Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Grateful for forgiveness

Have you ever noticed how some people are so much more excited about the prospect of forgiveness than others? There's always somebody in church who shouts a little bit louder or dances a little bit more. I'm not talking about those who scream the loudest so they can gain some attention; I'm talking about those whose gratitude shows on their faces. Those who know exactly what their lives would gave been like if they hadn't been delivered by their saviour. We could learn a thing or two from them.

As humans, we tend to be more grateful and show more gratitude when or situations are more dire and desperate. For those of us whose lives haven't been too horrible before Christ, our gratitude runs a little bit shallower. Think about it. You knew where your next meal was coming from, you knew where your children were at night and life was generally OK save for the fact that we did not have eternal life. We're the ones who tend to place less significance on the gift of salvation. The mother who had a had time feeding her children or keeping a roof over their heads; she's the one you outta talk to about gratitude.

Even Jesus pointed it out. In Luke 7:47 NLT “I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” Mary Magdalene poured an entire bottle of expensive perfume on Jesus' feet and those around him just could not understand why. While their gratitude ran shallow, hers ran deep. There was more for her to be grateful for.

But it is possible to be more grateful for the gift of salvation. After all, no matter how uncomplicated our lives were before Christ, we would still end up in hell without salvation. Let's learn a thing or two from the Mary Magdalenes in or congregations today and let our gratitude run a little bit deeper. Now, when you see someone worshipping in earnest, understand that they have simply been through too much not to worship their saviour. You don't know or understand the cost of their praise. Until you know their story, or all the things that they've been through, don't hate on their worship. Rather, step your gratitude up just a little bit. It will do wonders for your faith.

Remember that those who've been forgiven little show little love, those who've been forgiven much, show much love.

Joana James - Author of From Redemption to MaturityTrusting God with your Future,   Nightmare at Emerald High & Alana and Alyssa's Secret & Finding Romeo 

Saturday, December 22, 2012

New Year's Resolution? Or Procrastination?

Do you make new year's resolutions? Once upon a time, I did. I wrote them down, stuck them on my mirror and declared all the wonderful things that I would do in the new year. That is, until I realised that making a resolution is a very fancy way to procrastinate. You see, making a new years resolution means that you are actually saying "I am going to wait for the new year to actually make any changes in my life". It almost gives you a get out of jail free card for this year, this month, this week, today. It means that whilst you're planning for next year, you can ignore this year. It's an easy way to say, I don't quite feel like doing the necessary stuff now, so I'll wait till next year to do it.

So, I stopped making resolutions. Instead, I began to concentrate on making real changes to my life; now. Who says that on December 22 you can't decide that things need to be different and start making the change now? Why wait nine days to do something you can do now? What if you're told that you won't live to see the next nine days? Will you still decide to wait to make the changes you believe need to be made to the way you live, or think or act?

Procrastination is the killer of dreams, destinies and Christian lives. Don't let it make a casualty out of yours. By all means, declare some things over your 2013, but don't wait till it gets here to get things moving.

Be blessed!

Joana James - Author of From Redemption to MaturityTrusting God with your Future,   Nightmare at Emerald High & Alana and Alyssa's Secret & Finding Romeo 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Stay Alert!

Focus is always important in the Christian walk. It is almost certain that you will go absolutely nowhere if you don't keep your focus on Christ. A perfect example of this is Peter when he attempted to walk on water. The minute he took his eyes off Christ, he began to sink.

It is easy in our present day life to take our eyes off Christ and begin to sink. It's a very dangerous thing for us nowadays because half the time, we don't even realise that we are sinking. It has become incredibly easy for us Christians to rationalise a lot of things and that is the most dangerous part.

Recently, I had an experience. Somebody said something to me that made me lose my focus. All of a sudden, I began to look at my leadership with a magnifying glass. I found everything that could possibly be wrong with their style. I didn't criticise them outwardly, but I did it inwardly and my heart grew bitter. I got to the point where my desire for the things of God dropped to dangerously low levels. In my head, I rationalised that "church" was the problem. To me, if only things were different with my leadership I wouldn't be feeling so spiritually dry. Oh really?

What actually happened to me was that I lost my focus. My eyes came off of Christ and onto man. A place where they should never be. Whilst leadership must always lead lives that won't be a stumbling block to others, we must remember that leaders are humans and they WILL make mistakes. If you keep your eyes on them and not on Christ, you WILL stumble and fall, or sink. In my case, I sank like a stone in a pond; a dark, murky pond. I was so scared that I told a friend I was afraid that I was backsliding in my heart. It was so filled with bitterness and resentment.

All that came from just one conversation. Well, really it was just one line from the conversation. It sank deep in my spirit and took root there. It nearly destroyed me. Luckily for me, I still had my desire for God and because of that desire, He was able to get through the noise of bitterness and resentment and pull me out from the bottom of the pond.

Ladies and gentlemen, I tell you my story so that you DO NOT, make the same mistake I did. After fifteen years of Christianity, I took my eyes from Christ for only just a few seconds and it took two months for me to recover. Yes, two months. The devil knows exactly what season of our lives we're going through and he knows when we are ripe for certain types of attacks. Because of my current circumstances, I fell easily for my "friend's" comments.

So friends, please "Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour." (1 Peter 5:8)

Have a focused Day!

Joana James - Author of From Redemption to MaturityTrusting God with your Future,   Nightmare at Emerald High & Alana and Alyssa's Secret & Finding Romeo 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Trusting God with your Future - The Devotional

Announcing the release of "Trusting God with your Future" the devotional.

This is a small collection of devotions meant to encourage, strengthen and stir the hearts of Christians. Trust is a complicated issue, especially when applied to someone we can't see. Not only is this book about trust, but it's about the everyday situations that affect out trust in God.

