The Kingdom

The phrase Kingdom of Heaven, or, more accurately, The Kingdom of the Heavens,  appears only in Matthew, and it appears 32 times.  That number of mentions gives it quite a bit of importance.  There are, unfortunately, a variety of ways this phrase has been defined.  The definition depends a great deal on how the entire book is interpreted.  As I’ve already mentioned, I’m coming from a Dispensational viewpoint.  It’s all right with me if you disagree.  Just be reminded that I will not argue or debate with you, and if your comment is unpleasant, too long (this is my blog 🙂 ) or otherwise inappropriate, I will not approve it.  Above all, I want the Lord to be honored here.  Becoming involved in debate, argument, finger-pointing or name-calling does not honor Him.  You are welcome to disagree–courteously.

The Kingdom of Heaven is not the Church; the Church is not the Kingdom of Heaven.  Through Chapter 12, when Jesus spoke of the Kingdom of Heaven He was referring to it in its Old Testament sense, as promised to Israel; to be established in the land with Jerusalem as center, and from there to spread over all nations and the entire earth. This has not yet happened; therefore the Church cannot be the Kingdom.  The pious Jew expected, and still expects, the coming of Messiah, Who will occupy the throne of David.  He will bring judgment and justice to the enemies of Israel and restore Israelites to their homeland.  There will be universal peace; the land will flourish; the righteousness and knowledge of the Lord will cover the earth as the oceans cover the deep. The blessings as streams of living waters will flow from Jerusalem. A temple of worship will be restored. This will all be on the earth as we know it.

The Church, however, is a completely different entity. The hope, place, calling, destiny, and reigning of the Church is not earthly, but heavenly.

When Jesus was born, the King had indeed arrived. He preached the Kingdom of Heaven having drawn nigh; that is, the promised earthly kingdom for Israel. That was also the message of Jesus’ forerunner, John the Baptist.

It is confusing to teach that the meaning of this message is that when a sinner repents, the Kingdom will come to him.  The correct translation of “The Kingdom of God is within you” is “The Kingdom is among you”; that is, in the Person of the King.

I’m not a Greek scholar.  Not even close.  I have to rely on those who are, and I have several texts to guide me. One is my Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance; others are English-Greek lexicons and Greek-to-English lexicons.  Everything I have, including the internet sources I’ve looked at, agree that “the Kingdom is among you” is the more accurate translation.  There are many links for you to check on; some agree with my view, others do not.  Here is one that I found helpful:

If Israel had accepted her King, the earthly kingdom would have been established. Because she did not, that Kingdom is still future, after the Church has been removed at the Rapture.

Consider this:  If the Kingdom were within all believers, Jew or Gentile, right now–wouldn’t this world be a better place?  Wouldn’t we indeed be moving toward true peace on earth?  I believe that it is only because the Church is still on the earth that we are not in complete and total chaos, because the presence of the Holy Spirit is still among us. Once the Church is removed, there will be a true horror show during the seven years of the Tribulation. Thank God, that period of time will culminate in the Jews acknowledging Jesus as Messiah, ushering in the Kingdom of Heaven–on earth.

Depression: Why Did This Happen? Will it Come Back?

There are so many factors that can play into depression.  Today I’m going to cover as much as I can in a reasonable amount of space.  This could well end up being a multiple-part topic.

Let’s look at genetics first.  One of the questions I always ask a new client who presents with depression is, “Who else in your family, in your own generation or your parents’ or grandparents’ generations, has had a “nervous breakdown,” or been given some sort of medication for nerves, such as Valium?”  Almost without fail, there is someone.  Typically, there will be more than one in the family tree who has suffered from depression.

So, is there a “depression gene”?  Honestly, I don’t know.  I found some articles on the subject.  Here is one link you may find interesting.  Just remember, this whole topic is in a very new state of research:

What I do know is that some people are more resilient about how they handle stress than others are, and there is a personality type that can “run in the family” that does not handle stress well without some help.  This is why I look for the genetic connection; it helps me understand if there is a generational tendency toward depression, and knowledge helps me know how best to help my client.

