Tuesday, December 05, 2006

A Wondrous Gift

She was just a child herself, yet a woman, but to all appearances, just a young girl. She was pregnant with her first child, not even married. It was an unforgivable condition to be in… engaged but pregnant. Mary must have been an unusual teenager. In her culture, she could have been stoned to death for what appeared to all to be sin. Yet, she willingly told the visiting angel sent from God “"I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said." Then the angel left her. (Luke 1:38) She made a choice...and the rest is history! One young girls choice has changed the destiny of the world.
The result of her choice was the provision of a wondrous gift, a new covenant….a new intimacy with God…a new relationship with the Almighty. It brought heaven down into this miserable and sinful world. A ray of light shined into the darkness that has beamed across continents into time changing lives for eternity. Mary’s choice allowed the Son of God to be born in the flesh, to be a tiny infant in a fragile world. Wrapped in swaddling grave clothes, He lay in a manger, a stone trough filled with hay, vulnerable to whatever life brought. Mary had no idea what the future would hold for her or for her newborn Son. The brief years of childhood would long be cherished in her heart as every mother does. But soon, the joys of childhood would turn to wonder as she watched her child become independent of her care as He remained at the temple astounding the religious minds of the day. We know very little of his childhood years, or his teenage life. We do know that very early He became focused on His purpose and destiny.
What if….
A tiny baby born to a mere girl, changed our world for eternity. When I think of the impact His life has had on this world, I wonder what our world would have been like if He had never come. What if life had just continued… the temple and the holy city in Roman hands… laws and rules… circumcision… sacrifices… old covenant ways complicated by religious laws added by the religious leaders, Sadducees and Pharisees. In just a few short years, the temple would have been destroyed by the Roman government. The impact of the Jewish world was in decline. Secular philosophies influenced by the Greek and Roman world were on the rise. We never would have known the freedom of a democracy based on the Christian teachings found in 2 Corinthians 3:17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. Women’s rights and freedoms would have not developed but for the teachings of Jesus Christ. The new moral standards set by Jesus who taught his followers to love each other and love their enemies, turned mankind from a vicious destructive way of life to one of tolerance, patience and peace.
Without Jesus, there never would have been a renaissance or reformation. Pilgrims would have never ventured to America for spiritual freedom. There would be no celebrations such as Valentines Day, Easter, Christmas, or even Halloween (originally Hallowed Evening). We would not know the meaning of the term “salvation.” Forgiveness of sin would not be possible for Non-Jewish people. Our cultures would have become a mix of Judaism, Greek mythology, Roman law, and who knows what culture would have developed in time. Islam would not exist as it is based on a mixture of Judaism and Christianity. Four billion Christians and Muslims would have a different religion. “Foxes’ Book of Martyrs” would have empty pages. There would be no “Pilgrims Progress.” Great works of art would not have been sculpted or painted. Science would not have developed as many of its greatest minds were Christians who prayed and asked God for wisdom (Pascal, Pasteur, Newton) Nations such as the United States would not have been founded on Christian ideals and principles. Cathedrals and churches would not dot the landscapes of every major city in the world. There would be no such thing as a pope, a pastor, a deacon, a bishop, or an apostle. We would not understand the meaning of such words as apocalypse, rapture, evangelical, or even justification. Denominations such as Roman Catholic, Anglican, Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist and Pentecostal would not exist. Their influence on the world would never have happened.
I can hardly imagine what the United States and Canada would be like without Christ and Christianity. Sometimes we as believers wonder if we are making a difference in our world. Just as Jesus made a difference, so does every believer who stands for what he believes.
What now…
He did come.. He did change this world. He did make a difference, and because He did, we have an awesome responsibility to carry forward what He began. We have good news to tell those who have not heard. We have a message of hope for a world lost in hopelessness and despair. Because of Him, we can say with confidence, like Paul, “ for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.” (1 Timothy 2:12). While millions around the world reach out to idols of wood and stone, spin cylinders of prayer, wave flags, burn incense and pray to icons and dead men and women, we have a certainty, a knowing, a confidence that our Savior who came as a baby, grew to be a man, and died, only to live again, that He hears today and answers our prayers, heals our bodies, prepares us for eternity and loves us all even if we sin.
Can we do anything less than share His love with others this Christmas? Can we for a moment lay aside our selfishness and greed, our materialism and humanism and choose intentionally to reach out to someone else who has no hope? Is Christ truly the center of your Christmas celebration? Do you see the needs of others around you? Have you gone out of your way to help someone as Christ would have done? This Christmas, determine to give to the ministry of your choice, as if you were giving it to Jesus Himself. He gave up the glory of heaven for us. Can we give up the glitz and grandeur of this world for Him? Somehow, I don’t think the two realms are comparable.
What a gift…!
We take our precious finances and select a gift for our loved ones, wrap it in tissue paper, decorated with pretty ribbons and foil, and then put it under the tree for Christmas morning. We think we have done something grand! Yet if the truth was known, too often we gripe and complain and recycle unwanted gifts and do just enough to get by the season, hoping no one will notice our stingy hearts. Meanwhile, God sent us the perfect gift, one size fits all, the kind that heals every broken heart, and fills every empty life to overflowing. He gives us Jesus, Immanuel, God with us, Hope….. And we leave His gift under the tree, still wrapped, still waiting to be received. We are not sure what to do with Him. If we open it, we might feel obligated… to change our habits, go to church, guard our tongues, to give our tithes, and go out of our way. If we pretend we did not get His gift… then perhaps we can go on doing things the same old way.
Christmas is about change. God sent His wondrous gift to change us, to give to us, to heal us, to love us...even though we feel unlovable. The gift never changes yet the gift changes us forever if we will just open the gift and receive Him. He is the perfect gift—the one that heals sick bodies, frees those in bondages of addiction, fills those who are lonely, lifts those who are depressed. “The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the LORD’s favor has come (Luke 4:18,19 NLT) Let’s take the wondrous gift, open it, and give it again to someone in need! His wondrous gift never stops giving!
J. Johnson

Thursday, November 09, 2006


A tiny bird had accidentally flown into the window and now sat stunned on the ground. It did not move. The kids quickly ran outside and picked up the tiny bird, holding it gently in their hands. We had a dilemma on our hands. What do you do with a bird that is injured and in need of help? You call the zoo of course, and they quickly put us in touch with a local lady who cared for injured birds.
I will never forget that little helpless thing. It seemed to weigh as little as the air in which it flew. It was so fragile. Yet they are cared for by God, and He notices each time a sparrow falls to the ground. (Matthew 10:29)
God overshadows His creation. “Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:31) God sees you every moment of every day. He knows the deepest secrets of your heart, the longings, the burdens, the needs, the reason for your tears. He understands you better than you understand yourself. Like that little bird, you sometimes find yourself flitting here and there, and suddenly you end up stunned and wondering what happened. All the while, He knows, and is working on your behalf, even when you are unable to care for yourself.
God has always hovered over his creation from the beginning of time. “And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” (Gen 1:2) God is not an absentee landlord who lets the tenants of earth fend for themselves. He cares and overshadows us. His presence, though unseen, is there. When the Jews built the ark of the covenant in the wilderness, God instructed them to build it with certain specifications. And when the shekinah glory of God descended upon the Holy of Holies, we are told that the wings of the cherubim overshadowed the mercy seat. It was to be a picture for man that God cares about us. Then to reinforce that picture in their minds even more, the glory of God came down upon the tabernacle, so much so that Moses could not enter into it. And that cloud remained, as a pillar of fire at night and a cloud by day, hovering over the people of God, as God watched over them and they became aware that God was continually with them.
When young Mary found favor in the eyes of God, the Word tells us that the angel announced to her that “the Holy Ghost would come upon her, and the power of the Highest would overshadow” her. (Luke 1:35) His presence was to be with her and protect her.
That same overshadowing presence of an Almighty God was also demonstrated to the disciples. Jesus was up on the mountain with Peter, James and John. There they experienced the overshadowing presence of God as they watched Jesus change before their eyes, and a cloud of glory descended upon them. “Behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!'' (Matthew 17:5).

