Kings and Kingdoms Will All Pass Away

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We are all waking up daily confronted with the crisis of our current global state, and if that weren’t enough, we have relatives fighting cancer and other illness and trials. It’s a rough state we are all in, people are losing their jobs and the stable life they knew. In short, people are walking around in fear and worry.

We get used to the idea that we’ve got it ALL under control. I work hard to make a living. I try to plan appropriately. I exercise and eat well, so I can remain healthy, Yesterday morning I walked a whopping 7 miles. One of the reasons I walk is to keep my back in shape because I have a herniated disc, that tends to go out now and again and produces excruciating pain. I was feeling confident after my 7 mile trek and then a few hours later at the grocery store, I picked up a heavy case of water the wrong way and was thrown to my knees in pain. Here I am debilitated again. For the last 24 hours I have been in complete surrender. I can do very little without help.

I am reminded of our frailty. Our health will eventually fail us. The bank account is not a sure thing. We can see how the world has been turned on its head in a blink of an eye. Yes, kings and kingdoms indeed will all pass away, but there is one King who reigns eternal, this Kingdom will not pass away. Jesus is my King. He is the only One who is the same yesterday, today and forever. He will not fail us. I believe that all that we are going through is a wake up call to our idols and dependency on the kingdoms of this world. The apostle Paul said “set your mind on things above, not on earthly things.” CS Lewis said, “Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither.”

I confess my aim gets off, and when I wander off, God in His loving grace and mercy takes his staff and gently, but firmly pulls me back into the fold.

In the book of Ecclesiastes, there is a sober and frank bit of wisdom, “Meaningless! Meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” ” Nothing is new under the sun.” I am so glad the story doesn’t end there. At the end of the book, the wise Solomon points us to where the meaning is, “Remember your creator in the days of your youth.”

A poem by CT Studd says it very clearly and put it into perspective:

“Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last”

I want my life to point to Jesus. The only Kingdom that stands is the Kingdom of God, and as a believer, I am part of that kingdom. My hope is built on Jesus! What are you putting your faith and trust in? If our trust is in Him, we have nothing to fear.

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[b]neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:37-39

Put your trust in Him!

Priorities.

I was with my cousin Lindsey a few days ago hanging out at the mall, we were ooh-ing and ah-ing as we were looking in all these expensive stores that we would in no way be able to afford. My cousin and I love to shop!  Every year on New Years Day we meet up and go to the huge Dillard’s sale. We wait outside in the line with all the crazed shopaholics, just waiting to score that great deal! Anyway, we are walking around the mall and I am saying how I want this and want that, and then my cousin started to tell me a story. She said, “well I was just humbled recently.” My ears perked up, “Really? What happened?” She began to tell me about this young family that she knew through her husband. The parents were in their 30’s and they had two young children. The wife’s father had died several years earlier from a rare form of colon cancer. Lindsey went on to say that they found this rare cancer in the daughter. She was diagnosed and only lived a few more months. She died leaving behind her husband and young children. Lindsey said this family was active in their church and faith and just all around a family to admire. Here’s the clincher!  Lindsey then went on to say that on her death-bed, the last thing she told her husband was,

“Run to Jesus, cause that’s all that matters.”

She didn’t say walk, she said, “run!” There was urgency. I stood there in the mall feeling humbled myself. Priorities.

I thought about my good friend Donna who just died of ovarian cancer. Her last words to everyone, that I was honored to sing at her memorial service at her request was,

“Give me Jesus, you can have all this world, but give me Jesus.”

Priorities.

Not long ago my brother was at home and he witnessed a fatal car accident right outside his house. He told us the story, he heard the terrible crash. Emergency crews were on their way, but the young driver didn’t make it. My brother told us he bent down over the body and said,

“Look to Jesus.”

Priorities.