What personality type am I talking about?  The Melancholy, according to the study I like best.  There are other studies that call it by different names, but the traits are the same.  Here is one thumbnail sketch:


Much more can be said about this personality.  It is the deepest, richest, most complex and most contradictory of all the four basic temperaments.  Often, the Melancholic is richly gifted in some way.  Many of our most beloved writers, poets, composers, artists and other creative people are/were deeply melancholy.  They are indeed perfectionists, and they are world-class worriers.  While they can be super organized, to the point of OCD, they can also live in utter chaos because they want to be orderly and neat, but they think they have to make that happen all at once.  It’s so overwhelming that they simply walk away from the task and start some other project–or go read a book 🙂  Melancholics are sentimental, holding on to relationships even after they are cold and dead. They are almost always the “dumpee” rather than the “dumper” in relationships.  They are deeply introspective, always looking inward to see how they’re measuring up to their own often unrealistic expectations.  That in itself is depressing.  Melancholics are born with a strong sense of guilt, although they’re often not sure what it is they’re guilty of doing/thinking/feeling that is so wrong. They tend to allow people to use them, then complain about how no one appreciates them. “I’ve given up everything for my kids/husband/friend/work and no one appreciates/understand/knows what I’m going through.  No one loves me.  Everyone takes advantage of me.  I’ll never be understood/appreciated/happy.”

It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.

At the same time, these folks are tremendously generous and others-oriented. Yet, they can be unbelievably critical, narrow, self-righteous, and unforgiving.  Unforgiveness turns to self-pity turns to bitterness turn to depression. Tim LaHaye wrote a wonderful little book many years ago titled How to Win Over Depression.  It’s an excellent resource.  I also like his book on the temperaments.  The latest rewrite that I know of is called Why You Act the Way You Do. I read his first temperament study years ago, and it’s been a most valuable resource ever since.  It’s title is The Spirit-Controlled Temperament. 

All right.  I suspect that’s about enough for this week.  There is a great deal more to say on the how and why of depression, but I guess we have lots of time now that we don’t have to worry about the Mayan Calendar any more!

Random Thoughts on the Holidays

The word holiday, as I’m sure you know, is from the two words holy day. 

So why is the Christmas holiday such a family-centered time?  Well, probably because that’s the center of the day/night on which Jesus was born.  Joseph, Mary, the Baby.  Family. 

But there were also guests. Shepherds came in from the fields to meet the family and worship the Babe whom the  angels had announced so gloriously.  Later, the Magi came from a far Eastern country to bring expensive gifts, and to worship the King, Messiah, whom the Old Testament prophets had foretold and whom the Wise Men believed was the fulfillment of that prophesy.  So the small, new family quickly expanded to include strangers who became friends, and perhaps, later, followers of Jesus. 

The Jews were very family-oriented, partly because they depended on one another during the Roman governance of their land; partly because they always had been encouraged, throughout their history, to center on family and on God.  It was God, after all, Who first established family with Adam and Eve and later their children and grandchildren and the development of tribes and cultures across the world.  

We all seek connection with others.  Family is the foundation for that connection, and families who reach out to include those who are no blood relation  are wonderful examples for their children. 

We have loved having our Minnesota family here this week.  The cousins enjoyed each other on Christmas Day, and will do so again before the Minnesota crew begins the drive back home. Though they see each other infrequently, they look forward to being together and after a few minutes of uncertainty, they’re having a great time, as if they’d known each other all their lives. 

Certainly, the birth of the Savior was a family event.  Once He began His public ministry, He developed His family of followers.  Before He completed the work the Father had sent Him to do, He established the Church to become a family of believers. The Church provides fellowship, edification, comfort, and spiritual growth when it is operated along biblical principles. People who wouldn’t ordinarily know each other are brought together in the Church and become fast friends, caring for one another as family should.  For many, it is the only family they have because they have moved far away from their blood families, or they have been orphaned through other circumstances. 

