Clogged Arteries

The last several weeks have been an adventure of sorts for me.  It all started for me the first week of November.  For about a week I had been feeling extra tired and weak, so I knew that I was fighting something in my body but what I didn’t know.  Then it was on the first Monday of November that I developed a discomfort high up in my chest, a feeling I associated with something like bronchitis.  The discomfort was constant and consistent in its intensity throughout the day, and then by evening time I began to feel very tired and weak.  Again, I was just thinking I was fighting congestion of some sort.  Well, very early Tuesday morning I woke up with the same discomfort as before, but now I couldn’t get comfortable in bed,I was drenched in sweat, and I felt like I was about to pass out.  It was at this point that I told my wife I needed to get to the hospital, but I couldn’t get to the car, and therefore I ended up having a ride by ambulance to the hospital located just two blocks from our house.

On the way to the hospital, the paramedics told me that my symptoms did not reflect an issue with my heart, but that they couldn’t say for sure one way or another.  At the hospital, many tests were ran trying to identify what I was experiencing and what was causing it.  All the tests they ran indicated my heart was not the issue, and they were getting ready to discharge me with a diagnosis of acid reflex or something like that, but before discharging me they wanted to run one more test a third time. The first two times they ran the test, the results were fine both times even though the second test results were a little elevated.  When they ran this specific test a third time, not only had the results elevated even more, but it had elevated into a“grey” area, and this result told them that something was definitely going on with my heart.  At this point it was decided that an exploratory heart catheter would be best to help identify exactly what was going on, with the hopes that they wouldn’t find anything.

You’re probably asking why I’m telling you all of this, but there are a couple good reasons for it that I will share as we continue.

When they went in through my wrist to check my heart, they discovered two things.  The first thing they discovered, and not necessarily in this order, was that one of my arteries was100% blocked, and a second artery they refer to as the “widow maker” was 60-70%blocked.  The second thing they discovered was that I was on the verge of a major heart attack if they hadn’t gone in when they had.  They opened the one artery that was 100% blocked and put in a stent, but they left the other one alone at the time hoping medicine could take care of it.  Needless to say, less than 24 hours after being discharged, I was back in the ER with chest pains which gave me a helicopter ride to another hospital in another city down the interstate.  It was then that they went in a second time to put a stent in the “widow maker” artery.

All this which took place within one weeks’ time, though it still wasn’t the end of the adventure.  As I looked back over the previous events and how everything transpired, seeing God’s fingerprints all over the situation, I realized something that had a spiritual parallel.  When I went into the hospital the first time, my symptoms were not typical of a heart issue, but those symptoms were the catalyst through which they discovered the more urgent issue with my heart.  Sometimes people go through situations and experiences that propel them to seek the assistance and counsel of pastors.  Perhaps it’s a marriage that seems to be falling apart, the death of a loved one, financial collapse, children making bad decisions, or bad medical reports and health.  They seek the help and counsel of a pastor regarding what they are going though, only to find out that a more urgent issue needs to be resolved first, either the person needs to surrender their lives to Jesus and/or deal with unconfessed sin.  Sometimes in our lives, it’s not the apparent issues that need to be dealt with, but rather those issues are what propels us to identify and deal with more important issues in our life and in our hearts.

A little more than a week after being discharged the second time, I found myself in ER again and after seeing something was going on with my heart,they transported me to another hospital in a neighboring city.  They did another exploratory heart cath to identify what was going on, but this time the results were good, and they were positive for the future with instructions on how to deal with the symptoms.  Between the second and third time I was admitted into the hospital I learned something that really surprised me.  Several years ago, I had been told that I had high cholesterol and was only told to change my diet and attend some classes.  Well, I did attend the classes,but not much changed regarding my diet. It wasn’t until the past few years that I really began to change my diet to benefit my health, primarily focusing on the high cholesterol.  So, it was exciting to find out that the tests they ran the first time I was in the hospital showed that my cholesterol numbers were normal, with the exception that the HDL was a tad low.  Apparently, all I had been doing the past couple years, all naturally and without prescription medicines, had paid off in getting my cholesterol down.  What was surprising to me, though, was when I found out that there is nothing outside of medical procedures that one can do to unclog arteries.  Did you catch that?  Even though I had made changes to reduce my cholesterol, there was nothing I could do on my own to unclog the arteries, and that it would require a medical procedure. My cholesterol had been reduced to normal numbers, but I still had clogged arteries that could become fatal to me at some point if not properly dealt with.  The danger and threat to my life had not been diminished because I made good changes to my life, and in fact it was only because the doctor did an exploratory heart cath at that moment in time that they could see I was on the verge of a major heart attack that could have taken my life. 