Positioned for Overshadowing
I want to be in the position where God can overshadow me. Sometimes, like the wayward children of Israel, we wander off and try to do our own thing. When we do this, we walk away from the overshadowing presence of God. We remove ourselves from his protective hand. We must remain in the position where God places us. There He instructs us and guides us. When we are positioned where God wants us to be, God promises… “"Now then, stand still and see this great thing the LORD is about to do before your eyes!” ( I Sam 12:16)
When we stand in the place that God has directed us to stand, we will see God do mighty things. If we wander off in our impatience, we may miss the very plan God has for us. Just as sheep tend to wander away from the shepherd, letting their nose guide them to that ‘sweeter’ blade of grass, only to find themselves hopelessly lost, and alone in the wilderness, so do we wander away from the Shepherd of our souls. He provides all we need, the table of food in the presence of our enemies, our cup, full of the good things of God, yet still we wander. Sheep are really quite dumb. They do not plan for emergencies. They just find themselves in one emergency after another. If they stayed close to the shepherd, within the sound of his voice, even in the valley of the shadow of death, there would be no reason to fear.
He is watching out for their good. He is overshadowing with his rod and staff.
God continually wants to put us in a position where He can bless us, and use us for His honor and glory. To be positioned by God is an honor. What position are you in today? Are you where God has placed you? Are you wandering off after things He has already provided you with? Don’t look at the circumstances around you! Look up! See the overshadowing presence of God! He is there, and will continue to be there for you. Trust Him. Keep your eyes on Him.
Maintaining your position
As we recognize our need for staying under the overshadowing presence of God, we also need to know how to maintain our position. It is our carnal senses that usually draw us away from the Overshadowing...what we hear with our ears… what we see with our eyes, what we feel with our hands, what we smell and what we taste. Just as the smell of food can pull us away from the place of prayer to the table, so can what we see with our eyes, draw us away from the Word of God. It takes a determination and discipline that many of us lack, to resist the tug of our carnal side. But this is a time when we need to get alone with God, spend time praying, fasting, seeking God, reading His Word, focusing on listening to His voice and touching the glory of His presence. Greatness in God does not come from apathetic mediocrity. It requires a dedicated tenacity….a spiritual hunger that drives you to feed on heavenly manna. It takes you to the prayer meeting instead of the potluck. It is not satisfied with a crumb here and a dribble there. It demands fresh bread from His table and new wine from His vineyards. When I look back at history and see the spiritual giants of the past, I always see a pattern in their lives of prayer, devotion, commitment and clear focus. Their faith was totally in God. They refused to compromise with the world around them. And they stood out from the rest because of their solitary devotion. Others called them crazy fanatics and lunatics. God called them his sons and daughters.
The Shekiah Glory Cloud
One of the ways the Lord overshadowed His people was in the shekinah glory cloud. It was the brightness and splendor of the supernatural presence emanating from God. We are told that the cloud rested over the tabernacle so that the priest could not enter in. God’s presence was so overwhelming that even the sanctified priests could not come close. Where is that glory cloud today? It is in the lives of believers who have made their hearts his tabernacle and who have chosen to walk in the Spirit, praying without ceasing, yielding to the Spirit of God. It amazes me that that same glory can dwell in these vessels of clay. Unfortunately, the average church-going ‘Christian’ has never experienced that presence in their daily walk with God. They chase the glory as they see it in others around them. They run to this meeting, that conference, wherever they hear the unusual is happening. They fail to realize that the thing they are chasing is supposed to be dwelling within them!
The glory will not dwell in the place of sin. We saw in Israel how as the people fell deeper and deeper into sin and idolatry, the glory cloud lifted, first from the holy place to over the tabernacle, then over the city, then it moved on… for no place was found in Israel that was prepared for the overshadowing presence of God.
Today, let us push past the chatter in the foyers of the church, the coffee bars, the stained glass, the plush carpets and move on into the altars and meet with God once again. We must repent of our sins. We must humble ourselves before His throne. We must pray and seek His face. We must turn from our wicked ways. Don’t be distracted by the voices of ‘prophets’, pastors or teachers, but tuned in to the voice of God and His Holy Spirit. God wants to speak to His people as He overshadows them once again.
J. Johnson

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Decision for Destiny...

Some folks are very decisive, and others hesitate, think about it, live in a state of indecisiveness and eventually let someone else make the decision. I am concerned that Christians not live their spiritual lives this way. Joshua challenged the people of Israel, “Choose you this day whom you will serve…” All too often, we have left the choice up to our spiritual mentors, our pastors, our politicians, and those with the loudest voices. It’s time for individuals to make hard and fast choices.
I sense an uneasiness in the body of Christ right now. Perhaps you have felt it too. It feels like we are all on the edge of our seats, waiting for something momentous to happen. Those who take the lead right now, who choose with confidence, will have the advantage. For decades, we have allowed the world around us, to mold and shape our world. Christians stood idly by while prayer was removed from the schools, then abortion was legalized. It would be easy to get on a hobby horse at this time and pick on another ‘issue’ and challenge you to take your stand against government and politicians and educators. But there is an even more serious situation at hand.
The Church in Trouble
Today, the church itself, is sliding backwards, one person at a time, into ineffective whitewashed tombs. This was the state of the religious world when Jesus came. He charged them in Matthew 23:27-28 27. "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. “ Today if the pastors don’t entertain us with illustrated sermons, if the worship teams don’t play the most modern beat, if the church buildings are not more comfortable than your sofa at home, then the ‘saints’ mosey on to some place that will make them feel comfortable. The church, the living body of Christ, is dying. It is beautiful on the outside, but inside there is death and corruption. Meanwhile, the lost world is spiraling down into an eternal hell with little or no concern on the part of the ‘Christian’. Grant it, there are a few beacons of light out there who are beaming brightly, but there are more and more who are caving in to the demands of lazy ‘saints’. They are more concerned with what they want than with what God wants. Humanism is the new god of the church. Their cry is: make me feel comfortable, make me feel happy….or we’ll go somewhere else. The church has become so self-centered it has forgotten it’s purpose for being.
What has happened to the church that repented in revivals of past days? What has happened to the church that would spend hours on its knees seeking God? Where are those ‘saints’ who are willing to sacrifice their own comforts for the sake of the lost world around them? Where are the revival services that lasted into the wee hours of the night, and extended into protracted meetings of three to 5 weeks or more? Where are the evangelists now? Sad to say, many evangelists have been forced from the itinerant lifestyle due to pastors and churches and boards that no longer have ‘time’ for Sunday night services, and don’t think their people will support protracted meetings.
Milk and Honey?
Too many have been feeding on milk diets. Milk is good. It is a wonderful food. It is an almost perfect food. But I was shocked to learn that when milk is ‘treated’ with homogenization and pasteurization, it destroys much of the goodness found in fresh raw milk. It kills natural enzymes and vitamins. For milk to do it’s best for us, it first of all must be fresh. Fresh raw milk was made by God to be consumed within the first 24 hours. Yet today, in our modern world, we keep milk , that has been treated to preserve it, for up to a week or more. We do the same spiritually. We soften the message to make it ‘seeker friendly’ so as not to offend the sinner. We don’t take the time to seek fresh ‘milk’ from the Word of God and so we push our ‘stale’ message for all to feed upon. The milk turns sour, and we wonder why the world rejects it.
The children of Israel were promised a land of “milk and honey”. This means that God was promising them a land where all their basic needs would be met with abundance. But He never meant they were to continually live on a diet of milk and honey. Honey is a great natural food. It is a sweetener that tastes wonderful. But a diet of pure honey would be awful. We need balance. Believers today have the best resources that the body of Christ has ever had! We have the written Word of God. We have wonderful study tools, concordances, handbooks, dictionaries, radio, TV and the computer. Yet how many pastors find themselves preaching a message borrowed from some other preacher. How many ’saints’ rely on the pastor to read the Word to them on Sunday. It’s the only time they open their Bibles. It is spoiled milk. The Holy Spirit wants to pour into each pastor’s heart fresh messages, not milk and honey messages but oil and wine messages. He wants to break fresh oil into each heart that will take the time to read the Word of God and pray.
Pour in the Oil and Wine
Oil and wine messages are those inspired by the Holy Spirit, tailor made just for your congregation, fresh from the wine vats and oil presses of heaven. The wonderful thing about wine is, that as the wine ages, it gets better and better while as milk ages, it become more and more spoiled. Wine is produced by crushing and breaking. Each cluster of fruit is placed in a vat for one purpose, that of crushing and breaking, to bring forth that which will result in healing, and strengthening. The oil is also produced by first crushing and then pressing. In the New Testament, oil was used for lamps, as a medicinal agent, for healing, for anointing at feasts, on festive occasions such as the consecration of kings and as an accompaniment of miraculous power or of the prayer of faith. Many folks are not aware that the name “Gethsemane” is derived from the Hebrew word, gat shmanim, meaning “oil press”. It was at Gethsemane that Jesus was in agony as he was ‘pressed’ under the weight of what He was about to endure for us all. His body became the ‘oil and wine’ and He sweat as it were, great drops of blood. Olives are pressed under great stone weights to bring out the oil. The first crushing prepares the fruit to bring forth the golden extra virgin oil, the finest in taste and flavor and purity. It is ‘fresh oil’. Second pressing brings out even more oil.
Our Choice...
God’s people need to place themselves at His feet once again and let his feet crush us and break us, and press us into the fresh oil and new wine to meet the needs of this complacent generation. They are weary of fakery, and want a genuine experience with God. They want to know He is really real. They need to see a demonstration of His power. The heavenly Vinedresser wants our altars restored to places of prayer and worship. He wants our sanctuaries to be a place where we hallow His presence. He wants our homes to be places of spiritual refuge for troubled families needing to meet the Master. We need to learn the ministry of pouring in the wine and the oil…just like the good Samaritan in Luke 10:34. He ministered to the wounded victim of brutal thieves who had beat him, robbed him and left him for dead beside the road. Today the enemy of our souls is doing the same thing. He is a brutal thief, who comes to kill, steal and destroy the lives of mankind. His purpose is to wreak havoc in the home and the church, creating division and disharmony. He steals their finances, their joy, their hope for the future, their health….and leaves them beaten and as good as dead.
But, God…!
God has an answer… a hope! It is Jesus, flowing through vessels of clay…vessels filled with the wine and oil of the Holy Spirit…. Ready to be poured out on a generation that so desperately needs Him. Let’s be the Samaritan that reaches out and touches the unlovely around us, sharing the healing balm of oil and wine.
Wine and oil are both symbols of the Holy Spirit. Wine speaks of joy and healing and refreshing and strengthening. Oil is soothing as an ointment. It speeds healing, and it seals out the corruption, preventing infection. Wine and oil were also traditionally both poured over the sacrifice as it was offered on the altar. As we yield our bodies, our lives as living sacrifices on the altar of God, He, the high Priest, will pour out the wine and the oil over our lives, and then we will be ready to be set aflame for Him.
I feel an urgency in my spirit to press on in the Spirit, a warrior for God. We may face trying days ahead. As your trials come, do not loose heart. Keep your focus. Be faithful. As warriors, we must be familiar with the weapons of our warfare, and ready for battle. We have the power of the blood, the power of His name and the word of our testimony. He will use these to overcome the enemy. We must be familiar with the testing our Commander will be putting us through to prepare us for battle and the costly anointing. This army will be a unique one, tried in the fires, walking in humility, listening intently to the Commanders every word. He demands of us holiness and humility. Absolute obedience is a must! There will be times when you are tempted to question the tests and the trials that come your way, but He is preparing you, strengthening you for that army. To develop muscle, there must be a healthy diet, strenuous exercise, and going a little further each time. It will result in pain. Some will give up and turn away. But we must press on. The enemy will always try to resist the work of God, but remember, resistance builds muscle and makes us stronger.
There will be times when you will be tempted to stand against the enemy in your own strength. You may tell him… ‘I’m a pastor, a minister, a prophet,a deacon or an evangelist. Leave me alone!” Your titles won’t impress the devil. There is one name He respects and fears, and that is the all powerful name of Jesus Christ. If you want to throw around names, tell satan, “ I am a born again, blood washed child of Jesus Christ!” He will be trembling at that name.
We have a vital choice to make… milk and honey or oil and wine! Our choice may determine the destiny of this generation. We have had enough compromise with the world. We have had enough milk. We must ready ourselves to move on to better things, to grow stronger, and take on the challenging tasks God has ahead for each of us. Choose wisely… and let the wine and oil flow over you today! J. Johnson

Thursday, September 07, 2006

I Can't Take It Anymore!!!

