Thursday, January 31, 2013

Test? Or Testimony?

This week has been a rather challenging one for me and staying positive is sapping all my energy. My house was broken into three days ago and thieves cleared me out. They took the one tool I own which is most important to me, my laptop. From it, I learn, create, produce and play. They also took my two back up hard drives, so I'm left with nothing. I've lost complete manuscripts (unpublished) and other works in progress. I've lost so much more, it's hard to even think about it. It's safe to say that I'm a bit depressed.

So what does a Christian do at times like these. It's easy to just want to crawl into the fetal position and yell at God "how could you let this happen to me." It's also easy on day one to stand firm and believe that your all powerful God will help you recover all. It even seemed like He already started working, the police got an incredible lead and they know exactly who violated my home. So you think they'd go get my stuff right away right? Nope, they didn't. So day two rolls around and whilst I still have faith, it's starting to drop to only about 90%. Wait...what? Yup, I am, I'm slowly losing faith.

This is the part where I would usually say you gotta keep focused and trust God but today, on day three, it feels like my faith is now at about 80%. See, I'm learning something about myself, and maybe about people on a whole. It's extremely easy to have faith on day one. God gets our complete trust. His word is all that matters to us. Then, the days wear on and we see no progress and we begin to wonder if God is even bothering with us. It's human nature, but, it's also a weakness in us that the devil exploits. He knows that I'll never believe that my God can't do something, so his lie is this "your God can, but WILL he?! He doesn't care about your stupid laptop!"  That's a lie that's easier believed.

I've noticed something else. God is challenging me with something else. Earlier this year, I posted something about being more militant about the Christian walk, I've stepped up,  but truly not as much as I should have. This situation is forcing me to mean what I say. So, the war is on, for my faith and for my stuff and for my life. I view this attack as personal, when I put out my last book, Trusting God with your Future, I realized that God is pushing me to write more in that direction and less fiction. So the devil wants to take my voice. It's not happening. So now, I'm going to lift my voice and tell him so.

I'm pretty sure there's a situation in your life that you can apply this to.

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 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Worship God with your Life

Several months ago, I did a post called "what is worship?" And by far, it is the most popular post in this blog. Worship is an important thing. It is THE most important responsibility you and I have as Christians. It is the one job that we cannot fail it.

What struck me today is how worship propels our testimony. You see, real worship is actually a lifestyle. Not what we say in church on Sunday morning or the number of songs we sing. Singing is one way to express our worship, but our greatest act of worship is actually very silent. Our greatest act of worship is honouring God's commands. That is the most respect that you can give Him. Telling Him, "God I respect you" means absolutely nothing if you go out afterwards living life and totally ignoring what He has asked you to do.

John 4:23 is a widely referenced verse.  It says: "But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way."

As a young girl growing up in church, I always thought that meant that I should truly mean what I say when I worship in church on a Sunday morning. Well that's only the tip of the iceberg. Worshipping truthfully means that my lifestyle must reflect what I say to God. It means that someone on the outside looking in should not be wondering about me and what I say to God because they have been seeing a different lifestyle from me. Worshipping truthfully means that our lives should be testimony to what we are saying.

You've probably heard the saying that goes "actions speak louder than words", well, it's very true. The loudest thing we can say is really what we do. A lot of people have been turned off of Christianity because of us Christians. We speak truth, but we don't live it. We tell them about a lifestyle that they should live but we don't live it ourselves. Are we really worshipping truthfully then? Or are we telling God a bunch of lies?

Worship goes beyond Sunday morning. Worship is every thing we do. Does it please God? Does it honour God? Does it respect God? Does it reflect God? Ponder that for a moment. I know that I certainly need to.

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

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Thanking God for your past

Sometimes we look at our past and recall certain situations that make us cringe. We all have shameful moments in our past that we wish we could simply forget. For some of us, it's so dark and horrible back there that we make forgetting a daily past time. We go about our days trying to blot out every reminder of the things that caused us pain.

I've found a new use for my past though. Hidden among all the messy parts that I'd like to forget, is a treasure trove of  reminders of God's grace, love and faithfulness. You see, with each situation that I went through, I came out of it. Sometimes victorious, sometimes only half-standing, but alive.

Some things made me stronger whilst others made me wiser. I learned to trust God with seemingly impossible situations. I also learned that even in my messiest moments, God's grace could still find me. My past still reminds me of how stupid I was, but I consider that a good thing, because now I'm reminded that I need to trust God with each decision that I make.

So now, I thank God for my past; not for the messy situations, but for the opportunities to learn something. I also thank Him because he did a pretty good job of stepping in for me over and over again.

I hope today that you too can find moments in your past that remind you of God's love, grace and faithfulness.

Be blessed today.

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

Sunday, January 20, 2013

We serve a God that hears us!