My parents were very good about having friends/acquaintances in our home for special meals, holiday celebrations, and just good fellowship.  When I was very small, we were often included in a wonderful family for the big holidays–Christmas, Thanksgiving, Fourth of July—and considered them our grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.  I remember being very surprised and disappointed when I realized we weren’t truly related.  What a wonderful heritage it is to be given the gift of “relatives” in that way. 

Yes, Christmas is about family.  Jesus was born into a family.  He had brothers and sisters, and cousins, uncles, and aunts.  No wonder Christmas is such a family occasion. 

No further comment needed.

Eclipsed Mind

I randomly found this online and thought it was genius.  I don’t even feel the need to delve further into this topic.A916R3iCAAESMmn

Not believing in a Creator or God is like believing that an explosion happened in a printing press and a dictionary was the result.  Why be pessimistic and not believe that life has to have a greater meaning and that we – intelligent, rational and emotionally-driven creatures –  are not just a mere accident?

– A Soul Mercifully Alive

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Severin Fayerman

Yesterday, I had the privilege of attending a homeschool event at my daughter’s church.  The guest speaker was Severin Fayerman, a 90-year-old survivor of Auschwitz and Buchenwald.  He shared his fascinating story with the children–ranging from kindergarten to high school seniors–and never lost their attention for a moment.  He very admirably avoided relating all the horror he saw while still making it clear how truly awful that era was. He’s  interesting, engaging, energetic. Most of all, I enjoyed watching how kind he was with the children when they wanted to ask questions. 

He did two assemblies yesterday.  Remember, he’s 90–almost 91.  My goodness. 

You can find his book on Amazon, if you’re interested.  You can get it on your Kindle, or a paperback or hardback, although I wouldn’t spend the money for the hardback. The title is A Survivor’s Story.  Well worth reading. 

A Day Late

I realized when I got up this morning that I had failed to write my Friday depression post, so here it is. . . .a day late.

Last week, I said I was going to try to answer the question, “If depression can be treated without medication, then why take the pills?  Wouldn’t it be better to get to the root of the problem instead of just masking it?” And then I brought you into my office and set the scene for this question to be asked.  So now that you’ve told me your basic story, I’m going to ask you some questions a “depression screen,” to help me know whether or not we’re dealing with depression.  Here they are: 

Do you feel sad at least half the time?  Hopeless?  Tearful and/or angry more than is normal for you? Are you isolating from friends and family?  Spending a lot of time alone?  Do you find you’re having trouble sleeping, or do you want to sleep all the time but never really feel rested?  Have you gained or lost a significant (20 lb., + or -) without trying to do so?  Are you having trouble with short term memory, focus, and concentration?  Have you lost interest in things you’ve always enjoyed doing? Do you have unexplained body aches and pains that are new to you?  Are you experiencing a lack of energy, motivation, and initiative?  Is it a struggle just to go about your daily routine?  Have you lost interest in grooming?  Have you ever thought about dying?  Do you have a plan for how you would take your own life? 

Very few people will answer “yes” to every question.  If you have answered yes to five or more, you could be experiencing clinical depression,  In any case, something is wrong, and you should probably start by seeing your primary physician–who has sent you to me, and I believe you have clinical depression. I tell you that you can be treated with several different approaches.  Because I work in a Christian counseling office, I’m going to include and emphasize the importance of God’s Word, church, Christian friends and fellowship, prayer.  I will probably recommend that you get a great book called Telling Yourself the Truth, by Backus and Chapian. I use it a lot in working with my depressed clients.  I will explain Cognitive Behavorial Therapy, which is based on the idea that what you think about controls how you feel and what you say and do.  I will talk about the importance of nutrition and exercise. Then I will introduce the option of medications, and you’re going to ask me that question about the real necessity of using medication. 

