Wednesday, December 12, 2007


It’s hard for us to imagine a King being born in the rough crude surroundings of the Bethlehem manger. Yet when we read the accounts in Matthew and Luke about the beginnings of the life of Jesus, we are amazed. Majesty in a manger?
The Doubting World
The world around us today has become more and more questioning about anything that speaks of religion or faith. The movies and the media of our ‘progressive’ world who want to push their own agenda of doubt and skepticism want the world to know that there are many valid reasons why we should not believe the Christmas story. They doubt the possibility of a virgin birth of the messiah. They want the whole event to be just another tale or allegory. They plant their seeds of doubt into our society on a regular basis. Some of those seeds of doubt are even planted by those who call themselves ‘Christians.’ Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong is a leader in this kind of spiritual ‘reformation.’ As one of their chief theologians, his acceptance of homosexuality as a lifestyle rather than his recognition of it as sin has turned the Episcopal church upside down. Here’s what he says about what Christians need to believe today. “The biblical story of the perfect and finished creation from which human beings fell into sin is pre-Darwinian mythology and post-Darwinian nonsense. The virgin birth, understood as literal biology, makes Christ's divinity, as traditionally understood, impossible. The miracle stories of the New Testament can no longer be interpreted in a post-Newtonian world as supernatural events performed by an incarnate deity. The view of the cross as the sacrifice for the sins of the world is a barbarian idea based on primitive concepts of God and must be dismissed.” As a ‘Christian’ he has taught an entire generation to doubt the reality of the supernatural, the validity of the Bible as our spiritual foundation, and the consequences of sin. While he calls the sacrifice of the cross ‘barbarian’, in reality, his ‘new’ thinking is not new at all, going back to the barbarian days of man before the flood, when sin ruled mankind causing God to regret creation enough to destroy most of it in a global flood. When carnal man tries to figure out a supernatural God, using his finite mind, he becomes a barbarian! God will out-think him any day! There must be faith! Faith is more than thinking and trying to figure it all out with our minds. It takes genuine faith to trust that what God has promised in His Word is valid and true. It takes faith to believe that God had a plan from the beginning of time to save mankind from himself, and from the sin he is so entangled within. It takes faith to accept that God is really who He says He is, that He sent us his only Son, to die for us, to prepare a way for us to be with Him for eternity. Thinking minds can trivialize the entire concept of God, faith, miracles, and messiah. But if their logical minds have thought just one concept wrongly, they are in serious trouble and God is really God. They can doubt and question every faith concept in the Bible, but if they are wrong (and they are) and God is Almighty God (and He is), then they will still face Him on their day of accounting. Judgment faces both the saint and the sinner. No one is exempt. It will be an astounding day for the Bishop Spong and all those he influenced to doubt. They will meet His Majesty!
Why did Jesus come?
He came because he chose to love us in spite of our sin. (John 3:16) He came because the Father planned it that way. (Gen 3:15) He came because He was completely obedient. (Phil 2:8) He came because He loved his creation. (1 John 4:10) He came because He is King. (Rev. 19:16) He came because there was no other way to redeem mankind. (Gal 4:4-6) Those that recognize Him for who He is….He blesses. His covenant blessing is for all those who are part of His family.
David called Him “Majesty”
When King David became the reigning king over all Israel, he knew who was really the King over all—-not himself, but the God who made him. “Wherefore David blessed the LORD before all the congregation: and David said, Blessed be thou, LORD God of Israel our father, for ever and ever. Thine, O LORD is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O LORD, and thou art exalted as head above all. Both riches and honour come of thee, and thou reignest over all; and in thine hand is power and might; and in thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all.” 1 Chronicles 29:10-12 Because David recognized who was really in charge, God blessed his reign as long as David sought the Lord. The moment David began to do his own thinking, and making his own choices, David got into trouble. It is just the same today. The moment we begin to rely on ourselves, on our own abilities, our own thoughts, our own choices, and we fail to seek God, we soon fall into the carnal patterns of doubt, skepticism, greed, and pride. But when we stop dead in our tracks and realize our mistake, and turn once again to God, He forgives us and restores us once again. When we see him as “Majesty”….we see Him as King. He is the One in charge! We are His humble and obedient servants. We deserve nothing and He has given us everything.
There are some truths to the questioning minds of the world, who see Christians making mistakes, walking in sin, living lives of prejudice and compromise...for we are not perfect by any means. Mistakes have been made. Sometimes we even interpret the Word incorrectly. But one thing I know for certain—Jesus is not a myth, fairy tale or legend. He is God the flesh. He is Redeemer. He is Prince of Peace, Mighty God, Counselor, King of Kings, and He is coming again. I don’t need to know when or how, or if it is going to be pre-tribulation or mid-tribulation or post-tribulation. The important thing is that we are ready for that moment when the clouds part and every eye shall see Him in all his glory and splendor—Majesty!
Somehow I think we will see him in a similar way that John the Revelator saw Him on Patmos. “I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last….And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength. And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead Rev 1:10-17 His Majestic presence will be more than our human minds can grasp. When we enter the presence of an earthly king or queen, there is a protocol to follow. One must dress for the occasion. One must learn how to address the royalty, how to speak with respect, and how to converse intelligently. True, you could try to enter the royal chambers in street clothes and act just as you normally do at home. But the guards would pick you out of the crowd in an instant. You would be ‘tossed out on your ear’ before the royalty would ever see you.
We will be presented before His Awesome Majesty. Are you wearing your royal garments? Are you prepared to meet Him? You must get ready. He is not the tiny baby in the manger anymore. He is Majesty! You must have “clean hands and a pure heart” (James 4:8). You must have your robe of righteousness (Is 61:10). Even as a child, the Kings from the east brought Him gold and other precious things. What will you bring Him? All He ever wanted was YOU!
This Christmas, take a moment and come before His Majesty and tell Him you are His… that you want nothing more than to recognize Him for who He really is. Remember He is more than just a baby in a manger, more than a stranger far away in distant Israel, more than a fabled concoction of men’s minds. He is the Almighty One, the Majesty on high! Christmas is not Christmas without Christ at the center of it all. Give Him the best gift you can give. Give yourself. Then go visit Him at his house….and give as He gave to you! Let Him turn your world upside down so you can see things from His point of view. Open your Bible and read the Christmas story in Matthew and Luke. Take the time to talk to Him...and don’t forget to call Him by his name… “Majesty!”
J. Johnson

Wishing you all a blessed and Christ Filled Christmas!
David & Joyce Johnson

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Be Lifted Up!