Did you ever feel like you just can’t take it anymore? Sometimes it seems like the world is crashing in all around us. Everything seems to crumble in our hands: finances, family, relationships, health, and our future...and we wonder what’s next!
These are turning points in our lives. You are not alone! If you are at the end of your rope today, hang on, for there is Hope...and God has a plan!
Can you imagine the roller-coaster of emotions the families of the Virginia mine disaster experienced? First they learned of the disaster, that their husbands and fathers were trapped in the mine. Then after hours of despair, suddenly someone tossed a rope of hope saying that all but one had survived! The church bells rang! Families praised God...and then the bottom dropped out as they learned of the mistake… Only one had survived and all the rest were dead. Swings of emotions can be devastating. Pregnant moms who are rejoicing in the new life within them often experience this same swing when they suddenly learn of the death of the pre-born child. Sometimes it is the breadwinner of the family, who has spent a lifetime working hard at a job he thought was secure, only to learn that his job has been shipped overseas...the pension gone, with retirement just around the corner. Sometimes it is the stay at home mom, who faces dealing with toddlers, diapers, toys, sickness, meals, laundry, financial stress, only to learn her husband has been unfaithful. Or perhaps it is the pastor, overloaded with the pressures of ministry, spiritually drained and burned out, straining at being spiritually fresh while continually giving and giving to others.
It is not difficult in today’s world to find yourself stressed and wanting a way to escape the pressures that surround on every side. Whether you live in the city or in the country, pressures exist. Families have troubles, people get sick, jobs and finances stress believers and unbelievers to the maximum. Yet through the years, God has provided a steady source of hope and help to those who really want to “Get away from it all.” And the advice we are given goes contrary to what we would normally tend to do. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” James 1:2,3 Joy? Does it really mean JOY? How can anyone be happy when they face trials and testing? God uses the ordinary experiences of life to make us more like Himself. We tend to look at the moment...right now. God looks at the whole picture… past, present and future. He sees what we are, and what He wants us to become. Then He allows things into our lives to bring us to the end of trusting in ourselves. We are forced by the circumstances to either trust God, or not trust Him—and end up doing it all by ourselves. We soon learn that our way never works out. So we by trial and error, learn to trust God. When we do, we learn to look at the trouble that comes two ways. We ask ourselves: “What Does God Want Me to Learn From This?” Is this difficulty God’s opportunity?
What Does God Want Me to Learn?
Some of are slow learners. Others learn by doing. Some learn by watching, and still others learn by listening. There are many ways to learn. Life is one long lesson in learning. Job, the Old Testament patriarch learned that God allowed difficulties into his life to show him and his friends, that God is God, regardless of the circumstance. He is a God who knows us inside and out, our deepest thoughts, and our unspoken longings. He also knows our weaknesses. He knows where we need to be made strong. Sometimes He uses us to teach others valuable lessons. He wants us to be like Job in many ways who said…”Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him;” Job13:13
Job persevered! “Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:4 That is Job’s story… mature, complete and without lack. God blessed him twice as much after the test. Job was not happy while he went though it all, but he learned that God had a bigger picture than Job did. He saw the end from the beginning. By faith, God is asking us to be happy, joyful, knowing that as we trust God, He will bring good from whatever difficulty we go through. Real joy is like a river of life that flows from the throne of God, not polluted with bitterness or resentment or anger, but trusting that God is working even in impossible circumstances for our eternal good.
God’s Opportunity?
Our distress is God’s opportunity. I used to wonder why God allowed my mother to die when I was just 7 years old. But then as life progressed, I saw the hand of God in my life whenever I trusted Him and needed Him. He caused me to be totally dependent on God instead of on my parents. He kept me focused on eternal values. He brought people into my life to influence me that never would have been there otherwise. Sometimes we look at the problems we are facing and that is all we see. God looks at the whole picture. He has an eternal time clock. One day, as we stand before God, we will be amazed at how God had it all under control. We just could not see it. It’s like we are looking at the backside of a needle point picture. We see crisscrossed threads of all colors, dangling strings, and a mess. But God sees the front side….a beautiful picture He is creating of our lives, one stitch at a time. He creates it with careful purpose, knowing that each stitch is painful, but fruitful. Trusting God with the end result is His ultimate goal. There is a reward waiting those who are willing to persevere to the end. “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” James 1:12 When Jesus gave the beatitudes to the disciples and followers, I am sure some must have turned away. He told them you are to be happy (blessed) if you are humble, sad, meek, hungry, merciful, holy and persecuted. It was a new way of thinking. We think happiness comes from having more things, more leisure time, more power or more laughter. But, the Bible teaches us differently. Psalm 126:5-6 tells us "They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him." It is part of the law of sowing and reaping. God designed it for man. Tears are sometimes necessary. They brings us from a place of frivolous carelessness down to a place of serious reality. Sometimes we do not face the real issues in life until we are sad. Then we can let God deal with the problem and watch Him work a miracle! It brings us to the place where we draw closer to Him than ever before. Then He turns things around for our good. James 4:8-10 says, "Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye doubleminded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep; let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up." It is a process. It does not happen overnight. It begins when we choose to come closer to God—then He responds to our choice—drawing closer to us. The closer we get to Him, the more we realize how unholy we are, needing repentance. When God completes the work in our hearts and lives, joy comes. It is not a superficial joy, but one that lasts, for it is a work done deeply in our hearts. That is where we can be happy even though we are going through poverty, pain, persecution, humility or any other test. I sometimes wonder what it will be like to view life on earth from Heaven’s perspective. I am certain we will rejoice over choices made with eternity in view. But perhaps we will have some regrets as we see what we could have had when we made carnal choices with our momentary pain in view. The Message Bible puts it this way “So, my very dear friends, don't get thrown off course. Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light. There is nothing deceitful in God, nothing two-faced, nothing fickle. He brought us to life using the true Word, showing us off as the crown of all his creatures.” James 1:16-18 So keep your focus! Don’t give up! Look up! He’s there…! He cares! Perhaps you are feeling blessed right now with all your needs met. Then thank Him! Instead, pray for others who are going through tests and trials of their own. But, if you are in the middle of the test, remember that His nail scarred hand rests on your shoulder as you go through it. He will never leave you nor forsake you. He knows your name. He knows your pain. Put your hand in His nail scarred hand! J. Johnson

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Satan's Arsenal...

