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!

Rooted and Grounded

Does every wind knock you down? Does every valley that you face overwhelm you?
Or are you like tree roots that stretch deep and wide? Rooted and grounded.
Are you like a tree that is thriving and getting the water and nourishment you need? Are you planted with access to streams of living water?
Or are you trying to live in the desert without good soil no living water, isolated, barren? What kind of life is this?
It would be very hard to survive these conditions without the help of our Lord.
If we have to be in the desert for a time the Lord will supply our needs.
Never quit doing good, in due season you will bear fruit.
God blesses and prospers those who delight in Him.
How do we delight in Him?
The answer is submission to his will no matter what, loving his law and letting it make a home in our hearts and mind.
The Word should not be a vacation destination for when we decide to visit, it must be a our very bedrock home that we live in every minute, every hour, of every day.
Jesus never said I’m your good luck charm to be hung on the wall or your trinket to collect dust on the shelf or your self motivation coach, or your vacation tour guide, or your professor giving you some kind of mental stimulation. These are not options he gave us. If you stoop to try to fit Jesus into anything except his rightful place which is Lord of All, the resurrected Christ, the only Way Truth and the Life, it won’t fit. You can’t put Jesus into the box of your liking. This would then not be Jesus but some created idol.

Jesus IS all and all. “Before Abraham was I am.”
“In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God.”

We don’t choose him he chooses us!

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit–fruit that will last–and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.” John 15:16

I have had a lot of winds and valleys in my life recently, but I am learning to trust in Him more and more. Its not on the mountain top that our faith grows, but in the valleys. I want my roots to go deep and wide, so that I may stand firm in every circumstance.

God’s Calling Card – Heavenly Hints this Thanksgiving Day

It’s no secret about my love for the holidays, there is a feeling that comes around once a year. You can sense it with the music, the laughter, the smells, the overall more generous tendency. Like Andy Williams said, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year! It’s the hap-happiest season of all.” The holidays for me are like a home calling card, a heavenly hint. We are the only species that experience this.

Me and my husband were in the living room watching the Thanksgiving Day Parade, and our dog decided to get out of bed and join us in the living room. When she came down the hallway to the tune of pitter-patter on the laminate floor, we exuberantly exclaimed, “Happy Thanksgiving Sadie!” We love our dogs as you can tell. They really are a part of the family. Then my husband said sensitively as he patted her head, “This is just another day to you, isn’t it?” It is the truth, Sadie doesn’t experience that nostalgia, or longing the way we do. God placed in us something exceptional. He made us in his image.

After watching a bit of the parade, I decided to go for a jog in our neighborhood before I digest a weeks worth of calories. As I walked, taking in God’s beautiful creation, I  began to give thanks for all his bountiful blessings, I became overwhelmed with that home calling card.  I usually take my walks around this time everyday, but today was different. As I walked down the streets, there were kids riding their bikes, laughing and playing; adults waving, and wishing me Happy Thanksgiving, families in their driveways playing games.  I could feel my eyes welling up with tears; the heavenly calling card was giving me a ring. I thought to myself,  this is what we long for, this is what we hope for. We long for unity, genuine goodness, unconditional love, togetherness, no more division, no more discord, no more dysfunction, no more derision.  The beauty and the longing are not IN THE holidays themselves, or the music, or the smells or the feelings, it just coming THROUGH it. It’s a calling card to home! The beauty is in Christ. The oneness is in Him! The harmony that we long for is in Jesus. He is the source.

As you go about your Thanksgiving today, take notice of the heavenly hints,  God’s calling card and give thanks for He loves you with an everlasting love!

Happy Thanksgiving,

Johanna

“These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshipers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.” C.S. Lewis

A Fairy Tale Truth. What?