You see, I knew that my cholesterol was bad, and I thought that if I could make the necessary changes in my diet then I would be okay.  I then thought of people who realize for whatever reason that they need to make changes in their life, good changes that would benefit them.  I also thought of many who decide to make positive life changes by attending and getting involved in a church, or for that matter a charitable organization of some sort, but they are not dealing with core issues, issues that could still prove fatal for them spiritually.  Spiritually speaking,every single one of us is born with an issue that condemns us to an eternity in Hell and the Lake of Fire, and that issue is sin.  It doesn’t matter how good and moral you are,or how many positive and charitable things you do or support, or even how involved you are at church, if the issue of sin has not been properly and adequately dealt with in your life then nothing is changed for you eternally speaking.

As I began to make changes to improve my health and get my cholesterol where it needed to be, I felt good knowing I was doing something good and positive.  For the most part, everybody feels good when they do that which is good and positive, especially for the benefit of others.  This isn’t something that only followers of Jesus experience, but rather mankind in general feel that even though their good works are not centered around Jesus.  This is something that God has hardwired within each of us, but when we are self-centered, selfish and prideful we become blinded to this truth.  This is why there are some people who openly reject Jesus but still are considered good and morally solid individuals.  It is for this reason that people who are not Christians like to get involved with charitable organizations and churches, because it makes them feel good when they are doing things that help and benefit others even if they don’t embrace the beliefs of that organization or church. However, just doing good and positive things does not deal with the eternally fatal issue locked up within each person, and it’s something they can’t take care of on their own.

Spiritually speaking, sin is the spiritual plaque within our spiritual arteries.  We are born with it, and the more we sin the more plaque gets built up within our arteries, yet there is nothing we can do of ourselves to remove it.  It’s not enough that we change the way we live, trying to be a good and moral person,because in doing so we convince ourselves that we are okay when in fact we still have spiritually clogged arteries that threaten to send us to Hell. It is only through salvation, the repentance of sin and the surrender of one’s life to Jesus, that not only is sin removed but also the plaque buildup within our spiritual arteries, and it is then that the hope of eternity in Heaven becomes a reality we can embrace.  And to keep those arteries clean, we need to be quick to repent of sin and seek to honor Him in all our ways.

Doing good and positive works is not enough to change our eternal destination.  On the outward we may look good to others, and inwardly we might even feel good knowing we are doing good things for the benefit of others, but if sin has not and is not being dealt with in our lives, and if our lives haven’t been surrendered to Jesus to be lived for Him, then we are just as dead in sin as we were in the beginning and destined to an eternity in Hell.  Don’t let your good works and deeds be in vain, knowing that they in themselves have no bearing on your eternal destination.  Give your life over to Jesus, all of it, asking for His forgiveness and seeking to honor and please Him in all your ways, and from which good works and deeds will naturally follow. 

Don’t try to change your life by making good decisions and being good and moral in the sight of others.  Change your life and get your blood cleansed and your arteries unclogged by surrendering your life to Jesus first and foremost, and then He will be the reason for the change with eternal rewards for you.

