The Door

I was walking down an unfamiliar old outdated hallway, it was like an old run down hotel. Down the hallway, there were doors on all sides one right after the other. I opened a door and there was another door. I kept walking down the hallway, and opened another door, there was a staircase this time. I was just trying to find an outlet that would lead somewhere. I kept opening door after door. I was trapped. I started panicking. Have you ever been lost before and gotten that horrible sinking feeling? It is the most unsettling feeling. I started screaming for someone to help me. “Help! Help me!” There was not a soul around. I finally opened a door at the end that led me outdoors. “Finally an outlet!” For a moment I was relieved, until I realized that these surroundings where unfamiliar too. It was freezing cold outside and there was snow on the ground. There were rows and rows of houses, but they seemed empty. The whole area appeared desolate. The anxiety started pouring in again. Finally out of the corner of my eye I saw this older lady walking down the street coming towards me. I ran towards her and asked anxiously, ” Can you help me?” She said nothing and walked away like she didn’t even see me. I cried out loud again, “Can you help me?” And then I woke up.

I’m sure as you were reading that you suspected it was a dream or some scene from the twilight zone.(I love that old show) When I had this dream, it was so real and I wrote it down and of course as I do about almost everything, I started my theological reflection.

The first thing I thought of was this idea of being in a maze searching for the thing that will give us peace and finally ultimate fulfillment. Each one of the doors appeared like an outlet, I mean they were doors and doors when opened are supposed to lead somewhere, but when opened they didn’t lead anywhere, except to another door. Like a dog chasing its tail. If you read my previous blogs, I talked a lot about chasing after that longing and when we chase after anything but Jesus it won’t lead us anywhere. Jesus said, “I am the door.” I also saw the symbolism of the freezing cold outside and the desolate houses. The one door that I came to where I found somewhat of an outlet, was still no outlet. It was cold, empty and lonely, and even the one soul that appeared to be there wasn’t there for me either. The enemy tempts us with other doors and by his way of doing things, but he is a liar and a deceiver. The lady in my dream I saw as the enemy, not caring one thing about me, ignoring me definitely not helping.

Jesus is our only way. He is the only door. If you try any other door to bring you fulfillment if will lead to emptiness, loneliness, and death.

Take heart! Jesus said, “I am the door. If anyone enters by ME, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief does not come except to steal, kill and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. John 10:9-10

I am so glad I woke up from that dream. Thank you Jesus that you saved me! You are my refuge and strength. A very present help in trouble. Psalm 46:1

Which door will you open?

Blessings to you all!

Johanna

 

Heaven? Never Ending Church Service?

I grew up in church. We went Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night, and if there was special things going on maybe more. This was the norm and the routine.

Now this is not a anti church post, but more of our view of what Heaven is going to be like. I have to say, for a long time I have always thought heaven is just going to be sitting around for eternity singing songs and well just being at church all the time. This idea of heaven did nothing for my longing for eternity, and as a result effected the way I lived out my faith.

I get these sensations a lot, they don’t last long, maybe not even a second, but its a wave that makes my heart burst with joy and fulfillment. Sometimes music will trigger it, or a smell, or being at a place, or sometimes I can’t even pinpoint the trigger, but as quickly as it comes, it’s gone and I go chasing it to get that sensation again. I think this sensation is a small dose of what eternity will be like. God gives us these glimpses to awaken in us life, abundant life; then we go screw it up by our misplaced desire. C.S. Lewis said the beauty was not in those things, rather it only came through those things.

My husband and I  watch a show called American Pickers. Its a show where these two guys go around the country and pick for antiques and collectibles. Most of the places that they pick from are these people who have been collecting their whole life practically and have so much stuff that it kind of looks like a hoarder. They have so much stuff, you have to climb through it to find the “rusty gold” like they call it. In one of the episodes the collector was asked what got him started collecting, he said, ” It reminds me of the things I grew up with. I don’t really know the attachment, but kind of wish I didn’t have it cause it’s like a disease.” I was taken by his genuine honesty. It got me thinking this guy was chasing after a longing inside him, and by his own admission I don’t think he understood that fully, but what was interesting was his comment about wishing he didn’t have this attachment because it’s like a disease. I could see how all that collecting, searching for that one item would bring that sensation of heaven back, and you might get a glimpse, and then poof it’s gone just as quickly as it came. Then you have to get another item and another, and soon you have barns and barns of stuff, and none of it is doing anything of eternal value. He tapped into something when he said a “disease”. In reality it really is a growing malignancy that he was feeding. All that stuff wasn’t bringing ultimate fulfillment. Was he trusting in the “stuff” for the beauty and sensation of heaven?

