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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The Great Illusion

Illusions performed by magicians can be quite impressive, capturing the attention of fans and critics alike.  For fans, fueled by their amazement of what just happened, they are mesmerized into trying to figure out how the illusion was done.  For critics, they are intrigued with how the magician could capture the attention of those watching by their trickery and deceptions.  The world around us is filled with many illusions, where people are working to convince others to believe what they want them to, even when they know it’s not true and will lead them astray.


When we talk of illusions, there is one that I want to address that can be found within church circles.  There are many illusions within church circles, each one bringing some damage to the body of Christ, both small and great.  The illusion I’m referring to in this blog is centered around the idea that churches must make certain changes to be relevant to people and those who are unchurched.  Let me explain.


Over 20 years ago a particular teaching became very popular, acting as a guide of sorts to help churches grow and reach out to their communities.  I understand that churches need to adapt in some respects as culture and societies change, making better use of current technology and social media for example.  However, the teaching I’m referring to went beyond that, telling churches that they needed to focus on the love of Christ, building the self-esteem of those lacking good self-esteem, and doing good deeds through community involvement.  Yes, each of those things are good, I do agree.  But at the same time churches were, and still are, encouraged to say very little if anything about sin and repentance, the shed blood of Jesus and our need for it to wash away our sin, about a coming judgment and an eternity in hell for those rejecting Jesus and the full Gospel message.  Churches were also encouraged to remove crosses or any other traditional displays, inside or outside the church, that would identify them as a church, looking to be ‘seeker sensitive’ to those who are opposed to churches for any number of different reasons.  In essence, churches were encouraged to remove from their premises and from their teachings anything that would offend people and keep them from coming to their church.


What I just described is very disheartening.  It’s like a hospital that has all the resources needed to help cure a person from a devastating disease like cancer, only to remove the cure and any mention of it from their premises because of those who would be offended by the cure and what it would cost them, but they still want them to feel good and welcomed to come visit anytime they desire.  It is true that many of the churches I described have significantly grown numerically speaking, but a question comes to mind.  Regarding the large numbers attending these churches, the question is asked, how many of them really understand salvation, their need for it, and the cost of following Jesus?  Or are they merely attending a church that makes them feel good without addressing sin, the need for repentance, and submission to Jesus as their Lord?


While churches have done what they could to make people feel welcomed to be there, have they at the same time compromised the crux and beauty of the gospel message to facilitate their objective to draw people to them?  The gospel message has remained the same for over 2000 years, and to change or water it down for the purpose of growing the church numerically is not a God thing.  In the New Testament, the church didn’t grow exponentially because they changed the message to be more appealing to the masses.  Instead, it grew amid extreme persecution because the full gospel message centered on the fact that we are all born sinners and in need of a savior, that it is through Jesus alone, and the blood He shed on a cross for us, that we can have salvation.  It is then that the conviction of the Holy Spirit drew people to Jesus for salvation.  Well, the illusion doesn’t end there.


Last year my eyes were opened to something that shows how much this illusion has infiltrated and infected some churches.  It is no secret that I am not a fan of Halloween, knowing that everything about it and what it represents is in direct opposition to the God I serve.  Often people will ask me what I’m doing for Halloween, and I simply tell them I don’t acknowledge it because it’s a conflict of interest for me as a Christian.  I am not opposed to a church doing something on that day as an outreach for the community, but if what they are doing resembles Halloween in any way, in appearance or behavior, then I have an issue with that.  In our community, many churches have what is called, Trunk or Treat, and last year something was brought to my attention that showed how much some churches have fallen as representatives of Christ to their community.  For obvious reasons, I have not attended one of these events, but last year someone at one of these churches mentioned jack-o-lanterns they had made for the event and it got me to thinking about something.  Thinking about it, I made a point in taking a drive Halloween night past some of the churches having such an event, and what I found was very sad.  Of the churches I drove past that hosted a Trunk or Treat event that night, I noticed that while many of them thought it was okay to have both the appearance and behavior of Halloween and all that it represents present, some of them had literally no crosses or other displays outside that identified them as a Christian church.  How is it that they have nothing to identify themselves as a Christian church, yet they feel perfectly fine to welcome and allow that which is directly opposed to Christ?  Have they bought into the illusion that they can’t have anything displayed that might offend or keep people away just to increase their attendance?  Have they become more concerned about offending people with the simple truth of the gospel, than they are in offending the One who gave His life for them to have salvation?  Have they forgotten that they are ambassadors of Christ?  Yes, Jesus reached out to and spent time with sinners, but He didn’t compromise the gospel message or participate in anything that was diametrically opposed to Him or the Father.