Here’s the simple answer:  Clinical depression is clearly linked to a reduction or absence of certain brain chemicals that we refer to as “the feel-good chemicals.”  The result is a brain fog like you’ve never experienced.  Your emotions are now in control; you feel oppressed, hopeless, and lost. Will all that go away if we don’t use medication? Possibly, but it will be a long. slow process because you’re having so much trouble even thinking clearly about what I’m saying; the chances are pretty good that you won’t remember much of it once you get home. You may think, “Well, therapy sure isn’t going to help,” and I may never see you again.  I want you to know that I will worry about you.

Taking an antidepressant will increase your ability to process information; to understand why this has happened to you; and to focus on taking care of yourself.  Untreated depression can clear up in six months to two years or longer.  Treated, the process is much faster and a lot less painful to you and your loved ones.  Most medications, by the way, take six to eight weeks to reach what we call therapeutic level, but you’ll start feeling better with the first couple of weeks. 

Do I recommend meds for every client?  No.  Sometimes, it’s clear that the depression is situational.  With good, clear thinking, the depression will lift without the help of medication.  However, sometimes the situation isn’t going to go away, yet you still need to work, care for your family, take care of yourself.  Medication can help you calm down enough to deal better with the realities of your life.  For one thing, it helps you sleep better, and that’s invaluable. 

Next time, I’m going to talk about why depression even happens.  What causes it? Why is it so overwhelming?  Why do some people struggle with it often, and others never do? 

In the meantime, I value your responses and questions. 

The Rant of the Aged

I had lunch with a delightful friend today.  She’s a vibrant, active woman who teaches a variety of dance as well as Pilates.  She’s educated, committed–and no longer young.  She has wrinkles.  Her joints are starting to rebel against the years of stretching, flexing, and repetitive movement. Her blonde hair has lots of white.  She dresses very well, is in excellent shape, and her latest interest is learning to do paddleboarding.  She refers to herself as an aging hippie.  She’s wonderful to be with, has lots of conversation; she’s creative, enthusiastic, and empathetic. 

Our conversation eventually evolved to the problems of age, of course.  I’m 65.  I’m not sure how old she is.  But what we both understand is that there is a huge prejudice against the older generation.  We are bombarded with information on how to look, act, feel, and be perceived as youthful, above and beyond anything else.  Don’t wear a watch;  young people today look at their phones to see what time it is.  Don’t let any grey hair show–it ages you.  Do whatever you can to hide age spots, skin tags, facial hair, and the sad results of 65 years’ worth of gravity.  Wear what the young women are wearing (even if it makes you look completely ridiculous) because it’s better to wear youthful clothing than to be perceived as matronly or–gasp–grandmotherly.  Shudder. 

Old people are no longer a contributing part of this society, unless of course they have money.  I even know of a pastor who told a 60+ man that he really hoped that the “seniors” in the congregation would just gracefully fade to make room for the younger, more energetic people in the church.  Another pastor said that “we just need to love on our seniors, really let them know how much we appreciate all that they used to do.”  Good grief. 

I don’t need to be “loved on.”  Yech.  What I do need is to be useful. I need to be free to share all I have learned in my 65 years.  I’m healthy, my mind is still sharp, I don’t drool or fall asleep when I’m in the grocery store, and I’m still a very good driver.  I’m well-educated, and I want to be a vital part of whatever community I belong to. 

This is not a problem in my work.  In fact, my aged grey head is a valuable asset in the counseling office, even when I’m working with teens.  It’s funny, really, when a teen first comes in to my office.  I can read in their eyes that they’re surprised to see someone as ancient as I am, still able to sit up straight and speak in complete sentences.  It isn’t long before we’re actually enjoying each other.  I have some very good friends who aren’t even 16 yet.  Imagine that!

It’s not a problem in my family, either. My husband is strong and active, and a genius at his work. Our kids still seek his advice an a multitude of things.  No one in the family treats us as if we no longer have any purpose except to “be loved on.”  Our grandkids love to see us, and always have lots to tell us. They don’t look at us as if we’re something to be feared because we have spots and wrinkles and grey hair—in our noses 🙂 They love us, and it’s a genuine, non-patronizing joy in our company. How delightful. 