John Johansson

Forgiveness of Sins

Here is the third of a series of blogs I will be putting out to help us prepare for the soon return of Jesus for His Bride. If you were to give a name to this series of blogs I would have to call it “The Rapture Prep” series. This isn’t so much a series on explaining the rapture and what it is or is not, but instead the focus is to help us prepare for His return. The previous two blogs of this series was called “Recalibrating Our Thoughts” and “Are You Watching?” In this blog I want to address the subject of forgiveness.


To begin with, Jesus mentioned forgiveness a number of times in the New Testament. Many try to discount them citing that they were teachings before He died and resurrected, but these are not teachings to ignore. In fact, these teachings of His were different from what we find in the Old Testament. In the Old Testament we continually read of people asking God for forgiveness, or asking for forgiveness on the behalf of others, but very little instruction was given for people to forgive others. In fact, instead we read of what many live by “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth”. So, why would Jesus call people to change the way they lived in regards to forgiveness if it was going to be invalid in about three years? This doesn’t make any sense.


Jesus’ teachings actually raised the bar on how we are to live. In the Old Testament the people were judged and deemed righteous or not based on their words and actions, but Jesus took it to a new level when His focus was on the heart and its attitudes and motivations. Nowhere do we read of Jesus telling us, before or after His resurrection, to disregard any or all the commandments. What we do read is that He gave us two commandments to live by, and He further went on to say that the law is fulfilled in obeying the two He gave us. In the Old Testament, a person could hide to a point what was actually in their heart and present themselves as righteous, but in the New Testament we learn that God now looks right past our words and actions and focuses on our heart. There is no hiding from Him, and while we may be able to keep others from seeing sin in our heart or the wrong attitudes and motivations of the heart, we cannot hide these from God.


What Jesus was teaching us was definitely based on the relationship we could have with the Father after His ascension. We could never really call God Father until we had relationship with Him through Jesus, but Jesus teaches us to call God Father, something we couldn’t do before. Jesus taught a message of love and grace that we can’t really do apart from the Holy Spirit, especially towards those who hate, despise, or take advantage of us, but He also taught a message of obedience to Him and His commandments. Jesus would mention what the law would say, and then He would tell us to live it in our heart and not just in word or action. For example, He mentioned the law that says not to commit murder, but He raised the standard when He focused on our heart and that any hate we may have for another is the same thing in the eyes of God.


Having said that, we need to remember what Jesus said in regards to forgiveness. He indicated that we are to forgive others, so strongly did He make that point that He went on to say that if we don’t forgive then the Father will not forgive us. In what we know as the “Lord’s Prayer”, even then Jesus makes the statement, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive others their trespasses against us”. Some argue that this does not apply to us since it was prior to Jesus’ resurrection, but that is far from the truth. Jesus was teaching us how to pray when He would no longer be with us. This is especially evident, as we indicated earlier, because He taught us to call God “our Father” in the same prayer, something we could not truly do until after the resurrection when relationship with God was made possible.


When we look at the parable of the unforgiving servant we learn something more about forgiveness. The point of a parable is to relay a truth that might not be otherwise understandable by the hearer, and Jesus is making a point in this parable that we need to learn. In this parable the king represents God, and the servants represent Christians. At a designated time the king decides to settle accounts with his servants. One of his servants owed him a VERY significant amount of money and the king was going to sell him, his wife and children, and all that he had to pay the debt. The servant begged for more time with a promise to pay back all that he owed. The king had compassion on him and forgave him his debt. This same servant went out and found a fellow servant who owed him penny’s by comparison to what the king forgave him of, and after demanding payment laid hold of that other servant and had him thrown into prison. Later word came to the king of what this servant did, and he was grieved and called for him. The king called him a wicked servant, who after being forgiven of much did not share the same compassion towards another that the king had given him, and the king then sent him to the torturers until he paid all. Jesus concludes with telling us that God will do the same for anyone who, from their heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.


Again, some argue that this doesn’t apply to us, but it does. It reinforces what Jesus has already told us, God will not forgive us if we don’t forgive others their trespasses against us. This is not typical Old Testament teachings, but instead New Testament teachings for the dispensation of grace we would soon be living in after His resurrection.


