The Hospital That’s Not

Last night my wife and I were having a conversation regarding the direction many churches seem to be going in these last days, and from that conversation an analogy, a word picture of sorts, came to mind that I wanted to share with you.


A few weeks ago, the local community had their annual city cruise event, an event that has gone on for decades.  At this event, car enthusiasts with their friends and families will come from all over the region to show off their cars in car shows, and in the evening join in on a cruise down the biggest and longest street in town.  This event brings in not only car enthusiasts, but also venders and other groups that seek to take advantage of the different opportunities it presents.  This year was no different than the previous years, but this time the River Medical Center, a large local hospital, decided to be a part of the festivities.


The River Medical Center, also known as RMC, was looking for new ways to make themselves known to the community.  In a city with four large hospitals, it was important to the administration to get their name out there and to let the community know they were there for them.  It was for these reasons that the RMC administration decided to participate in this year’s annual city cruise event.


In their planning, the RMC administration decided not to say or do anything at the event relating to the medicine and procedures at their disposal, or even of the various health issues they dealt with.  To avoid offending anyone, especially the other local hospitals, or to appear that they were only interested in a particular segment of the community, all they wanted to do was to make themselves known to the community, and that everyone was welcomed to come visit them.  So, it was decided that they would set up the biggest tent they could, have as many of the medical staff on hand helping, music classics of the 1940’s and 1950’s associated with cars and cruising being played, and would hand out hundreds of hats and t-shirts with their name on it.  They even had on display classic cars some of their staff owned; a 1969 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500, a 1957 Chevy Bel Air, and a 1955 Ford Thunderbird, among others.


Their plans were a great success.  They saw a great response from those attending the event, and all that they were able to hand out reflected the amount of people they were able to attract.  They were also very successful in not mentioning any of the medicine and procedures they have at their disposal, or even of the various health issues they are equipped to handle, keeping conversations focused around cars and activities, friends and family, as well as around memories of past cruises.  At the end of the night, all the people knew was that RMC was another hospital in town, and that they loved cars and cruising just as much as they do.


Over the days and weeks that followed this year’s event, RMC experienced a significant increase of those visiting the hospital, and talk spread fast throughout the community about RMC and the great presence they had at the event.  Seeing and hearing the great response they were getting from their participation in this year’s annual cruise event, the RMC administration was riding an emotional high and looking forward to the next big event they could participate in.  They were growing, and they wanted to grow even more.


When people would visit the RMC, the staff was quick to make the person feel welcomed and to give them a tour of the place.  In the tour, people would see the various rooms and offices of the place, some of the equipment they had there, as well as the cafeteria and gift store they had on the premises.  Those who felt welcomed and comfortable there and really liked what they saw, they were quickly encouraged to become a part in telling others about RMC and helping however they could, including in the area of finances.


The River Medical Center was doing great.  They were experiencing a greater presence and reputation in the community, more people were coming to visit them, more people were helping them do various things, and the finances were really beginning to roll in.  Despite all the growth, there was a problem, a pretty significant problem at that.  Amid all this growth and attention RMC was experiencing, only a very small portion was actually seeking and receiving medical attention and healing.  On the other hand, some were only told how to change thoughts and behaviors dealing with symptoms they were experiencing without really dealing with core issues and taking the appropriate steps to deal with them.  And there were still some who thought that since they were visiting the RMC and helping where they could, they had no need for the medical services of the hospital not realizing they had serious health issues that needed to be dealt with.  In essence, from the tour and their willingness to help, they got just enough of what was available to them that they thought they had no need of anything else, a vaccine of sorts.


What I just described is a picture of what many churches are becoming.  In their quest to grow and become a light to their community, many will avoid saying or doing anything that might offend someone or hurt their churches potential growth.  Often times this includes not addressing sin on any level, except to say it’s a sin to not be helping, doing or loving others.  There is very little to nothing said of each person being born dead in sin, and that it is only through Jesus and ones surrender to Him, that one can become alive and be free of sin and the penalty of sin.  Nothing is really said of what sin is, or why and how Jesus is the only one who can save us from it, much less anything pertaining to the necessity of the cross and what that represents to followers of Christ.  And, there is even less said of how Christians need to live free of sin and our need to maintain an attitude of repentance to Jesus for any sin in our life as we endeavor to live for Him.  While it is true that we need to hear preaching and teaching on God’s grace, love, mercy and forgiveness, it is also true that we need to equally hear of sin, holiness, and God’s judgment upon unrepented sin for both the believer and the unbeliever.  If we don’t hear preaching and teaching on all of this, as well as Bible prophecy for the days we live in and which are ahead, then we are not getting the full counsel of God.  In fact, to leave any of that out compromises what the gospel of Jesus, or the good news of Jesus, is all about, leaving us with a watered-down and sugar-coated gospel that is grossly incomplete and misleading.  The sickness every single person deals with is called sin, the core issue and cause of man’s moral and spiritual condition, and unless sin is properly and completely dealt with in a person’s life, that person cannot experience the healing and deliverance God makes available to each of us through Jesus.  To leave sin out of our teaching and preaching is to do nothing more than teach others how to deal with or hide the symptoms of sin in their lives.  Just as the hospital in the picture I presented isn’t really operating as a hospital, in the same way many churches are not truly operating as church.  Perhaps this is a part of the deception Jesus and the Apostles spoke of that would be present within the church in the last days?


So, let us be messengers of the full gospel or good news of Jesus, sharing with others as God gives us opportunity to do so.  Let it never be said of us that we never told people all they needed to know to live as true disciples of Christ.


John Johansson


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Recess Is Over

As a kid growing up, I remember looking forward to the recess period at school. It was a break away from “school” stuff, an opportunity to get out and have fun with others doing whatever we wanted, within reason of course. The last thing we wanted to hear was the bell or the whistle signaling that it was time to get in line before heading back to class. Do you remember those times?

For the past several years, and probably for decades, a lot of Christians and churches have been out on the school yard having recess. To better explain what I mean by that, let’s look back at those times when we would have recess at school. Maybe you can relate? The first thing that I remember about recess was the strong desire to go to recess. Sometimes this was because I just wanted to hang out with some friends and have some fun, especially if I had friends in another class. Other times it was simply because I was bored with what we were doing in class, and I had energy I wanted to use up playing King of the Hill, 9-square, flag football, or whatever was the big thing to do at that time. Oh, how I wish I now had just a portion of the energy I had back then. Sometimes what we were doing in class was so challenging, intense, or monotonous and repetitious, I would feel like my brain was fried and needed a reprieve of some sort, and recess provided that reprieve for me.

For one reason or another, many Christians have gone to the play ground for recess. Maybe it’s because the social scene, online or in real life, is more important to you than living the Christian life in pursuit of Jesus, feeling the urge to get with friends and have fun? Perhaps living the Christian life just isn’t fun for you, possibly lacking the adrenalin rush and excitement that you craved, and so you decided to take a more casual approach to Christianity, choosing instead to pursue and indulge in whatever excited you or gave you some sense of satisfaction. Oh, you didn’t leave Jesus or the Christian life completely, but you “chilled” enough to follow the desires and cravings you had for as long as you could, all with the thinking that you might return to class and start taking your studies and relationship with Christ seriously again. Christianity in its purest sense just isn’t what you thought it should be, that it’s lacking somewhat, and so you’re taking a spiritual recess of sorts. Or, could it be that you felt that the Christian life is just too draining and burdensome, maybe too complicated at times, and you just felt like you needed a breather of sorts, a reprieve.

So, now you’ve made it to the playground. Now what? When we had recess, we didn’t go somewhere else. The playground was right there at the school. In the same way, many Christians are playing and having recess right there at church. They didn’t leave the church. They just left the classroom for the playground. I mentioned earlier that I remembered spending recess doing things like playing 9-square, flag football, King of the Hill, and tether-ball, whatever was the big thing at the time, but what could it look like on the spiritual playground within church circles? To understand what it may look like to be on the playground, we need to first identify what it looks like in the classroom.