It’s different in other places,. Elders are seen as not being attractive, therefore to be kept in the shadows.  They’re seen as having gone past being able to offer anything, therefore overlooked and ignored.  They’re told constantly that they need to look young, act young, be youthful, as if youth itself is a mark of character. 

What I’m telling you as that the wrinkles, spots, and grey hair are the marks of character!  It takes courage to grow old!  Sissies will never survive it. You learn to live with chronic pain; you learn to accept that you can’t wear stiletto heels any more; that you have to wear a sweater when everyone else is not; that your vision fades, your hearing decreases, and you need to  be more careful of what you eat.  You need to exercise on purpose to keep your mobility, flexibility, and strength at peak levels.  You can’t run up and down the stairs carrying a baby and avoiding the toy truck your toddler left on the bottom step. Your doctor talks to you about cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar, diet and exercise. You have to go to bed a little earlier, and you don’t always sleep as well as you did at 20.  Nature calls in the middle of the night, and you may even stop to put on your slippers because the floor is cold. And then, sometimes, you can’t get right back to sleep. 

But the benefits?  Well, I don’t make quite as many dumb mistakes as I did at 25.  I’m slowly learning to think before I speak; that I don’t always have to win; that people may not care what I have to say, and that’s all right. I’m a little wiser than I used to be, and I know a lot of miscellaneous trivia that carries me through when conversation starts to get dull.  I have more time to read, which I do voraciously.  I read in my field of work; I read fiction; and I read Bible-related materials and the Bible itself more than I ever have before.  Prayer is becoming a state of being, rather than a duty on my to-do list. 

And I don’t fear death; I don’t dread it.  In fact, I think I’ve even gotten past the fear of a long, painful death, because at the end of it I’ll be with the Lord, and it just won’t matter.  There’s really not much I’m afraid of at all these days.  Snakes, maybe. 

I have more to offer now than I did 10, 20, or 50 years ago.  Why, when a person has reached some semblance of maturity and common sense, is she no longer found necessary by our youth-centered society?  Maybe if society would pay a little more attention to us, we wouldn’t be in the mess we’re in. 


The King

The Orthodox Jews still refer to the coming of a King: King Messiah. His coming is promised all throughout the Old Testament.  He would not be only a deliverer; He would be the Sinbearer, the King of the Jews.  Every Jewish woman longed for a son, hoping that he would be Messiah. The Gospel of Matthew presents Jesus as Messiah, proving His right to that title in a number of ways, beginning with His genealogy.  In Matthew, His descent goes back to Abraham, but focuses on his claim to royalty as Son of David; his earthly claim is as a son of Abraham. 

Matthew is the only book that records the coming of the Magi, who came to worship the King of the Jews.  He was born in David’s city; He was worshiped by the representatives of the Gentiles in spite of His lowly surroundings, because they knew the prophecies and followed the Star.  They gave Him gold, as befitted His royalty.

Kings have forerunners, and so did Jesus. John the Baptist’s message was “The Kingdom of Heaven has drawn nigh.”  When the rejected King returns, His forerunner will be Elijah. More on all this as we proceed through the book. There is much more throughout the book that verifies Jesus as King.  Matthew gives the most full version of the ill-named Sermon on the Mount;  Mark and Luke give only fragments, and John never mentions it.  It is given fully in Matthew because it is a teaching concerning the Kingdom; the Magna Charta, so to speak, of the Kingdom and all its principles.  Because Israel rejected her King, the Kingdom has been postponed. Christendom is not that Kingdom.  In this message, Jesus speaks as the King and the Lawgiver. Again, more on all this as we proceed. 

When Jesus sent out His servants to preach the coming kingdom, He sent them as emissaries for the King, giving them power that only the King could give. It’s a fascinating study, and I’m eager to really dig into it. 

Things are coming to a crescendo here as Christmas draws near.  I don’t know how often I’ll be back to my blog.  I want to do at least one more post before the big day, but I can’t make any promises.  We’ll see.