You can walk into most churches today, regardless of the denomination, and watch the people sitting in their pews, heads bowed low, hands in their laps, lips silent and often with a look of sadness in their eyes. God never meant it to be this way. He has other plans for man. We can read throughout the Word of God how sinners have heads bowed in shame as in Ezra 9:6 “O my God: I am too ashamed and humiliated to lift up my face to You, my God; for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has grown up to the heavens.”
But the man or woman of God can come to Him without shame, with heads lifted high looking to the King of Kings as He prepares to return in His glory. "Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.'' (Luke 21:28) For too long the church of Jesus Christ has been acting just like the sinful world around it. The longer they look at their circumstances instead of to the God of all circumstances, the more they tend to do things the wrong way. God intends for all believers everywhere to have heads and eyes and voices and hands that are lifted high to God. It makes the Christian stand out from the crowd.
Lift Up Your Eyes
We all know the verses in Psalms 21:1-2 that tells us “I will lift up my eyes to the hills From whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth.” Often, believers will find themselves doing just that in their time of devotion and prayer...but get them into the house of God, and everything changes. We bow our heads, and close our eyes. Reverence is fine, but somehow, I think God is looking for more than just passive reverence. He wants us to look to Him in faith, with eyes of faith. If he is going to appear in the clouds as the disciples saw him go to heaven, somehow we must be looking up! Other pagan religions tend to send most of their time bowing to their false gods. Moslems are not allowed to pray looking up. The Koran forbids it. But our God tells us to lift our heads...and see him coming in the clouds of glory.
Lift Up Your Voice
Some lepers once came to Jesus looking for their healing. They were loud, and bold. “And they lifted up their voices and said, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!'' (Luke 17:13) When we have a need, we need to get just as bold and brash. Their problem had already humbled them, so they recognized their solution and went after it with all they had left, their voices. We are a lot like those lepers in that we have a need, and He has the answer.
There’s one nice thing about getting older, and that is that often, I no longer tend to worry about what other people think. I tend to want to please God more than man. After all, the older I get, the closer I get to the time when I will meet God face to face. On that day, whenever it should be, if God should ask me, “Why didn’t you praise me, unashamed?” I won’t have to say, I was worried about what my ‘neighbors’ were thinking. It has made me a more vocal and demonstrative person of praise. It has made me bolder in my prayer life. When I praise Him unashamed, others tend to do it too. When I praise Him out loud, it not only feels good to me, but it also lets others know how I feel about God. Sometimes it is even a shock treatment to the world when we hear someone cursing Him, and we in turn say “Praise the Lord!” They stop dead in their tracks. I know God is not deaf, but somehow I think He loves to hear the sound of his children praising Him, just as I love to hear the sound of my children or grandchildren as they talk to me. It won’t ruin your vocal chords to lift your voice to God and tell Him out loud how much you love Him! Try it. Get used to the sound of your voice. If you’re shy, try it alone, then try it in a praise or prayer time with others. Genuine praise is not silent! Unclench your teeth and open your mouth and lift your voice to the King!
Lift your Hands
It’s almost amusing to watch a rookie preacher trying to preach with his hands in his pockets. Hands are needed to fully express oneself. Some use them more than others. But just try to explain something without the use of your hands. It’s funny to watch people even on their cell phones using hand gestures that the hearer cannot see. The use of hands is a language, not just to the deaf community, but to the hearing as well. When we lift our hands, it generally means one of two things and God wants both of them in our lives. The first is surrender… as in a robbery...when the thief comes in the room with a loaded weapon. Our first response is to put up our hands in complete surrender. God is looking for us to completely surrender to Him. Too often we still want to control and we push our hands deeper into our pockets. The second meaning of lifted hands is intimacy. When a child comes up to you with hands lifted up, it means they want you to pick them up in your arms and hold them. They want to be carried. They want closeness and intimacy. They long to cuddle in your arms and feel safe and secure. What better position for the child of God—to be reaching for Him, longing for Him, wanting to be safe in His loving arms. That’s worship! Psalm 134:2 tells us “Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, And bless the Lord.” Not only is it OK to do in church, but our bodies are also a sanctuary of praise. So wherever you are you can praise HIM!
Lift Up Your Soul
King David was not ashamed to praise the Lord and he made a habit of lifting his soul to the Lord. “To You, O Lord, I lift up my soul. O my God, I trust in You; Let me not be ashamed; Let not my enemies triumph over me.” (Psalm 25:1-2) Somehow from this verse it sounds
to me like David knew that if he were too ashamed of his faith in God, if he failed to lift up his soul to God, the result was ‘enemy take over.’ None of us likes to fail, likes to relinquish control to the enemy. We want to be victorious in our walk with God. We want victory over depression, over bad habits over sin, over discouragement, over everything that would draw us away from God. One way the Word teaches us to overcome is to first of all, draw near to God, then resist the enemy and then finally, submit ourselves completely to God, and the result is that He will in turn draw near to us. (James 4:7-8) That submission to God comes when we purify our hearts and our hands, when we walk before God without a double mindedness. God honors our honesty before Him. When we lift up our souls to God, we are saying, “I can’t handle this by myself! I need God in my life!” God responds by coming into an unequal partnership with us. We have nothing to offer, and He has everything to give. That’s what God’s covenant blessing is all about.
Be Lifted Up!
Its one thing to do the lifting and another to be the one who is lifted. Jesus said in John 12:32 “But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” Jesus was lifted in a way you and I will never know. He was lifted to hang upon a cross. Because of what He suffered, you and I can come to Him and be spiritually lifted up. The Israelites in the wilderness were bitten by snakes in Numbers 21 because they had been complaining about God and Moses. When God had Moses make a snake and put it up on a pole, those who looked upon it were healed. The serpent was a picture of sin. Christ became our sin and when He was lifted up, and we look to Him, we too are healed.
Unfortunately, we all still have a major sin problem. And in our humanistic, self-centered, self-sufficient world, we think we can handle things all by ourselves. The sooner we relinquish control, admit our problem and look to the answer, the less we suffer. Lift up your heads, your voices, your eyes, your hands, your souls, and look to the One who is waiting for you, the One who has the answers. Are you willing to let go of all the stuff in your hands? Are you willing to surrender to the One who is waiting with open arms to hug you and hold you close? Are you willing to open your clenched teeth and pour out your soul in prayer and praise to the One who is listening to the every cry of His child? Not one sound misses His ears!
When it seems like all hell is breaking loose around you and ‘normal’ is no where to be found, it’s time to recognize the One who is waiting in the wings, longing for His children. Hold your heads high and be lifted up! "It will seem like all hell has broken loose—sun, moon, stars, earth, sea, in an uproar and everyone all over the world in a panic, the wind knocked out of them by the threat of doom, the powers-that-be quaking. And then—then!—they'll see the Son of Man welcomed in grand style—a glorious welcome! When all this starts to happen, up on your feet. Stand tall with your heads high. Help is on the way!" Luke 21:25-28 (The Message Bible) J. Johnson

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Clear Vision...

Anne Sullivan had a big problem on her hands. The problem was not the beautiful blind and deaf child put into her care, but the parents of Helen Keller. She had to convince them that she had a workable method to change the world of their daughter. It was not the usual way. It required a new disciplined world. It meant round the clock attention to the problem at hand. It meant teaching a new ’language’. It meant removing the child from the home environment and teaching harsh new lessons before Helen could ever begin to understand, to see with her blind eyes and hear with her deaf ears, a world outside. It was Anne who had the she saw hope in changing the seemingly hopeless situation. She was confident in her ability to educate, transform and restore to a child what her non-functioning ears and eyes had taken away.
Isaiah had the same problem: “ For the hearts of these people are hardened, and their ears cannot hear, and they have closed their eyes—so their eyes cannot see, and their ears cannot hear, and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to meand let me heal them.’ (Acts 28:27)Isaiah had just had a vision of God. It transformed him into a recognition of his problem. He was a sinful man, living among sinful men. “Then said I, Woe is me! For I am undone and ruined, because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” He had just seen God! (Is 1:5) And because of this experience he would never be the same again. Paul the Apostle had been through a similar transformation. On the road to Damascus, on his way to capture some of those new radical ‘Christ followers’ so he could have them killed, Saul met the King of Kings. He lost his sight for awhile so he could regain it in a whole new way.
A New Vision
The church is in desperate need of a restoration of its vision. Like Helen Keller, it has become a victim of blindness. When sight is taken away, the world of the blind often turns inward. You begin to focus on the world you know. When sight is gone, you only know self….and vision is turned inward. The church is like that in so many ways, becoming self absorbed, self entertaining and self promoting. It needs an encounter with the King of Kings. It needs a recognition of the problem of sin that has slowly crept in, causing the blindness in the first place. It’s a heart problem. Israel had a hardened heart. “27 For the hearts of these people are hardened…. and they have closed their eyes—so their eyes cannot see.” Their heart condition affected their vision. It prevented them from receiving their healing as a nation. It kept them from turning to the God who had the answers for their problems. It was a calloused heart, a hardened heart, one without sensitivity, and one that refused to understand. Why do we allow our hearts to get in that condition in the first place? It happens slowly, over time, often so gradually that we fail to notice the subtle changes taking place. Israel had been through it all. They had once been a people who had seen God bring them out of Egypt by miracle after miracle, yet in the midst of the journey of miracles, they too became self-absorbed …. wanting to go back to Egypt, slavery, and suffering instead of the beautiful land God had promised to give them. Their vision was blurred by selfishness and the desire for comforts. They did not see clearly the vision God had for them. They stubbornly refused to accept by faith what God was trying to do in their hearts. God tells us, “I want you to go this way…” and we say to ourselves, “No...I like it just the way it is.” We like the security of the known versus the unknown. We can see the past, but we cannot see the future. We are blinded by our doubts, by our demands, by our need for security and routine. When God chooses to upset our routine, we balk. We complain. We dig in our heels and refuse to move. We want God to do things on our terms. We forget who He is! Even Isaiah had forgotten who God was until his moment of transformation. Then he realized how far he had fallen. He recognized his own shortcomings. He saw the influence of the sinful people around him. He knew he needed help outside himself.
Helen Keller could not help herself either. She needed someone to step into her world who knew the answers. She needed Anne Sullivan. Anne became her teacher. She became her eyes and ears. She taught her a brand new language so she could communicate with the world. God has given the church, a teacher too. He is the Holy Spirit. He is to be the One who leads us into all truth, and who will bring all things to our remembrance. He is the One who is to be our eyes and ears. He will show us things we cannot see, and speak things we have never heard. He will teach us a brand new language, one what will usher our prayers into the throne room of the King of Kings. He will help us to communicate His message to the world...the world that is just like the world of Isaiah’s day… a “people of unclean lips…” He will be the One who will bring us into the presence of the King. There we will discover, like Paul, that our plans and ideas are trash and only His plans matter. The light of His presence will knock us off our feet into the dust of the road and we too will realize that nothing else matters but Him. When we do, our vision is renewed. When our vision is restored, we do not go back to the old ways. We move forward seeing things from God’s point of view instead of man’s point of view. That changes everything!