In the spiritual classroom within the Church, or in other words the spiritual classroom of life, we’re taught what it means to be a disciple and a follower of Christ. We learn the heart of Jesus and what is called the Great Commission and how to live that in our own life. We learn not only that we are ambassadors of Christ, but also what that means and how we can represent Him to a lost and dying world. And with all of that, we also learn both the how and the importance of right living in the sight of Jesus, and that Jesus is coming back for His Bride at any moment, a watching Bride that has kept her garments clean, spotless and without wrinkles or blemishes. These are just some of the things we learn in the classroom, and it’s not always fun or exciting. In fact, sometimes it gets rough and tough, intense at times, but like any professional athlete or soldier would tell you as they strive to be the best that they can be in that, it’s going through those times that help make you into the person God has intended for you to be.

It’s on the playground that Christians play “church”. Just as there were different games and activities we might get involved in during recess, and how that would change from time to time, there are different games and activities that Christians on the playground will get involved in. On the playground, Christians will pursue that which “tickles” their itchy ears, that which feels good and doesn’t expect much of them in return, something that doesn’t challenge or infringe on their comforts, or something that isn’t inconvenient and demanding. No matter what it is, in varying degrees they will stray from sound doctrine and Biblical teaching to follow and embrace that which takes Scripture out of context or twists it to match and support their beliefs and agendas. Jesus warned us that in the last days deception would be great, and that we as Christians need to be aware that we do not get deceived.

What are some of the games and activities we can find on the spiritual playground within the church? Maybe you’ve heard of some of these. There’s the hyper-grace game, the Social Gospel game, the Emergent Church and Seeker Sensitive games, the Kingdom Now, Church Growth and community games and activities. Each of these games and activities no doubt has within themselves an element of truth that they gleaned from the classroom, truths that need not be forsaken, but games that divert our attention away from where it needs to be. I recently learned of a form of deception that is very deceptive, and that is misdirection. This kind of deception diverts our attention away from where it needs to be and onto things that are less important or draws our focus away from where it’s supposed to be. Regarding Christianity, our focus needs to be on what I mentioned is found in the classroom, and not what is found on the playground, and many of these games and activities on the playground deceive us into diverting our attention away from where it needs to be.

Well, the bell and the whistle are sounding indicating that it’s time to get in line to reenter the classroom. As we watch the fulfillment of Biblical end-time prophesy cross the headlines of the various news sources, we realize that Jesus is returning very, very soon. We are literally on the precipice of the Gog-Magog war mentioned in Ezekiel 38-39, a war that most scholars believe takes place shortly after the Rapture of the Church. A lot of Christians are looking at how things are transpiring here within America, ignoring what is happening in the Middle East and especially with Israel, almost as if they think America is God’s prophetic time piece for the last days. We are seeing a great apostasy, as Scripture tells us would take place leading up to His return, where more and more Christians are for one reason or another are giving little heed to answering the Great Commission, forsaking the sound Biblical teaching of the Rapture, especially the pre-tribulation rapture, as well as sound doctrine of what it means to be a follower of Christ and Jesus’ command for His followers to be watching for His return. We are so close people, and now is the time to exit the playground if that’s where you’ve been and return to the classroom to learn and seriously pursue your relationship with Jesus.

Recess Is Over!!!!


John Johansson


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The Mark of the Beast

It seems like most everyone in and out of church circles has heard the term, the Mark of the Beast.  We first learn about it in Revelation 13:11-18, a mark given to those who pledge allegiance and their worship to the Anti-Christ, the beast.  It is in this same passage of Scripture that we learn about the number of the beast, 666.  What is the Mark of the Beast, and what does it mean for those who take it, or for those who reject it?


Having grown up in Church I have heard many different ideas of what the Mark of the Beast is.  I’ve heard of it being a tattoo of the number 666 or a barcode of some sort.  I’ve even heard some say it would be a type of computer circuit board placed under the skin.  The most recent, and most popular theory of what the Mark of the Beast will be is the use of an RFID chip inserted under the skin with a hypodermic needle.  The RFID chip has numerous capabilities and uses that make it a viable candidate for the Mark, but does Scripture support that theory?


One of the biggest reasons people are quick to say that the RFID chip is the Mark of the Beast is because it can be used both to track people as well as to have a level of control over individuals we haven’t seen on a mass scale before.  Another reason some believe the RFID chip will be the Mark of the Beast is because it can integrate with financial institutions and retail establishments for various financial transactions, providing a level of security from theft and fraud, as well as identity theft.  Does Scripture indicate that the Mark of the Beast will be used to track or control people?  Or that it will be used to facilitate financial transactions?


I used to be one that thought that the RFID chip could be the Mark of the Beast, but a thought recently crossed my mind that made me question that.  The RFID chip is capable of all the things I previously mentioned; the tracking of individuals, the literal ability to exercise a level of control over everyone, and to be an instrument used for financial transactions.  Many of these functions, as well as many others, can be utilized on a local level, but some of these are and can be done via satellite, namely the tracking and control of people.  When it comes to being used as an instrument for financial transactions, there is a problem.  In Revelation 13:16 we’re told that everyone will be required to take the mark, and in Revelation 13:17 we read that people cannot buy or sell without the mark.  Here in America, as well as in other developed countries, it is feasible to think that all financial transactions can be handled with the RFID chip, except for when there is a power outage and the scanning and electrical equipment is rendered powerless for an undetermined amount of time.  That leads us to the other problem.  What about in undeveloped and third world countries, places that don’t have electricity or the necessary electronic equipment to scan and perform the various financial transactions one might need to make?  How can the RFID chip be used in these areas or under these circumstances for financial transactions?  Again, to be used as a tracking and control device can be done via satellite no matter where someone is, but to be used to manage finances is an entirely different matter.  So, where does that leave us?


In the Book of Revelation, the Mark of the Beast is mentioned 8 times; Revelation 13:16; Revelation 13:17; Revelation 14:9; Revelation 14:11; Revelation 15:2; Revelation 16:2; Revelation 19:20; and Revelation 20:4.  In these eight occurrences we learn what type of mark it is, the locations of the mark on the body, the purposes of the mark, as well as the future of all those who take the mark.  The Greek word for mark in Revelation 13:16 is, charagma (khar’-ag-mah), which refers to a ‘scratching or etching’.  While it’s not a branding as we would associate with branding cattle or livestock, it does indicate some sort of permanent marks on the skin.  How many of you have intentionally scratched yourself with a needle or sharp object to write or draw a temporary picture on your skin?  I imagine the same process used here except that the mark will be deeper and more permanent.  The RFID chip mentioned earlier is not given to someone through a scratching or etching process, but instead using a hypodermic needle.  I frequently go to various establishments, as I’m sure you have, where they have signs posted that say something to the effect, “No shirt, no shoes, no service”.  What if they changed the sign to say, “No shirt, no shoes, no mark, no service”?  In this way, there is no need for electronics of any sort to manage financial transactions, but instead just a permanent mark that identifies you as “one of them”.  With the level of allegiance to the Beast Scripture tells us about, it wouldn’t be hard to imagine that people would be strict in adhering to and enforcing such a policy.


Regarding its location, the Bible very clearly indicates that the Mark is to be on the right hand or the forehead.  More precisely, Scripture seems to indicate that the mark will be ON or UPON the body, which is contrary to an RFID chip that is inserted under the skin and into the body.  In Revelation 13:16, only the King James Version says the Mark is IN the right hand or IN the forehead, while all other translations indicate ON or UPON.  In Revelation 20:4, all Bible translations indicate the Mark will be ON or UPON the forehead, including the King James Version, but as for the right hand only the King James Version indicates IN the hand.  When you consider that the Mark as described earlier is one that is scratched or etched into the skin, it only makes sense that the Mark would be ON or UPON the forehead or right hand.


While preparing to teach on the Mark of the Beast at a home group I was teaching on the end-times, something crossed my mind.  In Revelation 13:17, we read that no one can buy or sell unless they have 1) the mark, 2) the name of the beast, or 3) the number of his name.  I can’t help but wonder if someone would have three choices to choose from to have permanently scratched or etched into their skin, choices based upon personal preferences.  Just something to consider as a possibility, though I have no plans or intentions of sticking around to find out.


