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

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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 our 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!

Friends, 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! Have a wonderful weekend!

Johanna

 

In the Midst of Our Lot: Seek and Remember

We will all go through the wilderness in this life. We will all face affliction, and sometimes correction. We may not know the reasons why we experience this lot in our life. As in the case of Paul and his thorn in the flesh, he asked for it to be removed, and God did not grant that. Paul gave reason enough, it might not have been detailed, but God’s power would be shown through weakness. No one wants to experience pain, and yet this life is full of it.We can experience pain through the physical, mental, vocational, relational. We cry out to God, WHY?! I can’t imagine what Job felt like.  Much pain is from sin but some is not, and yet God in his providence allows it.

C.S. Lewis said in the, “The Problem of Pain”,

”Not all medicine tastes nasty: or if it did, that is itself one of the un-pleasant facts for which we should like to know the reason.”

There have been loads of books on pain and suffering and I am not going to get into the knitty gritty of that in this post maybe another time.

Just because we would like to know the reason, we may not get it on this side of heaven, but we do know that God is good and all things are being worked together for the good to those that are called according to his purpose. We also know that the power of Christ is made seen through weakness. God is gracious through it all.

So what do we do with our afflictions, our pain, our weakness, our correction sometimes?

What does Psalmist do?  Here is Psalm 63 I have made bold the actions the Pslamist is taking.

You, God, are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you,
my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land
where there is no water.
2 I have seen you in the sanctuary
and beheld your power and your glory.
3 Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.
4 I will praise you as long as I live,
and in your name I will lift up my hands.
5 I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods;
with singing lips my mouth will praise you.
6 On my bed I remember you;
I think of you through the watches of the night.
7 Because you are my help,
I sing in the shadow of your wings.
8 I cling to you;
your right hand upholds me.

Seek Him. Praise Him. Remember Him. I think the “remember” part is really important. We need to remember that the Lord is good, remember his promises, and he makes earnest on them, remember the times the Lord has delivered us in the past, remember all the ways God is good and gracious to us. One sure way we train our minds to remember is reading his word and meditating. This is a must. Think on it.

Whatever your lot is, it is surely well with your soul because God is good and he has his hand on you. He has his hand on me. My afflictions do not define me and yours don’t define you. He is being lifted up through it all and this is reason to praise him.

Seek and Remember Him!

 

 

That Old Feeling?

I am a sucker for nostalgia. Even when I was a teenager, I was always after that feeling. It’s safe to say I might be one of the biggest Christmas fanatics. I love the smells, the decorating, the family and friend time, the music. When I was younger I would listen to Christmas music in the summer and I put up a little Christmas tree up in my room in September. So now that I have aired out my neuroses, I’ll get to my point. There are other ways in which we try to chase after a feeling, maybe it was a time in our life that we look back at fondly, or maybe it’s our childhood, or when we lived in another city or country. The funny thing is, that if we go back to the year or the place or the season that we are chasing after, we would not find what we are looking for. CS Lewis called it “longing” He suggested that if we trust in these things they will only disappoint.

“The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located
will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them,and what came through them was longing.
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 worshippers.
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.”

I have been thinking on the scripture, 2 Corinthians 4:16 “Though our bodies are dying, our spirit is being renewed day by day.” The fact is our bodies are dying, each day we get a little older, another year will have gone by, another decade, we can’t stop time here on earth no matter how hard we try, we can’t turn back time. That old feeling we chase after wouldn’t even be there even if we got there.  It’s a waste of energy and time.  Some might think it morbid to think of  this life as dying away, but it’s foolish to deny it and live as if we will live forever on this earth. Instead, replace it with renewing the inner man. Our bodies will perish, but our spirit will live forever. Renew the inner man, by spiritually feeding  with daily prayer asking the Lord to renew us and Bible reading, also being with other fellow believers to help us, and encourage us, and serving the Lord in our day-to-day life.

We have new things to look forward to  in each stage of our lives here. New doors will open. New opportunities. We don’t need to chase after our youth or some old feeling, what the Lord has for us today is much better. Living for Him each day will bring the most satisfaction. What we really desire is Him, and he can’t be replaced by anything else.

Lord help me to keep my time here on this earth in perspective. Help me to use my time to give you glory.

In Jesus name,

AMEN!

Are You Seeing Without REALLY Seeing?

Have you ever had a time where someone skilled at something attempted to show and explain something to you? The answers were right there in front of your face, but you just couldn’t see it–see it with understanding that is. I am a piano teacher and one of the duties is to teach sight reading. I watch these little kids try to make sense of what is on the page and make it sound like music. They have not been taught what the notes on the page mean, they surly see the notes, but they mean nothing but a big blob of black ink. If they only knew that the meaning behind the black blob of ink is beautiful music. To unlock the beautiful music you have to be able to see it, REALLY see it with understanding. How do we come to know how to read music? Don’t we need someone in the know to show us–someone who is wise to the truth of unlocking the mystery behind the big blob of ink? We don’t come to this knowledge from within ourselves, we don’t have the keys, no pun intended.

So it is with the things of God. We can see it but are we REALLY seeing it? Does it penetrate to the heart and do we see it with understanding to then be able to unlock the beautiful mystery behind the person of Jesus. We can’t see Jesus for who he really is until our eyes have been opened with understanding. The pharisees in the Bible-the religious group, claimed to see, but they were blind. The way to godliness and truth, is not through trying to show that we already know, but that we don’t know. Humility will lead us into the right direction. I think admitting we are pretty stupid is a great place to start when aiming for godliness and then ask questions. Don’t be contented to just stay in the dark. God will honor this, and always will answer and open our eyes when we come in humility, seeking Him.