It's not always easy to remember that God hears our prayers, especially when things aren't going EXACTLY as we want them to. I know for sure I wonder if God is still paying any attention to me. Sometimes I dare to ask out loud... "Are you still there? Are you even listening to me?" It can be frustrating and exasperating to be asking for something and seemingly not getting any answer right?

Well, guess what... God always answers. Not always how we want him to, but ALWAYS how we NEED him to. See at the end of the day, God always does what is best for us and nothing else. If he were to give in to our every whim and fancy, I guarantee that the world would be a much more scary place to live.

So what's the real deal then? What's really happening when we ask for something? Well 1 John 5:14-15 tells us this:
And we are confident that he hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases him. And since we know he hears us when we make our requests, we also know that he will give us what we ask for.

For me, the most important part of the above verse is whenever we ask for anything that pleases him. It explains the whole thing to me. God is sovereign and all knowing. He knows how every action on earth will affect every other action, and with that knowledge He acts in His sovereignty and does what is best for all. When we as Christians ask for something that works with his greater plan, He grants it. Of that we can be confident. 

So, if you've been asking for a very long time, Lord I want this, or Lord I need that...remember, are you asking for something that pleases him? What is your motive for asking? Do you want what you've been asking for out of jealously or maybe just greed? Will your life really improve with what you are asking for? 

Be confident that God hears you whenever you ask for something that pleases him.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Do you have self control?

Self control is a thing that we should have developed when we were toddlers. That would pretty much would have been around the same time we learned to hold our urine till we found a bathroom, or learned to restrain ourselves in the supermarkets when Mom said we couldn't have any chocolates. So why then as adults do we still have issues with self control. It still invades every area of our lives. We still have difficulty staying away from that next candy bar. We still throw tantrums every once in a while and some of us still have issues with abstinence from fornication, indulging in pornography or other more serious acts.

We would have learned self-control as children in a perfect world but we live in one marred by the consequences of sin. The truth is that temptation is all around us and the devil is the smartest enemy that we will ever face. He studies us long before he puts up any bait in front of us. He knows what makes us tick. He studies the effect of each hook dangled in front of us and ensures that the right one is put up every time.

So how do we over come this? Do we just tell ourselves to have self control and then it just happens. If that were the case then I'd have written one hundred novels, saved one million dollars and I would be ten pounds lighter. Self control doesn't come just because we want it, yet on the flip side, if we don't want it, it will never come. Let me explain. A desire to control yourself is a prerequisite for it happening, but there is so much more involved. It doesn't happen just because we wish for it to be so.

Some things come by constant practice and self control is one of them. It requires a continuous decision making process, not just a one time thing. It requires us at each moment in the day when we are faced with temptation, to decide to go the other way. You will never reach a point in your life where you can stop making a decision to control yourself. The minute you let your guard down, you are making a decision to no longer control yourself. That's what makes being consistent so hard. It would be so much easier if we could just decide today, "I am no longer going to have sex out of marriage." Yes, that's the first step to change, but making the decision on Tuesday does not help you on Friday night when you are actually faced with the situation. On Friday night, you are still going to have to make a decision to not commit the act.

There are other factors that aid the self-control process. That includes changing your environment. A lot of the things that we do knowing that we shouldn't, happen as a result of inserting ourselves into the wrong environment. Let's go back to our fornication scenario. When you become a Christian, it's one of the things about your life that must change, but if you continue to date people who don't share your faith or life perspective, then your environment will be continuously be bombarded by opportunities to have sex.
So self-control is as much of an internal thing as a situational thing. Don't put yourself in situations where you know you can lose control.

Remember that at the end of the day, you are in charge of your decisions and those decisions are not one time things. Self-control has a start date, but no end date. You will be control your own actions for the rest of your life. If you look at it that way, you will find the task daunting, so look at it one decision at a time. Truly, that's all it really is. A decision for each situation.

Have a blessed and control filled 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, January 13, 2013

Don't be Timid about saying No!

Lately, I've been making some changes to certain areas of my life whilst evaluating others and I've noticed something  Those who know me well will tell you that I'm anything but timid, strangely though, many things have gone wrong in my life because I've been extremely timid.

See, I have a pretty big mouth and I'm not afraid to use it but somehow when it comes to saying no to certain things that I know are destructive, I'm pretty weak. I get afraid to offend friends by saying no. I tend to be afraid to step out and make the decisions that I need to make. So why then would somebody with such a big mouth be so intimated that I'd be quiet and do the wrong thing?

It's simple. The devil knows our weaknesses and he exploits it. Because I have a big mouth, in the past I've offended many people, so now I tend to shy away from speaking to quickly or out of turn. I'm scared that I'll be perceived wrongly and recently, my reputation has become very important to me (maybe too important).  That also means that I'm scared into submission. Fear is a crippling thing. It takes you places you never thought you'd go. As an adult I'm a victim of peer pressure, simply because I'm afraid. That fear has crept into other areas of my life, areas where it is much more dangerous.