And in case I haven’t made it clear, everything about Halloween is diametrically and aggressively opposed to God and the gospel message found in Jesus.  Are you afraid of taking a stand for Christ in your everyday life, pointing people to the saving message we find at the cross of Jesus?  If you are afraid of that, are you also okay with allowing people to think that you are okay with those things that are in clear opposition to and in conflict with the very heart and nature of Christ?  Who or what are you living for, Christ or the opinions and feelings of others?  Let it be for Christ from here on out!


John Johansson


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The times that we are now living in seems to be getting crazier every day.  The anxiety and tensions of what is currently going on, as well as what lies ahead for us is growing every day.  We have people telling us this is the direction we are to go in, while others are telling us we should go an entirely different direction.  The craziness we’re seeing seems to be escalating rapidly all at the same time it appears that things are spiraling down almost out of control.  As Christians, what is our responsibility and role during times like these?


The Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:18-20 briefly outlines what our role as Christians should be, that of being an ambassador for Christ.  As ambassadors for Christ we are to be proclaiming the good news of the Gospel for the purpose of reconciling man back to God.  So, the question is asked, what does it mean to be an ambassador.  The simple definition of an ambassador from the Merriam-Webster dictionary is; “the highest-ranking person who represents his or her own government while living in another country”.  As ambassadors for Christ, we need to remember that this world is not our home, but instead we have a heavenly one awaiting us.


To be an ambassador one must be sent to represent the country or kingdom they came from.  We read in both Matthew 28:18-20 and Mark 16:15-18 that Jesus sends His followers out to represent Him to the world, and His followers includes us if we’ve decided to be a follower of Jesus.  So, what does being an ambassador for Christ look like?  Is there an example for us to learn from?


Yes, there are examples of what it looks like to be an ambassador for Christ.  The first example we need to look at is Jesus, the very one that we are to be representing to the world.  In Jesus we find the clearest picture of how we are to live and represent Him.  No matter the setting, whether it was one-on-one, in a small group, or in front of the multitudes numbering in the thousands, Jesus taught others of Himself and the new covenant He was initiating with those who would follow after Him.  He spoke of both grace and judgment, and the need for total surrender of our lives to Him.  Other examples we see are found in the Apostles and some of the disciples in the early church.  They proclaimed the good news of the risen savior, Jesus, how through relationship with Jesus everyone now has direct access to God the Father, and that Jesus will be coming back to take His followers to forever be with Him in heaven.  The Apostles and the early church were so effective in their representing Christ, proclaiming the good news of the gospel accompanied with signs and wonders, it is reported in Acts 17:6 by the gentiles that they had turned the world upside down proclaiming Christ as King.  Based on these examples, it is clear that as ambassadors for Christ we are to be boldly proclaiming the gospel of the good news of Jesus whenever we can.


As ambassadors for Christ, we are told in Philippians 2:5-11 that we are to have the same mindset as Christ.  There are a couple of things worth pointing out in this passage of Scripture.  In verse 6, we are told that Jesus being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God.  Jesus was confident in who He is, and He wasn’t ashamed of that.  In like manner, we are joint-heirs of Christ, adopted into the family of God, and we should be confident in that and not ashamed.  However, in verse 7 we find that Jesus took on the form of a bondservant, a voluntary slave, to God the Father, and in verse 8 we see that He humbled Himself before God and was obedient to Him unto death, even the death of the cross.  In just the same way, instead of claiming our rights and privileges as joint-heirs of Christ and children of God, we need to humble ourselves to Him and be obedient to Him even unto death of whatever type.  For Jesus that humility and obedience took Him to the cross to pay for our sins, and while the plan that God has for each of us is different in so many ways, we need to have the same humility and obedience to God that He had no matter what path God may lead us on in this life.


Ambassadors have the full backing and support of the nation it represents, and in the same way we have the full backing and support of God as ambassadors for Christ.  God demonstrates His support and backing of Jesus, the Apostles, and disciples in the early church through the supernatural works and manifestations of signs and wonders through the Holy Spirit.  We are told in Mark 16:17-18 that as ambassadors for Christ, signs and wonders will follow those who believe.  We also read in Acts 1:8 that we will receive power with the baptism of the Holy Spirit to be His witnesses, through which we would be empowered to do the supernatural works that Jesus did.  In John 14:12, Jesus tells us that the supernatural works He did, we not only will do them as well, but that we will do greater ones than He did.  While supernatural signs and wonders cannot be a barometer for the condition of one’s relationship with God, and while doing them shouldn’t be our primary focus, those things should be taking place to confirm the message we are proclaiming of Jesus as valid and from God.


