Our Identity as a Citizen of Heaven

Today’s Bible Journaling takes us to Ephesians 2:19-20, “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners; but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone.” (KJV) With all the craziness going on right now, it is good for us to remember that this is not our home, we are just travelers going through on the way to our Home. Those who call Jesus their Lord, Savior, and Master have no need for fear in troubled times. Our citizenship is not here, it is in Heaven.

Does that mean we have to wait to experience the benefits of that citizenship? No, as Believers, we already are experiencing some of the advantages of being a citizen of Heaven. As I was thinking about this, it occurred to me that one of those benefits was the peace I have in the middle of storms. I don’t have to be fearful of what happens to me here on earth. I know that whatever happens, my life is not over, I will live forever in a beautiful place where there is no pain, sickness, or sadness, where there is peace. I will be home!

As attached as we become to this earth, we need to remember that we are only sojourners. We are travelers on a long trip, and we are on our way home. My husband and I just had a three-week vacation recently, and we really had a great time! Were there difficulties? Yes, bad weather and long hours driving, but we did not become overwhelmed by those troubles. We were able to enjoy our vacation despite bad weather and being tired from driving far distances. When we were headed home, we were looking forward to being home, even though we were thoroughly enjoying our time away. We had peace in the face of the hardships, and yet we were anxious to get home.

As Believers, we also look forward to going to our Heavenly Home, whether that be in death or by way of the Rapture. And yet, we can still reap the benefits of Heaven right here on earth. I have already mentioned peace. Other rewards include knowing that we do not walk alone, God is always with us. He promises to “never leave or forsake us.” (Hebrews 13:5) He walks this journey with us. We are part of God’s family (John 1:12) and as such, we reap the benefits given to a family. We can experience His incredible love for us and the rewards and blessings He showers upon us. We don’t have to wait to experience those things, we can have them now.

As a citizen of Heaven, I can experience God’s protection. In 2 Samuel 22:3 we read, “The God of my rock; in Him will I trust: He is my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my high tower, and my refuge, my Saviour; thou savest me from violence.” (KJV) I don’t need to fear sickness, danger, or attacks from the enemy, God is my shield, my refuge, my fortress! That is a benefit of Heaven I can have right now.

Another benefit of Heaven we can experience now is freedom. We live under the law of Grace; we do not need to be burdened by trying to live up to a set of laws that are impossible to keep. Because of our love for Him we willingly live a life of holiness in obedience to His will for us. How awesome to be able to bask in the light of Heaven’s blessings as a citizen! In uncertain times we can rest in the knowledge that our future is secured. We can thrive in our identity as a citizen of Heaven and live a life of peace, joy, and security in our Father’s arms.

Our Identity – We Lack No Good Thing

Today as we continue in our study on our identity in Christ, we are reminded in today’s verse that God will not withhold any good thing. Psalm 34:10 says, “The young lions do lack and suffer hunger; But they who seek the Lord shall not be in want of any good thing.” (NASB) As I was looking at this verse and thinking of the significance of this verse, my mind did not go toward material things like money or our “wants”, I went immediately to thinking about the current frenzy over the coronavirus. We have seen so many in the news who are drowning in fear over this disease.

The Word says God will not allow us to be lacking in any good thing…and that includes our health. God loves us with an everlasting love, (Jeremiah 31:3) and His plans for us are good plans. (Jeremiah 29:11) In today’s verse, it tells us that if we seek God, we will have everything we need. Not necessarily everything we want, but what we NEED! That includes wealth, health, people who love us and want the best for us, and if we have asked Jesus to be our Savior and Lord, He gives us eternal life. All of these are good things that we will not lack.

Instead of being covered in fear, we need to look to Jesus! God also tells us that He does not give us the spirit of fear. 2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love and of a sound mind.” (KJV) That’s another good thing that we will not be lacking. That sound mind includes looking at things like this current pandemic with common sense. Instead of heading to the stores and buying up every last bottle of hand sanitizer or roll of toilet paper, use common sense…what would you do for a common case of the flu? God gave us a mind and He expects us to use it and expects us to use the common sense He has given us.

We also know that because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, we are covered by His blood. I Peter 2:24 says, “and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.” (NASB) We also know that God has promised protection over us. Psalm 91:10 says, “No evil will befall you, Nor will any plague come near your tent.” (NASB) A prime example of God’s protection goes back to the Exodus of the Israelite people from Egypt. (Exodus 12) Those who placed the blood over the doorposts were saved from the calamity God brought to the Egyptian people. The death angel passed over the homes that had the blood on the doorposts. If we have accepted Jesus as our Savior, we are covered by His blood.