A couple of weeks ago I was at Goodwill, a local resale shop. As I was browsing one of the clerks and I started chatting, just small talk, but the small talk soon turned into something more. Robyn, the clerk started opening up to me and telling me of her anxiety and how paralyzing it was, she worried about something catastrophic happening all the time. As she was telling me this, her eyes started to well up with tears. I started to feel my eyes tearing up. I reached out and gave her a hug. I really did understand, because I deal with anxiety too. I shared my own sufferings with her, and how I could empathize. I told her I would be praying for her and I walked off. I prayed silently, “Lord, Oh Lord, what do I say to her? What should I do?”  I went up to the cash register to check out and she was standing there. I told her,

“Look to the Lord. Nothing else will fill that space but Him.”

I gave her another hug and left.

Priorities.

It’s easy to get our priorities out of whack, but here recently I have had several incidents that keep shouting, “JESUS!”  I know when you put him first everything else falls into its rightful place.

Blessings,

Johanna

 

Do You Really Love the Lord?

When asked what is the greatest commandment, Jesus responded, “Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, and mind.”

This kind of love is not mistakable, this kind of love is not confused, this kind of love is not half-hearted, this kind of love involves all three components, heart, soul and mind; not just one of these. This kind of love is not ashamed, this kind of love is sacrificial, this kind of love is only found through Jesus, God in flesh. He makes it possible to love like this, when we genuinely seek Him.

When you really love with your heart, soul, and mind, you want to please Him. On the contrary when you grieve Him by disobeying, or getting out of step with Him, this would grieve you if you indeed loved Him. If you feel no grief in sin or aren’t affected by it, then the question must be pondered, do I really love Him if I am ok with grieving Him. I think we can honestly answer with a resounding No!

There are extremes that we need to beware of, the true genuine love for the Lord Jesus is neither legalistic or a free license. There is freedom in boundaries. God gave us boundaries, because he knows what is the absolute best for us. Don’t you think your creator knows you best?

We needn’t be so obsessed with our sins or past sins that we are tortured by them, this would not be living in freedom but oppression, but this does not mean that we swing all the way to the other side and care less about our sins, and we just do as we please since “God is gracious.”  Grace is not a license to sin. Both extremes are dangerous. There is a godly kind of balance, we want to stay within the boundaries that God set for us, because we love him and trust that he knows what’s best for us. On the flip side, when we go our own way and then face the consequence of stepping out on our own, we should feel the pain and grief for a time over our disobedience. It should initially grieve us, but then we  confess it and move forward not allowing ourselves to be condemned by it.

In the Bible the apostle Paul tells us “examine ourselves to see whether you are in the faith. Test Yourselves.” In the Psalms, “Search me, God and know my heart; test me..” Clearly we need to be concerned with sin, if we truly love Him who loved us first and died for us. Jesus, God in flesh, loved us so much, he sacrificed his life on the cross to make us in right standing with Holy God. Our fate was doomed before Jesus. Mankind’s sin kept us from having a direct relationship with Him, but because of Jesus work on the cross we can know God and have a living, real communion with our creator.

The closer we walk with God the more sensitive we are when we get out of step with Him.

The gospel is just this – God is a holy God, a perfect and righteous God. I am not. At the end of my life I will have to stand before a just and holy God, and I will be judged.  God became flesh, Jesus, to set straight the balances, something we could not do ourselves. Our good works could never be enough. If being good was good enough, why did Jesus even die on the cross?  Jesus, being perfectly sinless became the sacrifice for our sins and our redeeming grace so that when I stand before God one day he will let me in. We just have to genuinely accept this free gift and surrender to Him with our heart, soul and mind. We can reverse our eternal fate without God to living in his presence forever when we love and  trust him completely.  It is only then that we can have a loving relationship with our creator and when we behold him face to face at the end of this road, it will be a joyous meeting.

Will you love him with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind?

 

I Skipped Over Kindness

Kindness is oh so easy when people are kind to you but when they are against you, the very last natural thing to feel is kindness. Yesterday I had an incident that tested me on this. I implemented some new policies in my music studio and i had a parent protest. She threatened to maybe quit lessons. I tell you my first response was anxiety and defense. I had been preparing for a revolt. After a few professional  email exchanges I thought to myself, “I am being reasonable. Why can’t she get that?” Later that night, I was in bed doing some reading and I realized I had skipped “kindness” in the fruit of the Spirit blogs. I thought, “Lord are you telling me what I think you are telling me? This lady needs kindness?! But Lord……….she doesn’t value me, she is taking advantage of me. I can’t!