Another aspect to being an ambassador is the fact that when they are mistreated and harmed in any way, in essence the country or nation that ambassador is from is also getting mistreated and harmed.  In 1 Peter 3:13-14, we’re told as followers of Christ to not be fearful of anyone that seeks to harm us.  In the previous chapter we see an example of how to let this play out in our lives.  In 1 Peter 2:21-23 the Apostle Peter tells us that Jesus left us an example to follow.  He mentions that even when Christ was reviled and lied about, suffering at the hands of others, Jesus did not respond to any of it in like manner or try to defend Himself.  Instead we are shown what Jesus’ mindset was in how He responded at the end of verse 23; “but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously”.  We are told to not be fearful of anything that may come our way, but to instead place our trust in the only one who judges righteously, God Himself.


In regards to being an ambassador, we have to remember that their role is not to dictate, to conquer, or to control the nation they are sent to.  They don’t entangle themselves in the internal affairs of the nation they are sent to, nor do they participate in protests or activities to further their cause or the cause of their country.  Their role is simply to represent their country, relaying messages to and from the country they are an ambassador to.  When I think about that I realize something that is missing in the New Testament, Matthew through Revelation.


I’m reminded that in the days of the early church, they lived under a very corrupt and violent Roman rule, especially towards them.  Persecution of the church was severe, taxation was extreme, violence and cold-blooded murder was common, and political corruption and sexual perversions was rampant during that time at all levels.  To compare the times we are now living in to what the early church lived through, what we are experiencing is nothing by comparison, though it seems to be heading in that direction.  Despite all that the Apostles and the early church lived through, it’s interesting to note that the New Testament is missing some things.


As bad as things were in the first century, we find that there is no record of followers of Christ trying to rise up against the Romans.  We also find that there is no record of followers of Christ trying to clean up the corruption in society and government, and there is no record of followers of Christ trying to take over communities and nations.  Amazingly, we also find no records of followers of Christ complaining about society, corruption, taxation, persecution, etc.  In fact, we don’t even see any instructions given to followers of Christ to do any of the above or seek social justice, but instead the opposite, living at peace with others and being obedient to the authorities for the sake of Christ.  For the sake of Christ, you say?  Yes.  In 1 Peter 2:13-17, we are told to submit ourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, or every human institution depending on the version you’re reading from, and that this is the will of God.  In the days we are living in, it seems like people, Christian or not, are focused on doing and saying things for either their sake, the sake of someone they know, the sake of their political party, or even for their country.  Yet, we are told that what we do should be for the sake of the Lord.


It is important for us as ambassadors for Christ to remember what our role is here on earth, and to not get sidetracked or distracted and caught up in the affairs of this life.  We are ambassadors for Christ, and as such we should conduct ourselves accordingly.  We need to live a life blameless before God and man, boldly proclaim the good news of the gospel, and to allow God to confirm the message through the supernatural with signs and wonders.  Along the way we are to share the love and grace of our Lord Jesus to those around us, not just in word but also in deed, but our primary role as identified by Jesus in Matthew 28:18-20 and Mark 16:15-18 is to proclaim the gospel to the world in whatever setting God places us in, and to teach them to observe and do all that He commanded us to do.


We are to be ambassadors for Jesus.  Are you His ambassador?  I’m challenging myself as well, seeing where I’ve fallen short at times, but it is important for us in the days we are living in to remember what our role is in the midst of anxiety and the crazy turmoil that characterizes the world we now live in.  If you find that you haven’t been His ambassador as you ought, there is no better time than the present to begin to do so.  Change your focus and mindsets accordingly, be open and willing for the Holy Spirit to manifest Himself in the supernatural to validate and confirm the message of Christ you are proclaiming, and strive to maintain a blameless life in the sight of God and man so as to not hinder or hurt your ability to be His ambassador.  Living a blameless life doesn’t require one to be perfect in all their ways, but it does require a heart that is sensitive to any sin and inappropriate behavior and speech in your life along with a strong conviction to live free of sin.  If you are aware of sin and inappropriate behavior and speech in your life that is wrong and displeasing in the sight of God, make it right with Him by confessing your sin and turning from it, asking Him for help to live a life blameless and pleasing to Him in all your ways.