You know, something else that crossed my mind a few years ago. In the Lord’s Prayer we are told to pray, “forgive us as we forgive others their trespasses against us”. What if God were to really forgive us as we forgive others, not just in whether or not we forgive, but if we have conditions and/or requirements that must be fulfilled before we are willing to forgive? How many of us would want God to forgive us on the same basis that we forgive others? Scary thought.


One more thing. We know that Christ’s death was sufficient to pay the debt of all our sins, past, present and future, but how is that applied? Was asking God for forgiveness when we accepted Christ as our Savior sufficient to the point that we no longer have to ask for it? Some argue that since we asked for His forgiveness of our sins when we got saved, then we no longer have to worry about asking forgiveness of sins since it was already covered. This way of thinking is inconsistent with Scripture. Yes, His death was sufficient for all the sins we have or will ever commit, but that doesn’t mean we don’t acknowledge sin in our life and ask for His forgiveness of it later on in life. When John, the disciple of Jesus and His Apostle wrote in 1 John, he makes the statement “if we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”. Did you notice anything about this? One, he says “if we confess our sins”. He is including himself when he says “we”. If we no longer have to ask for God’s forgiveness then why is John including himself in that statement? He’s not saying it as something from the past, but instead the present and the future. He also does not indicate that the sin was already forgiven, but that it would be forgiven. The forgiveness given us by God through Christ is only applied to the sin in our life that we acknowledge and ask His forgiveness of.


Also, the writer of Hebrews tells us in Hebrews 12:1, speaking to Christians and himself, that we are to “lay aside every weight, and the sin that so easily ensnares us …”. The writer here is basically telling us to get rid of the sin that we get caught up in so easily. In Romans 6 it is very clear that we as Christians are not to continue in sin even though we are under grace. The Apostle Paul tells us that as Christian’s sin does not have dominion over us since we are no longer under the law but under grace. But, he also tells us that even though we are under grace we are not to continue in sin, and that we become slaves of whatever we submit ourselves to. To repent of and ask forgiveness of sin in our life means that we are to turn from that sin and no longer continue in it. That’s what true repentance is about, to turn away from sin. This is where we return to 1 John 1:9 where we’re told if we confess our sin, which involves acknowledging it, asking forgiveness and turning from it both in our heart and actions, He is faithful and just to forgive us. We are so blessed to have that assurance.


So, in conclusion, Jesus’s death was sufficient to cover all our sins, past, present and future. While at the point of salvation all our past sins are covered, any sin we do afterwards needs to be acknowledged as sin with the understanding that we need to ask for forgiveness and no longer continue in that sin. To refuse to do so shows a prideful heart that doesn’t see the need to acknowledge it, much less turn from it. Even though we do live under grace, it is very clear in scripture that we are not to continue in sin as we will then become the slaves of it. Just because we sin does not automatically or immediately result in broken relationship with Jesus, but it is clear that if we continue in sin with a heart that says it’s okay to continue in it we run the tremendous risk of dying spiritually. Paul is clear in Romans 8 that Christians living according to the flesh will die spiritually if they continue in it. Prior to salvation we are all spiritually dead, so Paul’s words about those living according to the flesh dying is in reference to Christians who had become alive in Christ.


When I was in high school someone I know stressed something to me, and that was the fact that unlike the Old Testament that was focused on words and actions, the New Testament starting with the teachings of Jesus focuses on the heart with its motivations and attitudes. Where is your heart? This is what God is looking at. As we see the return of Jesus for His bride getting ever so close, it is now more important than ever before that we make sure we place our sins under His blood through acknowledgment and true repentance. Just because there is sin does not mean we will miss the rapture, but if our heart finds ways to justify staying in sin then we do run the risk we will be left behind. I don’t want that to happen to me or to you. Praise God for salvation which gives us the opportunity to no longer live in or be in bondage to sin! Let us live worthy of such salvation!

