Psalm: Prayers to Curse Enemies?

As you know I have been going through the Psalms, and to be quite frank there are some tough passages sometimes. We  mostly think of King David with what is called imprecatory prayer. This is a prayer to invoke judgment, calamity, or curses upon an enemy. I did a little searching trying to understand how we deal with these passages. My immediate thought was these verses are proving that God hates evil. God is holy. God is just. God is righteous. God is sovereign.  God is in control. Evil will not win. These verses can be viewed as prophetic as well to what was to come.

While I do think its ok to pray for God’s judgment such as in the case of ISIS and the like, imprecatory prayers should be taken with caution.  It’s ok to ask God to bring justice.  There is a fine line though between asking God to have his way and will and quite another when we are praying from a feeling of revenge and elevating ourselves above God. Prayers of asking God to pour out his wrath on evil is a prayer not against a certain person, but on the spiritual enemy, and this is an appropriate prayer.When we are dealing with our personal enemies, Jesus was quite clear on how we should deal with them,  He said to love our enemies and we should pray for them. This, I know is not easy, and we can ask for God to give us the strength and help we need.

One thing for sure David is very raw and honest about his enemies. He speaks the truth about them and the evil they are doing and how it is affecting David emotionally and mentally. I think we should be real and honest with God. He understands.  We can express our emotional anguish and our mental state. It’s ok to express what we are feeling to God, and then ask for his help in being Christ like, and ultimately pray for his will to be done.

Jesus shows us how we are to act towards our enemies. This doesn’t mean we don’t have feelings of hate, hate for evil, and injustice. It is not flesh and blood that we are in battle with, and when we recognize that our little feelings of revenge towards our enemies are directed in the wrong place, we can then shift our focus to elevating God and submitting to his will and trusting that He has it all under control and HE DOES! God knows exactly what he is doing!

Blessings to you all!  Let not your heart be troubled!

P.S. To keep me writing, and not letting it go by the wayside by busy schedules, I have decided to pick a day out of the week designated to blog- so Thursday it is.

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Priorities.

I was with my cousin Lindsey a few days ago hanging out at the mall, we were ooh-ing and ah-ing as we were looking in all these expensive stores that we would in no way be able to afford. My cousin and I love to shop!  Every year on New Years Day we meet up and go to the huge Dillard’s sale. We wait outside in the line with all the crazed shopaholics, just waiting to score that great deal! Anyway, we are walking around the mall and I am saying how I want this and want that, and then my cousin started to tell me a story. She said, “well I was just humbled recently.” My ears perked up, “Really? What happened?” She began to tell me about this young family that she knew through her husband. The parents were in their 30’s and they had two young children. The wife’s father had died several years earlier from a rare form of colon cancer. Lindsey went on to say that they found this rare cancer in the daughter. She was diagnosed and only lived a few more months. She died leaving behind her husband and young children. Lindsey said this family was active in their church and faith and just all around a family to admire. Here’s the clincher!  Lindsey then went on to say that on her death-bed, the last thing she told her husband was,

“Run to Jesus, cause that’s all that matters.”

She didn’t say walk, she said, “run!” There was urgency. I stood there in the mall feeling humbled myself. Priorities.

I thought about my good friend Donna who just died of ovarian cancer. Her last words to everyone, that I was honored to sing at her memorial service at her request was,

“Give me Jesus, you can have all this world, but give me Jesus.”

Priorities.

Not long ago my brother was at home and he witnessed a fatal car accident right outside his house. He told us the story, he heard the terrible crash. Emergency crews were on their way, but the young driver didn’t make it. My brother told us he bent down over the body and said,

“Look to Jesus.”

This tears me up just thinking about it. Priorities.

A couple of weeks ago I was at Goodwill, a local resale shop. As I was browsing one of the clerks and I started chatting, just small talk, but the small talk soon turned into something more. Robyn, the clerk started opening up to me and telling me of her anxiety and how paralyzing it was, she worried about something catastrophic happening all the time. As she was telling me this, her eyes started to well up with tears. I started to feel my eyes tearing up. I reached out and gave her a hug. I really did understand, because I deal with anxiety too. I shared my own sufferings with her, and how I could empathize. I told her I would be praying for her and I walked off. I prayed silently, “Lord, Oh Lord, what do I say to her? What should I do?”  I went up to the cash register to check out and she was standing there. I told her,

“Look to the Lord. Nothing else will fill that space but Him.”

I gave her another hug and left. Priorities.

It’s easy to get our priorities out of whack, but here recently I have had several incidents that keep shouting, “JESUS!”  I know when you put him first everything else falls into its rightful place.

Blessings,

Johanna

 

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 nothing to be forgiven. 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 in all of it’s fullness, 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 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.”

 

 

 

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

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.

Get in on the Action!

But ye beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. Jude 1:20,21

We are not programmed robots. God created us with a free will to do as we please. As I study this verse in Jude, I see four action verbs.

The first is “building up.” Every day our actions are either building us up in the faith, tearing us down, or complacency is causing a slow deterioration. The apostle James said “faith without works is dead.” How can our faith grow without the right orthopraxy (doing of the word)? We must not just be hearers of the Word but doers as James instructs. What does our behavior do in efforts to build us up? Do we just admire the ideals of Christianity and read about Jesus with fondness or are we trying to live our lives like Jesus? Are we just hearing what He says or are we doing what He says? How can we be “building” if we are not “doing”?

The second action verb Jude gives is “praying” Prayer is our direct line to God. This is our communion, our one on one communication. We would never expect any relationship to grow if we never spoke to the person; the same is with Christ. He is on the other end, saying come talk to me. He is calling but we must decide to answer.

Thirdly, “KEEP yourselves in the love of God.” To keep is to “retain possession of.” We have been given God’s love and we must accept and hold on to it. Grasp tightly to the love that sets us free through Jesus Christ. Don’t lose sight of this love.

And this brings us to the fourth; “LOOK for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The enemy does not want us to build up in the faith, to have communion with the Father, to know Christ’s love, so he will do all he can to distract us from Christ’s mercy. The enemy will condemn, but take heart, we know better; Jesus is merciful. He knows our weakness. He knows we fall short of the holy standard and yet, he is merciful.

Let’s look at them in reverse order:

  • Look for the mercy of our Lord, the one who saves us from our sins and gives eternal life.
  • Keep His love and hold it close so that we can give love to others and show the world who this Jesus really is.
  • Always be in prayer, our direct line of communication.
  • Build up your faith continually to the glory of God.

Go ahead! Get in on the action!

In His love,

Johanna

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

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!