Then I thought about the fact that Jesus still set boundaries. Kindness doesn’t mean that you don’t stand firm or let people run you over. In Matthew 10 Jesus told the disciples go and preach and if they hear you, stay and if they don’t, leave. Jesus was saying we can’t control anyone’s response. We just have to send the message. The message is kind, it is looking for the person’s best interest. The gospel message is kind but it is also offensive. It inconveniences our selfish life.

My policy that I put into place was for the benefit of my students to get the very best from me as a teacher. I can’t control her response. I have to let it go. If she won’t listen and hear, I have to shake the dust off my feet and leave in peace. This is kindness. Trying to prove myself or defend myself is stirring up more strife and that wouldn’t be kind. Being gentle yet firm and respectful in my responses is kind. Letting go and not feeling resentful is kind. Letting her make her own decision and not manipulating her is kind.

Jesus loves us so much, He died for us. Jesus doesn’t force us to come to him. This is kindness, even though we miss out on the eternal benefits when we walk away from Jesus. It is still kindness when we allow others to make their own decisions. God didn’t create robots. He wants us to come to him willingly.

So in short, Jesus set boundaries. Jesus was kind in setting those boundaries. It’s not just good enough to set a boundary, we need to do it with kindness. Don’t skip over kindness.

Spiritual Exam – Patience 

I’m sorry I haven’t posted a blog in a while. I’m running these summer band camps and it’s been real busy. I hope you will be patient with me. I intend to get back to writing. Speaking of patience, patience was next on the fruits of the spirit. The last blog, I started a spiritual examination based on the fruits of the spirit. We looked at love, joy, and peace. Let’s look at patience.

We live in a culture where we don’t need to practice much patience. We have so much convenience right at our fingertips that this age we live, l’m afraid, is losing a grip on how to have patience. We hardly have to wait for anything and when we do have to wait we are so frustrated that we have to wait. The other day I was at the post office and I got in the line that was out the door and I began to feel my skin crawl. I hadn’t even stood there 30 seconds, when the lady behind the counter saved me from a panic attack. She said, “if all you need is a stamp you can use the self serve machine using your credit card.” Awesome! I now only had to wait behind one person instead of 10. I can make it. We just don’t like to wait. Our very human nature wants everything now! Patience is not an automatic response, I think it’s a learned discipline. We have to practice it.

In Romans 12:12 the apostle Paul reminds us that we should “rejoice in hope, BE PATIENT in tribulation and be consistent in prayer.” This is how we should treat every circumstance. I didn’t say it was easy, but we can make a choice to grumble or rejoice no matter what.

I’ll be back writing soon. Be patient. 😉

Johanna

Spiritual Exam Part 1

Its the end of the school year and students all around are taking their exams. Exams are good and healthy. We do them in school, we do them for our bodies. There are all kinds of ways we do examinations. How much more should we examine our spiritual lives?

Sometimes in our Christian witness we don’t need to say anything at all. How we live can sometimes speak louder than words. This does not mean that we shouldn’t make every effort to speak of Jesus when given the opportunity, yes we are commanded to preach the gospel of Jesus unashamed. I want to examine Christian character lived out in and through our lives. The Bible speaks of many qualities that a Christian should bear. How about the fruits of the spirit? Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23) I think it’s a good idea to examine our lives and see how we are fairing in our own actions. Which of these do we feel stronger in? More importantly where do we have the biggest weakness? Where are we lacking or missing the mark? From time to time each of these qualities are put to the test. I am going to do a few blogs examining what Christian character looks like. I hope you will go along with me on this exam and feel free to share your own experiences. We are in this together.