I just recently finished a journal by a wonderful Christian author, John Eldredge, called the “Journey of Desire.” If you want to awaken your heart to depths that you didn’t know possible this is the book for you. It was not an easy journal to go through. It’s not one you can rush through by any means, but it is so worth it! I am sure I will do many blogs in the future based off my expedition through this book, but for today it’s fairy tales.  Who doesn’t like a good fairy tale? If it’s not a fairy tale, maybe it’s your favorite movie. I remember my dad and I always talking about movies after we saw them and how it touched our hearts, and what about the story moved us.

Fairy tales evoke longing in my heart. The following are 4 examples of stories that have touched my heart and why.

CINDERELLA – For me, what stands out and calls to my heart, is here we have a girl who is forced in slavery, she remains true and loyal and comes out victorious having all her dreams come true. She is singled out by the prince himself. What is so amazing and touches my heart as being noble and something to attain is even in her slavery she remained content. She had a peace and joy about her that no one could steal from her even her wicked step mom and step sisters. Wickedness can hardly bear that kind of peace and joy. They tried so hard to rob and steal her of it, but despite her circumstances she remained good-hearted Cinderella. I can draw so many theological and biblical principles from this. We are victorious through Christ. We can do all things through Him who gives us strength. Remember the apostle Paul talked about being content no matter the circumstance. He could find real joy even if he was in chains. What is the enemy trying to steal from us? Our joy! Remember the evil step mom, she couldn’t stand Cinderella’s joy. We could view Jesus as our prince in our grand design. He loves us with an everlasting love and has called us by name, rescuing us from slavery and bondage. We are set free!

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST – Belle(Beauty), she shows the human capacity to be able to see under the mask and see a person for who they are not what they look like by outward appearances. This is a noble quality–not to judge a book by its cover. The beast on the other hand has a different story to be told. The beast has to learn to get over himself, stop looking in the mirror with judgment and disgust, so that he can allow people to love him just as he is. He has to let go of his ego and pride. For me, I have a little of both beauty and beast complex. I relate with Belle in that I generally want to see the good in people. I want to be gracious, but the truth is I relate more with the beast. Sometimes I want to isolate and hide and this makes it very hard to open up to people and allow myself to be vulnerable. It’s not about me. The beast in me wants to make it about me. I catch myself feeling shame. Isn’t this the nature of the conflict as a Christian? We have been made new in Christ, but we still wrestle every day.

FRED AND GINGER – When I was a teenager something drew me to this fantastic silver screen couple. I was so captivated by the way they were so in sync. Every move they made dancing together was if they were one not two. I was hypnotized by it. It really was like perfection. The truth that comes out for me here is we long for total oneness, perfection, paradise. This in a way shadows that for me. When we are in Christ we desire to be more and more perfected to be fully in sync with him and one with him. As He moves we move in sync with him. No battle, no struggle. Just effortlessly following his lead! This is no fairy tale, we will one day be fully restored.

WIZARD OF OZ – Lastly is one of my all time favorites! I watched this so many times as a kid and as an adult that I can literally recite the movie line for line. Just ask my husband! He has heard it maybe not to his delight. LOL! Anyway this movie is about a girl seeking adventure, wanting more, her heart is bursting with desire, and she is going after it. You know the story. Once she gets out on her adventure, she soon realizes that her desire is for home. She longs for home. Her adventure and what she was looking for was not somewhere over the rainbow. As you know most of the movie is trying to get home. How many times are we trying to seek out adventure to fulfill our happiness and longing only to find out that it doesn’t suffice and we are left with a void, saying just get my home. We as Christians,  this life is a little like wandering around in Oz, it’s not home, and we long for our real home. Jesus is our guiding light through this alien land. He is helping us through it and soon and very soon we will be home.

What is speaking to you? Fairy tale? A movie? A song? I’d like to hear your thoughts.

Blessings to you all! Have a blessed weekend!

Johanna

High Self Esteem, Low Self-Esteem or Neither?

High self-esteem, low self-esteem or neither?  Our society says if a person is feeling bad about themselves all the time, talking down to themselves, insecure; they just need higher self esteem. If a person is too full of themselves, well they need a dose of humiliation .

