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I have been co-teaching The Gospel Project on Sunday mornings during the Sunday school hour, and the subject for the past few months has been the exiles and return of the exiles. The whole time I had been preparing to help teach, I wanted to include the genealogy of Jesus recorded in Matthew 1. I never really got a chance to mention that particular genealogy, and as it turns out, it was for a good reason! We got a chance to camp out on the genealogy for a whole Sunday school class time.

It is so crazy how much this genealogy in Matthew one means to me. I am so moved by the simple inclusion of the deportation of the Israelites as they were taken captive by the Babylonians. When the exiles returned home, they were one people again. The exile is the only event recorded in the genealogy! Jeremiah predicted that the exile to Babylon would exceed/ out do/ be more significant than the deliverance of Egypt (Jeremiah 16:14; 23:7). It is a new spiritual marker.

I will never forget the moment I saw with my spiritual eyes this inclusion in Matthew. I was in the throes of writing Back From Captivity and somehow I came across it. It was one of those moments that time stopped for me. It was a moment between God and me where Scripture jumped off the page and catapulted supernaturally into the heavenlies to pierce my heart with a message of good news. I remember I stopped reading when I came to the phrase “After the exile to Babylon” (Matt. 1: 12) and looked around me as if Someone had written it just for me. It felt as if Someone was pointing at those Scriptures, highlighting them, then penetrating them in my heart and mind to reveal in my spirit that God, my Heavenly Father, knows where I have been and what I have been through. That it is all a part of my identity, but that none of it is in vain. It has served a purpose. The event – the exile – or whatever one may be experiencing – even the terribleness of it – has a divine place with divine plans and divine purposes. I suppose it validated for me that what Satan meant for harm, God meant for good (Genesis 50:20).

If you feel as if your future is wasted or lost or too messed up because of your track-record; that now your life is a mistake, a complete disaster because of what you have done, take in the words of the famous hymn Amazing Grace which so profoundly testifies, “I was lost but now I am found!” Child of God, you have a new beginning! Do you see that in the genealogy of Jesus Christ in Matthew 1? You have a new beginning!! You are found not to live in shame and embarrassment or humiliation, but to live nearer to the Father’s heart, to be close to Him, to look even more like Him, to be covered by His blood shed for you, to be redeemed, bought back, to be found in Him. It isn’t your story, but His story over your life. It isn’t about your mistakes. It is about you being found by God.

This is the message of the cross. This is the message from Genesis to Revelation. This is the message of salvation. This is the message of forgiveness. Jesus did not die only for the sins you committed before your time of salvation – the time before you accepted Jesus to be Lord over your life – He continues to offer His forgiveness for our sins committed overtly and covertly after salvation. This is an ongoing relationship. The Scripture, “Forgive us our sins” as recorded in the Lord’s Prayer in Luke 11:4 is not to be a one-time prayer but a daily prayer. The books I, II, & III John were written for the early Christians, those belonging to the family of God. Jesus admonished the believers when He wrote, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:8-9).

If you are not familiar with the account of the Babylonian exiles of when God allowed King Nebuchadnezzar to take captive Israelites, who were living in the Promised Land, because of their continual rebellion against God and their idolatry, but after 70 years of captivity in Babylon, God allowed King Cyrus to declare a decree issuing those captives to return home to Jerusalem to live again as one nation and people serving God together. Know that having to leave the Promised Land and being taken captive was the worst of the worst. For the Israelites it was corporately and individually the lowest time of their lives. Their identities were stripped. All that they knew of who they were as a people of God was ripped away – exposed for anyone and everyone to see their shame. It was a dark time of being isolated due to their own sins of ignoring of the prophets and believing lies. Their lives collapsed right before them as they hit rock bottom. God through Moses warned of what would happen to the Israelites if they were disobedient. This is the description of being sin-sick, of being in captivity:

“Among those nations you will find no repose, no resting place for the sole of your foot. There the LORD will give you an anxious mind, eyes weary with longing, and a despairing heart. You will live in constant dread both night and day, never sure of your life. In the morning you will say, “If only it were morning!” – because of the terror that will fill your hearts and the sights that your eyes will see.” Deuteronomy 28: 65-67

Michael Card in The Bible Speaks Today uses the word “nadir” to represent this point of Israel’s history. It was the all-time low.

Here in Matthew 1, the very first book of the New Testament, we find this genealogy, this list of men and women in the lineage of the only perfect person to ever walk this Earth – to find individuals who were far from perfect, but who also did not continue to live in sin, but at their low times, looked up to their Redeemer, Deliverer, Savior. Within this genealogy of the generations leading up to the Messiah, Jesus Christ, beginning with Abraham, tucked away among many names is the nadir of Israel’s history. It was the Lord’s will not to omit it, skip over it, ignore it, act as if it didn’t happen, choose that it didn’t happen, or replace it with a grand event. Including this event in the genealogy of Jesus Christ means something to you and me. This is quite significant. I believe we can apply this significance personally and/or corporately. Whatever it may be that is a part of your track-record that you consider to be your lowest point in life, the thing that has humbled you, and yet has also caused many grievances to the point of you coming to the end of yourself – may be or has been the very thing God uses as a testimony in your life of His goodness, grace, love, and faithfulness. Your past, your journey, even with the dark times marked with guilt, can be redeemed and used to manifest the glory of our God and Savior. Whatever you or your family has gone through or is going through – when you feel so alone and unusable – God is revealing to you that in Him there is hope. What the Israelites came through and overcame, so you too can live and survive through this time to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living (Psalm 27:13). Whatever your blot may be – divorce, bankruptcy, loss of job, prodigal child, infidelity, alcoholism, imprisonment – God is not finished with you; He has beautiful plans for you. Your calling is not null and void. God is great and awesome and will uphold you. Rest in Him and find your way in Him.