Our Point of View
Too often we get caught up into false ideas fed by carnal minds. We think that if we just get ‘successful’ enough, God will bless us and use us. If we just make more money, own a bigger home, have more stuff, and can show our friends we have reached the goal… then we will be pleasing to God and man. Too often, the more we get, the less we give. The richer man becomes, the more he ends up spending more and more time and money maintaining that ‘success position.’ The vision turns inward. Sometimes we tend to give a little to a special cause just to ease the guilt we feel. But when we see things from God’s perspective, we see that He is the center of it all...He is the source of it all… And He is the reason for it all. Everything we have in our hands is not our own. It is His. Everything we are enabled to because He is the Enabler. Our money is not ours—but His. Our children are not ours—but His. Our ministries are not ours—but His. We are not here to please ourselves, but to please Him. Nothing else matters. Sometimes we sacrifice… and give...and pretend we are doing God a favor. God removed the anointing and blessing from King Saul because he did just that. He pretended to follow God, and in the glory of battle, set up a monument to himself instead of God, failed to obey the command of God to completely destroy the enemy, and kept what was to be destroyed by saying the people did it...and he would use it to sacrifice to God. (I Samuel 15) It cost Saul his position as King. Samuel told Saul “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice” (I Sam 15:22) Saul never did truly repent. He recognized his sin, wanted Samuel to cover for him, and wanted Samuel to forgive him...but He never repented to God. Arrogance filled his heart. He thought “if I just get to worship God...and make my sacrifice.” But it was not enough. God demands total obedience...not compromise… not sacrifice. He needed a vision of God! He needed to see things from God’s point of view.

Restore our Sight!
Just as Isaiah needed coals from the altar to cleanse his lips, we need our eyes touched to see as God sees. Jesus said in Matthew 5:8 “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” The message Bible paraphrases it this way… ” You're blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.” Not only can you see God, but you can see the need. Look around you? What do you see? Have you become so accustomed to your surroundings that you no longer see the lost, the hurting, the troubled world? I often wish God would do again what He did to Saul who became Paul. We sometimes need the shock of experiencing the awesome light and glory of God so we become blinded to the ordinary world and realize the reality of the spiritual world around us. We are all too often ‘sensory deprived.’ We are blind and don’t know it. We are deaf and think its normal. Our hearts are cluttered with stuff that has calcified and made us hardened to the Spirit of God. Where is the people of God who will yield their stoney hearts into His hands, yield their blinded eyes to his touch, and let Him open their deaf ears to hear His voice once again? It takes a coming aside, a time with the ‘Master Teacher’, a breaking of the will of man, a yielding to the Master Optometrist who desires more than anything to give us clear vision, that we may see Him ‘high and lifted up.’
Let us not be satisfied with partial sight. It was not good enough for Jesus when He healed the blind man who at first had blurry vision. He completed the task to perfection! Let’s let Him finish the job. Let’s be willing to lay aside everything...the world as we know it, and let Him transform us with a life changing encounter with the King of Kings.
Pray with me.. “God, forgive me for all the things that I have allowed to hinder my vision of You. Cleanse my heart, restore my sight and let me see as You see. I want your clear vision!”
J. Johnson

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Weary? Don't Quit!!

It’s a problem that plagues every believer at some time in their walk with God. Whether you stand in the pulpit or sit in the pew, we all sometimes feel overwhelmed by life and its circumstances. We wonder where we can go for a break, a time of R&R, just to step away from the chaos for a moment and take a deep breath. Weariness, exhaustion, and burnout all take their toll in the believers walk.
There are times that we do take on too much. At times like that, we need to step away from the forest to see the trees. In other words, we need to take the time to re-evaluate our priorities. Sometimes out of our own personal guilt, we refuse to say the little word, “no” and we end up doing things God never intended for us to do. When you find activities robbing your time with God, with your family, and with the calling God placed on your life, you have gone too far the wrong way. Taking on too much of the wrong things can make us a candidate for both physical and spiritual burnout. Exhausted though you may be, you need to take the courageous step of pulling away and getting alone with the Lord once again.
Jesus spent hours alone during his vital and demanding ministry. While others clamored for His attention, he went up into a mountain to pray. (Matthew 14:23) It is the ego, and pride that sometimes causes us to want and love the adulating crowd. It’s nice to be needed and wanted. But it is also exhausting. If you never take the time for a vacation, take one. If you love your pastor, make sure you encourage him to take a vacation and help with the added costs of doing so. Help to fill some of the roles he takes care of every week. If you can’t take a long vacation, take mini-vacations. Take two or three days away doing something different. Even taking time out of your normal routine to do something relaxing can help lift the weariness.

Let it go.
Sometimes weariness comes from holding on to things we should have let go. A story is told of a lecturer who challenged his class to guess how much the glass of water in his hand weighed. Guesses varied. Then the teacher told them…. " The absolute weight doesn’t matter. What matters is how long you hold it. If I hold the cup for a minute, I would be Ok. If I hold it for an hour, I will have an ache in my right arm. If I hold it for one day, you will have to call an ambulance. The cup of water is the exact same weight, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it feels and the more damage it can do to me." Are you feeling the weight of some burden today? Set it down at the Lord’s feet . Sometimes we carry our burdens of sin and guilt and regret. Yet God never intended that we do so. The longer we carry what we were never designed to carry, the more harm we do to ourselves. Let it go.

Press On
There are times when we need to stop and take a look around and then there are times when we need to press on. When you feel like throwing in the towel and quitting, don’t! The enemy of our soul loves to drag us to the point of weariness, until we feel like there is no other way out. Sometimes it takes a new determination to fulfill the call of God in our lives. Sometimes it takes a fresh vision from the Master to renew our purpose and calling. There is nothing like time spent with the Master to get it all back into a heavenly perspective. When God gives the vision, He always makes a way of fulfilling it. It’s part of His plan. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that the weight of His calling in our lives does not just depend on us. It depends on our dependence on Him. I will never forget how God set us aside during a time between churches we pastored. We were busy raising four children, and the demands of ministry had brought us to the place of weariness. We had no regular employment, mouths to feed and bills to pay including a car payment. We had tried to sell it, but God had other plans. He knew we would needed it to travel. One day we reminded God….”God, your car payment is due.” God ownership of the burden. God came through, month after month. We never missed a payment.

Prevention Power
There are times when we look back at some the things God has allowed us to go through and we regret some of the decisions and choices we have made. We often choose in haste, failing to take the time to pray about it and get God’s input into the problem. A story is told of how a mother came home to find all her children in a circle in the living room. At first she was happy to see them all getting along so nicely. Then she noticed what had their attention, a family of baby skunks. In a mad panic, she screamed and told them all to leave the room immediately. They all complied taking a baby skunk with them. More screams followed as the now frightened skunks did what comes naturally in a moment of fear. Soon the whole house and each child was drenched in the unpleasant aroma, which took many days to eradicate. How we choose to react to circumstances can cause more of a problem than if we take the time to pray and think it all through calmly. When our emotions take the drivers seat, we have a fool at the wheel. Thoughtful prayer and careful responses can save us heartache and trouble. Often we are our own worst enemies. We do too many things without praying about it or thinking through the consequences . Some end up with unwanted debt, while others destroy old friendships. Ask yourself if this decision is pleasing to God. When God says “no” don’t make excuses and do things your own way anyhow. That’s rebellion.
When you feel like quitting, take a moment and look at the lives of some of the Bible characters who refused to give up in the face of trouble. Noah, though mocked by his neighbors, labored on for 120 years building the ark, saving his family. Joseph, rejected by his brothers, sold into slavery, and unjustly accused, chose to love his siblings, resulting in the preservation of a nation. David, anointed to be king, spent years running and hiding from Saul. By faith, he awaited God’s timing and fulfillment.
How can we prevent spiritual disaster? Burnout? Weariness? When we follow the example of Jesus, we will make it through. We may not escape all troubles. God allows troubles to strengthen us. But when we keep God’s priorities first, when we invite God to provide a solution, when we stop and listen for His voice, when we persist in prayer---that’s when God moves mountains and calms stormy seas. He is always there—in the deserts of our lives—waiting to provide living water for our thirsty souls. When you are tempted to take the ‘easy road’ that you know is not God’s plan, remember that the enemy would love to tempt you to do your own thing. I have learned to listen carefully to my Father. When He says rest—I rest. When He says move—I move. He knows my needs better than I do. My heavenly father always knows best!
Are you weary today? Feeling restless? Uncertain about tomorrow? He is your shepherd. Let Him lead you to green pastures and quiet waters where you will lack nothing and you can feed in His presence. When your enemies threaten—He is there! When you have need—He provides! When the task seems impossible—He is the God of the impossible!
Turn your back on evil, work for the good and don't quit. God loves this kind of thing, never turns away from his friends. Psalm 37:27 (The Message Bible)
Don't burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don't quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality. Romans 12:11 (The Message Bible)
J. Johnson

Monday, August 06, 2007

How does your SOUL Prosper???