When we realize that God has everything in control, and this crisis comes as no surprise to Him, and He loves us, we have nothing to fear. He will not withhold any good thing! His love for us is far greater than we can ever imagine.

The Bible tells us not to fear 365 times! That is one verse for every day of the year! Matthew 6:34 tells us not to worry, “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will take care of itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (NASB) Remember, God does not give us the spirit of fear! Trust that He knows all about what is going on in your life and that He has only good things planned for you! Your identity in Christ? YOU WILL LACK NO GOOD THING!

God Provides a Shield

 

Another thing we learn about vision is that God provides a shield for us and for our vision, and sometimes through the vision. Genesis 15:1 says, “After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, ‘Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you; Your reward shall be very great.’” Abram had just dealt with kings who had kidnapped his nephew, Lot, and Abram was able to defeat the kings and rescue his nephew. After this, the king of Sodom wanted to make a deal with Abram by asking for the people that had been taken and he promised to give Abram all the spoils of the war including money and all the goods that had been confiscated. However, the priest, Melchizedek, had placed a blessing upon Abram, and Abram made a promise to God, not to take anything from the king. In this way, God would receive the glory for all the blessings and wealth Abram would receive. God told Abram that He would be a shield to Abram and Abram would be greatly rewarded.

When we look to God and follow the vision He has placed within us, He will bless us. He will also place a shield around us and our vision as a means of protecting us against the fiery darts of the enemy. Satan, our enemy, would like nothing more than to see us defeated. He would like to see us fail in accomplishing the tasks put before us. He would like to see us fail in achieving the vision that would give honor and glory to God. Satan wants to rob God of the glory that is due Him when we succeed in accomplishing those things that God has placed in our hearts.

God’s protection of a shield not only covers our vision, but it also surrounds us. Whether it be protection over physical things, emotional trauma, or circumstances, God places a shield around us to bring forth the plans, the visions, and the dreams He has destined for us and He rewards us for being faithful.

In Abram’s case, God says that He is a shield to Abram and promises a reward. Abram tells God that he has no offspring, God makes a covenant with Abram and promises to give him a son. (Genesis 15:1-18) When we honor God by staying true to our promises to Him, He will be faithful to honor and grant our requests. When God is a shield around us and the vision He has laid upon our hearts, God not only receives the glory for the vision coming to fruition but others will see, that through our faithfulness and obedience to God, we are blessed by Him; this also brings honor to God. Blessings are always a result of obedience and faithfulness to God.

God places that vision in our hearts and His desire is to see the vision completed so that He will receive the glory and unbelievers will see how He works in our lives. As we reach goal after goal in completing the vision, it causes others to see God’s handiwork in us, and they will reflect upon how God helps us, how He protects us, and how He guides us. They then will desire to know more about God, why and how He loves us and gives us blessings. We become that light to draw others to God as they see our testimony of God’s faithfulness lived out before them.

I am so grateful for the shield placed around me by my loving, Heavenly Father. His faithfulness to me brings me joy unspeakable and full of glory. (I Peter 1:8)

Vision Requires Alignment with God

Today I’m preaching to myself. As we look at having a vision and accomplishing that vision, I am pricked in my heart. My vision to reach others with Jesus’ love and be an example for others to see His love in me, requires that I be aligned with His Will and the pathway He has set before me. Today’s Bible Journaling comes from Romans 14:17, “For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (NASB)

The reason I say that I am preaching to myself is that as I read this verse today, God showed me how I was not aligned with His Kingdom. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I have a problem with anger. I also have a problem with laziness. Neither of these things are qualities that line up with righteousness, peace, or joy; they are anything but! So, I must become aligned with God’s desires for me; to be a person of peace and righteousness thereby giving way to joy.

Alignment is something we all need, whether physically or Spiritually. I deal with Scoliosis, arthritis, and osteoporosis in my back. I need to see a Chiropractor every month to get my back adjusted and put back into alignment. When I skip a month or two for some reason, the back pain is more than I can stand some days. My back needs to be put in place so that it will not give me pain. The same is true in our spiritual lives. When we are not in alignment with God’s Will we encounter pain, be that Spiritually or physically. We need to make adjustments in our lives so that we reflect the characteristics of God.

Visions, whether they be physical, mental, or Spiritual sometimes require that to reach the goal, we must change something to be successful. In my case, anger is not an attitude that shows God’s love; therefore, I need to make changes to reach that goal of having a Christlike attitude. If I want others to see Jesus in me, my attitude and actions must reflect His nature. I need to be aligned with the Holy Spirit in my life. Proverbs 4:3 tells me, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” To be aligned I need to work on my heart. I need to keep my heart diligently with vigilance. The dictionary says vigilance is, “the action or state of keeping careful watch for possible danger or difficulties.”