We are in a battle….I’m not talking about Iran or Iraq or Israel or Lebanon… but right here...right now… in your own home… your own church… your own heart. The enemy of our souls is out to destroy every human being on the face of the earth. The Bible tells us that the thief…(Satan) has come to kill, steal and destroy. He is out to take away the life that God gives the believer. How does he do this? He uses his arsenal. An arsenal is a establishment for the construction, repair, receipt, storage and issue of weapons and ammunition. Satan’s arsenal is filled with weapons of spiritual warfare. There’s nothing new here…. Just the same old weapons he has used for the last 2000 years. You would think that after all this time we would recognize his attacks when they come our way… but we need to be continually reminded. Satan wants to discredit God, His worth, His Word, His works and His ways. He will do all he can to destroy what God is doing.
He began the use of this tactic in the garden of Eden… “Hath God said”… or in other words… “Did God really say????” Satan wants us to doubt the character of God, to question His integrity, and to be skeptical. Today, Satan comes to the believers and causes us to doubt our salvation, question whether heaven and hell are real, all in an attempt to dissuade us from what we really believe and what the Bible teaches us. When Christians face difficulties, get sick, and even sometimes die, we let those doubts creep in and sometimes we let them take root. There they grow into bitterness and resentment…. against the church, other Christians and even against God. We need to recognize the source of the doubts that come our way...and when we do, we can deal with them. Satan is the source! He loves to use the “IF” against us. “IF you really are a Christian... ” “IF your conversion was real... ” “IF God answers prayer... ” “IF Jesus were coming again... ” Satan is the master of the “IF”.
How do we combat doubt? Build up our faith…”Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” Read the Word… go to church and listen to a Godly pastor preach the Word of God. Fill your mind with God. Choose to put your mind on Godly and good things. “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus…” “Put on the Mind of Christ.” How did Jesus deal with doubt? He went to the Word… “it is written…” and He rebuked the devil.
The Bible tells us that Satan is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44). I sometimes wonder why we tend to believe him when we know his character! He plays on that one string over and over again, whispering into our ears… “God doesn’t love you… Nobody does… You’re not worthy… You’ve committed the unpardonable sin… You’ll never be healed… God is punishing you...Nobody else is struggling with ____!” His wagging tongue is filled with lies that are out to destroy us. I have learned to use the reverse on him… If he tells me one thing…. I turn it around...and then I know what the truth is...what God thinks about me. When Satan tells me I can’t do it… I know I can do it and Satan is trying to keep me from what God is leading me to do for Him. Satan loves to minimize the consequences of our choices.
It’s the sin that brought Satan down. He decided he would like to be like God. Now he faces an eternity away from God, and he wants as many of us as possible to join him. Pride is a subtle thing. We can see it in others but we often cannot see it in ourselves. Pride is spiritual arrogance that makes us the final authority. Pride tells the mind that there are no absolutes, that sin has no real consequences. Pride lifts us up to think that we don’t need God, that we can think for ourselves, that we can make our own choices. It gets us in trouble every time. He makes us think we deserve to be seen, heard, win, have our rights, and have recognition . There is only one cure for pride and that is repentance. Satan does not have that choice, but we do. The Word teaches us that we must humble ourselves. We are not to wait for others to do it for us. We must recognize the authority of God. When a person exalts himself, God’s only alternative is to humble him. Satan wants us to believe that there are no absolutes —-that we can let a few things slide by. He wants us to let our guard down, just for a moment while he inserts his own ideas into our minds. In his mind, there are no absolutes because if there are, then he is absolutely finished. He does not want us to experience Christ’s absolute forgiveness. And that leads me to the next one...
It is one of Satan’s most diabolical weapons. We get hurt….by a Christian… or by an abuser….or by a Pastor… or by a family member. We nurse our wound...picking at it causing it to fester and become infected. Oh how he loves it when we do that. We lie to ourselves and tell ourselves that we are not unforgiving...just resentful and perhaps angry. Satan knows that if he can deceive us into harboring anger, bitterness, or grudges toward others, he can actually cause us to sin and loose our salvation. The scripture says, "looking diligently lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled" (Heb. 12:15). There is a high price to pay for that root of bitterness—that unforgiveness. God can’t forgive us if we don’t forgive others. Forgiveness means that we must put the entire matter in His capable hands and let Him deal with it. Forgiveness means putting it behind us as if it never happened. That can be difficult. But if we love and trust the Lord as we often say we do, then we must! When we forgive others who have hurt us, we are the ones who get healed. We are the ones who benefit. So often those who hurt us don’t even know we are in torment. The torment we endure is because we refuse to submit to God. We refuse to trust. We refuse to let Him be justice in the matter. We are not letting Him be the Lord of our lives. Somehow we think if we just stay angry towards that person….they will change….they will feel bad… and we will be punishing them. In fact, we are the ones who are being punished. We are risking losing our salvation! It is a high price to pay to make ourselves ‘feel good’.
Sometimes the hardest part of forgiveness is learning to forgive ourselves. We feel so unworthy of forgiveness. Our wounded mind tells us we are not good enough to receive God’s forgiveness let alone someone else’s forgiveness. Not forgiving ourselves is really a matter of pride. We think we are too bad. We think no one else has ever thought like us. We put ourselves on a lonely pedestal while Satan has a field day pointing his accusing finger in our faces laughing! You need to know that you are not the first. Others have walked that path before you and the moment you get honest with yourself and with God, you will learn that His forgiveness is big enough for every sin! There is lots of information in the Scripture about how Satan works. In Matthew 13, we know he loves to put fakes among the real thing. He loves to steal the truth before it takes root in the Christian's life. In John 8, we learn he is the father of lies, the father of all unbelievers and he cannot tell the truth. 1 Timothy 3:6 tells us that he is the perfect illustration of what happens when pride rules. In Luke 13:16, we are told that he binds men through their physical circumstances. In Luke 22:31, we read that he desires to sift Christians until they fall. In Acts 5:3, we see that he fills men's hearts to lie. In 1 Corinthians 7, we learn how he loves to destroy marriages through temptation. In 2 Corinthians 2:11, we read that he battles to keep Christians from seeking forgiveness from one another. In Revelation 12, we see that he knows that his time is short. So He is working hard now.
This is not an easy world we are living in today. We are facing wars and rumors of wars. Inflation and spiraling gas prices hit our finances. Families are in turmoil. Society mocks those who serve the Lord. We don’t know what the future holds. But there is good news! No matter what Satan throws our way, no matter how high expenses go, no matter how much we face persecution for our faith, no matter what happens in the Middle East….God is still in control! We may feel like the bottom is falling out. But God wants to remind us that we are not home yet. We are only temporary citizens here. Eternity awaits us all. In a moment as quick as the blink of an eye, the King of Kings can come and takes us all home. 1 Thessalonians 3:13 says, “To the end, He might establish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God even our Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all of His saints.”
If Satan has been using his arsenal on you, remember, he has already lost the battle. You can take a stand against his schemes and weapons in the all powerful name of Jesus. We are victorious through Christ Jesus our Lord! We are more than conquerors!
J. Johnson

Friday, July 07, 2006

Cosmetic Christianity...

It’s so pretty isn’t it? A lovely golden cross bejeweled with tiny diamonds, delicately fashioned to look like a bow on a package, hanging from a delicate golden chain. It is a symbol of Christianity. Yet in reality, the cross was never that pretty. In fact it was downright ugly. It was a tool of execution...like the gallows or the electric chair. We don’t glamorize those things….but we do with the cross… Here in the land of plenty, in the land of glamour, in the land of putting your best foot forward… we have all learned over time, the importance of our cosmetic world. I have never been one who was much into going to the perfume counters, or the beauty boutiques to peruse the latest fashions that would supposedly make me irresistible. Yet, some make a habit of it. They don’t like their looks, can’t accept that they are getting older. Refuse to put up with wrinkles, sags, and bags. So they make the trek to the beauty experts, to discover how to fake the world out that they are not as old as they really are. Reality is hard to accept sometimes. The hair is getting gray, eyelids droop, and your don’t know for sure who that old stranger is looking back at you in the mirror.
But what we see in the mirror does not even begin to reflect what God sees on the inside. He sees the real you…. Not glamorized by our attempts to show the world around us that we are just lovely. Too often Christians today get caught into the traps and behaviors of the world. We become experts at wearing a mask. We dare not let it down lest we reveal reality.
Cosmetic Prayer:
You’ve heard them pray….perfunctory prayers with big impressive words. But somehow they seemed like a lot of tinkling glass and clanging cymbals. Lots of show but no music. Don’t let it happen to you. You can’t change other people but you can change yourself. Choose to be real. Pray from your heart. Pray with emotion. Pray with sincerity. Pray as if your life depended on it. Pray as if God were standing right in front of you, hanging on every word. Jesus rebukes the phony kinds of cosmetic prayers we sometimes hear. “The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess…...for every one that exalts himself shall be abased; (Luke 18:11,12,14) but the publican, he commended… 13And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner…...I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other:…...and he that humbles himself shall be exalted. (Luke 18: 13,14). Choose to pray in a way that is pleasing to God. It may not be finely polished, perfect grammar, or be a prayer that they will one day write books about, but prayers prayed from the heart will reach the throne of God. When we pray, we need to unlearn what man’s idea of prayer is and learn God’s way. Jesus disciples noticed something different in the way he prayed. It so touched them that they asked Him to teach them how to do it… and it was not a cosmetic prayer. Some have made it into a cosmetic prayer today but that was never the Master’s intention. Up until that time, Jewish people had prayed but their prayer lives had become sterile and powerless. Many just left praying to the priests who had to wash themselves every time they said the name of Jehovah ‘Yahweh.’ It became so much work to pray that prayer lost its power, its purpose and its intimacy. Jesus tried to restore that. His prayer teaches us that we are to talk to God like a Father, telling him our basic needs, giving Him praise for who He is, yielding our will to His will, asking for forgiveness, praying with humility, honesty, and integrity. His prayer recognized the power source of Almighty God. This was no cosmetic prayer.
Cosmetic Church:
The larger and more complex the church becomes, the more cosmetic it also becomes. It is nearly impossible to keep a real complexion in front of a demanding mega church. As the church grows, it hires the best staff so the work gets done to perfection. Then the committees give the church a facelift….a new sanctuary, or new parking lot, or new décor….all with the goal of attracting more folks… and we polish and scrub in our attempt to make our crude carnal churches into something special. God calls it pride.
We fail to remember that this is His church… it is His body… His complexion. He is the One who needs to work on it. Changing the face of the church is not in providingprofessional staff members, or the beautification of the facilities. It is each individual person yielding to the searching work of the Holy Spirit. As he draws our attention to areas of weakness or neglect in our own lives, it then becomes our responsibility to yield that area to His control. Then he makes us into ‘new creations’ with a total makeover. He transforms us, not by cosmetics touchups, not by anything we can do, but only by the power that He has to change us from the inside out.
There are always those who think they have the gift of criticism… as if the Holy Spirit just does not know how to do the job right. So they step up to the microphone and let everyone know…. “ that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican…” Years ago, someone drew to my attention that when I point my finger at someone else, I have three fingers pointing back at me. I have learned that it is not my job to judge others. It is my job to work on me.
Christians have given Christianity a bad name. On the internet in a Yahoo question and answer forum lately, a question was asked… “Why do Christians hate other Christians.” When we act in an un-Christ-like manner towards others who call themselves Christians, we are not only hurting our own image, we are damaging the image of Christ before the world. Denominations are notorious for attacking other denominations if they happen to disagree on one small point of doctrine. To the world, we look like fools. We play into the enemy’s hands as he divides and conquers. He keeps us so busy with fighting and quarreling among ourselves that we fail to realize that the real purpose we are here for, is not to perfect doctrine, define bylaws, or get more education, but to tell the good news. We choose to focus on news headlines of our own making….instead of lifting Jesus higher for all the world to see. While the church squabbles, souls are dying without Christ. While we argue about the color of the carpet, whether to sing hymns or choruses, or if we should get rid of the pews and get chairs…..just down the street, a home is breaking up in divorce, a dad is caught up in pornography or gambling, a mom is hooked on drugs or alcohol, and kids are being abused. Across the tracks, downtown, churches have packed their bags and moved to the ‘nice’ neighborhood. I am reminded of the story written about the ....
Life Saving Station:
On a dangerous seacoast where shipwrecks often occur, there was once a crude little life saving station. The building was just a hut, and there was only one boat but a few devoted members kept a constant watch over the sea, and with no thought for themselves, they went out day and night tirelessly searching for the lost. Many lives were saved by this wonderful little life saving station, so it became famous. So some of those who had been saved, and various others from the surrounding areas wanted to become associated with this station, and give of their time and their money and their effort for the support of its work. New boats were bought, new life saving crews were trained, and the little life saving station grew.
Some of the members of the life saving station were unhappy that the building was so crude and poorly equipped. They felt a more comfortable place should be provided as the first refuge of those who were saved from the sea. So they replaced the emergency cots and beds with better furniture in the enlarged building. Now the life saving station became a popular gathering place for its members, and they decorated it, and they beautifully furnished it exquisitely because they used it as something of a club. Few members were now interested in going to sea on life saving missions so they hired life boat crews to do the work. The life saving motif still prevailed in the life saving club's decorations and there was a liturgical lifeboat in the room where the club held it's initiations, but professionalism had taken over and displaced the original purpose of lifesaving.
Now about this time a large ship was wrecked off the coast, and the hired crews brought in loads of cold, wet, half drowned people. They were dirty and sick, and some of them had black skin and some of them had yellow skin and the beautiful new club was considerably messed up - so the property committee immediately had a shower house built outside the club where the victims of ship wrecks could be cleaned up before they came inside. At the next meeting there was a split in the club membership. You see most of the members wanted to stop the clubs life saving activity as being unpleasant and a hindrance to the normal social life of the club. Some members insisted upon life saving as their primary purpose and they pointed out that they were still called the life saving station. But they were finally voted down and told if they wanted to save the lives of various kinds of people who were shipwrecked in those waters, and dirty and wet, they could begin their own life saving station down the coast a little ways, which they did. And as the years went by the new station experienced the same changes that had occurred in the old one. It evolved into a club, and yet another life saving station was founded. Well history continued to repeat itself, and if you visit that coast today, you will find a number of exclusive clubs along the shore which are very professional in nature. Shipwrecks are still frequent in those waters, but most of the people drown.