Here in America, churches today are tending to focus more and more on wealth and prosperity. Many of the largest mega-churches focus on the need for believers to base their lives on a philosophy that teaches that God wants every Christian to be in health and wealth. Each one takes a little different twist on the teaching. While one propagates God’s desire to bless what you give financially and return it to you 100 times more, another teaches that God wants you rich and healthy all of your life. In an article in Time magazine, authors, David Van Biema and Jeff Chu, wrote an the article entitled... “Does God Want you Rich?” Too often we tend to focus on what we want instead of what God wants in our lives. While we need finances, God never intended them to monopolize our lives. God has a higher purpose for us. His goal is not our prosperity here and now in earthly terms, but in spiritual terms.
While finances are an absolute necessity for every church and ministry to carry on their benevolence programs of ministering globally to the needy, many churches suffer from a lack of ‘prosperity.’ One of the key verses that the ‘prosperity’ churches strongly emphasize is found in 3 John 1 "Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers." Emphasis is often placed on the desire that “you may prosper” rather than properly relating it to the balancing of your prosperity with how you are spiritually enriched. What is meant by the term ‘prosperity?’ Did he mean money? Wealth? Possessions? As John wrote this letter, he was addressing an elder, Gaius who was a faithful believer with a generous heart. It is apparent that Gaius was prospering spiritually. In other words, he valued spiritual riches more than he valued wealth. He had a heart to give to meet the needs of others. Verse 3 tells us his heart…(NLT) Some of the traveling teachers recently returned and made me very happy by telling me about your faithfulness and that you are living according to the truth….v5. you are being faithful to God when you care for the traveling teachers who pass through, even though they are strangers to you. Gaius was not the typical believer. He made the Apostle John very happy with his generosity. John applauded him and offered him a blessing, that he might prosper in all things, just as he was already prospering spiritually in his soul.
It is unfortunate that today we tend to get it backwards. We tell God, “Bless me first, then I’ll give.” Gaius had it right. He gave from what he had, not to get from God or from others, but just to be a blessing. His soul prospered because it was built on a solid foundation of truth. Jesus taught clearly that we are to give to those in need, pay our taxes and that we are to tithe. Jesus told the rich young ruler in Matthew 19 :21 “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven, Then come follow me.” The man had no known name, but he got quite an be a disciple of Jesus. He just had to do something he found very difficult to do….take his wealth and give it to the poor. Doing so would have made him perfect and provide heavenly treasure. God has a different set of values than most of his created beings. We value what we see, what we own, what we make, what we save. There is no greater lesson we can learn than to learn the value of spiritual prosperity.
Many homes in California and in New Orleans have been totally destroyed, by fire and flood. Those who survived the devastation learned to value their lives more than their stuff. Stuff can be replaced. Life can be snuffed out in a moment and never replaced. Yet life is eternal, and it goes on and on forever and ever. Life here is short. We live for just a few short years, some 50, others 60 and a few make it into the 70’s 80’s and 90’s. Yet those years, however long they may be for us, are a mere blink in the light of eternity’s day. God longs for us to see things from eternity’s point of view. All the stuff you have around you today, your home, your car, your collectibles, your land, your money, your stocks and bonds, your wealth by earthly standards means nothing in eternity give it as the rich young ruler was instructed by Christ to do. When we value His instructions, His values, more than the values of the culture around us, and we learn like Gaius to give from loving generous hearts to others in need, we are doing what Christ instructed. How does your soul prosper?
Some will object to what I am saying because they love and hold their possessions so tightly that they have come to rely on them for their security. I’m not telling you to give it all away as Jesus told the rich young man. My purpose is to help you push a reset button in your spiritual values. We need to bring a balance into the idea of prosperity. And so I ask you this question: “How does your soul prosper ?” You might answer that you are doing OK, that you go to church, that you read your Bible, that you help where you can. But it is unfortunate that far too many believers are suffering today from the same syndrome as the rich young man. They would rather cling to earth’s values than heaven’s values.
What does heaven value?
The greatest asset in heaven is not the streets of gold or the gates of pearl or the diadems in the walls. Heaven’s values are it’s inhabitants. Jesus will be the focus, the source of light and life. As believers come into the heavenly light, they will be overwhelmed with all the marvelous sights, but most of all they will notice Jesus, and people who love Him. Many who have had near death experiences have come back to tell us how their loved ones met them, how they saw Jesus. There are no heavenly ATM’s, no banks, no debit cards, no storage lockers, no vaults and no piles of cash. They just tell of seeing the glorious face of Jesus, the light, the worship, the loved ones, all against a backdrop of heavenly beauty. You cannot take anything you own here to heaven with you. You can only take people. How? By sharing the love of Jesus with your loved ones and friends, and by giving from your resources to help others get the message out. Somehow I think that on the day we reach our eternal goal, many will be thankful we have shared the message of Jesus with them!
You may not have the physical abilities to be a missionary or a pastor or an evangelist. But each of us can still participate by doing something…. By praying, by giving as we are able to give, by encouraging, by keeping our values in check. Jesus taught his disciple to “Love not the world” for if they did, then “the love of the Father is not in them.” 1 John 2:15 We know we are to uphold spiritual values. James 2:5 reminds us all...Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? So even if you are poor, you can be rich in faith! And if you are rich in faith, you are also an heir of the kingdom! We are going to inherit all that Jesus will inherit, as we are heirs and joint heirs with Him! (Romans 8:16,17) If we suffer in this life, it is not to our shame. For Romans goes on to tell us… if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. 18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. (8:17-18) When you look back through history, you see the hundreds of faithful followers of Jesus who died, often a martyrs death, often in monetary poverty, not because they did not say the right words when they prayed, but because they valued more highly the heavenly treasure that awaited them all. Sometimes Christians who have great faith, who loved God, who gave their all, find themselves suffering physically or financially. Don’t loose heart! If your values are right, if you determine to do what God told you to do in His Word, then no matter what comes your way, you can look forward to that heavenly treasure…eternal life...seeing Jesus face to face!
If God has blessed you with financial wealth and good health, thank Him for it and use what He has given you for His glory and honor. Be a blessing to your church, to the missionary, to the family in need, to the widows, to the evangelists and to those who need to see Jesus in you!
How does your soul prosper? Keep it healthy by keeping its focus in the Word of God, by spending time in prayer, by loving God more than the stuff around you. As you grow in your spiritual prosperity, it will change not only you, but all those around you. Earth’s stuff will begin to loose it’s value in your sight as you learn to value heaven’s values more. When your soul prospers, there is a spiritual contentment, knowing you are doing what pleases God. Walk in that ‘soul prosperity’ on a daily basis.
J. Johnson

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Monday, July 09, 2007

Carnal Christianity? Just Give Me Jesus!!

