for. A test also has an outcome. A test lasts for only a season. We have to prepare by being rooted in the word, staying close to Jesus. If we don’t, when the tests and temptations comes we will fall away. We are either going to pass the test or fail the test. There are only two outcomes. A test, also doesn’t last forever.
Whenever I had a test in school, if I was prepared I was ready to take it on and had my eyes already set on the “A” I was going to get. I was in anticipation for what I knew was to come because I was prepared. I could go through the test joyfully. On the other side of the coin, when I was ill-prepared I went in with much anxiety and no hope. All I had was chance, and I really knew deep down that the failing grade was coming my way. How could I have joy in that situation. Joy is not something that can be taken away. Joy only comes from the assurance of Jesus. When we believed and trusted Him he gave us the assurance of a passing grade. We have no reason to doubt and this is where we can find our joy through every circumstance. When James said “consider it all joy” I think this is what he meant. He didn’t mean the trial itself was meant to be joyful , but we know the outcome and the outcome is He has overcome it all and He will bring us through it, and this is ALL the reason to be joyful. To HIm be praised. He is my Joy!

My hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name. On Christ the solid rock I stand. All other ground is sinking sand.