Let’s get real! Don’t be a market driven cosmetic Christian. Be real. The world is tired of phonies. Keep your roots pure and your foundation strong! Stand for the truths in the Bible. Swim away from the crowd. Listen to the Holy Spirit. Do what’s right! Your stand for God may make an eternal difference for one lost soul. How you handle it may determine their outcome. Don’t let fear and intimidation deter your calling or your vision. If God is in it, go for it!
J. Johnson

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Are You Doing All You Can For God?

Could a mariner sit idle if he heard the drowning cry?
Could a doctor sit in comfort and just let his patients die?
Could a fireman sit idle, let men burn and give no hand?
Can you sit at ease in Zion with the world around you DAMNED?*

The church today seems caught up in a whirlpool of business, a stream of activities that brings most believers no closer to God, and which fail to reap a harvest of souls. If you went to most any church in America and asked the congregation how many have led someone to Jesus Christ personally in the last year, there would be few hands raised. Today the church of Jesus Christ is caught up with trying to please the people, trying to make them happy enough to stay and leave their tithes behind. Unfortunately, that’s not what Jesus Christ was talking about when he told the disciples, “I will build my church.” Building a true church of the living God is not making people happy, but making God happy. God is happy when people live holy lives with God at the top of their priorities. If you find yourself unhappy with your church, maybe you need to check your heart first and see if it is holy. Let the Holy Spirit shine His light around in all the dark places until all the true agendas are revealed.
The Busy Church
We are too busy for God, for revival, for prayer, for witnessing, for fasting, for reaching out beyond the four walls of our ‘churches’ to the hurting lost world around us. Where are those who are weeping for lost souls? Where are those who are going out of their way to seek the lost and lead them to the Savior. Most of them are so busy ‘working for God’ in the church, they have no time to talk to their neighbor about Jesus Christ. They have to go attend the aerobic workout at church. They have to learn how to tie flies at the men’s breakfast. Leonard Ravenhill once wrote: “This is an hour in need of burning hearts, bursting lips and brimming eyes! If we were a tenth as spiritual as we think we are, our streets would be filled each Sunday with throngs of believers marching to Zion - with sacks on their bodies and ashes on their shaking heads, shaking at the calamity that has brought the Church to be the unlovely, unnerved, unproductive thing that she is!
Some would try to argue that the church is not unproductive. But what I wonder is, what is the church productive in? If it is good at making people happy…. It may be productive in a worldly way, but not necessarily in a way that is pleasing to God. If the church is productive in getting lots of bodies into the building, but yet those bodies go home still spiritually hungry, there is no success. The church can keep people busy from Monday through Sunday, but if those people fail to maintain holy lives, fail to witness, win and disciple new converts, is there truly success? I am concerned that we are teaching a new generation how to be a ‘Christian’ and do nothing for God. We model for them that serving God is going to church and putting an offering in the plate. Sadly, some think that such behavior is sufficient to provide an automatic pass into heaven. The once ‘on-fire’ church is slowly becoming just like past denominations that faded off into spiritual oblivion, overtaken by rules, duties, obligations and ritual. The gospel believing church is gradually loosing the fresh touch of holy anointing, trading it for control, financial security, and tradition. One of the symptoms that marks this deterioration is the increasing number of pastors who are leaving the ministry, frustrated, unfulfilled, and some falling into sin.
While on the surface, everything is in place—slick bulletins, fancy seasonal programs, well educated clergy—underneath there is a rip-tide of spiritual depravity that is destroying the church. Our busy façade covers a multitude of weaknesses. We begin to substitute pleasantries for the hard spiritual work of prayer, fasting, seeking the face of God. We refuse to tolerate those who demand sacrifice and personal involvement in ministry roles. We tend to develop a ‘know-it-all’ attitude. We pick and choose our assignments depending on our comfort rather than on what God wants or asks of us. This is dangerous territory for the body of Christ. The Bible teaches us about the life of King David. As long as he sought the Lord, everything went fine. The moment he failed to seek the Lord and did his own thing, that’s when temptation came, battles were lost, murder was found in his heart and decisions were made that led David, his family, and the nation of Israel into sin and decay. Can we learn from history? Can the Holy Spirit so prick our hearts that we will change the way we think and act?
The Lost World
Amy Carmichael, missionary, once wrote of this moving experience entitled “The Cry of the Blood”:
The tom-toms thumped on all night, and the darkness shuddered round me like a living, feeling thing. I could not go to sleep, so I lay awake and looked; and I saw, and it seemed like this:
That I stood on a grassy sward, and at my feet a precipice broke sheer down into infinite space. I looked, but saw no bottom; only coiled shapes, black hollows, and unfathomable depths. Back I drew, dizzy at the depth.
Then I saw forms of people moving single file along the grass. They were making for the edge. There was a woman with a baby in her arms an another child holding on to her dress. She was on the very verge. Then I saw that she was blind. She lifted her foot for the next step...it trod air. She was over, and the children over with her. Oh, the cry as they went over!
Then I saw more streams of people flowing from all quarters. All were blind, stone-blind; all made straight for the precipice edge. There were shrieks as they suddenly knew themselves falling, and a tossing up of helpless arms, catching, clutching at empty air. But some went over quietly and fell without a sound.
Then I wondered, with a wonder that was simply agony, why no one stopped them at the edge. I could not. I was glued to the ground, and I could not call. Though I strained and tried, only a whisper would come.
Then I saw that along the edge there were sentries set at intervals. But the intervals were far too great; there were wide, unguarded gaps between. And over these gaps the people fell in their blindness, quite unwarned; and the green grass seemed blood-red to me, and the gulf yawned like the mouth of Hell. Then I saw, like a picture of peace, a group of people under some trees, with their backs turned toward the gulf. They were making daisy chains. Sometimes, when a piercing shriek cut the quiet air and reached them, it disturbed them and they thought it rather a vulgar noise. And if one of their number started up and wanted to go and do something to help, then all the others would pull that one down. "Why should you get so excited about it? You must wait for a definite 'call' to go. You haven't finished your daisy chains. It would be really selfish," they said, "to leave us to finish the work alone."
There was another group. It was made up of people whose great desire was to get some sentries out; but they found that very few wanted to go, and sometimes there were no sentries for miles and miles at the edges. Once a girl stood alone in her place, waving the people back; but her mother and other relations called, and reminded her that her furlough was due; she must not break the "rules." And, being tired and needing a change, she had to go and rest a while; but no one was sent to guard her gap, and over and over the people fell, like a waterfall of souls.
Once a child caught at a tuft of grass that grew at the very brink of the gulf; the child clung convulsively, and it called but nobody seemed to hear. Then the roots of the grass gave way, and with a cry the child went over, its two little hands still holding tight to the torn-off bunch of grass.
And the girl who longed to be back in her gap thought she heard the little cry, and she sprang up and wanted to go; at which her relatives reproved her, reminding her that no one is necessary anywhere--the gap would be well taken care of, they knew. And they sang a hymn.
Then through the hymn came another sound like the pain of a million broken hearts wrung out in one full drop, one sob. And a horror of great darkness was upon ME, for I knew what it was--the cry of the blood. Then thundered a Voice, "...the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me. And he said, Go, and tell this people..." Jesus said, "...Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature... and, lo, I am with you alway..
." (Isaiah 6:8, 9; Mark 16:15; Matthew 28:20).
Church, what are we doing to win that lost world to Jesus Christ? As Amy says...What does it matter, after all? It has gone on for years; it will go on for years. Why make such a fuss about it? God forgive us! God arouse us! Shame us out of our callousness! Shame us out of our sin! We need a renewed passion for the lost, a fresh vision of Jesus, and ears attentive to his commands.. “Go ye into all the world….” J.Johnson * selected poem from Leonard Ravenhill

Thursday, May 11, 2006

In His Steps...