Each lesson in this book is one the author has experienced and learned herself. There are personal testimonies and experiences that are meant to inspire and to challenge.

As the author states in one of the devotions included in this book, "In the party of life, God is the one guest you always invite because he always brings and amazing gift!" May this gift from her heart bless yours.

Trusting God with your Future is Book Two in the Soul Food series. 

Grab your copy here: 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Can you just "be" in God's presence?

What is your desire? Do you desire to be with God more than you desire food?

One thing that is lacking in a lot of Christian lives is the desire to really be with God. If you're in a relationship with a man or woman, you have a great desire to be around them and to spend time with them. Great relationships are the ones where two people can just be in each other's presence, no talking, just being. You simply enjoy being in close proximity to your mate. You just love being around him or her. You don't need gifts or a conversation, just knowing that your significant other just wants to be with you makes you feel special right?

God feels that way about us. He's happy when we just want to be in his presence. When we're not asking for anything, when we're just being in His presence. That's real love. Our relationship with God should be so comfortable that we can just be in His presence. When we can just enjoy the moments with Him, when we can just love him.

I'm challenging you today to work towards a relationship where you can just be content with being in God's presence. It will make a world of difference in your relationship with Him.

Joana James - Author of From Redemption to MaturityTrusting God with your Future,   Nightmare at Emerald High & Alana and Alyssa's Secret & Finding Romeo 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

God rewards the Diligent

Ok, So I have been silent for almost a month, but I must say that I am proud of you guys, you've been coming back to the page and reading the previous bits of wisdom that God deposited in me months ago.

Today, this post is a little testimony and there's a lesson to be learnt here, I promise.

I've been extremely busy for the past six or so weeks. I've been trying to prepare for a pretty important exam and I wanted to get it done before November 1. See, this year I had two goals for myself.
1. Get qualified in my field
2. Develop myself as a writer

I've done a little of both all year, but that one important exam I really wanted to complete before the end of the year. However, every year from November 1- 30, about 300,000 crazy writers from around the globe come together for an event called National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Us crazies come together and try to pen 50,000 words strung together in a half-decent draft of a novel. I participated last year and did pretty well for my first attempt. I reached the goal and eventually published the novel (Nightmare at Emerald High).

So this year, determined to get some writing done after ignoring it for several months (since I published Finding Romeo in August), I decided to write my exam by Oct 31, just so that I can do NaNoWriMo.

Well folks, I wrote the exam on Oct 31 and waited for 10 nail-biting seconds whilst the computer system tallied up my score and let me have its decision. I failed. Yup. Miserably. My own mother was shocked. The last time I failed an exam I was in Secondary School... that's about 12 years ago....sigh.

Now what? I need to repeat the exam before the end of the year, but I really, really want to do NaNoWriMo. Decisions, decisions, choices, choices.

On November first, depressed from my failure the day before, I put fingers to keyboard. I hit the word goal for the day, but only half-heartedly. I still didn't think I'd be able to do this and study at the same time. On November 2, I wrote nothing, deciding that the exam was more important. On November three, I woke up a couple hours earlier than usual feeling really guilty for abandoning a great story. So I wrote again, only, I was already behind on my word count and I really needed to study. On day four, I decided to give up. I didn't write at all. I was going to prepare for my exam and try for NaNoWriMo next year.

Friends are awesome people to have around right? Especially ones that understand your goals. One of them challenged me to keep going, so on day 8, I put fingers to keyboard again, hopelessly behind on the target word count, but determined. I wrote for about an hour and a half everyday and studied for two. It was hard, really, really hard. There were days when I gave writing most of my energy and studying got only what was left. There were days when I did the reverse. Sometimes, no matter how much I wrote, I felt like the goal was simply unattainable. Either I win this thing and fail my exam, or the exact opposite. But, failure is not an option. I'm an over achiever so failure depresses me. So everyday, I kept plodding along. Hitting the keys, then hitting the books. Still, the goal kept slipping further and further away from me.

So guess who I turned to. There's one man who cares about the things that you care about. So, I stopped one day and said God, I'd really like to accomplish these goals, will you help me? Then I put fingers to keyboard. In the space of about 6 hours (in three sittings), I had written 11,257 words and just like that, I was back on target and poised to reach my 50,000 word goal! Not only that, I'd been struggling with grasping some of the material for this exam, but in the days leading to the end of the month, things that made no sense before, suddenly became as clear as day.

See, that's the God that we serve. He's able to do ANYTHING! Seriously, anything. In His word, he says that we can be confident that he hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases Him (1 John 4:14). My biggest comfort since the day I became a Christian 15 years ago has always been that God is concerned about the things that bother me at night. He's concerned about the goals I set for myself and the things I desire for my life. He's concerned about whether I'm happy or depressed. I KNOW that I didn't do the last month by myself. I KNOW that all those ideas didn't just come flooding into my brain because I'm brilliant (I'm really not). I KNOW that God is able to open up thought patterns and processes and make things appear as plain as day. See, that's the God I serve.

He rewards the diligent. Even though I felt discouraged and my goals looked like they were unattainable, I kept writing anyway. Most days, I felt like I was writing pure nonsense but I wrote anyway. God rewards that kind of diligence, in any area of our lives but especially in service to Him.

My exam is still a few days away, but I'm a lot more confident now than in the days leading to the October 31 disaster. (I'll let you guys know how that goes.)

My encouragement today is to stay focused, remain diligent and always include God in the mix. Now that November is over and NaNoWriMo is done, I promise to post more often!

Be Blessed!

Joana James - Author of From Redemption to Maturity, Trusting God with your Future,   Nightmare at Emerald High & Alana and Alyssa's Secret & Finding Romeo