In today’s perverse society, Christians are softening their stance more and more, accepting a little compromise here and some more complacency there until the fences we once held as Biblical standards have washed away with the flood of carnality that is sweeping through our culture. The term carnal Christian seems to describe more and more of today’s ‘church’.
I was raised in a strict Christian home. We were not allowed to go to movie theaters, to go to dances, to participate in ‘worldly’ forms of entertainment just in case we might cause someone else to stumble and fall in sin. Sunday was a day of rest and relaxation except for church. We were faithful Sunday morning and evening. Some may have thought we had no fun at all. Yet we had the greatest times. We enjoyed the pure clean kind of fun that today’s culture has forgotten about. But today, if the Christian wants to have fun, they have learned to adopt the ways of the world around them, dabbling in everything our grandparents and their pastors would have cringed at. Today, church goers think nothing of getting body piercings, tattoos, and even brands. They go to ‘events’ that make the hippie culture of the ‘70’s look tame by comparison. All across the country, it is time for the summer Christian ‘rock-fests’ where our youth can spend the weekend listening to ear blasting rhythms, dress in garb that leaves nothing to the imagination, and proudly come home with the latest CD’s. You can keep it all! Just give me Jesus!
Whatever happened to our altars? Where did the weeping go? What has happened to repentance? Does anybody blush anymore? Why do we accept carnality as the norm? Does anyone know what sin is? What are we, who know better, doing about it all? Just give me more of Jesus!
The Church
The church has changed drastically in the last 20 years. It has become a carnal, market driven mega mall. Its pastors have been trained by the culture around them as they have learned to tap into the lucrative business principles that taught them ‘bigger is better.’ Too many have sacrificed quality for quantity. Success is having the biggest church in town with a name everyone knows. Somehow I think if the apostles were to stop in for a Sunday service, they would not recognize it as a ‘Christian’ church. We have strayed from the model Paul worked so hard to establish. He would definitely label it ‘carnal.’ What is a carnal church? To be carnal means to be like the world, leaning in its direction, spiritually immature, readily accepting the values of the culture rather than the standards of God. Galatians 5 give us a list of the ‘works of the flesh’...carnality…“adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Gal 5:19-21) and this list sounds like the normal life of a ‘normal’ Christian today. Today, sad to say, too many teens and 20’s find themselves living together before marriage, thinking it is alright, acceptable to the church and therefore to God. Yet the Word of God clearly teaches otherwise. They excuse themselves by saying, “I’m only human…” as if it would change God’s mind.
I have seen and heard ‘Christians’ today whose temper tantrums, envy, abuse and jealousy have destroyed homes and marriages, but yet they fail to deal with it Biblically in repentance and humility. It’s always someone else’s fault. What do we need? We need Jesus!
Spiritual Immaturity
Perhaps I am stepping on some toes here, and you are feeling the pain. Perhaps your problem is your contentment to remain immature. The Corinthian church had the same problem. "I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ" (1 Corinthians 3:1). They were spiritually immature and content to stay that way. These were Christian ‘brethren’ he was writing to. When we notice that our children are failing to grow, failing to mature, we become alarmed, take them to the doctor or a specialist to see what is the problem. Spiritually, we sometimes do not tend to recognize our own spiritual immaturity. There are symptoms we must recognize. Spiritual immaturity demands its own way, is self-absorbed, comfort seeking, and often demanding a diet that is unhealthy. When our churches become market driven, and seeker sensitive, rather than God centered and divinely motivated, they become breeding grounds for spiritual immaturity. If you find yourself immature and in need of growth, begin feeding on the meat of the Word of God. Let the Spirit teach you where to change. He will take you into the intimate place of prayer where He will show you in a mirror how you look to God. Though the price may be high, we must face reality. Just give me Jesus!
The Next Step
If we refuse to submit our lives to the authority of God, turn a deaf ear to the Holy Spirit, refuse correction, remain unteachable, and we continually find ourselves sliding back into the grime and filth we came from, then we must realize that we have slipped into spiritual rebellion. We’ve slowly allowed our hearts to become calloused to the tug of the Spirit. What began as perpetual immaturity develops into full blown disobedience. It is the kind of thing that brings spiritual death. It is man leaning on the natural man rather than the Spirit of God. When we do so, our world is bound to crumble. How many ‘Christians’ have been caught up in sin’s materialistic traps only to discover they are in a financial tar pit that is sucking them down into its mess. The “I-just-gotta-have-it” mentality has got to go! If we longed for Jesus the way we long for stuff, we’d have had revival in America long, long ago. Its time for believers to live within their means, to pay their tithes and offerings, to teach their children fiscal responsibility and to clean up their financial histories.
How many have dabbled in sin’s sexual seductions only to find emptiness. I heard a story recently that came from Josh McDowell, when he was approached after a youth meeting by a young woman who told him she had sex with five different men the last five nights. She asked him, “Is there anything more?” She was empty and unfulfilled. Why? Because her relationships lacked intimacy. There was no friendship… no real love…no real relationship...just animal urges being acted out. God’s plan is for one man to be committed to one woman for a lifetime relationship. Both need to work at it and keep it Christ centered. As both draw closer to God, they will also grow closer to each other. You can try doing it the world’s way and play the field, destroy the home, and wound the children, or— you can just give me Jesus!
Just Give Me Jesus!
I have lived life to the fullest. I have traveled the globe. I have had a wonderful marriage and beautiful children. I have enjoyed ministry. I have lived in beautiful homes. I have had successes. I have had disappointments. But when I look back over all the high or low points of my life, I still long for those moments when Jesus seemed the closest to me. It was not at the times of material success. Nor was it at the times of pleasure. It was not even at the peak of ministry. It was often in the darkest of days. It was in the moments when I discovered I could not handle it all by myself. Jesus seemed closest when I was lonely , when I was grieving, when I was helpless to know where to turn. He was there when money was scarce. He was there when the sun did not shine. He was there when I least expected Him. So don’t tell me I need a big salary, good looks, a fancy house, a successful ministry….just give me Jesus!
Has someone offended you? Take your eyes of your hurt and put them on Jesus. They hurt Him too and He forgave them all. Maturity chooses to love in spite of the pain. It sees the greater good. It looks to the future with eyes of faith. Carnality crumbles the human heart, but love builds it back again. Love is not an emotion...not just how you feel. It is so much more. It is a choice, a decision you make as to how you respond to others. I Corinthians 13 in the Message Bible paraphrase puts it in a way I can understand…
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn't want what it doesn't have.
Love doesn't strut,
Doesn't have a swelled head,
Doesn't force itself on others,
Isn't always "me first,"
Doesn't fly off the handle,
Doesn't keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn't revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, Puts up with anything, Trusts God always, Always looks for the best, Never looks back, But keeps going to the end. Love never dies.
It tells me ‘love’ must act and do… choosing God’s way when nothing makes sense. It leaves the results with God. It keeps our priorities straight. It keeps us humble and keeps us leaning on God. It’s results are eternal.
You can choose to live a carnal life if you want to. You can enjoy your sin for a season. You can do just what everyone else seems to be doing—or—you can make a difference! You can be the man or woman God wants you to be. You can choose His pathway. You can please Him instead of yourself. I’ve made up my mind. How about you? Just give me Jesus! J. Johnson

