A Tale of the Heart of Two Cities

Pastor, Dewey Moede, Pastor Richard Gordon, Shari Johnson-The Jesus Chick
Pastor, Dewey Moede, Pastor Richard Gordon, Shari Johnson-The Jesus Chick

Yeah, I know that title’s been used before, but this isn’t a movie, it’s a tale of how Grantsville met Windom. A town you may or may not have heard of. But for those who follow my blog I thought I’d share a little about my journey there last week. I’ve yet to make it home, I’m currently still in Iowa, and truthfully, I’m pretty sure I left a little piece of my heart there anyway. I’ve doncke that everywhere I’ve ever been invited to speak or sing; so you may wonder how I have any heart left? Apostle Paul explained it like this in 2 Corinthians 6:11

O ye Corinthians, our mouth is open unto you, our heart is enlarged.

Apostle Paul felt free to speak what was on his heart with the Corinthians because he’d fallen in love with those people. No doubt from his words, his heart had been broken for the folks of Corinth which was expressed in his letters. It’s an odd thing about a part of the body that’s been hurt, the scar often causes an enlarged place on the skin. That’s kind of how I imagine Paul’s enlarged heart. Each time it was broken it grew larger and more burdened for the people he served. And each time I go to a new town or new church, my heart becomes broken and burdened for God’s people.

My arrival in Windom last week was amazing. The people who had prayed for me, provided funding for my travels, prepared for my stay, who I’d never met before were like old friends before I’d hit the city limits. When I arrived at Miss Loretta’s door on 5th Avenue, she said hello and three hours later we took a breath. That’s God! Miss Darlene, who funded my trip, was a friend in Christ who trusted God enough to send money ahead of the trip to pay my way to Windom and was such a sweet treat to come to know during my brief stay. I met Miss Diane and fell instantly in love with her soul which encouraged mine. Rodney and Debbie Byam were jewels in the crown of Christ whose hospitality and kindness were as shiny as diamonds in the sun for Jesus. Oh what a journey! Pastor Ricky touched my heart with his servants heart and Pastor Dewey Moede… well, that’s a whole blog post on its own. And as amazing as that story is, that’s not the most amazing part.

What’s amazing about a trip like this is how the power of God moved through people in Windom who lived there, people who moved from there and returned, and some who had never been there before in their life; working together for the same cause, with the same broken heart for the city.

What it did in my life was set my soul on fire for my own hometown. I’m ready to make something happen. I have plans. BIG PLANS. Look out Grantsville, I’m headed home. But today I’ll spend a few more hours with three rowdy boys in Marshalltown, Iowa. I plan to leave here early, early in the a.m. to head back down the road through five states listening to preaching and singing along the way. Please pray for me… & pray for my ministry.

That Good thing that’s a God thing

good thing

I’m so happy I have the Holy Spirit within me, else, there is no doubt that the flesh would rise up in me and I’d say and do things that would not glorify Christ and could possibly get me arrested. If you’re a servant of God, you either fully understand, or you’re way better at dealing with the things of life than I, and it’s really not the craziness in the world that can drive me to the point of frustration. I expect them to be crazy. It’s the craziness in the church that can push me over the edge.

So I’ve had this illustration in my mind for a few days, I drew it yesterday, and had intended to blog about it. But alas, the Holy Spirit said “Chill, Shari. You’re going to hurt someone.” And so I put it atop my art box and waited for the Holy Spirit to tell me what to write. And this morning as I prepare for church, the words flow freely and the Spirit has said to me, “Encourage them.” I wanted to hurt them three days ago. Who are them? They who sit in church pews. That’s all they do. They just sit in church pews. At least from my perspective as someone in charge of the Sunday School and Youth program. Because when a teacher is needed, it’s like pulling hens teeth to get people to move. And our church is one that is relatively good at stepping up. When I go into other churches and see the frustration in the leader’s eyes as they beg and plead for help my heart breaks for Jesus. He didn’t die for us to sit in the pew.

He died for us to serve. And so this word this morning is for those serving, not sitting. Please, keep serving!

Apostle Paul told Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:13-14

Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us.

Hold Fast

That good thing is a God thing. Those sound words that Paul spoke was the inspired Word of God and he encourages Timothy and us to hold on to them. Keep holding on to the Word of God and using it to inspire others through your service. You are rare. I can’t get Matthew 9:37 out of my head that says the “Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few.”  We are a rarity, those who desire to teach and train disciples. We are few, but the field is full of people who need us. And while I get frustrated at those who sit, I’m learning that it will do no good to speak to the masses, I need to encourage the few. Because those are the days that we’re in. So if you’re serving God in any way… “hold on friend.”