A Regret Best Avoided

It’s often times been noted that those on their deathbed would indicate a regret or two over their past life.  Either they regretted not spending more time with their family, being more loving to those close to them, or having wished they had or had not said or done something differently.  As a result of these remarks by those on their deathbed many have tried one way or another to encourage others on ways they can avoid having such regrets.


These deathbed regrets are not limited to just those on their deathbed, but also extends to those close to them.  These regrets often times sound similar to those who are dying, but instead of viewing things from the perspective of a life about to end, they view things from the perspective of losing someone dear to them and having to continue in life knowing this with no opportunity to do things differently in that specific relationship.


Regrets are not fun to tangle with, either to deal with your own or to help others with theirs.  We know that with Christ we can have both forgiveness of the things we regret and freedom from them, but until we take that knowledge and embrace it in experience it can be very burdensome to have.  While some have been able to find forgiveness and healing in these areas through Christ, for many the weight of such regrets is too much to bear any relief from and become entombed within them never experiencing what Christ can give if they would surrender them to Him, and still others will attempt to ignore them and try living life in spite of them.


As I think about deathbed regrets and what they mean to those who are left to continue through life carrying them, my mind begins to think of a time soon coming where many will come face-to-face with similar regrets they will have to carry for the rest of their life.  Even though it would be great for us to live a life absent of any regrets when it comes time for us or someone we love to leave this life, these will pale in comparison to the one many will face sometime very soon.  What is this great regret I’m referring to, and why would it be so great that others would pale in comparison?


There is coming a time very soon where Jesus will return for His Bride, those who have given their lives to follow Him no matter the cost.  We know this event as the rapture of the Church.  It is clear in scripture that not everyone who calls themselves a Christian or goes to church will be called up to be with Christ forevermore, and I can imagine the regrets many of those left behind will have moments after they realize what had happened and that they are still here.  For some they may not understand at the time why they were left behind, but for others they will know exactly why.  They will know why based on the many times that the Holy Spirit had tried to get their attention in the past regarding an area or two in their life, areas they ignored citing various reasons to justify why they could continue as they had been thinking these things would not keep them out of heaven.  It is for these people that they will feel one of the greatest regrets of all, regrets of not heeding the voice and leading of the Holy Spirit or of the Godly, Holy Spirit inspired instruction of others.  They will regret having ignored these promptings or instructions, and they will find themselves having to deal with such regrets for the rest of their life as life as we know it will no longer exist after this event called the rapture.


What are some of the regrets “Christians” who have been left behind will have?   They could possibly have regrets for not being forgiving or for being critical and judgmental of others.  Perhaps they could have regrets over not spending more time in prayer or the Word, or even being more involved in church.  Others may be regretful that they allowed their time to be more consumed with TV, games, surfing the internet or Facebook.  For others it could be because they made going to the gym, working on hobbies and projects, or going to the lake a greater priority than their time with Jesus and His people.  It could be for a variety of reasons that I’m not even mentioning, but nonetheless there will be many who will have such regrets when that time comes.  The question each of us have to ask ourselves, and not just once, is if there is anything or anyone that is interfering with what God is asking and requiring of us to do?  These things may not be wrong in and of themselves, but if we ignore God’s promptings as we justify hanging onto them they could become the very source of such regrets experienced if we were to be left behind.  We need to periodically take a close and honest look at ourselves and ask if there is anything we would hang onto even if Christ asked us to let go of it.  On the surface, much like an addict who claims they can stop whenever they want, we can say we would have no problem giving something up if God were to ask us to, but we need to really take a serious look and see if there is anything that has a strong enough hold on us that would keep us from following God and being obedient to Him.  These regrets, regrets for not having done things differently to ensure our place among those called up in the rapture, will be much greater than any regrets we can potentially have otherwise.


Regrets for things that keep us from going up in the rapture, these are the regrets best avoided, and at this point we still have a chance to prepare ourselves to avoid having such regrets.  How about you?  Are you living your life for Christ in such a way that when the time comes you won’t have any such regrets to endure?