Saturday, June 09, 2007

G.P.S...God's Positioning System

One of the hottest new forms of technology on the market today is the little gadget commonly referred to as a GPS. It stands for Global Positioning System. It is used in the scientific world, in space technology, and by ordinary folks like you and me. It helps people find where they want to go. It helps rescuers find lost people. It helps fishermen, hikers, mountain climbers, and pilots to find their way to their destination. 24 hours a day, a system of 24 satellites sends signals to the little device, triangulating the precise location of it. There are endless possibilities for use in the future. It is anticipated that it will even help the blind to find their way. It may be used to track endangered species of animals and perhaps even monitor the location of children and the elderly.
Long before scientists developed this unique tool for navigation, God gave us His own unique tool for spiritual navigation. We might call it a “God’s Positioning System”. It helps believers find their way through life with confidence. It helps them to know what God wants them to do each and every day. While many people sometimes struggle with knowing God’s will for their life, that struggle is unnecessary if they will just rely on God’s Positioning System.
The Word of God
While the skeptical world tends to make light of the validity of the Bible, in reality, it is the most accurate point of reference for the Christian. Historians and archeologists are amazed at the accuracy that has been passed down from generation to generation. Scribes painstakingly copied the sacred text, counting each individual letter, to make sure that nothing was omitted or added to the text. It was then counted a second time by a master scribe who compared his count to the first. In this way, copies of the Bible and Torah, have passed down to today virtually intact. God’s Positioning System, the Bible, can be counted on! Today, when we read the words in the Bible, we often fail to appreciate the gift we have been given. The Bible not only is an accurate historical record, but a vital tool for everyday living. It gives us spiritual insight and wisdom and reveals divine truths that help us find our way. When we read text books in our schools today, we often discover that history is being conveniently rewritten to push a particular point of view. We call these authors ‘revisionists’ as they try to eliminate from our history books the spiritual and Godly influences by the founding fathers of the United States. The Islamic world wants to ‘revise’ the history of the Jewish holocaust. Changing it in the books does not make the reality go away, but it does change what people tend to believe. That is why the accuracy of the Bible is so very important. The Bible is a unique collection of 66 books written by numerous authors all declaring the same truths over and over again. Minor discrepancies are often pointed to by the skeptics who forget that each story is told from a different perspective. Just as a car accident is seen differently from an adult or child or passenger or bystander perspective, so the Bible gives us different points of view. Each gospel, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, tells the story from a persons perspective, yet together we see a cohesive picture that is astounding.
The Bible can be counted on to guide our daily lives. It is a tangible GPS for every believer. It is a map for those who are lost. It is a voice to those who will listen, telling us what God wants us to know today. It requires no satellites to beam its message. It never fails to speak to those who long to hear its words of truth. It will give clear direction to a confused soul. After reading it for the past fifty years, I continue to discover new paths to walk and the picture of my final destination becomes clearer and clearer.
The Holy Spirit
The authorship of the Bible was not just men doing their ‘thing’. It was a divinely inspired creation. Men wrote on paper and papyrus what the Holy Spirit spoke into their hearts. In a GPS there is a lovely voice that speaks out the directions. “Turn right in 500 100 100 feet.” The Holy Spirit is like that too. God sent Him, not just to be with us but to be ‘in’ us… to tell us what we need to know… to reveal truth, to edify, encourage and teach. He taught the disciples as He recalled to their minds all the things Jesus had taught them as He walked with them for three years. He helped them piece it all together. “Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit” in Acts 4:8 was enabled to speak boldly about Jesus, and people were amazed that these “ignorant and unschooled men” could declare like seasoned orators. They realized these men had been with Jesus. In Acts 5:32 Peter declared: “And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.” He knew the source of power and truth.
Today, Christians have that same source of power and truth available to them. The Holy Spirit is our GPS. The Holy Spirit is God. He is part of the trinity. He does not change. He is here to help you today. He wants you to get into the Word of God so He can teach you what you need to know. He wants to reveal Jesus to you. He will make Him so real in your life, if you let Him. Believers tend to rely on everything but the Holy Spirit. They rely on what the pastor says or the Sunday school teacher, or their friends or co-workers. They even tend to rely on Hollywood movies and documentaries more than they do on the Holy Spirit.
The early church counted on the Holy Spirit to assist them in their task of telling the world. They valued the Spirit in choosing deacons, they chose “men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom.” (Acts 6:3) Stephen the first martyr, was one of those chosen. Another was Philip who shared the message with an Ethiopian, baptized him and…. “ when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away, so that the eunuch saw him no more; and he went on his way rejoicing.” Philip found himself some 20 miles away after this incident. Strange things sometimes happen when the Spirit is given free reign. Our GPS knows things we do not know. He knows the road we must take. He knows what lays ahead in the future. He knows the best way to accomplish a task. He knows how to meet the need perfectly. He knows how to reveal the truth. ““But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me.” (John 15:26) We have that same ‘Helper’ today. He still comes to help us. He knows truth for He is Truth. When we are lacking in guidance, when we don’t know the will of God, when we face circumstances we don’t understand, He is there. When we share our faith with the lost, He gives us the words to say. When we need to hear from God, He is our GPS in the still of the night, speaking to our souls, giving us what we need to hear. He makes the words of the Bible jump from the pages into our hearts.
Its unfortunate today that many Christians try to find their own way… and they are like men lost in a blizzard...fading fast. Our independent streak keeps us from consulting our heavenly GPS. Pride tells us we can do it all by ourselves. Unfortunately frozen zombies never arrive at their proper destination. Pilots today have learned to land huge aircraft in a blind fog because they have learned to trust their navigational equipment. Are we so foolish to think we can fly through life without our Godly Positioning System working? When we trust in what we can do, we short-change ourselves. When we trust in what God has to offer, we learn that He always knows what is best. When we think we need more ‘stuff’ in our closets, He knows when to refocus our priorities. When we think we know how to figure it all out, somehow He always unravels our ‘ideas’ and shows us a better way. When we begin to rely on our own resources, He sometimes jerks the ‘resources’ from under us and then proceeds to ‘open the windows of heaven.’ When we put Him in charge of it all, life becomes a trail of miracles. Once you walk that trail, you will never want to go back to doing things ‘your’ way ever again.
The Goal
The GPS of God teaches us that we are to be filled with the Holy Spirit, walk in the Spirit, yield to the Spirit, be taught by the Spirit, and pray in the Spirit. Yet how often do we ‘grieve’ the Holy Spirit. Every time we fail to trust Him, every time we turn away and fail to obey His voice, we grieve Him. It’s not always easy to go against what sometimes appears the proper thing to do, when the Spirit directs otherwise. But God’s way is always best. He sees the whole picture. We see just a little bit. Trust puts your hand in His and lets Him lead. It is like a father-child relationship. When Father guides us, when we hold His hand, He never lets us stumble or fall.
Do you know where you are going? Do you know how to get there? What are you counting on to find your way? Plug in your GPS to the Power Source, and let Him track your life. In an electronic GPS, it takes timing and distance to determine location. An atomic clock in the satellite determines the timing. Your distance from the satellite is the second factor. With God, His timing is always perfect and accurate. No matter how far you are from Him, there is no distance with God. He knows just how to triangulate your life. Just because you feel lost, does not mean you are. If He knows where you are, you are never lost. Even Jonah was not lost in the belly of the whale. The moment Jonah prayed, his GPS kicked in and God began to guide him.
Are you feeling a little lost? God knows where you are. He knows your future. He know your past. Nothing is hidden from Him. Let Him guide your life today and tomorrow. Let God be your GPS for life through the Word and the Holy Spirit. He will never let you down. You will arrive at your final destination safely.
J. Johnson

Saturday, May 05, 2007


One of the strongest messages of the Old Testament prophets was the declaration, the command of God through these men of God which stated, “Return to me Last month we determined that God is not a God who changes. Unfortunately, we as frail sinful humans do, and we tend to stray further and further away from God. Israel had that same problem. God told Israel through Jeremiah “you have played the harlot with many lovers; yet return to Me,'' says the Lord.”(3:1) God continues to call us back to Himself, not through the prophets as in the books of Jeremiah and Nehemiah and Malachi, but through the tug of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. He is pleading with the ‘church’, the bride of Christ, to come back…to return to our first love.
Return to your First Love
The church in Ephesus had strayed from the message that had first been preached to them… and in Revelations 2: 4,5 John related this message to the church: "Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. "Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place unless you repent.” Sometimes we get so caught up in our daily routines, our times of pleasure and our programs that we fail to notice we are slowly drifting further and further away from our moorings. Soon there is distance, and the intimacy is gone. Communication becomes shallow and even sarcastic. I have seen it in people, in churches, in ministries and in America. God is speaking a warning message to all: Remember where you have fallen from… and repent! In other words, we are to recognize that drifting has occurred, and we need to turn around, change, go back, return to our first love. Thinking about it is not enough. Reading about it is insufficient. Praying about it is not enough either. It calls for change—-action—-sacrifice—determination—dedication—commitment! These are words our society does not like. They fail the grade when it comes to making lasting commitments. A slight breeze just pushes them in whatever direction the wind is blowing. “Whatever is convenient—just do it…. Don’t ask me to make sacrifices.” We do not like to hear the truth. We put our feet into the pews where the pastor will make us feel good, tell us it’s all OK. Pastors balk at calling sin by it’s real name because sin offends. We gather folks around us who think just like everyone else. We don’t get into the Word and read the truth where the Holy Spirit might convict us of our wandering souls. Yet the Word has always laid the message out strong and clear for all to read. Return—or be removed…
How do we Return?
Remember when you first realized you were a sinner? You came to Jesus and He cleansed you from your sin and in that moment you fell deeply in love. You wanted to tell everyone! In your childish exuberance, you were not ashamed or embarrassed about the new love in your life. You were bold. You were excited—-and you were forgiven and free!
It’s springtime, and love is in the air once again. It’s amusing to watch young couples who have just fallen in love. You see them standing together, looking longingly into each others eyes, holding hands, touching, kissing, not caring who sees. He brings her flowers for no reason. She bakes him brownies and splashes on cologne. They can hardly wait to get off work, out of school, or for a moment when the two of them can get alone, just to talk, or even hear the sound of their first love—breathing on the phone. Remember? Perhaps it seems too long ago for you to remember when you first fell in love with Jesus. But if you want to return… you have to go back to doing those same things you did when you first fell in love. It means spending lots of time with your lover. It means intimacy without distractions. It means setting aside all other ‘stuff’ just to be with Him. Have you sent Him ‘flowers’ of praise lately? Are you really ‘in love’??? Make it your business to please the One you love! Make the time and take the time! But you may discover that the closer you get to the Holy Lover of your soul, the more unholy you feel. Sin has crept in, to hide in places you did not notice.
There is need for Repentance
When I turned 40, I noticed some changes in my life. My joints started to ache in places they had never ached before. My Bible seemed blurry when I tried to read it. I just could not read that tiny print on the vitamin bottles anymore. I found I needed reading glasses. But when I took those reading glasses off, I was no longer seeing some things that I used to see. The dust sometimes piled up, and the floors sometimes needed cleaning. But because I could not see the dust or the dirt, I never knew it was there. I learned that I needed to be diligent about doing some things, even if at first glance it appeared all was well. Our hearts are sometimes like that. Sin creeps in and sits there unnoticed. Soon, if left unattended, it invites more sludge to join in...until soon the ‘house’ is so filled with junk and dirt that we don’t know how to manage. It’s hard to admit we are wrong. We don’t like to say “I’m sorry. Forgive me” We don’t like the work it takes to clean up the mess we allowed. So we hide it in a closet or under a rug. We think no one will notice….’til our Love comes in the door… “repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place unless you repent” To repent means to change our direction 180o, to return the way we came and not go back again to the old ways. We need to see through the ‘eyes’ of the Spirit—to see our hearts and lives as He sees them. When we do, we will see the accumulated filth and be appalled that we allowed that to happen in our lives.
An Extreme Makeover
A remodel job just won’t do. Our spiritual houses are falling down rotten. Termites and mold have invaded where we failed to maintain our spiritual standards. If our children are wandering from God, perhaps we need to look in the mirror of God’s Word and see the hypocrisy He sees in our hidden foundations. It’s time to do a knockdown demolition of all the stuff satan has slyly pulled into the ‘house.’ We may like the comfort of the old ‘house,’ or the memories that came with all the time spent there, but it will not compare to the fresh new construction that the Holy Spirit wants to do in our lives. It will be beyond our expectations and imaginations. It will exceed our wildest dreams. You see He still loves us just the way He always did. He did not change. He has the very best waiting for us. If He could ship us out of town while He took over the old premises, He too would call in the heaven’s wrecking ball, the contractors and those who know how to change things. The Carpenter would start with a new foundation and build it up all over again to meet today’s needs. He wants to give us ‘new’ when we are satisfied with the ‘old.’ He wants to fill us to overflowing with new wine, new oil, new Life, new joy, and a new mind. He wants to make us a new creation. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (2 Cor 5:17) The old just won’t do! I like the way The Message bible paraphrases Ephesians 4:24-32 Since, then, we do not have the excuse of ignorance, everything—and I do mean everything—connected with that old way of life has to go. It's rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you.25 What this adds up to, then, is this: no more lies, no more pretense. Tell your neighbor the truth. In Christ's body we're all connected to each other, after all. When you lie to others, you end up lying to yourself.26-27 Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angry—but don't use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don't stay angry. Don't go to bed angry. Don't give the Devil that kind of foothold in your life.28Did you use to make ends meet by stealing? Well, no more! Get an honest job so that you can help others who can't work.29 Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift.30 Don't grieve God. Don't break his heart. His Holy Spirit, moving and breathing in you, is the most intimate part of your life, making you fit for himself. Don't take such a gift for granted.31-32 Make a clean break with all cutting, backbiting, profane talk. Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you. So what now…? The choice is up to you. Will you return? Will you come back to the One who loves you? Will you be willing to yield everything into His hands? Will you give Him the key? Will you return? He is standing waiting for you to come. His arms are open wide and there is no sermon—no rejection—-no qualifications….just come. Come as you are. Come with the rags of your past, the problems of your present, and your hope for change. He will not disappoint you! You long for renewed intimacy. You long to feel His touch once again. You long to hear Him whisper in your ear. “I love you—and I forgive you.”
Return and Revive...
Genuine revival begins with one repentant heart that returns to the Lord. You can begin that revival! Just return! You may need to return to the call God placed on your hearts as a young person. It may mean you need to return to the closet of prayer or return to the ‘tent of meeting’ where you first saw God for who He really was. Revival means bringing back to life something that has died. As we return to the One who has Life… death and complacency will have to go. Pray from your heart….
"Lord, I return to you, I repent of my sin and complacency. I choose to love You again with my whole heart. Refresh that first love again. Thank you for filling me with Your Holy Spirit. I yield all that I am to you. Do what you want with my spiritual house. Amen” J. Johnson