Yes, the Mark is to be a sign of sorts that a person can buy and sell things, but are there other purposes for it?  Of the eight times the Mark of the Beast is mentioned in the Book of Revelation, five times it is connected with the worship of the Anti-Christ:  Revelation 14:9, 11; Revelation 16:2; Revelation 19:20; and Revelation 20:4.  The Greek word we mentioned earlier for the mark, charagma, also means a “badge of servitude”, and with that understanding we can see that the Mark will also be a badge of honor to one that is worshipped, in this case the Anti-Christ.  It would appear that the Mark would primarily be a sign of worship to the Anti-Christ, which places that person in direct opposition to Jesus, the “real” Christ.


To take the Mark is not something to be taken lightly as the consequences of such a decision has terrible eternal consequences to it.  In Revelation 16:2 we read that those with the Mark will get a “loathsome sore” as part of the first bowl judgement.  It has been commonly believed that a person with the Mark would get sores, plural meaning many, but the text clearly indicates it is a single sore.  The Scripture doesn’t indicate this one way or another, but I can’t help but wonder if that sore, which will be oozing and stinky, will be right where the Mark is, showing that God is greater than the Anti-Christ.  In Revelation 14:9-11, we also read that they will experience the full strength of God’s wrath and be tormented non-stop forever and ever.  In other words, there is absolutely, and never will be, any hope for those who take the Mark.  So, no matter what,




John Johansson (Pastor John)


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Signs.  We see them every day.  We see traffic signs that help us to safely navigate through traffic to our intended destination.  We see signs that warn us of dangers ahead, whether it is going down the road or entering a building or room, they are there to warn us.  We see signs that identify places of interests, whether it’s a restaurant we’re looking for, a hospital, a tourist attraction or a place of historical significance, or even where restrooms are located, among other places.  Signs even tell us where we can locate things like a fire extinguisher or first aid kit.  What about signs for life itself, especially signs of eternal significance?


In Matthew 16:1-3, Jesus rebuked the religious leaders of His day because they knew how to interpret signs relating to the weather, but they could not interpret or discern the signs of the times.  Jesus told us what signs to look out for regarding the end-times and when He will return, both His return for His Bride and when He returns to establish His kingdom here on earth.  In Mark 13:32-33 and Luke 21:34-36, Jesus lets us know that only the Father knows when He will return for His Bride, the Church, and then tells us to be watching for Him.  In the parable of the ten virgins mentioned in Matthew 25:1-13, in verse 6 we’re told that a cry went out that the bridegroom was coming, and that the virgins representing the bride were to go out and meet him, of which only five were prepared to do so at that time.  I believe the cry going out is the fulfillment of the signs given us in Scripture pointing to His return, and I believe that cry is taking place even now.


In Mark 13:37, not only does Jesus make it clear that everyone is to be watching, but His command for us to watch is strong and with emphasis so that we will know how serious He is in this.  In Revelation 16:15, Jesus accentuates the need for us to be watching by us that those who do will be blessed, and then rebuking those who didn’t and were left behind when He came back for His Bride.  Jesus’ command to watch and pray regarding His return is not a casual suggestion, nor is it something that can be negotiated if we don’t think it necessary or vital.  Jesus does something that too few of us do, yet it is something that we all should be doing, and that is the fact that He means what He says, and He says what He means.  If He tells us to watch and pray regarding His return, then He means just that and nothing less or more.


I’ve had Christians tell me that they don’t need to be watching for Christ to return, citing the belief that when He returns they will automatically be ready and caught up to be with Him.  This is a very dangerous position to have on three accounts.  First, those that believe this way are saying they know better than Jesus as to whether or not they need to be watching for Him, much less praying that they’re ready when He does return.  Second, they are, in essence, in rebellion to Him if they are choosing to disobey His command to watch and pray.  And third, they are under the false assumption that all professing Christians will be caught up to meet Christ in the air, something that Scripture very clearly states is not the case.


I remember one Christian, a pastor, tell me one time that we don’t need to be watching for the return of Christ, and this on the basis that just living the Christian life as we ought to be is the same as watching.  If living the Christian life as we ought to be is good or sufficient enough, then why would Jesus speak so strongly about us watching and praying that we’re ready for Him when He does return?  Again, this way of thinking discounts Christ’s commands to watch and pray, and that is a very dangerous position to be in.  I should add, however, that this particular pastor doesn’t even believe in the physical and literal rapture of the Church to Christ, much less a tribulation period, but rather an emotional, euphoric experience.


Some Christians take another approach to the subject of watching for Christ’s return.  When they see and hear the news, or even some of what is happening around them, they get so angry or depressed that they stop wanting to know more of what is happening.  In many ways, it’s as if they are choosing to stick their head in the sand so they don’t have to see or hear anything more.  These Christians are dealing with a gloom and doom perspective, having no real hope of better things ahead for them in Christ.  Even though what we see and hear can be very disheartening and depressing, if we see these things as not only signs of the times, but also signs pointing to His very soon return, then we can see these things with excitement and joy knowing that our Redeemer is soon to return for us.  This doesn’t mean that we are to be insensitive to what is happening, but that we need to keep a right and proper perspective of what is happening so we can be a light to those around us.


The other night while watching television a thought crossed my mind.  Christians in America, for the most part, are very distracted in what they are focused on.  Instead of maintaining a healthy perspective of watching the signs pointing to the soon return of Christ for His Bride, many Christians are caught up with watching several other things.  Some are watching news and politics to see how it will impact them and their standard of living, or even how it will impact them living as Christians.  Some are caught up with looking for the prosperity and material gain they think they are entitled to as Christians.  Some are caught up with spiritual manifestations and the feelings associated with them, even if false doctrine is present and promoted alongside such manifestations.  Some focus on building the kingdom of God here on earth and establishing a strong Christian presence in the “seven mountains of influence”, forgetting that this is not our home to create a “Christian Utopia” in.  Some even focus on and take the role of what I’ve called for years, the doctrine police, focused more on identifying and exposing false doctrine than pointing people to truth and the need to be prepared for Christ’s soon return.  Amid such distractions, Christians in America seem to lose sight of what we are to be focused on, and that is to live a life pleasing to God while actively watching the signs for His imminent return for us.


We are clearly living in the last days, and the signs we’ve been given in Scripture to be watching for are clearly converging together for their ultimate fulfillment.  It is imperative that we be paying attention to them.  Some see the signs but have become desensitized to them because their fulfillment is not happening as quickly as they want or in the manner that they anticipated, and that is something we need to be guarded against happening within our own heart and mind.  We’re told in 1 Peter 3:3-4 that in these last days’ people would mock and scoff of the fulfillment of God’s promise to us because that’s all we’ve heard about since the beginning but nothing has happened so far.  We live in a “microwave” society, where we think things should happen quickly and in a preconceived manner, and because of it many are becoming disillusioned to the reality of the days we are now living in.  Unlike any other time in history, all the signs we’re given pointing to the last days are happening all at once, and we need to be aware of them and making sure we’re prepared as we ought for when Christ returns for His bride.


Are you watching the signs, or are you distracted with other things of life, or have you been choosing to “stick your head in the sand” because you don’t want to see or hear them being fulfilled.  Jesus makes it very clear, that those who are not watching but are otherwise distracted with life and other pursuits will be left behind when He returns for His Bride, and I don’t want that for you.  That doesn’t mean we stop living and sit in a chair watching and waiting, but that rather in all we do it is with the awareness that the signs being raised all around us are pointing to His very soon return, and our life needs to reflect that as we live in a way that is pleasing and honoring to Him in every way, not being ashamed to live for Him even if it means offending those who don’t understand or feel the same way.  Our eternity hinges on it.


Mark 13:37 – WATCH!


John Johansson (Pastor John)


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The Bible, Our Compass

As we approach 2017, with all the unknowns it has for us, we need to remember God’s word to us.  We live in a time when we are constantly bombarded with information way beyond what the world has ever experienced before.  Everywhere we look, there is no lack of information.  We hear it on the radio, we see it on television, we read it in books and magazines, and we find it in the information storehouse we call the Internet.  It’s everywhere we want to look or give our attention to, the good and the bad, the true and the false, and it’s up to us which we will embrace and which we will discard or discount.