There is no cuter sight than to watch a little boy follow his Daddy, trying to do just as he does, walking like he walks, hands in pockets just like dad, imitating his every movement. We see the same in little girls as they play in their rooms with dolls, saying just what Mommy would say, dressing like mommy, mirror images of what they see modeled before them daily. For parents it is sometimes scary as we see ourselves mirrored in our children. Children model not only the good things, but the bad. Sometimes we hear them saying things we wish we had never let slip out of our mouths.
The old saying goes “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” We try to imitate those who are our heroes in life. Sometimes we choose our heroes well, and other times we tend to go with the flow...picking popular people, even if their behavior is not acceptable. As a result we find our youth mimicking rock stars,
actors and sports heroes. These ideals may participate in drugs, illicit sex, and fast life styles that are not the best role models for vulnerable minds to accept as heroes.
Paul tried to set the example for us in 1 Corinthians11:1 when he wrote.. “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ”. In other words, imitate me, when I do the things Christ would do and say. But when I am not, don’t imitate me. The question is, how did Paul imitate Christ? Was it his copying of Christ’s hairstyle and clothing? No, of course not. It was much more than that. To truly imitate someone, you must spend lots of time with them. Paul did not have that advantage as the other disciples did. Yet, I feel he succeeded even more so than most of the other disciples. Paul met Jesus face to face for the first time on the Damascus Road in a blinding light. From that moment on, Paul endeavored to make his life count by imitating Christ.
1. His obedience
We are a disobedient people today. Yet Jesus, who is our supreme example, walked in complete obedience to His Father. He knew that all that He had to accomplish required complete harmony and obedience with His Father. John 5:19 tells us “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does, the Son also does.” To walk in obedience to the Father, we must be close enough to know His voice, and confidently do what He tells us to do. We can be confident when we spend time in the Word of God, and prayer, when we can clearly distinguish between what God is saying and what the enemy tries to throw in to confuse us. His voice never contradicts His Word. God never tells people to kill other people because he says in His Word… “Thou shalt not kill.” But if we don’t spend time in the Word, we won’t know what it says. We won’t know His ways. We won’t know His voice. Then we become vulnerable, listening to whatever voices shout the loudest or make the biggest impression. If we know our Father, we will know his voice. Have you ever noticed in life there are certain people with distinctive voices? You hear them speak once… and you never forget their voice. You can hear them years later, and identify them just by the sound of their voice. That’s how we need to know our heavenly Father. The key is, not just knowing the voice, but doing what he tells us to do. That’s what Jesus did. He never did anything of his own accord. He only did what His Father told Him to do. He lived and walked in total obedience.
2. His love for People
One of the most noteworthy characteristics of Jesus is that He loved others more than He loved Himself. “A new command I give you:  Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34). We are to love just like He did. Paul also confirmed that we are to love like Christ loved. “Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma” (Ephesians 5:1,2) When we think of the different humble ways Christ showed his love for others—washing his disciples feet, feeding the hungry, touching lepers and healing them, ministering to prostitutes—we have a long way to go to learn His ways of love. Paul tells us that we are “to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” ( Eph 4:24) If we are to be loving people, we need to put away the old ways of doing things, and put on the ‘new you’, the one modeled after Christ. The Creator of the world was willing to stoop down to the earth, wash dirty feet, touch corrupt bodies, and ultimately provide His own body as a sacrifice for sin. Loving each other means forgiving each other. “Be kind, and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other just as in Christ, God forgave you. Be imitators of God…..” (Eph 4:31-5:1) That love is modeled for us by Christ and is the pattern for marriage. Imitating Christ makes a man a Godly man. “Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the Word…”(Eph 5:25,26) Having the mind of Christ means we are willing to think thoughts like Christ and let those thoughts motivate us to Christ-like actions. What is Christ doing? That’s what we should be doing. Just as Christ was willing to speak and minister to the Samaritan woman at the well, the outcasts of Jewish society, we should be willing to reach out to elements around us that others may ostracize because of poverty, race, religion, or culture. Old family prejudices must die in the family of God. That’s the demand of love.
3. His Sacrificial Giving
What messages of sacrifice do you send your family? What are you willing to give to God? Believers used to give God one day in seven. On that day they would attend church, usually twice, and spend the rest of the day with their family, influencing them for God. Today everything has changed. If believers spend four hours per month dedicated to God, they feel they have done their ‘duty’. They have no time for Bible studies with friends, devotionals at home. The example we set before our children and family is extremely important. Can you honestly say to your children, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ. Imitate my church attendance, my devotional life, my prayer life, my spiritual priorities in service to others for God?” When our lifestyle truly is a mirror of Christ, our families will want to be what they see...for they will see Christ in us. But if we are shallow, empty reflections, they will see the hypocrisy and turn away in disgust. They will measure Christ by what they see in you. If your time for yourself is more important than your time with God…they will notice, and will choose to follow a similar path. If you choose to hoard the blessings God has given, failing to give to God and to others, it sends a message that God’s not important, church is not important, prayer is not important. A new set of values is firmly established in the next generation. What are you giving to God today? Does it reflect a measure of what you want Christ to see in you? Is it a sacrifice? Is your sacrifice made with humility and genuine love? That’s the kind Jesus gave for you and I.
4. Knowing Him Intimately
I remember when my boys were little they would try to wear Dad’s shoes, and dress up in Dad’s clothes. They had to live in Dad’s house and spend time with Dad to want to be like him that much. Paul tells us in Ephesians 6 to “Put on all the armor of God…” Dress in Father’s protective clothing designed for spiritual warfare. There is nothing more valuable that we can pass on to the next generation than our love for God and our desire to know Christ in supreme intimacy. Paul considered everything else worthless compared to knowing Christ Jesus. (Phil 3:8) He so longed to know Him, that he called everything else ‘rubbish’. Not only did he want to know Christ, but he also wanted to know the power of the resurrected Christ, and the intimacy of His suffering, even willing to die for this intimacy. What are you willing to die for? Sacrifice for? The moment we pull away from God, begin living for our selfish interests, we make ourselves independent operators. We tell God, “I can do it myself.” Unfortunately, you cannot die for your sin. You can only die in your sin. The price for independent living is extremely high, and eternally long. While the world around us wants to boast in their ability to succeed, ultimately, when they face death, they all discover an element they forgot about in life...eternity.
We live in a skeptical world, filled with questioning elements that seek to undermine the strength of the message of Jesus Christ. Every man, woman, boy and girl must make a choice, one that will determine their eternal destiny. Most of those who question the validity of the message have never even read the message. They have listened to others and their opinions. Yet their eternal destiny rests in the way they choose. If you have doubts, go to the source of Truth… Jesus Christ, the Living Word of God, and read his love letter to the world. You will never be the same again!
Do you desire to be more like Christ? There is no magic quick fix pill to take to achieve it. It is a daily walk of faithfulness, commitment and love. It takes discipline, determination and devotion. It is a decision you must make. That decision will raise you to a higher lever, a closer place of intimacy than you have ever known before. Your choice will affect every aspect of your life….your church attendance, your finances, your job performance, your marriage, your relationships and most of all, your intimacy with God.
Whose footsteps are you following? Your heavenly Father’s, or satan’s? Step carefully and follow God with all of your heart! “ If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” ( 1 John 1:6-7) Are you walking in His steps? J. Johnson

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

What happened at Azusa Street???