Recently, I made a decision to no longer be timid about saying "no" to the things that can destroy my life. Being timid about saying no really means you're saying yes. With what God wants to do in your life, being timid or scared is not an option. We need to be forceful with the enemy and let him know in no uncertain terms that he's not allowed to scare you into submission. Last week we talked about being brave and stepping out, this requires the same about of bravery and follows closely on it's heels. When faced with compromising decisions, be brave, not timid. Don't allow yourself to be backed into a corner. You are a child of God, be determined to not be caught being afraid to say "no".

Make a decision to no longer be timid about saying "no" to the things that can destroy you.

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, January 10, 2013

Do you influence others?

Are we influencing others or are others influencing us?

As Christians, we are called to be different. Our reactions to everyday situations should stand out from that of the rest of the world. We live in a world that is filled with evil and everyday it just seems to get worse. There are those things that we consider to be major sins (even though in God's eyes they're all the same) like a gunman walking into a school and killing dozens, but there are also the smaller things, like lying, cheating and petty theft.

In our world, it's so easy to get caught up in doing things that in the backs of our mind, we know are not right. Unfortunately, it's even easier to justify it. The world has gotten pretty good at making excuses for itself. We have blurred the line separating right from wrong with phrases like "if it feels good, do it" or "you only live once, so do what makes you happy".

Even us Christians fall into the trap, letting the world dictate our actions. We forget that life is not about making ourselves feel good, but it's about pleasing Christ, it's about setting the standard that the world follows. As Christians we are leaders, not followers. The world takes it's cue from us, not the other way around. Things like homosexuality and immoral living should not permeate our church. We should not be the biggest gossipers in the workplace and when we speak, people shouldn't have to wonder if we are lying.

Let us be different, let our lives stand out. Let us no longer just go with the flow of everything that feels good. Let our life's slogan be, "You only live once, so live right!" Let those around us SEE the difference in us.

Remember: You only live once, so live right!

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

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Passive or aggressive?

Wow! It's a new year already! 2013 is here.

About two posts ago, I warned about the pitfalls of waiting till the new year begins to make a resolution and to make changes to your life, but perhaps you haven't read that post, or perhaps you need a bigger kick in the pants. It's okay, so do I sometimes.

Today is about to mark a pivotal point for me. See, like many Christians who have been Christians for a long time, I've gotten a bit complacent and I've gotten very used to waiting. Waiting come with the territory. God never gives us what we want when we want it. In fact, most of the time, we have to wait for the right conditions in order to get what's due to us. So, we've gotten used to waiting and guess what, that can be a bad thing.

It becomes a bad thing to wait when we don't realise that there are times when we must fight instead of waiting. There are certain things that the enemy steals from us and tries to keep from us that we can only regain with a fight. Yes, a fight. I don't like fights. I run from them. When people hurl bad remarks at me, I ignore them. I cringe when I realise a situation is getting heated. So, why fight with the ultimate enemy? I've lived a very passive aggressive Christian life. I leave the devil alone, even when he messes with me, until he REALLY messes with me. Sometimes, that's a good thing but some battles can only be won if we get in the devil's face. You may be wondering why you haven't been able to become financially free, or why you haven't found a house that you can afford yet, or why your family/husband/children are causing you so much heartache.

The answer is plain and simple. The devil doesn't want to see anything you do or are involved in prosper. He declared war against you the moment you became a Christian. So how do you get passed him messing with your life? How do you regain the things he's withheld from you. It will only take a fight. Yes, a fight. I know. For a lot of us, it's a bad word but it must be done.

You see, if you continue to live your Christian life in passive mode, you will always be just treading water. You will never get passed the point where you're struggling daily. Passive mode means that you're just trying to stay alive. But guess what, the devil isn't in passive mode. He's in aggressive mode, attacking us daily. He's sending darts at our families, our finances, our health, everything that concerns us and if we continue to cower before him, before long, we'll drown.

This year, I'm declaring that I am going to be more militant about my walk. I may not like to fight, but let's face it, this is war and it's a war of epic proportions. World War 3 would not compare to the war that goes on in the heavens daily for our souls. If no one told you about this war when you became a Christian, I'd like to apologize for them and tell you now. You're in a war and if you want what's rightfully yours you have to fight for it. You have to take steps toward dominion. You have to claim it. You can no longer just sit and wait for stuff to come to you. You have to wake up in the wee hours of the morning and pray yourself and your family through. You have to walk around the bank and declare your debt cancelled. You have to drive through the neighbourhood of your choice and claim a house. You have to be radical and crazy, but most of all, you have to be militant. This Christian walk isn't for the weak. A weak person wouldn't have survived all that you already have.

It's a war folks, so fight strong.

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