As we navigate through all this information that is at our fingertips and bombarding our senses, to distinguish between what is right and true, we need to remember that it’s not always clear-cut.  The most dangerous information out there is that which is not clear-cut, “gray area” as some would call it.  In this field of life we live in, some of the most dangerous mines that seek to destroy us is found in this “gray area” of information.  How can we navigate around them without getting blown up, especially when there is so much false and twisted information out there?  To do so, we need both a map and a compass, both of which is found in what we call the Bible.


A person that goes on a long journey hiking to a destination, or a person seeking to sail across the oceans and seas of the world, or a person taking flight in a jet from one country to another, they all need a map of sorts with a compass.  Without a map, the compass is useless not knowing where to point you.  Without a compass, the map is useless because it can’t keep you on course.  The Bible gives us a map to our eternal destination in heaven, and it also provides us a compass to help us stay on course, which also gives us things to look for that would indicate we are getting off course.


When you use a map, it’s important that you make sure you have the latest most updated map possible.  Without that, you may encounter times when the map will direct you down a road that no longer exists, or it won’t have you go down a recently added road that would be easier to travel.  The Bible is the latest update God has for us, and it will never be outdated.  In Psalms 119:105, we read that the word of God is a lamp to our feet and a light to our paths.  The Bible shines a light both with where our feet are, as well as the path we are traveling.  To go through life without the Bible to light your way is like a blind man trying to hike across a mountain range to a specific destination, especially without a guide of any kind.  It’s just not going to work, and it will lead to nowhere but destruction.


To properly use a compass, you need to make sure it is calibrated correctly.  An uncalibrated compass will lead you somewhere different from where you were intending to go.  You might think you’re going north-east because the compass is telling you that, but because it’s not calibrated you are actually going north-west, far from where you’re wanting to go.  The Bible is our compass, perfectly and permanently calibrated to the heart, mind, and will of God, and it never needs to be recalibrated.  As our compass, not only does it point us in the direction we are to go in, but it also shows us when we’re starting to get off course.  With a compass, if you are wanting to go south, the dial will show you if you start going south-east, and it will help you get your bearings and start heading south once again.  The Bible, if you study and pay attention to it, will with the leading of the Holy Spirit let you know when you start getting off track, and it will help you get your bearings and make the necessary adjustments to get back on track.


The Bible, all of it from Genesis to Revelation, is vital to the health and well-being of the Christian.  In it we learn more of who God is and His nature.  We learn about God’s redemptive plan for mankind, Jesus paying the price of our sin so we could have relationship with God, and ultimately how we can spend eternity with Them in heaven.  We find in it what it means to be Christ-like, a disciple and an ambassador of Christ.  It brings to light the deceptive ways and tactics that the enemy of our souls employs as he seeks to destroy us and keep us from what God has for us.  It shows us the difference between true followers of Christ, and those who are not.  Within its pages, it gives us a map to eternal life, and it gives us indicators to let us know if we are getting off track.


The world has tried to discredit the Bible, to get people to question if it’s true and relevant for today, as well as to question the intent behind the scriptures compared to what they actually say.  This started way back in the Garden of Eden, when the serpent deceived Eve into questioning not only what God said, but also His intent and reasons behind them.  In church circles, some of these same mindsets are beginning to infiltrate.  For some, the faceplate of the compass has become scratched and cracked, and thus it becomes more difficult to clearly and accurately read what it is attempting to tell us.  In some cases, people haven’t learned to read and interpret what the compass is telling them, and as a result they end up going in directions they had not planned on going in, and in some cases even leading people who are following them astray in the process.


In these last days, more and more people are not paying attention to the compass and what it’s telling them.  They look ahead and think they know the direction they should be heading in, especially if it’s appealing in some way, and without taking heed to what the compass is telling them they dart off on the path they think is best.  In Proverbs 14:12 and Proverbs 16:25, we are told that there is a way that seems right to take, but the end only leads to destruction.  Don’t ignore, neglect, or even discount the compass of life God has given us in the Bible, because if you do only destruction and death awaits you.  As you read it keep the following question in mind; “Do you read in the Bible what you believe, or do you believe what you read in the Bible?”


The Bible is God’s map for humanity, showing them the path to eternity in heaven, but it’s also God’s compass to help us stay on course to our eternal destination.  Never make light of it!  Never discount it as being non-relevant for the day we are living in, because it is always relevant.  Never adopt the mindset that what it says, or the message it conveys to us, needs to change for any reason because that is not true.  Never discount what it actually says to identify what you think the intent behind it really was, because then you’re saying that God “doesn’t mean what He says, and that He doesn’t say what He means”.


The Bible.  The vital tools of the Christian life are found in it; the map and the compass.


John Johansson (Pastor John)

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The Great Divide

I recently heard someone comment on how this election process is so different in regards to the Evangelical community.  Historically, the greatest majority of Evangelicals would rally around the same candidate, usually a republican, but in this election, there is great division within the Evangelical community in regards to how they should vote.  It’s not so much between the two major candidates, but more importantly, between the two major choices they have and their own moral and Biblical convictions.


This election has created quite a mess of sorts.  Where you could in times past look at a candidate, one that professes they are a Christian and attempts to live accordingly, whose history and reputation is in line with Biblical standards and morality, and someone you could feel comfortable casting your vote for as a Christian, that is not the case in this election.  While it may be possible to view some of the policies each of these candidates promote as Christian and godly in nature, to say they are living a life exemplifying Christianity or per Biblical standards and morality would be a gross misjudgment to say the least.  And this is where the great divide comes in.


On one side of the great divide you have Christians making their choice out of their sense of patriotism, patriotism reaching for the greatness America once had, or patriotism reaching for their idea of what America should look like in the future.  You have Christians making their choice based on the future of the Supreme Court and the judges the next President will appoint, as well as the candidates stated positions regarding abortion, marriage, the economy, and equal rights, just to name a few.  Some have even resorted to voting strictly in line with the political party they are associated with and the platform of that same political party.  If you are a Republican, to vote per your party can be both a scary and dangerous thing to do, especially since there has been in recent years a push from deep within the party to abandon some of the conservative positions that Christians generally associate with.  The Republican party is struggling to at least maintain the appearance of being conservative and embracing Judeo/Christian values.


In the mix of the quagmire of this election is the growing manipulation by some to force people to vote for one major candidate over another.  Perhaps you’ve already heard some version of this; to not vote for one candidate automatically means a vote for the other major candidate.  I’ve even heard Christians tell Christians that they are not voting for Jesus, or even a “perfect” candidate, but instead for one that they believe best reflects their ideas of the direction America is to go in, or in other words, “the lesser of two evils”.  This is hard when Christians are truly wanting to represent and honor God with their vote, but now they are having to deal with the ever-increasing pressure to vote for one of the two major candidates.


I recently heard someone that has become popular the past several months, especially with a book he’s written in favor of and supporting a specific candidate.  As I was listening to this person he made a comment that got my attention.  He indicated that about 60% of Christians are on board with this one candidate, and that the remaining 40% were missing God regarding who they should vote for.  For some reason, he believes that Christians who refuse to compromise the Biblical standards and morality by which Scripture instructs us to live by and to promote, that those Christians are missing God.  After all, that has been the main source of the Great Divide between Christians in this election.  The biggest reason more Christians are not supporting this candidate, or are very reluctant to, is the fact that this candidate has not demonstrated a life surrendered or changed by God in word or deed, much less a heart that desires to be, but instead one that is not godly.


Another thing this person said was that this election is a test for Christians, namely a test in their ability to discern the will of God and who to vote for, making it clear that he believes a discerning Christian will know that they are to vote for this candidate.  While I do agree that this is a test of sorts, I do not believe it to be the test he’s thinking of.  I believe this is a test regarding the heart of those who profess to be Christians, seeing what is most important to them and what they are willing to lay down for it.  To be more clear, I believe Christians are in a test to see if their heart is more for pleasing and representing God in and with their lives, or for America and its past greatness and subsequent benefits.