One hundred years ago, on April 18, 1906, history was in the making. In San Francisco, a mighty earthquake registering an estimated 8.3 on the Richter Scale shook the city killing and injuring thousands. Fire followed the earthquake, destroying even more. In Los Angles, 400 miles south, God was shaking the spiritual world as well. In a small humble building, the Holy Spirit was outpoured on a small group of spiritually hungry people who just wanted more. It began a firestorm that gave spiritual birth to Pentecostal and Charismatic denominations that we know today.
Much of this all began years earlier when a young Methodist holiness minister, Charles Parnham, met with a class of students in his small Bible College. He was convinced that the Bible taught an element that most churches, incuding the Methodists, was missing. For years he had been preaching that ‘glossalalia’ or speaking in tongues was Biblical and he challenged his class of students to search the Bible for evidence that believers had been baptized in the Holy Spirit.. They came to a conclusion that the phenomena experienced by the early church was meant for today.
During a New Years Eve service, they began to pray at the request of one student, Agnes Ozman, that she might receive this ‘baptism’ so she could go as a missionary to a foreign land and be able to speak the language. As they prayed, she began to speak in a strange language, later determined by linguistic experts to be Mandarin Chinese. Parnham related the experience: “Humbly, in the name of Jesus, I laid my hand upon her head and prayed. I had scarecely repeated three dozen sentences when a glory fell upon her, a halo seemed to surround her head and face and she began to speak in the Chinese language and was unable to speak in English for three days.” Soon other students were also speaking in strange languages. Parnham continued to preach. His teaching and influence touched a young black man, William Seymour, who listened to his teachings at the Bible School in an adjacent room. Segregation laws did not allow him to meet in the same room with the other white students.
William Seymour was a black holiness preacher, who was not what most of us today would expect God to choose for a vessel to bring revival. He was a simple man, son of slaves, without formal education, not a gifted speaker, blind in one eye, having not even experienced this new phenomena. He accepted a call to pastor a newly formed Baptist holiness congregation located in Los Angles located on Santa Fe Street. He preached his first sermon from Acts 2:4, and soon his new congregation rejected him by padlocking the church door. He went to the private home of Richard and Ruth Asberry who lived at 214 Bonnie Brae Street where he began to pray. Soon the Holy Spirit was poured out again, this time in a home meeting, with a racially mixed audience. They had no care for color, just for God. On April 12th, in the middle of a ten day fast, Seymour himself received what he had been preaching about. Word spread quickly and soon the house was so crowded that part of the porch floor collapsed under the weight of the gathering. The meeting was then moved to an abandoned church building located at 312 Azusa Street, a building that was dirty and had been used as a livery to house animals. When Seymour began to preach, revival began and scores of people ’fell under the power’ and were filled to overflowing, speaking in tongues. The services continued for 1000 days. The media picked up on the strange occurrences. Soon hundreds, then thousands began to come from all over the world. Service began at 10:00 AM and would continue for 12 hours. There were no pews, just rough wooden benches. There were no hymnals, no planned sermons, no orders of service, just hungry people gathering together to meet with God. Seymour’s pulpit was two wooden crates. Dignified skeptics would come to investigate this strange and unique revival, and would find themselves seeking God on the dirty floor, broken before God.
Today we wonder how God could use such simple vessels to start a bonfire that still burns today. It came through men of God, who were hungry, who were humble, who in spite of rejection, persecution, misunderstanding and criticism, pressed on to believe God. Just as God used Joseph who was rejected by his own brothers to save a nation, God used Seymour. Often it seems that God chooses men to carry out His purposes who are rejected by the mainstream. They move as the Spirit directs...not as men expect. Their ‘outside the box’ thinking challenges staid programs and rigid thinking. Their willingness to simply listen to God, and walk in obedience makes them vessels of honor.
Although Azusa’s Revival only lasted for 1000 days, the powerful effects of it spread world wide to over 50 nations, transforming churches and causing new denominations to spring up. Today those same groups are again struggling with maintaining the fire that started 100 years ago. It is time once again for a refreshing of fire. It is time to stir dying embers and add fresh fuel to the fire. Denominations birthed in the original flames have so organized themselves that it leaves little room for the spontaneity of the Holy Spirit. Some have never experienced their own baptism of fire. They have leaned on the experience and enthusiasm of history. They have satisfied their hunger with conferences, conventions and church services. Sunday meetings have become a regimented order of events designed to satisfy our religious sense of duty to God. Our hearts remain barren and dry. Some fall into strange new teachings in an attempt to find more. Some boast in their abilities as apostle or prophet. Others demand doctorates and pedigrees as candidates for pulpit ministry. We forget our roots. God wants to use simple men and women who are just hungry for God, and nothing else.
At Azusa Street, one characteristic that marked them was their ethnic, gender and social diversity. At a foot washing service, it was noted that twenty nations were represented. During times of prayer, you could see bank presidents and wash women praying side by side, prostrate in the presence of God. They all came for the same purpose, to receive the fullness of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and meet with God.
On the Day of Pentecost in the book of Acts, the same conditions existed as people of all nations heard them speaking in their own native languages, glorifying God. God moved on men and women. Peter and Mary were in the upper room. He used ordinary unlearned men. God chose the simple to confound the wise. Today, God wants once again to remind us that He never changes. However, we, flawed humans beings, do change. We drag with us our past into the house of God. With it comes all the judgmental, prejudicial, critical notions we learned from parents, educators, and history. Revival comes when we allow God to wipe the slate clean. When we recognize that each human being is a vessel created by God, loved by God and capable of being redeemed by God. It is His desire that all of his creation…..all of mankind….come to know Him, in fullness and power. Revival comes when we get our eyes off man and onto God.
We can learn some vital lessons from the past. Seymour’s ministry struggled when he gave in to pressures from others to control the ‘fanaticism’ that began to develop. Soon the Azusa Street church became controlled and racially divided. The ‘presence of God’ slowly waned, and the revival came to an end. His original thoughts were to let the Spirit move freely, and let the ‘wheat and the tares’ grow together. Pulling out the tares, or the weeds would destroy the wheat. It did just that. Every true revival is marked with the Godly and the demonic. Satan always wants to destroy what God is doing. God’s people need a sense of deep spiritual discernment to know how to deal with difficult dimensions. The Holy Spirit was given to lead the church into all truth, not error. Letting the Spirit lead is mandatory. Leadership must know the Word, and must be aligned with it. Authority must be taken and used with the Spirits guidance and direction.
There is coming a day, when God will again stir His people, causing them to hunger for more and more until they are satisfied with nothing less than seeking His face. It may not happen today or next week. God needs to wipe our slates clean. We are so caught up today with our materialism, humanism and religiosity, that we make no room for God. We have our schedule to follow. We have no time for God. We don’t want to go to prayer meeting when we can go to the latest movie, spend hours decorating our fancy homes, or do an extreme makeover of our wardrobe. We’ll go to church if there is a free meal, a fancy drama production, a gifted ‘Christian’ entertainer, or a seminar on how to fish and hunt, or loose weight. Our hearts are just not ready for revival.
I believe God desires every church and individual to experience revival. All God needs is a servant who wants more of God. Our revival may not be exactly like the Day of Pentecost or Azusa revival. Each revival is unique to history. Your revival will be life transforming. Revival happens when we yield our wills to His, when we allow His Spirit to flow unhindered through our frail vessels. It’s time to move from our entertainment mode to an entreaty mode. As we humble our hearts, seek God, turn from our sin, he will be faithful to His Word.
Lord, Thank you for the revivals of the past, for the foundations of your Word, for the faithfulness of your love. Today, we need you as never before. We cannot live without your presence in our lives. Forgive us. Cleanse us. Change us. Melt us. Mold us. We are yours! Amen! J. Johnson

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

A Demonstration of Power...!

Have you ever wished you could see a visible demonstration of the power of Almighty God? We sometimes read the Bible, learn about the mighty moments in Biblical history such as the Great Flood, or the parting of the Red Sea, or the day Jonah was spared from a watery grave and a great fish. They are small snippets of history, a history of mighty demonstrations of the power of God on this earth where you and I dwell. They were not every day occurrences. God moved by his power on certain individuals at certain moments in history and recorded them through faithful men who gave us the record in the Word of God. We see most of them as we glance quickly through the Bible. In reality, they occurred slowly, with many years between them. We want them to happen every day. Those who have faith, believe that they can happen today, just as they did in days gone by. We can have that faith because the God who did those great demonstrations of supernatural power is the same today as He was then. God does not change.
Yet when we read the scriptures today, it is always easier to apply their truths to someone else. It is easier to pray for some other person who is sick and believe for their healing than it is to believe for your own healing. We are a lot like the Apostle Paul who wrote about his own weaknesses to the Corinthian church:
3. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling.
4. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,
5. that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
6. However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing.
7. But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory,
8. which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
9. But as it is written: "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.''
10. But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.
(1 Cor. 2:3-10-NKJV)
It all started long ago, after a life changing experience with God, who by the power of the Holy Spirit made Himself real to me for the first time. I believed in Him by faith, but now I knew, without a doubt that God was real, that Jesus was alive and that the Holy Spirit had power, more power than I dreamed possible. At that moment, I realized that I had a long way to go to discover the ‘deep things’ of God.
If we want a demonstration of the power of God, how do we grasp the ‘deep things’ of God? It begins when we realize that to want more of God, we need to change. If we are in a long term maintenance mode, we are not ready for the ‘deep’ things. If we are satisfied with what we know of God, we are not progressing in God, but regressing. Growth must be a continual process of increase. If we are to grow deeper in God, we must move beyond what we know now, move into unknown territory in God...higher plains of faith, long walks in our spiritual wildernesses, learning to totally depend on God as He removes all our dependence on self. Growing deeper means we must set aside the things that distract us from knowing Him. Knowing Him is more than an intellectual understanding of who He is. Knowing Him is more than an emotional response to Him. Knowing God means taking personal time to tap into the ‘hidden wisdom’ (v7) of God. Carnal mankind cannot know this ‘wisdom’. It is reserved for those who will allow the Spirit of God to open their spiritual eyes to what the Holy Spirit wants to do in the world around them.
Like Paul, we have a problem. We find ourselves frustrated by our inadequacies, in ‘weakness, fear and trembling’ (v3), unable to speak as clearly or as confidently as we would like. Paul however realized that when he relied on the dynamic power of the Holy Spirit to speak through him, his words became God’s words. They came from the spirit realm carrying with them authority and power, not reflecting the weakness of the vessel of transmission, but the strength of the Source of origin….God! Paul encourages us not to rely on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God!
The Wisdom of Men
Throughout the course of church history, we can watch the cycles of revival that have swept through the ages. Man discovers he needs God. He begins to pray, seeking God with all his heart. He finds God and God moves. We have revival. We live in that revival until it becomes common and ordinary. We begin to take for granted the blessings and awesome presence of God. We pray less, read the Bible less, go to church less, and soon other things take priority. Before we know it, as each succeeding generation moves further and further from God, we are once again spiritually cold and dead….in need of revival. How can we stop this frustrating trend? Each generation needs to have it’s own revival, and maintain the standard. Discipline and determination to maintain the important priorities must be in place in every heart. The maintenance line we hold as individuals will determine the value that the next generation will place on what we do for God.
Unfortunately, as we regress and let down the standard, a vacuum occurs. The vacuum is often filled with a substitute, the wisdom of men. I have seen it happen in churches, denominations, and in individual lives. When we lack, we educate. Pastors seek their doctorates, Bible Institutes become Universities, and lay folk seek more knowledge, hire pastors with degrees, forgetting that it is not in man’s wisdom but God’s wisdom that revival comes. God has always tended to use the simplicity of man to confound the intellectual. Jesus practiced it everyday as he faced the religious leaders of His day. Paul learned to flow, not in his own wisdom, (though he was a learned man), but in a demonstration of the power of the Spirit of God.
The Demonstration of the Power
They walked with Jesus for three years. They saw first hand the miracles: the feeding of the 5,000, the raising of Lazarus, the calming of the storm and walking on water, healing the multitudes, water turning to wine, demonized people set free. The list goes on and on. All these were demonstrations of the power of God. Today, many people have never seen a miracle. They watch televised programs of healing evangelists from a distance and skeptically allow doubts to color their opinions as to what happened. We have been taught to be skeptical. It is hard to teach a skeptic to trust. He needs to know God, trust Him, and be in a place where he can see and experience the genuine thing. Unfortunately many churches today do not offer a safe haven for the miraculous. If the church today does not reflect a likeness to the early church in which the power of God flowed with freedom and supernatural power, sheep will tend to wander to greener pastures where they sense the genuine power of God. Some will become entangled in groups that are manipulative and fake, failing to walk in spiritual discernment. Our responsibility is to provide the opportunity for the genuine! God desires to move….but we must we willing to move with Him. It will mean we too must trust Him, and for some it will mean a ‘walking on the water’ type of experience. You may have never tried to step out into the supernatural. We can learn from Peter. The moment He took his eyes off the Master and looked at the storm, he began to sink. We must not focus on the problem, but the Master of problems. He can take care of the rest of it if we let Him. The walk in the supernatural, a demonstration of the power of God, ought to be the ‘norm’ for the true believer.
To make that kind of spiritual walk a daily event, we must be filled with the Spirit of God to overflowing. It is not a one time event. It must be a daily part of our prayer life. We must get to know the mind and heart of God. It means spending time in the intimacy of the Miracle Worker. We don’t seek the miracle...we seek the Master. Miracles become a natural outflow of our relationship with Him. Where He goes, miracles follow.
You may need a miracle today. It may be a need for physical healing. It may be a need for a dramatic change in circumstances. You may be believing for a loved one bound by drugs and alcohol, pornography, or unforgiveness. Our miracle worker never changes! He is the same today as he was in the days of the apostles. By faith, you can come to Him, make your request, and confidently believe for your miracle. His power level has not diminished in 2000 years. Our faith may have fluctuated but He remains the same. Come boldly! Expect an answer! Trust in His provision! Believe for the unbelievable! He is in the supernatural business! He does not choose to do it because of who you are, but because of who He is! It is for His honor and glory! "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.''
When you get your miracle…don’t keep it to yourself. Tell someone! He gives that we might have more to give to others. Your miracle will help someone else believe for their miracle. When faith begins to rise in a community, it becomes contagious. That’s how revivals begin! Hoarding and hiding your miracle makes you like the unwise steward who hid his money in the ground. It was taken from Him and given to others.
God wants to stretch you in the supernatural. The storehouse of the miraculous is full, waiting for believing Christians to draw on the resources God has provided...heavenly power flowing from the throne room of the Almighty God. Reach out in faith...take His hand in yours and let Him demonstrate His power in your life today! Let Him take you deeper still!
J. Johnson