One of my favorite little books that I always go back to is, The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness by Tim Keller. This is a 4 chapter book that is so good. He basically shows that the Bible clearly doesn’t talk about any kind of self-esteem, but instead gospel humility.

C.S. Lewis says,

“Humility is not thinking less of ourselves, but thinking of ourselves less.”

Humility is not self-condemnation. We must love ourselves, and we are instructed by Jesus to  “love your neighbor, AS YOURSELF.”

I see it like this when we view ourselves through the lens of a Christian worldview we are who we are by the grace of God. All of our strengths, all of our gifts, every breath that we take, it’s all by the grace of God. If we keep that in view we won’t go down the slippery slope that might lead to pride. Pride makes its way in when we try to do things apart from God.

John 15:5 says,

“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

Pride is really just a puffed up ego. We all have one, now the thing about our egos,  we aren’t supposed to draw attention to it. Tim Keller points out, our ego is a part of our body, but say for instance our elbow, we don’t think about our elbow and how it works it just does its job, but when its hurt, all the sudden we are paying attention to our elbow. Same for our ego, when we have a hurt ego, we might over compensate and puff it up.

The opposite of pride is self-condemnation which is a form of pride it’s just inverted. Another thing we might do if our ego is hurt is to belittle ourselves, walk around talking bad about ourselves, this is just a deflated ego. It’s flat and bent out of shape, again drawing attention to itself.

The Bible gives us the proper view we should have about ourselves, and its gospel humility. C.S. Lewis said about meeting a truly humble person…

“To even get near [humility], even for a moment, is like a drink of cold water to a man in a desert.

Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call “humble” nowadays: he will not be a sort of greasy, smarmy person, who is always telling you that, of course, he is nobody.

Probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him.

If you do dislike him it will be because you feel a little envious of anyone who seems to enjoy life so easily. He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.”

So what is this gospel humility?

The apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 4:3

“But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself.”

Bottom line,  get out of the courtroom! Jesus went into the courtroom for us. We are acquitted. It’s finished! Court’s adjourned! We don’t need to judge ourselves. Jesus took our sentence on the cross, and now we can be set free. No more high self-esteem or low self esteem, just living free in Him. We don’t have to live in that bondage.

Now I am not an expert at this, and when I get on the low self train, and my ego is all bruised, and I am walking myself back into the courtroom, I have to remind myself, GET OUT OF THERE! YOU DON’T BELONG THERE!

I hope you know you don’t belong there either, if you already know the freedom that comes through Jesus then cling to it, and if you don’t know, he is knocking at your door, just open it and let him in.

Blessings to you all!

Johanna

Two Things We Can Boast in: Weakness and the Cross

I am going to crack open my heart and soul with you. I struggle with worrying too much about what other people think. I struggle with anxiety. I worry I am going to appear a failure.

As an extra performance opportunity, my students and I perform at our local retirement home on a regular basis and well the story goes I got up to play and sing and I basically fell flat on my face. I lost where I was in the music, got distracted by my thoughts and was overwhelmed with anxiety. You would have thought in my mind that the world came to an end. I did not externalize my feelings. I acted as if nothing happened, but the inner war was tremendous and for a week straight I worried and fretted over that. I assumed people’s thoughts. I was not thinking rational, and I even told myself that, but I was still tortured by it.

In my Psalm study I have been reading through Psalm 64, the first couple of times I read it, it didn’t resonate with me in any particular way, and then I felt compelled to read it again, and it jumped off the page and into my heart! The Psalmist in the beginning says, “deliver me from my fear” He didn’t say deliver me from the situation. This is what I was pleading with God, deliver me from this dread! The Psalmist sounded just like me tortured in his mind. He continues on to say “hide me from the secret plots of the wicked.” Now for him it was the external enemy, but for me, I resonated with wanting to be hidden. I wanted to go hide. I felt humiliated. Then the Psalmist says, “they hold fast to their evil purpose” I just thought about how our enemy, can use this as an opportunity to try to overcome us, discourage us, condemn us, ensnare us. This is a perfect opportunity for him to get a foothold on us. In verse 7, the Psalmist says, BUT GOD! I just stopped here, because really we needn’t go any further. Everything that preceded this is not the final analysis. GOD is the one who has the final say. God is my deliverer. It says in verse 10, “let the righteous one rejoice in the Lord and take refuge in Him. Let all the upright in heart exult.”