I truly believe the way to deeper sight into the things of God is through trials. C.S. Lewis said, “God whispers in our pleasure, but shouts in our pain.” God doesn’t want us to be in pain, but he is able to use it. The true test to our faith is  in tough situations, through conflict, through adversity. The test to where our faith is truly placed is revealed in these circumstances. It’s easy to say we believe when all is well and things are going smooth, it is quite another when the boat gets to rocking and the storms start raging, when people start letting you down. These are times where real growth happens, when we are forced to confront what we say we see and what we REALLY see.

I don’t claim to know it all, but I do know the one who does, and I will continue to follow Him, so that my sight can become more keen. My vision is not perfect, but as I come in humility, the eyes of my understanding are opened a little more all the time and Jesus just gets clearer and clearer.

 

 

 

 

Aliens Are Real.

Alienated. Communication cut off. No longer close. Communion broken. I still love and this is why it hurts. I’m in anguish, but I can’t control another. Separated. Cast aside. I still love and this is why it hurts.

I am not the only one. There was another that walked among us. He, like me, felt estranged. He walked in a world that alienated him, cut him off. He was pushed aside and yet he loved. His sorrow was for me. Yes, I too am guilty. I once cast him out. I once alienated him. I once went my separate way, but he loved me all the same. His love hurt to the point of death. He took my place. I should have been the one. He hurt for me because he loves me. He suffered for me because he loves me. I know I am not alone. I’m estranged but not from my Lord. He loves me. He rose from the dead and conquered it all.

The glory that will be revealed is not worth comparing to our present suffering, but instead rejoice that we don’t walk alone. We share in his suffering but not in vain, all for the insurmountable glory of Christ Jesus! The world hated Him and the world will hate us because of Him. This would be a bleak picture IF this world was our home. We are estranged, cut off, hated, separated, cast aside. We are aliens in a foreign land. Our citizenship lies beyond this world, this is why the soul continues to have that longing for home. We just can’t fit in here. We weren’t created to fit in here. As Christians, we are aliens. The more that we become like Christ the less we understand the language of the world and the less we feel comfortable or integrated. The more we become like Christ the more segregated we become from this world. It doesn’t mean we go hide under a rock and throw out our televisions, it simply means that our understanding and allegiance is not on the things of this world. I am not just living for the things of this world anymore, but I live for Him. We are aliens, yes but we are here not to isolate ourselves from the world but to shine His light so that others can finally see too, the light of our Lord Jesus to which they also were created for. These same people who are living day by day trying to fit into this world but can’t find ultimate fulfillment.

We may be aliens here on earth but our home is not far off. In the blink of an eye, we will be home with our Lord.

Philippians 3:20
“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,..”

Romans 8:18

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”

“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” – C.S. Lewis

The Longing 

I go to sleep in search for a new day that will fully satisfy. It never comes. 

I wake up, open my eyes, “Am I there yet?” I’m not there. I work hard, but the work is not enough. Comfort, convenience and money are not enough. Friends and family are a blessing, and yet it falls short.
Am I home yet? This world is not our home. I know the one who satisfies. He is our living water. He is our daily bread. He is our prince of peace. He is our shepherd. He is our king. He is our light. He is our friend.
He is Jesus our savior.

“The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing to reach the Mountain, to find the place where all the beauty came from my country, the place where I ought to have been born. Do you think it all meant nothing, all the longing? The longing for home? For indeed it now feels not like going, but like going back.” C. S. Lewis

Bad? Me? Naah. 

Compared to him, I’m a saint. Compared to her, I really have it together. What about all the good I’ve done, doesn’t that count for something?

The Bible says, “there is no one good, no not one”

Do we really believe this? I have a hard time believing it sometimes. Proverbs 21:2 says, “man’s ways are right in his own eyes, but God looks at the heart.” I want to only look at the good or find the good within myself. It’s a weights and balances right? I’m not all that bad. The good outweighs the bad right? The truth is God doesn’t operate this way. He doesn’t keep points on our goodness. He also doesn’t keep points on the badness. We have all missed the mark. None of us could do enough good to meet God’s standard. We are all sinful in need of redemption. Jesus is our redeemer. All he asks is for us to accept the gift of salvation offered through his grace.

What would ever posses us to not accept this amazing free gift?! Idols. Idol of pride. Idol of power. Idol of control. Idol of success. Idol of money. Idol of approval. We have to lose the idols and admit our nothingness and our need before the free gift seems of any value to us. Some people claim they have received the free gift but I think maybe they are carrying around a gift card that needs to be cashed in. They are carrying around the gift card as an option but they are still holding on to the precious idols. They like having the “Jesus gift card” with them, but they aren’t fully convinced of its real value.

Oh dear Lord help those that are struggling with being a “card holding Christian.” Help them cash that card in. Go all in, holding nothing back. Give up the idols. They will do nothing but devour you inch by inch and rob you blind of all the eternal riches, fullness, and joy that only comes through Jesus.   Don’t let your idols be your demise.

Lord help me to seek you and you alone casting all else aside that would hinder the work of your Spirit.

CS Lewis said,

When a man is getting better he understands more and more clearly the evil that is still left in him. When a man is getting worse he understands his own badness less and less.