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Divine Destiny...

God has a divine plan, a destiny, a blueprint for life, laid out for every believer. Some find that plan, spend their entire lives in divine fulfillment, finding joy, challenges and contentment in fulfilling the plan of God for their lives. Others spend a lifetime trying to find their place. Some are content to just do what others expect of them, never discovering the higher plan God had for them. Some think they have found God’s plan, and arrogantly climb higher and higher, not realizing it was a plan of their own making. Finding the perfect plan of God for our lives can be a fruitful or a frustrating experience.
When we were children, adults would often ask us, “ What do you want to be when you grow up?” In our childish ignorance, we would answer, “a teacher” or “a circus clown” or “an astronaut.” In our immature minds, one seemed as easy to attain as another. Yet as we grew older, we learned that there was much work to accomplished to become what some of us dreamed of becoming. Statistics have shown us that a mere 5% or less ever fulfill their childhood dream. Most live humdrum day to day jobs that they despise, thinking things will never change and they are doomed to a life of ‘slavery.’ Unhappily, they go through life unfulfilled.
God’s destiny for every believer is so much bigger than we can imagine. It is His plan that you serve Him and find fulfillment and accomplishment in your Christian walk and ministry. At the end of the Apostle Paul’s life, as he sat in jail, writing to young Timothy, he confidently told him, “The time of my death is near. I have fought a good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me--the crown of righteousness that the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that great day of his return. (2 Tim 4:6-8) He had walked in the divine destiny God had for his life and he had no regrets. In fact he was looking forward to seeing the Lord and receiving his reward.
But the thing most people struggle with in finding their destiny is, ‘what does God want me to do?’ They don’t seem to know where to begin, so they just keep going through the motions, staying in the rut that they call life. God is very clear to us in His Word. Ephesians 5 gives us clear directions on how to find His will.
1. Follow God's example in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love. (Eph 5:1) Too often we follow everyone else’s example, but not God’s. We tend to be anything but loving. We don’t act like His children. We do what we want and don’t even consider asking Him what He wants us to do. We fail to read His instruction manual, the Bible. As a culture, and even as ‘Christians’ we are becoming less like God and more like the enemy every day. Many so-called ‘Christians’ live lives of sexual immorality and promiscuity, and greed, yet God’s word is clear here… in Ephesians 5:3 “Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God's people.” His will is His Word. We tend to apply it to our neighbor and not to ourselves. It’s always easier to see the faults in others that in our own lives.
2. So be careful how you live, not as fools but as those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity for doing good in these evil days. Don't act thoughtlessly, but try to understand what the Lord wants you to do. (Eph 5: 15-17) In other words, don’t play the fool, but intentionally take advantage of the opportunities God gives you to serve Him. Walk in daily obedience. Recognize that He is the one in charge of your life, and give Him permission to interrupt you and redirect you. Too many believers walk careless lives, making excuses for their sinful behavior, repeating the same mistakes over and over again. They wonder why God never seems to want to use them and they get poor results. They wonder why their ministry never prospers. They wonder why they always end up in poverty and depression. When we are careless, we tend to walk sinful, selfish lives. When we live like that, we are friends of the world and it’s ways. His Word teaches us that a friend of the world is an enemy of God. God won’t open doors of opportunity for you when you keep going the wrong way. We become enemies of God fighting against what He wants. Some are waiting for a financial windfall before they begin their ministries. God wants you to begin by trusting Him in faith. If you are trusting in uncertain riches, then you are not trusting God. ( 1 Tim 6:17)
3. Let the Holy Spirit fill and control you. (Eph 5:18) When we gave our hearts to the Lord, the Holy Spirit was the One who drew us to Christ. He came to live inside the believer. He is continually present in all who have made Christ the Lord of their lives. But the Holy Spirit is a gentleman. He will never force you to do what you do not want to do. Love is a choice, and when you love God, with all your heart, you will want to choose willingly to do what the Holy Spirit directs you to do. When He speaks, and convicts us of things in our lives that don’t belong, we must choose—–to listen and obey, or turn a deaf ear and do what we want. If we choose the latter, we are walking in disobedience, turning towards sin. It is a reflection of our lack of love. When we make Him Lord, that means we are exclusively His, but it is a relationship of choice. Love trusts. When God loves us, He trusts us. He risks our rejection and disobedience. If we truly love Him, we will not want to hurt Him, but willingly submit to Him, to His love, to His direction, to His correction. He knows what we need. He knows what is best for us. He knows our future. He knows us better than we know ourselves. We must be willing to let Him take the lead. Jesus told his disciples, "If any of you wants to be my follower, you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross, and follow me. If you try to keep your life for yourself, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for me, you will find true life. (Matt 16:24-25) His divine destiny for your life is in your choosing to put aside your own wants and wishes, your own desires for money, pleasure, immorality and selfishness. Every day as He helps you grow spiritually, He will test you to see if you are willing to walk the road of Christian maturity. When God tells you to go and do this or that… will you? Your obedience will open new doors, to new opportunities, and lead you into His will. Your disobedience will slam those same doors shut, leaving you in frustration.
When the Holy Spirit is truly in control, we sometimes find ourselves testing God, as we discover His will for our lives. Sometimes as we do this, God will say, “Yes….go ahead.” Other times, God will say “No… not now.” How we respond to the ‘No’ is a key to our maturity. Those who buck against divine authority will not be happy. When we say ‘yes’ contrary to God’s ‘no’, we become disobedient children. We can expect discipline. I have met many unhappy ‘Christians’ who have told God “no.” They continually look back at the past, dwelling on the pain and hurt, living in the land of regrets. They tend to blame everyone else for the misery they feel inside. They do not like to take the blame. They have to be right! Sometimes in their anger, they lash out at everyone around them. Peter was that kind of person. In a quiet moment with the Lord, Jesus told them He was going to suffer and die. But Peter had His own ideas. "Impossible, Master! That can never be!" But Jesus didn't swerve. "Peter, get out of my way. Satan, get lost. You have no idea how God works." Then Jesus went to work on his disciples. "Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You're not in the driver's seat; I am. (Matt 16:22-24 Message)
When we say ‘No’ to God, He goes to work on us too. He wants to teach us who is in charge. We need to let Him take the lead.
Discovering that God has a destiny for each of us is part of the task of every believer. He wants us to dig deeply into His Word, discovering the nuggets of treasure laying quietly waiting there for us. His plans for you are greater than you could every imagine. Your destiny is in the hand of the King. The blueprints for your future were laid out in the mind of God before you were created. Can you say like Job, “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.” (Job 23:10) Gold is a valuable commodity by which all other standards are measured. He wants to make you as valuable a gold. Tested gold has come through the fire, had the impurities removed and is ready for practical use. That’s were we need to be with God.
If we are to be a people of God, following His divinely appointed destiny, then we need to yield to the fire, where He will test us and purify us, and then we must yield to the hammer as He molds us into vessels of honor for His glory. If we are seeking the dramatic and sensational in finding his will, wanting signs and wonders, we need to be reminded that His Word already expresses his will to us in so many ways. Until we obey what He has already told us to do, how can we expect any further orders from above? Sometimes we wait until we feel ‘led of the Lord’ before we decide to do something, when often it is just an excuse to keep us from doing what we already know God wants us to do.
It takes great faith and trust to discover our destiny and walk in complete obedience. In our feelings of total inadequacy, if we yield our will to His, He can then take what we have given Him, yielded vessels, fill us full, anointed to overflowing with the Holy Spirit, and use us as channel of divine blessing. He wants to flow His supernatural power through you. Are you surrendered to His will, His destiny?
The secular world around you will tell you to seek guidance from within. The Bible tells me “I know I am rotten through and through so far as my old sinful nature is concerned. No matter which way I turn, I can't make myself do right.” (Rom 7:18) I need God. I need to seek guidance from Him. He holds my destiny in His hands.
J. Johnson