When I think of what the above person said, how that 60% of Christians are supporting this candidate while 40% are not, what comes to mind is that God always has a remnant of followers wholly devoted to Him.  When the Hebrews (Jews) were in captivity in Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar, all but three of the Hebrews bowed to the image of the king, who were subsequently thrown into a fiery furnace God delivered them from.  When Daniel was told that he could no longer worship or pray to God as was his custom to do, he went to pray to God as he always did, and thus was cast into a den of lions that God also delivered him from.  When Elijah thought he was the only one that would stand for God against king Ahab and Jezebel, God made it clear to him that he had 400 others that had not bowed their knee to popular opinion or the wickedness that was prevalent in the country at that time.  God always has a remnant!


I have said for years that there is coming a time when the line between those who are truly living with a heart for God and those who are not will become as clear as night and day, and I believe this could be the start of this great dividing between true followers of Christ, and those who are just fans.  A few years ago, there was a bit of a stir within church circles when it appeared that charitable giving to churches and religious organizations may no longer be allowed as a tax deduction.  At that time, I said we would learn who was giving out of a heart for God, compared to those who were more focused on the tax benefits they were getting, noting that those who lost the tax benefit would stop giving.  Now, we are facing the daunting position of choosing where or in whom we will place our trust for the future of this country.


When contemplating who to vote for, some are basing their decision on “prophesies” pointing to one candidate over another, or on who some well-known Christian leaders are giving and proclaiming their support for.  Is this really the way we as Christians are to choose who to vote for?  Some Christians have said that we are to vote for the lesser of two evils, trusting that God can still change and use them for His purposes in the future.  Is that really faith in action, or is that a way to rationalize why we’re voting the way that we’re planning to?  I know that God used a donkey to speak to a prophet in the Old Testament, and I know that God used one of the most wicked and vile rulers in history, Nebuchadnezzar, to bring judgment to Israel, but does that mean our faith in God is to be limited to one of the two major candidates?  If God is limited to these two major candidates, then is He truly God?  And if the Evangelical community is such an overwhelming influence on elections as history records, then how is it that Christians were not able to bring a better candidate to the forefront that most Christians would feel comfortable casting their vote for?  Could it be that there is a great divide between Christians who truly want to live and vote in a way that honors and represents God, and those who are looking more to restoring the greatness of America’s past and how they and others could benefit from it economically and morally apart from God?


Some argue that the Republican candidate is God’s choice to restore America to greatness.  It’s possible that he is God’s choice, but not necessarily in the same way some believe.  It could be that he is Gods choice to bring judgment to America.  How many people have even considered that possibility?  King Cyrus was chosen by God, but I don’t think He expected the Israelites to vote for him.  Two or three times God mentions that King Nebuchadnezzar was His servant, yet the Israelites not only didn’t want him but they also wanted to be free of him.  Whether or not God is choosing this candidate, it is our responsibility as ambassadors of Christ to vote in a way that best represents the heart and nature of Christ, which we see clearly lined out in Scripture.  As one person put it, while they are a very patriotic American, they are first and foremost a Christian, and their vote needs to reflect that.  No matter what, we know from Scriptures like Daniel 2:21 and Romans 13:1, that God is the only one that puts people in seats of authority and removes them, which even means our current President.


Tough questions that each of us need to ask ourselves.  Are we seeking to honor and please God with our vote, or are we trying to hang onto a way of life that is comfortable and pleasing to self?  When we look at the two major candidates, there is very little doubt regarding the corruption, perversions, and self-centeredness of both.  We can say that one is worse than another in one way, but then say the opposite to be true of them in another way.  One thing that has been proven to be true of both, even as recently as the last and final debate between them, is that they are both serious liars.  There are several scriptures that talk about liars, one of which goes so far as to say liars are an abomination before the Lord, and another that all liars will find themselves in the lake of fire, Proverbs 6:16-19 and Revelation 21:8.  The scary thing about liars is that they can’t be trusted to do what they say, yet many Christians are willing to ignore this fact and what Scripture tells us to embrace either of these candidates.  Their willing to put the convictions and Biblical standards for which they live by, and some even teach and preach, on the altar of American greatness by placing their trust in those whose lives are surrounded in lies promising them many things that tickle their ears.  It is utter foolishness to embrace and place your hope and trust in someone that is proven to be a liar.


It’s been said that one of the candidates had recently given their life to Jesus, and if that is true then that is great!  While that claim has only been made through third parties, nothing has been said by the candidate to support that.  This is especially disheartening when this candidate keeps saying things that contradict what those close to them say on his behalf.  Despite no public claims of a life surrendered and given to Jesus, despite no apparent change in behavior or mindsets that would reflect such a decision and change of heart, we are being told that we are to be tolerant and understanding as this person is a baby Christian.  Yes, I agree we need to be gracious and understanding towards new and young Christians, but even when there is obvious evidence of a life changed for Jesus, Scripture gives us some instructions we should heed.  In 1 Timothy 5:22, the Apostle Paul instructs Timothy to not be hasty, or to be quick, to bring someone into church leadership, and to keep ourselves pure by not sharing in their sins.  I realize that this is about church leadership, but when you’re talking about putting someone into any area of leadership as someone that represents the Body of Christ, we need to be very careful not to put someone in there that has not grown and matured in the faith.  It could be argued that we are not voting for someone to represent the Body of Christ, but that is exactly what one is doing when the person they vote for should reflect what they believe and stand for.


There is a great divide taking place in this presidential election.  Who you decide to cast your vote for is between you and God, however, I would like to ask you a simple question.  If, and that is a big if, your eternal destination was determined by how you vote, would you be comfortable with your vote?  Your vote may not be a determining factor for eternity, but it could reveal where your heart truly is, and that could determine your eternal destination.  I’ve heard it said by some, “I would rather stand with God and be judged by the world, than to stand with the world and be judged by God”.  If Christians got together and cast their votes in a way that honors and represents God, whether it was for any one of the few names on the ballots or a name handwritten in, Christians would have a very significant effect on the outcome of the election in a direction that God would bless.  The problem is, instead of the church coming together to vote with the mind of Christ, we are divided and fractured in multiple ways.  Don’t fall into the trap that says God can only work through one of the two major candidates on the ballot, because the God I serve is big enough, and God enough, to still do His will and fulfill His purposes however He chooses to do so.


The “great divide” is starting, and you need to decide which side of it you’re going to put your trust on, and on whom you will place your allegiance.  Is your God big enough to trust Him by honoring Him with your vote, or is your God only capable for working within the two major candidates?  If you truly want to see change come to America, change that brings God back into every area of this country, change that restores the greatness it once had, change that will not and cannot come through any candidate, then it’s time we as Christians and the Body of Christ heed the following Scripture on behalf of our country more earnestly;


“if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” – 2 Chronicles 7:14


John Johansson (Pastor John)

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Now Is The Time

It sure seems like things are getting pretty upside down in the world right now, and getting turned inside out on top of that.  One can’t help but wonder what is going on, and where is it all going to end up.  Unrest is growing in intensity, not just in other parts of the world but also here in America.  Lines are being drawn between different groups of people, and different ideologies of life and government.  Corruption is widespread from the highest levels of government all the way down to some of the most impoverished in society.  Violence is increasing to the point, and stirred up by some, that cold-blooded murder is becoming rampant from coast to coast, even to the point of targeting law enforcement.  What do we have to look forward to?


Have you ever been in one of those situations where the time had come that you had to react?  You know what I mean, where you just know it’s one of those “it’s now or never” moments?  We are speedily approaching that point in time where “it’s now or never”, if we’re not already there.  Am I talking about taking up arms to protect and defend ourselves and others?  Am I talking about moving to the mountains to get off the power grid and live in isolation, living as a hermit of sorts?  No, I’m not talking about either of those, or anything else of the sort.  What I’m referring to is something far greater in importance than any of those I mentioned.  I’m referring to one’s eternal destination.