I was humbled by this situation. God allowed me to fall. God knows my struggle with perfection and people pleasing, and the only way for me to overcome it is through the fire. How can I expect to be refined and to grow to be more like Him if I don’t go through some discomfort. It really has been a thorn in my flesh. I have to learn that it isn’t about me and there is noting like going through something like this, to humble me.

“The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts the Lord is safe.” Proverbs 29:25

Being a Christian does not mean perfection, or no struggles, and I think of the verse “work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” The word fear here is not anxiety but a reverence and respect for God’s authority, and trembling is admitting our weakness, and submitting to our dependence solely on God. This is an ongoing refining process to bring us into more of HIs likeness. To do this, God has to test and try our hearts. We have to be humbled, and this is not comfortable, but it must be done.

I have hanging in my hallway as a huge reminder from 2 Corinthians 12:9……..

“My grace is sufficient for you, for MY POWER is made perfect in weakness.”

We have nothing to boast in except our weakness and the cross. It is a truth that I am learning more every day. The layers of my own self focus are being pulled back. God is gracious with me and he is gentle. I am being refined. I don’t want to remain the same. I want to be more like Him, but I have to be willing to go in the fire, be uncomfortable. I have to also remember this is a daily process. Every morning his mercies are new, and I have to come to the feet of Jesus to be renewed every day. Like the old hymn says…….

“Fill my cup Lord, I lift it up Lord. Come and quench this thirsting  of my soul. Bread of heaven, feed me till I want no more. Here’s my cup, fill it up and make me whole.”

A final thought — You might have heard that joke/story about the kid who was in church listening to the sermon. The minister prayed, “Dear Lord without you we are but dust.” When the child heard this she leaned over  to mom and said, “Mommy, what is butt dust?”  haha!

I  was sent this joke by my childhood piano teacher and friend before she passed away. We laughed so much about that.  She texted about a month before she went home, and the text read simply, “We are SO butt dust!”

Don’t take myself so seriously. Depend on him. Boast in my weakness. Boast in the Cross. I have to beware that just when I think I am something, I will find out pretty soon that I am nothing.

He’s still working on me! He began a good work in me, and he is for sure going to see it though to completion!

God gets the glory!

Blessings,

Johanna

Worship and Fullness

Dear readers below I have a guest writer, my dad. This subject is something we can all relate too. I found it very helpful, as I can be a worrier and this can consume me sometime if I let it. Here is the antidote. No matter the circumstance we are going through this should be our response. Enjoy and be blessed!  –Johanna

 

WORSHIP AND FULLNESS

In Ephesians 5:18 we are told to be:
FILLED with Holy Spirit,
SPEAKING to one another in Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs,
SINGING and MAKING MELODY in our hearts TO THE LORD

In other words we should be a walking, talking, singing worship service. Why? Because we are the temple of God.
What I am finding is that prayer without ceasing is worship without ceasing. This brings an impenetrable peace and joy because praise and honor to the Lord drives out every evil. Nothing can break through the WALL OF PRAISE and THANKSGIVING!

Our minds never stop! Even when we are thinking about one thing it is always undergirded by some other thought–attitude–worry. Let the foundation of your mind be intentional in the praise and all the other thoughts will be established on a firm foundation The superstructure of your mind will be filled with glory!

Ask the Lord to perfect praise from your heart! Remember, He said, “out of the mouths of babes God has PERFECTED praise!

Ken Harris