John Johansson (Pastor John)

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Russian Roulette With Eternity

I’ve been in church all my life, and according to my mom had given my life to the Lord when I was five years of age.  I can’t say that I remember that, but what I do remember is how in 1979 God began to deal with me regarding my eternal destination.  He began for what felt like six months to deal with me regarding my eternal destination and how I needed to make a commitment to follow and serve Him.  I can’t say that He was convicting me of sin in my life because up to that time I had lived a pretty sheltered life, but what He was dealing with me in was the fact that I hadn’t surrendered my life to Him and to His will for my life.  One of the ways He got my attention was through the realization of how close to death I was at times from near head-on collisions and being in a garage air-filled with explosive aerosols and a gas water heater.  God was good to me and those with me to protect us, but these were some of the ways that God used to get my attention.  During this time I experienced a growing fear of end time events and the tribulation period, which only heightened the impact of those experiences I just shared with you.  After what seemed to be six months, I knelt beside my bed with my dad and I surrendered and committed my life to Jesus on March 29, 1980.

From that time on I do not remember a time when I was fearful of missing the rapture and going through the tribulation period.  Granted, I have come to realize after searching the scriptures that saying a prayer and walking down an aisle does not guarantee admittance into Heaven, but it is what I do with my relationship with Him from that time on that determines if I will be prepared for when that shofar sounds the call to the marriage feast of the Lamb.  Maybe you don’t agree, and that is okay, but that is where I came up with the title of this blog, Russian Roulette With Eternity.

Russian roulette with eternity is where we choose to gamble with our eternal destination by living and believing as we choose.  Well, you can almost hear the arguments of people who decide not to believe Gods word in its entirety, who want to create another Jesus to their liking, or to reject God and His Son as the only savior of the world.  Many feel that whatever they choose to believe to be true is true, and if they want to believe something to be false or non-exclusive (meaning that there is more than one way to heaven) then that is what it is.  But, what if they are wrong?  What if what they believe to be true is actually false, what they believe is false is actually true, and that there is really only one way to Heaven through Jesus alone?  To echo others over the years, if we as Christians are wrong then what do we lose in embracing Christianity, and what do non-Christians gain?  Also, if we as Christians are correct, then what do we gain and non-Christians lose?  If the Christian faith and it’s source of written instruction, the Bible, is false, we obviously haven’t gained a thing, but we haven’t really lost anything either.  However, if the Christian faith and the Bible are in fact true, then Christians gain an eternity in Heaven that defies imagination in its splendor, and those who are not Christians literally lose everything to spend eternity in hell for rejecting Christ as both the Son of God and the only Savior of the world.

I am concerned for people who take their eternal destination so lightly.  It’s as if they are playing Russian roulette with their eternity, and that is very scary.  Some like to think, at least subconsciously, that if they find after they died that they were wrong and made a serious mistake they will have the opportunity to say ‘sorry’ and enter into Heaven.  What a lie from the enemy of our souls!  He will say and do anything to get us to minimize the seriousness of making right preparations for our eternal destination, even to the point of getting us to either not think about it or to have an altered view of eternity.  And, yes, he will even take and twist scripture to accomplish this if he can.  After all, was that not the method he used in the garden when he spoke with Eve, taking and twisting what God had said to make her doubt and question God?  What we fail to realize is that Satan knows the scripture, and he in fact probably knows it better than most, if not all, Christians, and that is one of his most powerful weapons.  Heard it said that the best lie is the one that is 99% true, and Satan is an expert in promoting them.

Time is so very short in regards to the start of the tribulation period, which means it’s even closer to Jesus’ return for His bride.  It is so imperative that we are in right standing with Him, waiting, watching and ready for the sounding of the shofar of His return for His bride.  The first thing Jesus told the disciples when they asked him regarding the signs of the end of the world and His return, was a warning to not be deceived.  Deception will be great leading up to His return and the tribulation period, and it is so vitally important that we don’t be deceived.  Deceived about what?  In a nutshell, deceived regarding Jesus, who He is, what He did, what He’s going to do, and that only through Him can one receive salvation prior to leaving this life.

Don’t be deceived!  Hold true to the pure Gospel and good news of Jesus, and that when it’s all said and done the determining factor that will forever determine our eternal destination is what we did with Jesus in this life and the nature of our relationship with Him.  We all have a relationship with Jesus, whether it is one that is a saving one through intimate friendship with Him, or one that is distant and independent of Him.

I trust that this will challenge you to re-evaluate your relationship with Jesus as time is running out, and that it will either be found in right standing with Him in relationship and according to His word, and if not that you will make the necessary changes to make it right.

John Johansson

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