Ever since God placed Resounding Shophar on my heart some 25 years ago, it has been my desire first and foremost to sound the alarm of the soon and imminent return of Jesus for His bride.  That desire was coupled with the sense of urgency to encourage and challenge people to make sure they are ready and prepared for His return.  That doesn’t mean that I have all the answers, or that I’ve mastered in my life what it means to be a child of God or His ambassador.  It just means that I’ve been willing and available to do it.


Over the years I have written short stories to help people remember Christ is returning and to refocus their eyes with that truth in mind.  I’ve challenged people in areas that they may have thought was unrelated to, or had no bearing on, the return of Christ and their readiness for it.  I’ve written about what it means to be ready when that trumpet sounds, as well as mindsets and behaviors that may cause some to not be ready when that time comes.  I’ve encouraged people to not live in the regrets or the “what if’s” of the past, but instead with an assurance of an eternity with Christ that awaits those who live for and place their trust in Him.  I’ve routinely written about the condition and attitudes of one’s heart, as well as the two mindsets I refer to as “kissing cousins”, legalism and extreme or hyper-grace.  I’ve written about the presence of unconfessed sin of an unrepentant heart, and those who choose to continue in sin finding ways to justify or rationalize why it’s okay to continue in it, and how that sin and mindset can interfere with their readiness for Christ and their plans for an eternity in heaven.  I’ve tackled the idea that all Christians will go up in the rapture when that trumpet sounds, and even the views held by some that there will be no literal, physical rapture of any kind.  I’ve even attempted to not only show Biblically how we can be assured of a coming rapture for the Church, but also why I believe it to be one that takes place prior to the seven years of God’s judgment we call the Tribulation Period.


I’ve shared my heart with Biblical support over the years regarding Christ’s return and our need to be ready when that trumpet sounds.  I realize there are different views regarding this subject matter within church circles, and some can even be supported in part with scripture.  I learned a long time ago that each person chooses what they believe, who they will believe, and what information they consider true and factual whether or not it truly is.  With that realization, I know that it is entirely up to you what you say or do with what I’ve written and presented over the years.  Do I have all the answers on this subject, and am I 100% right in what I’ve shared?  No, and probably not, but I have shared to the best of my ability and understanding what I believe God’s word has to say on the subject, and what God’s heart for us is as we see that day quickly approaching. 


I believe humanity in general, and Christians more specifically, are now in a position, or quickly speeding to it, where the term “it’s now or never” is sounding long and loud for people to get ready for Christ’s return for His Bride.  When we see things unraveling all around us and the world, and things speedily lining up for events specifically laid out in Scripture for the tribulation period, we have to understand that time is quickly running out for people to prepare and get ready for Christ’s return.  The abundant fulfillment of Biblical end-time prophesy right before our eyes I believe is the midnight call of Christ’s very imminent return.  No matter what your views are regarding the return of Christ, it would be wise for you to take the necessary steps to be watching and ready for Him when that time comes.  It’s not so much an issue of when you think He will be returning, but whether or not you are going to be ready when He does.  It doesn’t matter what you believe about the continuing presence of unrepentant sin in your life, sin that you’ve justified as okay and acceptable in your life, it would be wise to deal with it and get it out of your life.  No matter what you believe, are you willing to risk losing eternity in heaven by choosing to continue in a sin you have justified as acceptable and okay in your life on the basis of grace?  No matter what, NOW IS THE TIME for you to make sure you are ready and prepared for Him!




John Johansson (Pastor John)

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How Secure Are You?

I was recently asked by a friend I’ve known since my youth if I had written anything on this particular subject.  While I have eluded to it at times, I have never focused primarily on the subject, but seeing that the return of Jesus for His bride is right around the corner I felt it was important to write on it.  How secure are you in your relationship with Christ and eternity?  Are you secure in it, or are you embracing a false security that could have disastrous consequences if you are not prepared when that trumpet sounds?


As we see the turmoil within society and the world at large increase in intensity faster and faster, it’s becoming more and more evident that we are actually living in the last days prophesied in Scriptures.  As a part of these last days we know that Jesus will be returning for His Bride sometime in the very near future, and with that the question is asked, “How secure are you in your relationship with Christ?”  It has been debated over the years to what extent one can be assured of their salvation and entrance into heaven, with some arguing that once you’re saved you’re always saved, and some arguing that each time you sin your salvation is lost and needs to be restored.  Which one of these arguments are true, or is it an entirely different position somewhere between the two extremes?


The idea of “once saved, always saved”, also known as “eternal security”, has been around for years.  What is believed by those who embrace such a doctrine is that once someone is saved, their eternal destination in heaven has been sealed and cannot be revoked for any reason.  When asked about those who appeared to receive salvation yet later on in life seem to live a life apart from Christ, the common response is that the person wasn’t truly saved to begin with.  It’s as if a person forfeits any free will when they get saved, having no freedom to change their mind at a later time in regards to salvation.  Perhaps this is where the thought originated, that those who have experienced and received the love of Christ will automatically and without question give their lives to Him, and that they would never want to be without it?  I wrote about such a person that had both observed and received Jesus’ love and acceptance for over three years, yet at the end he chose to make decisions that destroyed his relationship with Jesus and his eternal home in heaven, 30 Shekels of Silver.  The teaching of “once saved, always saved” implies that at the point of salvation, salvation is complete and requires nothing more from the individual, except maybe to be loving and gracious towards others.  For some, they will go to the extreme and say all their sins, past, present, and future, were forgiven at the point of salvation, and that there is now no more need to confess and repent of future sins as they were already forgiven.  I realize Scripture is used to support the “once saved, always saved” doctrine, but is there Scripture that would contradict it?


I remember just a few years after high school sitting on the floor during one of our youth fellowship group meetings, or home group as some call them, at a youth leaders house.  That night a question was raised that I had heard many times before, but this time it was different.  The question asked, when does grace end?  This, of course, was under the premise that a person could lose their salvation.  So, when the question was asked, when does grace end, the Holy Spirit immediately pointed me to a scripture reference.  It wasn’t one of those times where you’re trying to think of a scripture to answer a question or to support a perspective, and I definitely did not remember what the scripture said, but the Holy Spirit immediately gave me direction.  Now, before I give you the reference, let me tell you something about myself.  I’m one of those people that if you told me that the sky is blue, then I would conclude that it isn’t red.  If you tell me that stepping on the accelerator pedal of a car will make a car go faster, then I would conclude that to take my foot off of it would make it go slower and perhaps stop.  So, when I read the verse I’m about to give you I immediately made a conclusion based on what it said.  In Romans 6:17, the Apostle Paul tells us “But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered”.  After reading that I believe God gave me the answer to the question that was asked.  If salvation by grace is a result of obeying God from our heart, then it only makes sense that grace begins to cease when we no longer obey Him from our heart.  It’s not so much an issue of whether or not we sin, but what is the condition and attitude of our heart when we sin.  If our heart seeks to honor God and to be pleasing to Him in all our ways, then we are going to shun sin in our lives more and more, having an attitude of repentance and turning from sin that can be seen in our actions and behaviors.  On the flip side, if we are continually trying to justify or defend why what we are saying or doing is okay, then our heart attitude isn’t right and will jeopardize the operation of God’s grace in our life.  With the right heart attitude grace is in full operation, but it’s a dangerous place to be in if our heart attitude isn’t right and healthy in His sight.


I recently wrote another blog asking if Jesus is your Savior, or is He your Lord and Savior.  In it we took a look at Matthew 7:21-23, and how that the ones Jesus turned away were practicing lawlessness even though they called Him Lord and did the supernatural in His name.  They were doing their own thing, living as they felt was right and okay and not according to Scripture and what God had for them.  The attitude of their heart was not one of obedience to Him, and as a result Jesus told them to depart from Him.