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

I change not!

We live in a changing world. From the moment of our birth until the day we die, we see constant changes. While my father lived to see the transition from the horse and buggy to the car, my generation has seen a transition from the lowly radio to the full blown electronic computerized era. Nothing seems to stay the same for long. As soon as we think we are up to speed on the latest gadget, it is already out of date as new technology leaps on the scene.
We have noticed the changing church too. Just a few years ago, when a church was looking for staff members, they looked for a senior pastor and a youth pastor. Today, churches are seeking preaching pastors, executive pastors, media ministers, worship and drama pastors, video projection and graphic artist pastors, children’s specialists and next ‘gen’ pastors. The stress levels for pastors and their families have risen along with the expectations of churches and their leadership. Today, pastors are vacating their God-given calling in record numbers, falling victim to demands they just can’t keep up with. Others, under stress, fall into the enemy’s traps of sin and disqualify themselves for leadership.
There have been some powerful factors that have been continually changing the face of the church and Christianity at large. In a recent study on how to reach needy groups in our community, I was drawn to information that stated that the most powerful factor that is currently influencing change in our culture is: 1. movies 2. television 3. the internet 4. books 5. music 6. public policy and 7. family. Only a few years ago, the family was the most powerful influence in our culture. We wonder why the family unit is breaking down, why the church is accepting alternate lifestyles and immorality, why churches who follow traditional methods are loosing ground so fast. They have stiff competition! Notice that nowhere in the list do we find the church as an influencer of our culture. Today, Hollywood puts out a movie about a fiction book, and millions believe it as fact. Television documentaries about topics of faith produced by spiritual skeptics raise issues with which the church struggles. While the people in our churches deal with the changing world around them, the pastors often feel like they are loosing ground to the immoral culture pumping out its filth on the internet, in movies, on television and in magazines. Ministries that seem to be succeeding today have bought into the cultural media changes, and they show movie clips on Sunday morning to make a sermon point, use dramas and illustrated sermons to “preach” the message, give book reviews, and the music used to worship the Lord is very much like secular music in rhythm and glitz. The more the church accommodates itself to the demands of the culture, the worse it seems to get. Its like having children demanding dessert for breakfast. Once ministries begin to yield to worldly demands, it is hard pressed to know when and where to draw the line.
It is interesting to note that before Jesus made His glorious appearance in Bethlehem, 400 years earlier, Malachi, under the anointing of the Holy Spirit wrote… “ For I am the LORD, I do not change; Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.” (Malachi 3:6) While we daily face changes, take heart—-God does not change! He is a Rock of unchangeableness. Jesus is unchanging too. Jesus Christ is "the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Hebrew 13:8) So while we may not be able to count on people or pastors or music or churches to stay the same, our God is changeless!
His nature is unchanging.
God will always be a God of love, who is eternal, whose nature is truth, who is all powerful, ever present, and all knowing. His role and office is permanent. His love for mankind never wanes. We can find immense comfort in a God who remains the same while so much of His creation is in continual change and flux. There are no factors in the world around us that can ever change God. Science may make new discoveries. Governments may change. Wars may have a permanent affect on us and on our culture...but God still remains the same. New diseases may be discovered, new technologies may change the way we do things, but God is not moved! Our confidence can be placed in a changeless God who is not influenced by man’s skepticism, the atheist’s unbelief, or the dictators commands. When politicians change to try to win the popular vote, God is never striving to change in the hope of winning another vote. God never changes! He is not discouraged or depressed. He is never making plans to do things a new way. He sticks with the old. He is faithful to Himself. Because of His faithfulness, we can count on Him, no matter what we are going through. If you have a change of pastors… God remains the same. If your body gets sick… God is still the healer. If you feel alone...He is the One who sticks closer than a brother. If you are discouraged at the changes you see in your church, your family and your city… God has not changed!
He longs for your genuine worship!
While worship may have changed in your church—hymns giving way to choruses, and harmony giving way to rhythms—God still wants to hear you worship Him from your heart. You can do it on your own time. During your quiet time with God, worship Him from your heart. Sing Him a love song that expresses your praise to God. Don’t do it to show others how much you love God. Do it just to exalt God to His rightful place in your heart. He made you his temple. Invite Him into His house! Worship is the heart’s true expression of genuine love and exaltation.
He longs for your faithful obedience!
All God ever wanted from His creation was to be loved and obeyed. Yet man, from the Garden of Eden has struggled with this simple expectation. God warned Cain that ‘sin was crouching at his door’—-and sin is continually waiting for the unwary Christian who lets his guard down for just a moment, opens the door of disobedience just a crack, whose curiosity for sin drives him to unfaithfulness. Yet even in those moments, God remains the same, willing to forgive the repentant sinner and welcome him back into intimate fellowship once again.
He longs for your loving fellowship!
One of the things that has so dramatically changed our culture is it’s demands on our time. We are forced to schedule all our activities. We barely have time to go to church on Sunday mornings, let alone all the other programs at the church. We fill our calendars with movies, sports, conferences, school events, and are grateful when we find we have an evening at home to kick back and watch a little TV. We rarely take time to get to know our neighbors or play with our own family members. We rush here and there, trying to maintain a standard set by our culture. But God has another that does not change. He created us for His pleasure. He longs to have us choose to love Him… to take the time to place Him at the top of our priorities… to want to spend time with Him more than anything else… more than movies, more than television, more than the internet, more than music, public demands, and even more than your family. We can fill our lives with busy activities and fail to fulfill the divine plan God has to fellowship with us. We are here on earth for such a short time when we think of eternity. Yet we will be spending eternity with Him. Each of us will stand before this eternal changeless God in judgment. I can hear some folks now trying to excuse themselves…. “God, I meant to….” or “ I just did what everyone else was doing…” or “I was going to get around to it….” and then life was over. There is nothing more shaking than to go to a funeral and realize how brief life is. God gives us one life, one moment, one opportunity—-and then it is over.
When I stand before my Maker, I want to hear “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter in…” It may mean I have to die to selfish desires. It may mean I have to say ‘no’ to society’s demands. It may mean I have to walk a lonely road where few are willing to go. It may mean I must choose that higher pathway as I set an example for others to follow behind me. It may mean I have to pray when others play. He is looking for us to love Him back the way he loves us—without any variation or changeableness. Theologians describe the changeless nature of God as being immutable, that is, having to variableness. James describes the immutable God as the Father of lights. "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." (James 1:17) While all may be changing constantly around us, God remains the same. Because He never changes, His promises remain true throughout all time. He is forever the healer of our bodies, the healer of broken hearts, the One who sets the captive free, the One who forgives our sin, the One who is our King and High Priest, the One who is our friend and intercessor, our Provider, our Guide, our Peace, our Righteousness, our Lord, our Savior, our Rock, our Redeemer and our Judge. And when we stand before Him on that final day, we will give an accounting of what we have done in this life. He is the changeless Lord of Lords. If we fail to make Him the Lord of it all in our lives, then He is not really Lord at all. We just fool ourselves.
We often say we want to see revival. If that is really true, then we must recognize that God is not the one who needs to change….we do! If we take the stance that we cannot change, we become like the ones God spoke about in the Word who were described as ‘stiff-necked’ or with ‘hardened hearts’. The only hope for such is to get a ‘new heart.’ "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh." (Ezekiel 36:26) Is it time for a transplant? If we want to see changes come, let’s yield our lives into the hands of the changeless One, and let Him change us into His image and likeness. God does not change! But we must! Keep your eyes on the one changeless anchor in this changing world. He will never fail you for He remains the same from age to age, regardless of how much we change.
J. Johnson