Hold Firm

That good thing is a God thing that He’s given to you for safe keeping. Hold firm! Don’t let anyone or anything, including the frustrations of feeling unappreciated, un-noticed, unworthy, or any other “un” words that Satan throws at you to get you distracted from what you’ve been called to do. That little girl in my sketch… she’s no one in particular… she’s one in thousands that I’ve seen in the field and she need Jesus. She or he as the case may be needs you. If we don’t keep on teaching the word of God and telling others about that “good thing” that God has entrusted us with, then who will. There’s nobody beating down the door to get our job. Our job is secure. So please, if you’re in service to the King of kings, keep serving and living as an example to those around you. Tell everyone how awesome it is and encourage others walking in the field beside you. There’s not that many… it won’t take you long. I love you, and so does Jesus… and our reward is on it’s way!

What a great feeling to know that I know!

Child of God (2)If you know me at all, you know I’m a little on the odd side. I’m a dreamer, a visionary, a doer and planner, a singer of songs, a writer of words and a multimedia artist… and not all those things work out like I’d like them too. As a child I knew I was odd, and for the most part I was okay with it. But there was always that hole in my life that needed filled; the hole that needed to know I belonged. I was raised in a loving home with a huge family and I knew that I was theirs, but I didn’t belong. We moved around a lot when I was very little, but when we finally landed in Calhoun County, West Virginia in 1971, even though we stayed put… I didn’t feel that I ever belonged. I had tons of friends. Real friends, not fake ones. But that didn’t matter, the hole was still there. Perhaps you know where I’m coming from.

In 1996 something drastic happened. That hole was filled with the concrete of salvation and I never again felt that I didn’t belong.

As a new convert I was sitting across from a preacher from out of town that I had just met and we were talking about the gospel and sharing our faith and he said to me, “Shari, you are a peculiar person.” I didn’t even take it as an insult, I knew within me it had a spiritual connotation. And so as soon as I got the chance I went to my concordance to search the word “peculiar.” And lo and behold there it was in 1 Peter 2:9

But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light;

I claimed it for my own that day. I am a peculiar person. But unpack that verse and it will have you on shouting ground.

Chosen

Not by chance, but handpicked and purposed by God in His ultimate plan for the universe.

Royal priesthood

Not for the world, but employed by the King of kings for servitude in this earthly realm with our heavenly reward yet seen.

Holy nation

Not alone. The day of my salvation put me into a family too numerable to count, who many have prayed for me that don’t even know my name, but uttered a pray for a child of God or a missionary in need and it was me and God answered. O’… I belong!

Peculiar people

Not like the world. The world strives against itself trying to make it; never realizing that it is an unattainable goal to be anything outside of what we are in Christ. Because that is our eternal purpose.

I’ve read 1 Peter 2:9 many times, but this morning was one of those ‘aha’ kind of days that God opened my mind to His word and said “Here is where I showed you that you belong. No go and tell someone else who needs to understand that truth.”

So there it is. I hope you get it… because it’s an awesome feeling to know to Whom you belong!

It’s All About Numbers

journey gal

Numbers 9:18

At the commandment of the Lord the children of Israel journeyed, and at the commandment of the Lord they pitched: as long as the cloud abode upon the tabernacle they rested in their tents.

I’ve been in the book of Numbers for a couple of days, and I’m really not a numbers fan. I speak of numerical numbers not the book. Speak math to me and my eyes glaze over and I go semi-comatose until our conversation is over. It’s true. It’s just never been my forte. But the book of Numbers has captivated my attention as well as broken my heart in several verses. Moses, having been instructed by God, is numbering the servants in the service of the Lord. Even as I type those words my eyes well up with tears; for they are few in the modern church. Even in a church with big numbers of bodies there is not necessarily a big number of servants.

I was born with a servant’s heart. But that too gets me into trouble, because I can get pulled into serving others and away from serving God for whom I’ve been called to serve. What about you? Have you been called to serve? Well… if you are a child of God, then the answer is yes and it might shock you to know that God is pretty serious about it, after all, you are a priest.

What? Yep, it caught me a little off guard too, even though I knew it. It wasn’t until I related an Old Testament truth with a New Testament truth that it clicked. As Moses was numbering the Levites and the Priests, doling out their responsibilities to the house of worship, bells went off inside my head and drew my mind’s eye to my very own verse in 1 Peter 2:9 ~ But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light;

Every child of God is a member of the priesthood. And while we’re not to don robes and hats, the responsibility is the same. We have a role in taking care of the church. Everyone. Not just the preacher, the deacon, the Sunday school teacher, etc. Even the guy or gal on the 8th row back, who shows up on Sunday to do their due diligence of church. And I meant that totally sarcastic. Showing up on Sunday is not your due diligence… well it is, but it doesn’t end there. Paul told the church of Corinth in 1 Corinthians 12:27-31

Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret? But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.

You have a gift that is intended for the service of the Lord, where ever that may be. Which brought me to the verse in Numbers 9 this morning and the little girl packing the suit case. God expects the church to be on the move and ready to roll when service calls. In less than two weeks I’m headed to Minnesota to serve in a Revival. I’m excited, God’s been speaking to my heart about “stuff.” Just as He spoke to Moses, He speaks to us. Perhaps not audibly but every bit as real. Instant in season and out of season the scripture says, be ready! Are you? My heart is broken for the churches across America because Revival is hard to come by. Too many people are sitting and waiting for the Lord to show up, when actually the Lord did show up… they just weren’t willing to move out of their seat to greet Him and so He moved on.

