A Loving Tribute to Rev. Dr. Robert Johansson
My senior pastor of more than a decade is now in Heaven with Jesus after a long hard battle with cancer. I will miss Pastor Johansson dearly, but I am grateful that I got to see him earlier this year as he celebrated his 80th birthday and I am rejoicing knowing that he is smiling with Jesus now.
Pastor J had a great impact on me during my years at Evangel Church. He was a loving, kind shepherd. He was also one of the bravest and godliest men I have ever known! He was a beautiful blend of strength and grace.
I will miss his wise counsel and his bear hugs!
But Pastor J is not the kind of person that just fades away from your memories. Many of his powerful sermons are etched in my heart and mind.
His Bible-based preaching helped draw me to keep going back to service week after week. I went into his church a guarded skeptic who was seeking to reconcile with God. Over the years, through solid teaching and many opportunities to serve, I matured into the minister I am today. Praise God!
I still remember how happy Pastor was when he saw me walk into the informational meeting to learn about the trip to the Amazon jungle in Brazil that the church was organizing. He lovingly sent the team off on our trip and gave us a hero’s welcome upon our return. That’s when Pastor and I discovered that we both could identify with Joshua from the Bible. We also both felt called to be missionaries in New York City.
Right before my other short-term missions trips, I’d make sure to find Pastor and ask him to pray for me and he would pray that God would cover me with His wings.
Pastor graciously spent time with me and prayed for me especially in 2011 when I was discerning God’s call on my life. Pastor supported my writing and at the end of our last meeting that year he declared, “God will write your story and you will tell it!” Amen! I love these pictures of Pastor holding my hand and proudly standing by my side at the release of my first book last spring!
He gave Waiting on God Well his seal of approval and said that everyone should keep a copy of it by where they keep their Bible as a reference because it has so many Bible verses in it. Amazing!
Over the years, I have taken lots of notes during Pastor’s sermons. Here’s just a glimpse of some of them! I guess I really was paying attention and soaking in a wealth of wisdom!
In honor of Pastor Johansson, I’d like to share a few lessons I learned over the years. This is in no way an exhaustive list. It’s just some of his words that will remain with me probably the rest of my life. I’m sharing them in no particular order. I am writing this from memory, so if I get something wrong or if you feel like I have misrepresented something he said, please kindly let me know! (If you don’t agree with these teachings, please don’t try to enter into a debate with me about them. That is not the goal of this post. Thanks!)
I pray that these words will bless you! I’ve included some of my thoughts as well:
“If you know how much God loves you, you can trust Him! And if you can trust Him, you can obey Him. And if you obey Him, you will have joy!” Pastor J preached this for a whole year. It may seem like a simple concept, but it is so profound!
“You can’t judge a whole pizza pie by just one slice. Don’t judge God by your current circumstances.” Pastor J liked using the image of a pizza because it’s so New York. He wanted to remind us that while we can’t see the whole picture, God can and He is working behind the scenes!
“Don’t bow down to the culture!” This is something I remember Pastor J preaching from my early days at Evangel until his last days! Pastor J reminded us that we are in this world, but not of it! He urged us to live for Christ and to not give in to the pressures of this world. He would always remind us that God is establishing His Kingdom on earth!
“The mystery has been revealed, it is Christ in us. The hope of Glory.” Pastor J referred to Colossians 1:27 often. He wanted us to know that we didn’t serve a distant God. Jesus lives inside of us.
“Salvation happens in a moment. Sanctification happens over a lifetime.” Pastor J would make sure that we understood that once we believed and received Jesus as our Lord and Savior, our salvation was secure praise God! However, we still need to walk in obedience to God. When we sin, we don’t lose our salvation but we lose fellowship with God and we need to ask for forgiveness.
“Can God trust you with suffering?” That was such a challenge to my thinking. Yes, God allows certain trials in our lives not to punish us but because He can trust us. And those trials help to conform us into the image of Christ!
“It’s not so much about how much you love God, but about how much God loves you!” Pastor J reminded us that God is love and that He delights in lavishing His unconditional love on us. As it says in Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Pastor J liked to refer to this as “The Great Uneven Exchange” where Jesus takes our sins, filthiness, and baggage, etc. and we get His righteousness.
“You can negotiate the timing with God, but not the vision.” Our timing is different than God’s timing. If we don’t see God’s promises coming through, Pastor J said we could ask God about the timing, but we shouldn’t compromise or give up on the vision God gave us.
“You can’t lose with the stuff I use!” Pastor J knew and he wanted us to know that we have the victory with God!
“The LORD is my light and my salvation– whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life– of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1) Pastor J mentioned that he would say this verse daily. No wonder he was so fearless! He would encourage us to mediate on God’s Word and to appropriate it, or apply it, to our situations.
“When you hear that I’ve died, don’t cry for me Argentina.” Pastor J said this many times over the years. He knew that Heaven is our true home. This quote helps me to remember that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord as it says in 2 Corinthians 5:8. We’re just passing through here. Pastor is more alive now than he ever was here on earth!
I’m grateful for my years of sitting under Pastor Johansson’s teaching. Pastor J may be gone, but he is not forgotten! He poured out his life in the service of others. It’s our turn to make sure his godly legacy lives on!
If you’d like to share a favorite Pastor Johansson memory or quote, please feel free to do so in the comments section. Blessings!
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