In Matthew 25:1-13, we read of Jesus’ parable of the ten virgins.  In this parable, the virgins represent followers of Christ, Christians.  All ten of them were patiently waiting, with full expectation, for the bridegroom to come get them, but only five were found ready and prepared when he did arrive.  The five virgins that were not ready and prepared for him were left behind.  The setting of this parable is in the context of the ancient Jewish wedding, a picture that is often times used to illustrate the wedding between Christ and the Church.  To keep things brief, one of the aspects of the ancient Jewish wedding is that the groom and bride enter into a marriage covenant with each other, a process that isn’t completed until a future time.  After entering into this marriage, the groom leaves for an indefinite period of time to prepare a place for her.  Upon his return for his bride, the one whom he has entered into a marriage covenant with, if she was ready and prepared for him when he returned, he would take her back to his father’s house where the marriage process would be finalized and completed.  If on the other hand he were to find that her affections were elsewhere or that she had not prepared herself for him as she ought, the groom could leave without her and give her a letter of divorce.  This was what Joseph was going to do with Mary when he heard that she was with child, planning to “put her away privately”, Matthew 1:19.


In the parable of the unforgiving servant found in Matthew 18:21-34, Jesus gives us a picture of the place forgiveness should have in our life.  In it, a king is settling accounts with his servants who represent Christians.  A servant is brought to him that owes him an enormous debt that he could not pay, and when the king gives orders to have him sold along with his wife and children to pay the debt the servant begs for time.  Out of compassion the king not only gives him more time, but he actually forgives, or cancels out, the debt this servant owed him.  The servant then goes out and finds a fellow servant that only owes him pennies by comparison to what he had just been forgiven of, and despite the begging of this other servant for more time to pay, he has him thrown into prison until he could pay the debt.  When the king hears of this he calls for the servant, rebukes him because he didn’t show the same kind of compassion and kindness towards the other servant that he had been given, and in anger recalls the debt that had initially been forgiven and sends him to the torturers until he paid it all.  In a nutshell, when the king forgave the servant, that represents salvation, but because the servant didn’t extend forgiveness to others after he had first received forgiveness from the king, his past debt was remembered and he was sent off to be tortured.  For those that say that this doesn’t apply to us, Jesus tells us in Matthew 18:35 that God will do the same to us if we don’t from our heart also forgive.  The servant received salvation, but because he would not forgive his salvation was forfeited.


Some will argue that these teachings of Jesus are not relevant to us because they were before He died and rose again, but in Matthew 28:19-20, just before He ascended up into heaven, Jesus instructs us to teach others to observe and do ALL that He commanded us.  He didn’t indicate only that which was after His resurrection, but all that He had commanded us to do.  In a book that was written about 90 A.D., almost 60 years after Christ’s ascension, Jesus talks to seven churches made up of Christians in Revelation 2-3.  In these chapters Jesus identifies what awaits those who overcome, and in Revelation 3:1-6 He talks to the church in Sardis.  In Revelation 3:5 He tells them that if they overcome “He will not blot their name out of the Book of Life”.  How can a person’s name be blotted out of anything without it first being put in it?  Since a person’s name is entered into the Lamb’s Book of Life at the point of salvation, this can only mean that because they didn’t overcome as Christ instructed them to do they “lost” their salvation.  Some people confuse the Book of the Living with the Book of Life, but they are two completely different books.  The Book of the Living, which is what Moses referred to in Exodus 32:32-33, has the names of all people who are physically living.  The Lamb’s Book of Life has all the names of those who have received salvation, whether they are currently dead or alive, which is only through Christ and the accepting of His sacrifice for our sins.  The writer of Hebrews indicates in Hebrews 10 that it’s possible for some to “draw back” from the salvation they once received, and how that the just will endure and live by faith.


While I don’t embrace the teaching of “once saved, always saved”, also known as “eternal security”, I do believe a person can be secure in their salvation.  When a person has a heart that seeks to honor and please God in all they do, to obey Him and His commands first and foremost, to actively shun sin in their life and be quick to repent when they do sin, which means to cease continuing in that sin, I believe a person can be secure in their salvation.  But, if a person is continually trying to defend or justify their behavior or the presence of sin in their life, or they take the position that they have the right to decide when they will or will not obey God and His Word, no matter what it is, then they are at risk of forfeiting the salvation they began in.  Some say for some to lose their salvation requires a complete turning of ones back to God, but I believe from what we’ve looked at in this and the previous blog it is possible for someone to “lose” their salvation and not enter into heaven without completely turning their back on Him.  Does a person lose their salvation every time they sin?  No, I believe that a person with the right attitude of the heart will experience God’s grace without measure during those times until they’ve had opportunity to recognize the sin and repent of it.  The Holy Spirit will convict us when we’ve sinned, and when we continue in sin, but if we continue to ignore His conviction or try to say it isn’t Him then we run the risk of falling short of the prize that the Apostle Paul tells us about, 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 and Philippians 3:12-16.  The Apostle Paul tells us to push for the prize that awaits us, and Jesus tells us that there is a reward for those who endure and overcome till the end.


Do you want the prize, the crown awaiting those who persevere and overcome till the end?  Do you want what awaits those who watch and prepare for the return of Jesus for His Bride?  Don’t let your robes of righteousness become spotted and blemished with the world and sin.  It’s up to you.



John Johansson (Pastor John)

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Jesus, Our Savior

Jesus, our Savior, that is what many of us are looking for.  We want to receive God’s love for us, and His forgiveness of our sins, and for many that is where it ends.  Jesus can be our Savior, freeing us from the bondage and penalty of our sins, but to give Him the position of Lord in our life is another story.  It’s almost as if all we’re wanting is “fire insurance”, enough of what God has to offer us through Jesus to keep us out of hell, but is that the kind of relationship Jesus is calling us to?  Or is He wanting something more from us?


A well-known author made a point along these lines.  He commented that many have come to the place that they believe who Jesus is and what He did for them, and that the basis of their prayer for salvation is based on their belief in Jesus, not a commitment to follow Him.  Many seem to think that all they need Jesus to be is their savior, not realizing that Jesus is requiring a relationship defined as a follower of Jesus.  In Luke 9:23-26 Jesus tells us what is required to be with Him; we need to deny ourselves, take up His cross daily, and follow Him.


In the New Testament, the word Savior is used more than 20 times in reference to Jesus.  The words Lord and Savior together more than 15 times, but the word Lord by itself is used more than 700 times of Jesus.  Jesus longs to be our Savior, but it appears that Scripture greatly emphasizes His role in our life needs to be that of Lord.  Are you okay with Jesus being Lord in your life, or are you content with Him just being your Savior?  It’s a tough question, but your answer could have potentially disastrous eternal consequences.


Some people think that just because they walked down an isle and said the “sinner’s prayer” they are a shoe-in for heaven.  When we look at Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus makes it clear who will and will not enter into heaven.  In verse 21 Jesus tells us not everyone who says to Him “Lord, Lord” will enter heaven, but only those who do the will of the Father.  And in verse 23 we learn that those Jesus tells to depart from Him are those who practice lawlessness.  Check out the irony in this.  Here we have people who are doing the supernatural, and in Jesus’ name, yet Jesus tells them to depart from Him because they practice lawlessness.  This tells us two things.  The first thing is that just because someone can do the supernatural in Jesus’ name does not mean they are in right relationship with Him.  This doesn’t mean that doing the supernatural is not of God, or that it’s not good or desired for us, but instead that this is not the barometer to gauge whether or not we are in right standing with Him.  The second thing we learn is that Jesus is looking for those who do the Father’s will, not those who do as they deem is right and okay based on their own perceptions and opinions.