The Triumph of Truth

Have you ever had someone lie about you before? More than likely, most, if not all of us, have had that happen to us at one time or another.  And for some of us, we are still feeling the impact of such lies several years after the fact.  How many of you would agree with me that going through something like that isn’t real fun?


Lies can destroy someone, including their reputation, faster than most anything else. Lies hurt, and often times are accompanied with betrayal, where someone you trusted apparently thought it okay to speak so negatively about you.  I knew someone years ago that taught me that there are always two sides to every story, and how true that is.  While we know that to be true there is a tendency by many to make a judgment before hearing both sides.  This is another situation where betrayal can be felt, when someone you trusted and respected, a friend, decided to make a judgment against you without first getting your side of the story.  The impact of lies can make the person lied against feel alienated and alone, thinking that no one really cares about or likes them.  Lies can forever taint or twist the perception of people against the one who was lied about, destroying relationships that have been decades in the making in one fail swoop.  Lies can even lay to waste any opportunity for that person to advance themselves in any way.


When someone or some group begins to spread lies about you, it hurts and can trigger a desire to retaliate in some way. It is in these times that bitterness and resentment can begin to take root within us if we are not careful, and we do need to be careful.  Oh, we may not become vindictive and seek to avenge ourselves, but we may hang onto it through unforgiveness.  As Christians, to not forgive is not an option if we want God’s forgiveness for ourselves.  It’s just that simple.  I’m not saying that it’s always easy to forgive, or that the person even deserves the forgiveness, but then again when and how did we deserve God’s forgiveness?  Forgiveness is not necessarily emotional, though emotions can follow and become a part of it, but forgiveness is a conscious choice we make.  One thing I’ve learned over the years is that it is far easier to forgive someone right away than if we wait till later.  The longer we choose to not forgive someone, not only does it become harder to forgive them in the future, but it also makes it easier to not forgive others when they hurt or offend us even though they have absolutely nothing to do with it.


We need to remember a couple things when lies are spoken against us, things that will help you remain healthy emotionally and spiritually. I already commented on the first one, being forgiving, and the sooner the better.  I might add that God is always ready to help us forgive when it’s hard to do so, but we have to want to and to let Him help us.  If we choose to not forgive, we will be miserable and full of anger, both of which will continue to eat us up, either until we decide to forgive or throughout eternity apart from God.  So, forgive, and don’t waste any time in doing so.  Don’t wait!


The second thing to remember when lies are spoken against us comes from a comment I heard a minister once make. He made the comment, “The truth will always outlive the lie”.  Wow, what a statement.  That is so very true when you think about it.  It doesn’t matter how powerful the lie was, how impacting and destructive it is, or even who was behind it, it will at one time or another be exposed for what it was.  No, it may not be exposed in the very near future, but it will one day be exposed.  It may not even be in this lifetime, but it will be exposed.  When we, and we all will, stand before God the lies will be exposed and the liar will be judged accordingly.  When the lies are exposed and the liar judged, the judgment will be final.  So, if we can remember this truth and rest in it then we have nothing to fear.  God will take care of us and defend us against our accusers.  It may not come as we think or how we would like it, it may not even come when we want it to, but He will defend us if we keep our hearts right before Him.  If we keep our hearts right before Him, which requires forgiveness on our part towards the liars, we will see Him defend us and He will do a much better job of it than we could ever imagine.


Are you forgiving? Or should I ask is there anyone that you haven’t forgiven?  If so, you need to forgive them because God desires to forgive you, otherwise He won’t forgive.  It’s our choice to make, but as followers of Jesus to not forgive is not an option.


And, if we can rest in the fact that the truth will always outlive a lie, trusting that God is watching over us and will defend us, then retaliation and vengeance is not an option and we can have a peace that goes beyond the wisdom of man. Can you trust God knowing that He will take care of and defend you?


Truth will triumph over lies. Truth will outlive the lies.  And, God’s truth will triumph!



John Johansson

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