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.

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

It’s Not About Me!

Having too high a view of yourself is no good, you’ve just got an inflated ego.

Having too low a view of yourself is no good, you’ve just got a deflated ego.

Both at the root, are pride. I have a problem with the “too low a view of myself in many instances. I, then find a way to boost my ego to get a high view of myself. It’s the daily struggle. The ego gets hurt, and then I try to find a way to blow it up again. The ego is the problem. Our ego is NOT who we are, it’s who we THINK we are on our own power and strength. So lets pay no attention to it. Give it up and over to Him. “Humility is not thinking less of ourselves, its thinking of ourselves less.” Tim Keller

Read more about this from Tim Keller’s book “The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness’

Luke 15:11-32

Jesus was always concerned with others like in the parables, it’s not the 99 its the 1 lost sheep. He chases after that one lost sheep. He doesn’t say “oh well all these good sheep, this is good enough.” In the prodigal son, the father didn’t say “oh well I have other children, let him go.” So Jesus is concerned with every lost sheep, and so should we. It’s not about me and my holiness and “woohoo! now that I am found I can sit nice and comfortable” We have been found and now are fully aware of the lost. It was not about me when I was lost, how much more is not about me now that I am found?

Lord I am thankful that you have found me not so I can sit comfy, but because of your grace and love and the gift of who I really am. I am hopeless without you. My identity is in You!  Help me show the compassion, kindness, self-discipline, and love for not only my fellow brothers and sisters but more for those lost souls. Help me to think of myself less, so that I can fill up on Jesus, and in my actions show Jesus to every lost soul.

“I am truly hopeless, yet full of hope, truly lost, but nonetheless truly found.” Michael Card.

Find your real identity in Him!

Blessings,

Johanna

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

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