“You, O LORD, keep my lamp burning, my God turns my darkness into light. With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall.” Psalm 18: 28-29

Hey! I just want to update you on what is happening currently in my life. Not that a lot is going on, I just thought instead of writing a devotional of sorts, I would let you in on where I am on this journey of life. In fact, as I think about it, I’m not sure that I have ever written something about me. Yes, I’ve written my thoughts and a few achievements, but I don’t think much else. Maybe I should write more than what is happening as of Feb.’11.  Nah…I think I will stick to the current.

The Lord has opened the door for me to be a substitute teacher for Broken Arrow Public Schools as well as Summit Christian Academy. I began the school year subbing and have subbed everyday since. I never really saw myself back in the classroom or gym (as I have my P.E. certification), but amazingly I like it. I had envisioned the classroom full of students completely draining me and me not having the skills to maintain an orderly classroom. As both of those are still true, what I hadn’t imagined was the energy and confidence I have gained from the students. They inspire me, make me laugh, make me appreciate my own children, teach me, and give me hope. Since I have enjoyed the classroom so much more than I anticipated, I am currently studying to pass the English certification test coming up in April. This will give me the opportunity to be qualified for more than just a P.E. position in the public or private schools.

Randall House Publishers will be releasing my second Bible study, Back From Captivity, early next month. This study is for men & women college age and older. It is about rebuilding your identity in Christ. I look forward to its release and believe the Lord has ordained it for prodigals who have recently made the journey back to their Heavenly Father. My hopes is that it will be a tool for counselors to use in their counseling sessions.

I would love to write a third book as the Lord leads. My subject I would love to write on is beauty. But, for whatever reason, I am not moved to sit and write the book just yet. Actually, I haven’t moved on from my research from Back From Captivity which concentrated on the book of Jeremiah. I am going back through Jeremiah and reading/studying it in its chronological order and not in the order it is as we see it in the Bible.  The history of the book is truly fascinating. Then, the fact that it relates to God’s people even now, is even more fascinating. Just this morning, I read Jer.6:15, “Are they ashamed of their loathsome conduct? No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush.” I always hate it when speakers/preachers tell us statistics and realities of the church as it relates to how the church looks like the world. I pray I be one to shine God’s light amidst the darkness and not conform to it.

My girls are doing fabulous. Growing so pretty everyday. We are about to begin a new soccer season where I will be spending my evenings as their chauffeur and juggling to get a nutritious meal on the table. As I write this, it is hard to imagine anyone playing soccer in Broken Arrow. Two days ago we got a record breaking 15 inches of snow! And it is all still on the ground as the high for the past 2 days has been 18 degrees. We have had a lot of family time since the snow and don’t really see an end to it as of yet. 

I do, however, see an end to this post! I will leave you with the truth of God’s Word as it has come alive to me as I gaze out my window onto the massive amounts of snow everywhere. “‘Come now, let us reason together’, says the Lord. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.'” Isaiah 1:18.

Sometimes I wonder if the “one day” I hope for will ever make it’s way into the present.  I wake up with dreams and passions and hopes… then go through the day with one step in front of the other hoping the pieces of each day make something beautiful and meaningful “one day”.  I believe each day truly is a new day and if I do it courageously, honestly, obediently, and lovingly, something will come of it.  Sure, some days may be a step backward or absolutely nowhere, but if my goal is to be somewhere…I will get there in God’s timing. 

God has ordained our days.  My commitment to Him proves my trust in Him with my life.  Without Jesus in my life, I know I would be one of the most self-centered women on this planet.  I am grateful I live for Jesus Christ.

I got 2 good news’ last week!  2 in one week…amazing.  I can go months and even years with no good news, then get 2 in one week.  I thought it would just be another day of moving forward, not knowing something beautiful really would come of my past days.

I am inspired by the song Forward Motion from Thousand Foot Krutch’s “Welcome to the Masquerade” album.  It says: Let’s keep it moving in a forward motion, If we can hold on, we can cross this ocean, There’s no sense in letting our emotions, Get in the way, until the door keeps closin.  If we sort this out, would we know how to live like we were different, I know we’ve both had some doubts, whether things would come around, And look at us now.

It inspires me to keep moving in a forward motion in my thoughts, actions, beliefs, and words.  As I work toward a particular goal…I am NOT GOING TO GIVE UP!

Okay…my 2 good news’….1. Randall House has decided to publish my second Bible study.  It is called Back From Captivity and is a 6 week study on restoring your identity in Christ.

2. I have been approved from LifeWay to write devotional material.  My first assignment is to write 12 devotionals for the student publication KNOWN .

I continue moving in a forward motion knowing it really does get me somewhere TODAY!

I finally finished writing my second Bible study entitled Back From Captivity.  It is also a 6 week study about restoring your identity in Christ.  It is written for men and woman of all ages.  It studies the O.T. when the Israelites came back home to Jerusalem after being in Babylon for 70 years where they were exiled.  When they returned to Jerusalem, they came home to rubble.  The wall had been destroyed along with their homes and the sacred temple. The study also focuses on the prodigal who returned home to live in the same house with his Father and older brother.  He came home with a shattered soul, but not hopeless.  In fact, the best is only yet to come for him.  Discovering our true inheritance in Christ is our greatest reward!

Please join me in prayer as my publisher will be viewing the proposal for the study this fall.  Thanks!!

Have you accomplished something lately you thought you never would?

Jennifer Johnson

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"To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen." -Revelations 1:5b-6

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