This is not something that comes easily for me. The enemy puts up roadblocks to trip me up, and even though I may know that’s what is happening, my default is to react in anger. Planning what I will do if someone makes me angry doesn’t really work with me. The anger is sometimes so hot that no matter how much planning I do, I fail and explode before I even can catch myself. My problem with laziness is just as bad. Satan knows how much I hate doing housework, and he is adept at putting other things in my pathway, things that are much more enjoyable, that I fall prey to his temptation, and will waste a whole day doing something other than housework. As I said, planning what I will do to counteract these things does not come easily for me and putting them into practice is even harder.

I must make a conscious effort to push past my instinct to go to my default position on these things. I must determine in my heart to become aligned with God’s Will for me, I must make adjustments in my life to fulfill the vision I have of being a witness before others. I must take account of where I am to reach my goal of accomplishing my vision. How do I do this? Pray and ask God for His help. He wants my vision to become a reality as much as I do.

So today, if you are like me and need alignment, ask God to show you what needs to be aligned and adjusted, then ask Him to help you. He never goes back on His Word to help us. (Isaiah 41:10, 13) God also gives us tools. James 4:7 tells us that we are to, “Submit therefore to God. Resist the Devil and he will flee from you.” (NASB) We must be aligned to His Holy Spirit so that we can accomplish the vision He has placed on our hearts.

Jesus – The Source of Our Joy

Today’s Bible Journaling verse isn’t thought of as a “Christmas verse”, but it shows something that I think many may not realize. Our verse today is Acts 13:52, “And the disciples were continually filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.” (NASB) When I read this verse, I immediately thought of a verse we hear at Christmastime when we see a Christmas play or read the Christmas story, “When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.” (Matthew 2:10 (KJV) The Wisemen were rejoicing because they knew they had found Jesus!

In today’s verse, the disciples have been in Antioch preaching. The Apostle Paul is preaching to a crowd and the Jews saw the crowds that were gathering to hear what he had to say. The Jews were very upset, and the Bible says they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict everything Paul and Barnabas said. (Acts 13:45) Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly (Verse 46) and said, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first; since you repudiate it and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us, ‘I have placed you as a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation of the end of the earth.’ When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.” (Acts 13:46-48 NASB) The chapter goes on to say that the Word of the Lord was spread out throughout the whole region. What I love about our verse today is that it says the disciples were continually filled with joy! That’s what happens when Jesus is in our hearts and lives!

He is the source of our joy. Just as the Wisemen rejoiced at finding Jesus, and the disciples were joyful at believing and accepting Jesus into their hearts, we also can be filled with that same joy. Jesus is the source of our joy. Why? Because it is through Him that we receive eternal life. He fills our hearts with joy, despite difficulties in our lives. Even though we are burdened down, we can still have joy in our hearts. We may not be happy when the world seemingly comes against us, but we can have a deep, abiding joy!

Paul and Barnabas were rejected by the Jews, in fact later in the chapter it tells of how the Jews “incited women of prominence and the leading men of the city” to persecute them and drive them out of the city. (Verse 50) The Bible says Paul and Barnabas shook the dust of the city “in protest against them” and went on to another city. (Verse 51) Even then, the disciples were “continually filled with joy.” Though they were persecuted, they were filled with joy. Only God can do that!

When the angels announced Jesus’ birth, they declared, “Do not be afraid; for behold I bring you good news of great joy which shall be for all the people, for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11 NASB) Even the angels proclaimed that there was joy in Jesus, in His birth, in His life, in His death, and in His salvation for the world!

We can have that joy, right now! The Bible tells us that Jesus came for a purpose. He was born to die! God’s plan was formed at the foundation of the world; Jesus would come into the world, live, teach and preach about God’s love, become the sacrifice for our sins by dying on a cruel cross, be buried, then three days later rise again and conquer sin, death, Hell, and the grave. He then ascended to Heaven to live with His Father. He made a promise to us. He is coming back to take His children, those who have accepted Jesus into their hearts, back to Heaven to live and reign with Him. There is great joy in knowing that Jesus loves us that much! He has promised to never leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5) and for me, that brings great joy!

Christmas Hope

As we continue to look at Christmas, today we look at the hope that Christmas brings to us. Isaiah 9:6 is a familiar passage for us. It has been spoken in countless church Christmas programs by shining little faces acting out the Christmas story. “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” (KJV) Isaiah prophesied the coming of the Messiah some 700 years before it was fulfilled. The Jewish people had hope that God was going to step into their lives and rescue them.