Our view of heaven is of the most utmost importance. I know this now. How much we anticipate eternity, will determine how we live our life here on earth. If we give no thought to it or there is no excitement for it, then most likely the way we live our lives on earth will have very little eternal benefit. On the flip side, when we are embracing the longing for eternity and looking on it with great anticipation, the more we will want to live for eternal benefit. God gave us deep longings, but when we trust in anything but Him to fulfill it we end up with a heap of junk, a disease that just grows and grows, and the bigger it gets the harder it is to control.

If we truly believe in eternity with this great anticipation, this gives the motivation to share the gospel. This is what we have to look forward to. Jesus said, “Look, I am making all things new.” That feeling you get when you buy something new, like new car, going on vacation, etc. well thats just a simulated feeling for what Jesus is talking about. I can’t even explain it, but the thought is making me excited. The newness will never where off, and it will be all your longings fulfilled!! And its all IN HIM! Jesus wants you to feel the desires he has placed in you and then trust in Him. Jesus would always question, what are you seeking? What do you want? It all had to do with desire.

ARE YOU EXCITED ABOUT ETERNITY!?  I hope you will never think of heaven as just a big never ending sing-along again. Go and share this truth the next time you share the gospel. Just asking someone what they want, and what they are seeking can open up doors for them to do their own reflection and then we can say I know who can meet your deepest longing!

He created you, He can complete you!

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.”

 

 

 

Are You Seeing Without REALLY Seeing?

Have you ever had a time where someone skilled at something attempted to show and explain something to you? The answers were right there in front of your face, but you just couldn’t see it–see it with understanding that is. I am a piano teacher and one of the duties is to teach sight reading. I watch these little kids try to make sense of what is on the page and make it sound like music. They have not been taught what the notes on the page mean, they surly see the notes, but they mean nothing but a big blob of black ink. If they only knew that the meaning behind the black blob of ink is beautiful music. To unlock the beautiful music you have to be able to see it, REALLY see it with understanding. How do we come to know how to read music? Don’t we need someone in the know to show us–someone who is wise to the truth of unlocking the mystery behind the big blob of ink? We don’t come to this knowledge from within ourselves, we don’t have the keys, no pun intended.

So it is with the things of God. We can see it but are we REALLY seeing it? Does it penetrate to the heart and do we see it with understanding to then be able to unlock the beautiful mystery behind the person of Jesus. We can’t see Jesus for who he really is until our eyes have been opened with understanding. The pharisees in the Bible-the religious group, claimed to see, but they were blind. Humility will lead us into the right direction. I think admitting we are pretty stupid is a great place to start when aiming for godliness and then ask questions. Don’t be contented to just stay in the dark. God will honor this, and always will answer and open our eyes when we come in humility, seeking Him.

I truly believe the way to deeper sight into the things of God is through trials.

C.S. Lewis said, “God whispers in our pleasure, but shouts in our pain.”

God doesn’t want us to be in pain, but he is able to use it. The true test to our faith is  in tough situations, through conflict, through adversity. The test to where our faith is truly placed is revealed in these circumstances. It’s easy to say we believe when all is well and things are going smooth, it is quite another when the boat gets to rocking and the storms start raging, when people start letting you down. These are times where real growth happens, when we are forced to confront what we say we see and what we REALLY see.

I don’t claim to know it all, but I do know the one who does, and I will continue to follow Him, so that my sight can become more keen. My vision is not perfect, but as I come in humility, the eyes of my understanding are opened a little more all the time and Jesus just gets clearer and clearer.

The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints. Ephesians 1:18

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.