Friday, March 02, 2007

Holiness...More than a Halo!

Like me you have probably seen pictures of angels or Bible characters or saints, all with a glowing halo over their head. Sometimes we get the idea that one day we will be like that...with our own little halo. But the Bible has so much to say about holiness and nothing to say about halos.
God is holy. We know that. But when He tells us in the Bible that we are to be holy just like Him, we struggle with it. Holiness does not seem to be easily achieved for some. We tell ourselves, “When I get to heaven, then I will be holy!” Then we do what we want, and find ourselves falling into temptations of all kinds and giving in to some of the very things we promised ourselves we would never do.
Today the church seems to struggle more and more with living up to Biblical standards. Pastors often refuse to preach the hard line message of a holy lifestyle lest they offend those dabbling in sin and never get to minister to them at all. Evangelical churches have come to soft-soap the gospel message, tolerating sin in the pew that previous generations would have thrown a fit over. Holiness churches were known for their high standards of living and behavior and dress. They started out with a desire to live as God would have them live….then they degenerated into rule making critical dogmatic Pharisees that turned off the next generation. They decided to make everyone else holy and their determination placed the focus in a wrong way. Let’s look at some basics of holiness.
1. Holiness comes from God
God is a holy God. He told the children of Israel in Leviticus 11: 44-45 For I am the LORD your God. You shall therefore consecrate yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy. Neither shall you defile yourselves….... 45 For I am the LORD who brings you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy. It was God’s desire that we live up to His standard. That holiness begins when we choose to consecrate ourselves to God and His ways. We have to know what God’s standards are before we can live up to them. In the Old Testament, the entire book of Leviticus was dedicated to teaching the people how to live a holy life. Unfortunately, most of the activities that were supposed to produce holiness were outward acts rather than inward choices. God wants us to learn both. We are to behave outwardly in a holy behavior because of our influence on others. But we are so to be holy within so that our relationship to God will not be hindered. Holiness does not come from what we do, but from who God is in us. So living a holy life is more than just putting on a pious pose, more than wearing Christian T-shirts and more than going to church every Sunday. Holiness is choosing to live in a way that pleases God 24/7.
2. You must desire holiness
Being holy is not something you can do by yourself. It takes choosing God over the ‘normal’ choices the world offers. It means a dedication, a consecration, a separation that is intentional and birthed from the love you have for God. To desire holiness in your life means that you want God in control of everything! It is putting your hand in His and trusting He will lead your every step in a path that will bring you to Him. Jesus talked with His disciples as they walked the dusty roads of Israel, and he told them all about holiness. A rich young man came to Jesus and asked him how to have eternal life. He equated the gaining of eternal life to holiness, and had practiced all the keeping of the commandments of the law. But Jesus recognized the root of his problem. He told him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” (Matthew 19:21) For him, perfection demanded that he learn to love his neighbor as much as he loved himself and God. He was not ready to give it up and follow Jesus. That was too much for him and he went away sad. Then Jesus clearly told his audience... “ ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”( Matthew 22:37-39) Perfection comes when we live spiritually balanced lives, loving God and loving those around us. When we love God, we do not want to do what displeases Him. We will not want to choose to sin and grieve his heart. We will watch and discipline our mouths. We will be cautious about the places we go and the things we do. We will take the time to ask Him first if it pleases Him. It means matching our lifestyle with the Word of God. This means Christians should not be living in fornication or adultery. They should not be greedy with what God provides, but tithe and give generously to those in need. It means we would not want our name and ministry lifted up, but His name alone! It means we should not be in the habit of lying, cursing, stealing, cheating, or coveting. These are not God’s ways. It must be the deepest desire of your heart to live your life in a way that would be pleasing to God.
3. Holiness is not in appearances
Often the world around tends to look at the outward appearances. We want to fit in, yet be holy. Christian holiness is not achieved just by wearing religious garb. You could dress like a monk or a nun and still be a sinner. You could wear modest attire and still have sin in your heart. Others may judge your spiritual condition by what they see on the outside, but God looks on the heart. That does not mean that Christians can look just like the rest of the world wearing scanty attire. It means we have to consult the One in charge of our life, for how we dress should be pleasing to Him and measure up to Bible standards of moderation in all things. If our appearance causes someone to stumble into sin and lust, would it be pleasing to God?
4. Holiness is a reflection of a relationship

When Adam and Eve walked with God in the garden, they had a relationship of intimacy. There was absolute holiness. But the moment that they sinned, everything changed. No longer did Adam walk with God in the garden in the cool of the day. Sin drove a wedge between them. To restore that intimate relationship, Jesus had to come and die for the sin of all mankind. When He died, the veil in the temple was torn from top to bottom, revealing the place of intimacy to the public eye once again.
When we tell folks that God loves them just the way they are, we are not telling them the whole truth. God does love them….that’s true. But he does not love the sin in their lives. Restoring that relationship comes at a cost. It may cost you some friendships. You may have to change your lifestyle, like the rich young man Jesus talked to. You may have to give up some things you love. You may be persecuted because of your devotion. Things of value come at a high price. Jesus knew that better than anyone. His holy perfection came to live in the sinful world, to take all the sin of mankind upon Himself, to die a death of a criminal, just to make a way for mankind to restore that first intimacy. It cost him everything to be obedient to His Father. He not only set the example for us to follow but He also is willing to help us. He gives us guidelines to follow. Our holiness is an act of worship. “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:1-2 NIV) Pleasing God and walking daily in His perfect will must be our daily goal.
When we choose deliberately to sin, we tell ourselves., “But God knows my weaknesses!” We forget that disobedience is not a weakness, it is a sin. When we make Christ the Lord of our lives, we have no more license to sin. We have a responsibility to the One in charge of our lives. Ephesians 5:1 & 3 tells us we are to “Be imitators of God ….there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people.” If we think we can be careless in our devotion, we forget what the bible says… “Strive to live in peace with everybody and pursue that consecration and holiness without which no one will [ever] see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14 Amplified) Without holiness, we cannot ever see God.
Holiness is more than a halo, more than legalism—it is living in loving obedience. A love relationship has responsibilities. Christians must be responsible for their choices and actions. God will help you to overcome temptations. He will help you choose wisely. He will help you guard the word of your mouth. But He can only help you if you let Him, if you invite Him to be part of the decision making process. You may be asking yourself just now, “How can anyone even begin to measure up to the perfection, justice, almightiness, righteousness, majesty, splendor, beauty, and excellence of the glorious God?” In yourself, it is impossible, but….’with God all things are possible.’ (Matthew 9:26) The key is staying close to Him…with God! Together you and God are a team effort. You walk in daily obedience with Him, and He will help you overcome and prepare a place for you in heaven. Holiness is not an impossible goal. Jesus was tempted in every way that man can be tempted yet He did not sin.
Perhaps you find yourself today living in sin. You have given in to the pull of the world around you, and you have yielded to temptations. You hate what you have done, yet feel helpless. Slaves to sin are helpless. They need a Redeemer to set them free. Christ is your Redeemer. He has provided a way for you to walk in holiness. It begins with a repentant heart. Genuine repentance means you are so sorry for your sin that you refuse to walk that way again. It is turning around and deliberately going the other way. It is deliberately choosing to obey God.
Why strive for holiness? Because God commands it. “Be Holy for I am holy!” Let’s lay aside all the excuses for sloppy Christianity and lazy devotion and let us choose to live our lives as imitators of Christ, the Holy Son of God.

by J. Johnson