LOVE

The apostle Paul listed love first and rightly placed because we can’t really have any of the other qualities without first being rooted and grounded in love. Love is easy when the other person is being lovable but NOT so easy when the person is the contrary. Where the confusion starts is how we define love. If love to me is a warm feeling, then I am going to have a REAL hard time showing love to someone being difficult or hateful, but if love means acting out in the persons best interest above mine, then that is real love and the definition of love becomes a choice not a feeling. Does love mean being sweet all the time? Does love mean giving hugs? Love can include those things but those things don’t always mean love. Sometimes loving someone means telling them the truth about something that might initially hurt but you know it’s the right thing to tell them. Love is honest and respects the other person. Can you love someone and be angry with them? Yes. Anger is a feeling. I can still feel that but not allow the anger to make me act in an unloving manner. Jesus was the perfect example of real love. He was gracious. He told the truth. He got angry sometimes with unrighteousness. He put others needs above his own. He wasn’t interested in pleasing himself. He came to give of himself for us. He gave of himself in every way and finally sacrificed himself for us. This is real love. How are we fairing in our display of love to the people around us?

JOY

The next quality listed is joy. The common synonym for joy is happiness. When what happens to us is favorable, we are happy, but when unfavorable we are unhappy. How easy is it to get those confused. The Bible speaks of having joy even in the midst of trials, so clearly joy is not the same thing as happiness. Happiness is usually based on our happenings. Here is a quote from an article in Gospel for Asia’s newsletter:

“The steady rain beat against the mud walls. Drops of rainwater seeped through the battered roof onto the dirt floor, quickly forming puddles between the men and women crowded below. Plastic tarps, draped over the hut to protect it from the elements, flapped violently in the wind. Clouds grew large and dark above the little mud house. But the joy of the people who gathered inside the house could outshine any storm.”

How in the world could they find joy in such a uncomfortable situation? Simply they understood what joy really is.  Joy is much deeper and really is nothing like happiness. Joy is in Jesus. We can’t have joy any other way. It’s a deeper more profound state that endures through whatever circumstance. Do you compare joy with happiness or your happenings? Can you outshine the storms in your life? Only through Jesus is it possible.

PEACE

Peace is easily confused with trying to never argue or never have disagreements. “Let’s just keep the peace.” The Bible’s description of peace is quite different. Even Jesus didn’t always keep the peace. He stirred up a lot of war. The peace that Jesus brought was an eternal peace with God not with man. Does your whole life have a sense of general peace and contentment or are you always agitated and restless? Peace with God won’t leave us restless. God fills that void. Jesus is the Prince of peace. Are you living in the peace that passes all understanding?

Stay tuned for part 2 of the fruits of the Spirit

It’s Not About Me!

Having too high a view of yourself is no good, you’ve just got an inflated ego.

Having too low a view of yourself is no good, you’ve just got a deflated ego.

Both at the root, are pride. I have a problem with the “too low a view of myself in many instances. I, then find a way to boost my ego to get a high view of myself. It’s the daily struggle. The ego gets hurt, and then I try to find a way to blow it up again. The ego is the problem. Our ego is NOT who we are, it’s who we THINK we are on our own power and strength. So lets pay no attention to it. Give it up and over to Him. “Humility is not thinking less of ourselves, its thinking of ourselves less.” Tim Keller

Read more about this from Tim Keller’s book “The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness’

Luke 15:11-32

Jesus was always concerned with others like in the parables, it’s not the 99 its the 1 lost sheep. He chases after that one lost sheep. He doesn’t say “oh well all these good sheep, this is good enough.” In the prodigal son, the father didn’t say “oh well I have other children, let him go.” So Jesus is concerned with every lost sheep, and so should we. It’s not about me and my holiness and “woohoo! now that I am found I can sit nice and comfortable” We have been found and now are fully aware of the lost. It was not about me when I was lost, how much more is not about me now that I am found?

Lord I am thankful that you have found me not so I can sit comfy, but because of your grace and love and the gift of who I really am. I am hopeless without you. My identity is in You!  Help me show the compassion, kindness, self-discipline, and love for not only my fellow brothers and sisters but more for those lost souls. Help me to think of myself less, so that I can fill up on Jesus, and in my actions show Jesus to every lost soul.

“I am truly hopeless, yet full of hope, truly lost, but nonetheless truly found.” Michael Card.

Find your real identity in Him!

Blessings,

Johanna