Jews today are still looking for the Messiah. What they don’t realize is, He already has come. Two thousand years ago He came in a way they weren’t expecting, and so they missed it. They are still in hope of seeing the Messiah come, they look for His coming. As Born-Again Believers, we have seen that Hope realized in our lives. Jesus came to earth as a baby born in a stable to common people. He didn’t come as a King. The Jews were looking for a grand entrance with lots of fanfare. Jesus came quietly, in a small town, with no fanfare except for a chorus of angels telling of His birth to lowly shepherds on a country hill looking after their sheep.

He lived a simple life, preached to those who would hear about what His purpose for being there was, showing them how to live, who God was, who HE was, and then fulfilled His purpose by becoming a sacrificial lamb for the sins of the whole world. He came to be the Savior of the world and provide the hope of eternal salvation for everyone. That hope is still available today.

Jesus invites each one of us to tap into that hope by accepting His free gift of salvation. He loves us so much that He wants us to become part of His family. He wants to provide for us, not just physical or financial things, but He wants to provide eternal life, He wants to provide to us eternal blessings.

That is the greatest hope we can ever have! The hope of eternal salvation! The hope of having a Friend who is closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24), the hope of walking with Him daily, the hope of a love greater than we could ever imagine, the hope that our lives will be full of joy, peace, and grace. These things can only be found in a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Life in this world is hard, that’s a fact. However, Jesus can help us in those times when it seems life is smacking us down. He can give us hope that He knows what’s going on, hope that this will not last forever and that He has a plan for our lives, and it’s a good plan (Jeremiah 29:11). When we feel as if we can’t take one more step, He will carry us.

He will provide blessings that will overwhelm us. In those times, He will rejoice with us. The joy of His presence, of experiencing His blessings, of finding the peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7) is one of the greatest gifts He gives us. Jesus is God’s gift to us! How we love Him for providing such an amazing gift! That is the Christmas Hope we have.

If you haven’t asked Jesus to be your Savior, ask Him to come into your heart and life, confess your sins, and make a conscious decision to live for Him. You will find it is the best decision you will ever make. You will then have that Hope!

Resting in Christ

As we have been looking at living life and resting, I want to step away from the physical aspect of rest and look at resting from a Spiritual perspective. Today’s Scripture is Hebrews 4:9, “There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.” (KJV) As we read the verses around our Scripture, the writer of Hebrews is talking about resting in Christ and that we as Believers can find our rest in Jesus. During the time of the Israelites’ Exodus to the Promised Land, they were people who couldn’t find rest because they were relying on Moses, Joshua, and the Law to bring that rest to them. However, none of these could give them the rest they desired. They struggled continuously, even after they entered the Promised Land, they were not able to find that peace and rest they so longed for. They were unable to conquer the entire land and enjoy all the blessings that God had in store for them because they were relying on things other than God to bring that rest.

The writer of Hebrews writes this chapter with the theme that Jesus is greater than Joshua because Christ finished the work for us on the cross to bring us that rest that we so desperately need. Joshua nor the Law could bring the rest of knowing our sins were wiped away, and therefore the work was unfinished, and no rest could be found. The people were enslaved still in their hearts because they had no assurance that their sins were completely paid for. They had to offer sacrifices for their sins. Jesus paid the penalty of death that must be paid for sin.

Because Jesus paid our penalty, we can rest in Him, not just for the payment of our sins, but also in being able to trust Him for every situation we face. Not only can we rest in the knowledge that our sins have been forgiven and the debt has been paid, but we can also rest in the fact that Jesus can be trusted to guide us through this life. When we are being blessed, we can trust Him and rest in His blessings. When life is throwing everything at us but the kitchen sink, and maybe even the kitchen sink, we can rest in knowing He’s got this. Nothing we face comes to Him by any surprise, and He will hold us through the struggle. He has promised never to leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).

We know that He is faithful to keep His promises, He is faithful to help us (Hebrews 13:6) and we can rest in Him! Sometimes I struggle with resting in Jesus, especially when I am faced with a situation that looks impossible and there is nothing I can do about it. My default is to panic or worry myself into a frenzy. I forget that God has this, and this is not coming to Him by any surprise. He’s big enough to take care of it and doesn’t need my help. That’s when I need to step back, take a deep breath, and put it in His hands, and not take it back, which I also tend to do. Resting in Jesus means remembering all the times that He has come through for me, then believe and trust that He will do it again!

As Believers, we can rest in Jesus’ arms. When we allow Him to work in our lives to fulfill His plan for us, we will find that rest. Peace will flood our souls and we know that He has us in the palm of His hand, and He will never let us go. So, today find your rest in Jesus. Allow Him to work in your life and He will give you rest!