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

 

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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?

 

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 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

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

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!

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

At the brink of disaster, He caught me!

Here I am an empty vessel. I thirst, I hunger, my longings never cease. I want and I need. Its a constant crave cycle. I need to be filled up, emptiness will never do. Oh, I try to fill it up with nostalgia, with family, and fun, approval, even going to church. These things I know will never fully satisfy. My trust can’t be put in anyone of these single things. These things are all good, but they won’t leave me fully satisfied. This I know to be true with my entire being, because I have tasted the Water of Life; it wasn’t by my own might or power. I did nothing, accept dive into His arms – spirit to Spirit. When I knew I had no hope and I was at the brink of disaster, I didn’t stop and analyze the statistics and weigh my options. I had no other option. I knew this to be true; spirit to Spirit. I jumped. In mid air I went from death to life. He caught me and made my fully alive. I am filled up spirit into His Spirit. I am His and He is mine, not by might not by power but by His Spirit! This old nature is still to be wrestled with, and until I reach glory, I have to jump into His arms daily spirt into His Spirit!

Make me spiritually alive. Fill me up dear Savior!
Amen!