Those who do the will of the Father, and those who practice lawlessness even though they can do the supernatural.  I think you can sum up the difference between the two with one statement; one group made Jesus their Lord, and the other group only saw Him as their savior.  We see people in church circles who are quick to claim the promises and blessings of being a child of God, even moving in the supernatural with signs and wonders, yet at the same time they can be rebelling against God and His will for them.  Perhaps God called them into full-time ministry and they decided to pursue a career more to their liking?  Maybe it was to keep their mouth shut but they just can’t stand not gossiping or making comments whenever they choose to do so?  Maybe God wanted them to move somewhere and they decided to stay put or move somewhere else?  Or, it could be something as mundane as God telling them to give up sodas, but because they see nothing wrong with them they continue to drink them.  Some may argue whether or not situations like what I just described could keep them out of heaven, but to argue that point is to miss the point.  Besides the fact that choosing to go opposite of what God is calling you to, regardless of what it is, sends the message that your opinion is more important than God’s, there is a heart issue here.  If a person is always trying to justify their decisions, or their behavior, as to why they are not being obedient to God or continue behaving in a way that is not honoring and pleasing to Him, the issue goes beyond the choice they made or the behavior they choose to continue in.  The issue is an attitude of the heart.  Is the attitude of your heart one that desires to obey and honor God in all areas of your life, or is it one that consistently tries to defend and justify themselves?  A Christian with the right attitude will be quick to repent of sin in their life, which means turning away from the sin.  A Christian with that attitude of the heart I believe experiences God’s grace without measure, covering sins in their life that they may not be aware or had opportunity to repent of, but a Christian with the wrong attitude of the heart could very possibly find themselves with the same group of people that Jesus turns away in Matthew 7:23.


A lot of people in the days we are living in see Jesus as only their savior.  They are quick to accept and receive all the promises and blessings God can give them, including love and forgiveness, but sadly many of them don’t allow Jesus to be Lord in their life.  Some have the mindset that our relationship with Christ is based solely on what He can and has done for us, giving very little to no thought that they have a responsibility in this relationship.  They seem to think that salvation is an end in and of itself, and that nothing more is required of them outside of merely accepting it, seeing Jesus as only Savior, but what we learn from the above texts is that this is not the case.  Jesus requires that we live with Him as Lord of our life, and that limiting Him to just our savior is not sufficient.


In my youth I was a part of a church youth choir that did some traveling.  It was not your typical church youth choir in that we had at one time 175 youth in it, and the guys outnumbered the girls causing the Music Pastor to make adjustments to some of the music to accommodate this unique dynamic.  One of the songs we sang is still a well-known song (not because of us), “I surrender all”, but one of the statements in the song that is not often heard was powerful and made an impact on me.  The statement was, “If Jesus is not Lord of everything, then He’s not Lord at all”.  Before you’re quick to say that Jesus is Lord in your life, stop and take a closer look at yourself and see if there are any areas that you’ve pretty much denied Jesus access to.  You may be faithful to church on a regular basis, passionate to talk about Him to others, involved in various ministries, listen only to Christian music with Jesus bumper stickers on your car, but are there areas that by disregarding God’s will or instructions for you, some of which are found in His Word, you have told God that He is not Lord in your life?


Is Jesus your Savior, or is He both your Lord and Savior???????


John Johansson (Pastor John)

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Rapture – Part 5

In part 3 and 4, we took a look at the seven feasts God established for Himself in Leviticus 23, and how that in them we not only see the rapture, but also a pre-tribulation rapture.  This was one of three Biblical pictures we will be briefly looking at that point to a pre-tribulation rapture.  In this blog, part 5 of the rapture series, we’re going to take a brief look at the second of three Biblical pictures I want to give you that point to a pre-tribulation rapture, and that is found in the harvest cycles.


Every year, there were three feasts that God instructed all the men to attend, and each of these feasts were identified with three different harvests.  The three feasts that required the attendance of all the men were Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles.  The Passover feast emphasized the barley harvest, Pentecost emphasized the wheat harvest, and Tabernacles emphasized the harvest of fruit, namely grapes.  How each of these harvests were conducted represents not only the three phases of the harvest, but also in them the three resurrections.


The first harvest, the barley harvest, involved a process of winnowing where the entire stalk was thrown up into the wind.  When the barley was tossed up into the wind, the wind would separate the shell from the barley.  This harvest represents the rapture of the Church before the tribulation period begins, where those who are in Christ are caught up in the air to meet the Lord.  We can also see this when Elijah was caught up into a whirlwind and when Jesus was taken up in a cloud in the presence of His followers.


The second harvest, the wheat harvest, involved a more aggressive form of harvesting.  In order to break and separate the shell from the wheat it requires a threshing process.  This process was done in the time of Christ with a Roman threshing roller called a tribulim, the word we get tribulation from.  It means to press or squeeze, creating pressure that causes separation.  This harvest represents those who come out of the tribulation period.  Christians who were not ready and prepared when the rapture took place will be a part of this group, those who will have to give their lives for Jesus.


The third harvest, the grape harvest, is a harvest involving a crushing.  Grapes do not have a shell but instead have flesh and skin that needs to be crushed in order to get the juice.  The tribulation period is the “grapes of wrath” and the “winepress of God”.  This represents the harvest, the resurrection, at the end of the tribulation period, Revelation 14:17-20.


Barley is soft and represents the church and the overcomer, Revelation 2-4.  Wheat is hard and must be separated from the shell through the pressures created in the tribulation period, Revelation 14:1.  Grapes are crushed representing the winepress of God, Revelation 14:19.


Biblically, the way that a field was harvested provides another picture of how God will harvest His people in these last days.  This process involved three phases in order to harvest the whole field.  The first phase was about the first fruits, the overcomers (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).  In this phase the priests would go through the field and select portions of the field that was ripe and ready for harvest, and then they would harvest the portions they selected with either a sickle, or simply pull it out of the ground, to take back to the temple.  This represents the rapture, the resurrection of the dead in Christ out of the ground, and the catching up of the living who are in Christ who are ripe and ready for harvest.


The second phase of the harvest was when the main field was harvested, leaving the four corners of the field to provide gleanings for the poor and the widows.  This represents the second harvest that takes place in the middle of the tribulation period, where people have washed their robes by giving their lives for Jesus (Revelation 14:15).  This phase includes the 144,000 Jews from the 12 tribes of Israel, as well as possibly those Christians who missed the rapture because their garments were spotted with sin and they were not ready when He came for them.


The third and final phase of the harvest is when the four corners of the field are harvested (Matthew 24:31).  At this point the entire field has been harvested.  This final phase of the harvest represents those who are gathered together from the four corners of the earth at the end of the tribulation period.  These are called the remnant, those who lived and gave their lives for Christ in the last part of the tribulation period.


Understanding the different phases associated with the harvesting of a field helps us understand both the manner and the order in which God will harvest His people from the earth.  Some people get confused when they read in the book of Revelation the saints and elect having to go through the tribulation period, thinking that these terms refer to the church.  This is not necessarily the case as both terms, the elect and the saints, have been used throughout the Bible referring to different individuals or groups.  The term “elect” has been used to identify Christ, of the angels, Israel, Jacob, a woman, and also the church.  The term “saints” in the New Testament means “a holy thing”, and it represents anyone who has been washed in the blood of Christ.  While both terms can obviously refer to the Church, one is hard pressed to arbitrarily conclude that the references in the book of Revelation is speaking exclusively of the Church.  There are some problems when we try to say that it is referring strictly to the Church.  When we see indications that in Heaven there are those who would have been resurrected and raptured up there, all the while seeing saints and the elect on earth going through the tribulation period, this can lead to confusion when attempting to say they are all the Church. The last time we read of the church in Revelation is chapters 2-3, after which in Revelation 4 we read about John being called up to Heaven and what he sees when he gets there.  Like others, I believe this represents the rapture of the Church.  From that time on there is no mention of the Church, except for it being identified as the Bride of Christ at the end of Revelation.  The saints and elect mentioned after chapter four more than likely refers to those who are living and giving their lives for Christ after having realized they had been left behind. 


During the tribulation period those who were raptured up observe the transition of Jesus from High Priest to King, appear at the Judgment Seat of Christ, receive rewards, and are present at the wedding between Christ that His Bride, the Church.  Once the wedding is complete, Jesus and His Bride return to earth to establish Christ’s reign on earth for 1,000 years.  In the next part of this series on the subject of the rapture, I’m going to cover what I believe is one of the strongest pictures of a pre-tribulation rapture.  In the meantime, the most important question to ask yourself is whether or not you are ready for Him if He were to return before your next breath?  If you are not ready to meet Him, then this is the time to get ready.  Time is short, and this is not the time to be taking this casually and risk getting left behind.  Now is the time to get it right with Him, and to keep things right with Him.

John Johansson (Pastor John)

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