God is in the details. There are many details to a church service and everyone is important. Serve well friend… It’s all about numbers, for which you are one.

What to do in these perilous times

perilous times

I’m not one to tout dooms day, life is depressing enough without someone over and over again telling you the end is near. But it is. And that’s all I say on the matter. What my heart is fixed on this morning is how to make it through these perilous times we’re in. Please don’t get me wrong, I won’t give up on America until Jesus returns. I feel that that there is enough red, white and blue thread sown into the tapestry of our nation, that should enough people get a right heart with God, God would hear from Heaven and heal our land. That’s what 2 Chronicle 7:14 says. But we’re not there yet, we’re living in 2 Timothy 3.

2 Timothy 3:1-3

This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,

Is that off today’s headlines or what?! Tell me Paul wasn’t writing to us for these troubling days. It’s all about self, social media is proof positive of that. Coveting. We live in a generation of keeping up with the Jones to the point of bankruptcy. Boasters. Arrogance and pride runs ramped as people shake their fist at the Heavens and declare God is not there and take credit for His glory. Parents living in fear of discipline, children that expect and demand without consequence, gay rights and Christian liars and those that despise what is good. Look what’s happened to the defenders of our land. Police, military, fire and rescue are targets and yet expected to be their twenty minutes before someone needs them. Perilous times indeed! The good is despised and the wicked embraced.

Teach the Truth

2 Timothy 3:10 says But thou hast fully known my doctrine.”  Perhaps you’re saying, but I’m not a teacher. Then you’re wrong, because someone is watching you, and if you’ve got the Word of God in your hand and you’re saved, you’ve been instructed to instruct. Read the word of God. Tell someone about Jesus. Demonstrate His love. That’s our orders from Jesus after He suffered death for us and before He returned to Heaven.

Know the Truth

How?

2 Timothy 3:14 instructs us to continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them.

Assurance is key to survival. Wishy washy Christianity never convinces a lost soul of Jesus’ ability to save. You must be confident in Christ and what He has done in your life to convince others and remind yourself in those troubling times that God’s got this!

Live the Truth

2 Timohty 3:16-17 ~  All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.

The perfection Paul speaks of is not a perfect man… none of us can live up to that, but rather perfect means “complete.” God’s work is finished. But you have much to do until Jesus returns. This is not a time to panic. This is a time to roll up our shirt sleeves and serve Christ like He’s coming for lunch. Because He might.

My Bible journaling sketch today of the little police boy is a reminder to keep our people in authority in prayer during these troubled times. They’re part of the good that is despised. Keep servin’ the Savior!

The Unseen is not Unnoticed

lily work

It’s hard to believe sometimes that I’ve been on the road to salvation twenty years, but I was saved in 1996, so the math is there. But in many ways I still feel like a new convert. I’m ever so grateful that God’s mercy is new and afresh every day, for I need it every day; that’s the part of that new convert feeling I’m not so proud of. I still feel like an utter failure most days of the week. But another side to that new convert feeling is the absolute fact that I’m as excited today as I was the day I got saved, which is what makes serving God so easy.

I’m not one for accolades. I have no desire for men’s applause for work that I should be doing, but an appreciation is wonderful. So when Mickey Carter preached on the unseen lily work in 1 Kings 7:22 my soul smiled.

And upon the top of the pillars was lily work: so was the work of the pillars finished.

The Top

Where no one seen but God. Unless of course great effort was made to get up to it. For the record I don’t feel unloved or unappreciated very often. Seldom would be more like it. I must give glory that God has always sent encouragers into my life who climb to the top, look at the lily’s and say well done. But I’ve had days where the flesh rose, usually in exhaustion, when I felt as though all my unseen efforts were not for naught but went unnoticed. It caused me to wonder if anyone cared or understood the time I had put into a particular project. Was it necessary? Was it just busy work? And then Brother Mickey blessed my soul by allowing God to use him to tell me… it wasn’t for nothing. God took note.

The Lily

Another character trait for me is that I love, love, love a project. I’m project driven and it’s all about the details. But many times I’ve seen the “details” in the trash at the end of an event and thought… why did I put all that effort into something that was thrown away? But isn’t that everything down here? Nothing is going to make it through the end days, and if for a brief moment in time my efforts made someone’s heart happy and brought glory to God, then my attention to detail, the intricate work on the lily, was a worthy effort.

The Finished Work

The pillars were done, no names were inscribed as to the artist, just a beautiful workmanship that held up the house of God; which is exactly what we should be. Those of us who serve don’t need to be noticed, we need to be useful. Those pillars were beautiful, but they also served the purpose of being the strength of the church. Am I? Are you? It’s a point to ponder in our servitude as to whether our time is spent strengthening the house of God.

Just keep serving, using the gifts and talents God has given you to finish the work. It does not go unnoticed. You are loved…