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.

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)

Write the Vision

As we begin a new year, we are talking about having a vision. Habakkuk 2:2 says, “Then the Lord answered me and said, “Record the vision And inscribe it on tablets, that the one who reads it may run.” (NASB) The King James Version says, “And the Lord answered me, and said, “Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it.” Writing our vision down is the first step in accomplishing the goals we set before ourselves. I must admit, I’m not good at making goals or writing down visions.

I have dreams just like anyone else but setting goals has always been a hard thing for me. My thinking is, “God’s going to do what He wants to do anyway, my making goals isn’t going to change what He does.” However, I’m beginning to see that by writing down a vision and setting goals is the first step in accomplishing the dreams I have.

For instance, my purpose in beginning this blog is to reach people with Jesus’ love and leading them to know Him by accepting Him as Lord and Savior. That is my vision! My heart’s desire is to see people come to Jesus, asking for His forgiveness, and endeavoring to live for Him so that others will know Him also. One of those tools in accomplishing that vision is my use of Bible Journaling.

I admit that I am not an artist by any stretch of the imagination, but God knows that, and what I do in my Bible Journaling is an expression of what He points out to me from the Scripture, and He’s ok with what I do.

Another tool is expressing in words what He is speaking to me, hence the blog. My thoughts written here are a pouring out of what He wants me to learn or what He wants me to hold on to and to share with others.

I believe that God has called me to this as a ministry. I’m not concerned with how many likes I get or how many followers I have. My primary focus is being obedient to what God has called me to do, and I leave the results up to Him. It’s nice when I get a new follower; I am grateful that I have made an impact on someone through my blog. I keep in mind that Scripture says not to despise small beginnings, (Zechariah 4:10) because God rejoices in seeing the beginning of something sprout and grow, whether it be a ministry He is calling us to, or whether it is a goal we have that is lined up with His will.

Writing the vision down puts it in black and white, it is in front of our eyes, something to look at from time to time as a reminder of the direction we want to go. Writing goals are steps to accomplish that vision. Periodically we need to take account of where we are in achieving the vision and goals we have set; it gives us a measuring stick as to how well we are doing.

Today, I encourage you to sit down and think about what vision you have for this year. What do you want to see come to fruition? Where would you like to be in comparison to where you are now? Pray about the vision you have set, ask God if this is where He is leading you to, and ask for His help in reaching your goal for this year. Write down the vision!

Be the Light

This month we are looking at how Jesus is the light and how we can let His light shine through us. Today’s Bible Journaling is from Revelation 21:23, “And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb.” (NASB) It’s hard for me to imagine Heaven. There is no need of sun or moon, and it is light continuously. That to me is mind-boggling! But our verse tells us that what illuminates Heaven is the glory of God and that Jesus is the lamp used to reflect that light.

Jesus has told us in His Word that He is the light. (John 8:12) He goes on to say that if we follow Him, we will not be in darkness and will have the light. When we ask Jesus to be our Lord, Master, and Savior, He comes to live inside of us and our lives are filled with His light. When we allow His light to shine through us, we also become a light to others around us. Walking in the light of Jesus requires us to be obedient to His Word and live in such a manner that Jesus shines through us. We become a vessel for His light to shine out so that Jesus is seen in us.

The adage, “Actions speak louder than words” fits so well here. Many times, what we do screams louder than what we say. I remember my parents giving me the, “Don’t do what I do, do what I say” line. The only problem with that was, their actions spoke louder to me than their words. We are to be lights in this world so that others will come to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

It is so obvious that we live in a dark world. Everywhere we look the atmosphere around us is getting darker. There are times when it can get very scary when we hear of the things going on around us. It seems that Satan is having a hey-day. Sometimes I wonder how long God is going to let this nonsense continue. But then I remember that I must do my part to put light into this darkness. When I live according to God’s Will and Plan, I am allowing Jesus to shine through me so that those around me can see the right pathway to take.

We are to live in such a way that those who don’t know Jesus will find our lives attractive, drawing them to know who Jesus is, and desire to have what we have. Our lives are to be a witness to the unbeliever. When they see us living like Jesus, it attracts them, and they desire to know what it is in us that is different from themselves. This is the reason Peter says, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear…” (I Peter 3:15 KJV) We are to be that light in a dark world, guiding them to Jesus. When they ask us, what is so different about us, we can tell them it’s Jesus living in us, and then share with them our story of how we came to know Jesus and what He has done for us. We are to be a witness! We are to be that light!

When we act just as the world acts, it’s like hiding our light under a bushel. (Luke 11:33) No light gets out, and unbelievers can’t see any difference between them and us. Our actions speak louder than our words. As Believers, we are held to a higher standard. We are to be the example to them of what a Christian is and how a Christian speaks and acts. We must allow Jesus’ light to shine through us to them. Be that light that shines so that Jesus is reflected.

Embrace the Season You’re In

 

As we finish our series on seasons, our Scripture today is Psalm 30:5, “For His anger lasts only a moment, but His favor, a lifetime. Weeping may stay overnight, but there is joy in the morning.” (CSB) As we go through the different seasons of our lives, we need to understand that, “This too shall pass.” Especially when we are going through desert times or times of great difficulty.

I am an impatient person. I’ll just start out with that. Waiting is not a strong suit for me. Right now, my husband and I are seeking God’s direction regarding making a move back to Montana. I lived there for 10 years and I loved it. I consider it home even though I wasn’t born there. Right now, we are in a period of waiting. Looking for God to tell us what we are to do, whether we move there or not, when to move if we are to move, and how we are to go about getting rid of the house we are in now. It seems as if He is being silent. Is it, “now is not the right time?” Is it “No, don’t move?” We don’t know what God has in store for us. Our house has been up for sale over a year and we’ve had a couple of people come to look at it, but nothing. Unfortunately, we live in a state no one wants to live in. That doesn’t help our situation any.

I must cling to the part of the verse that says that His favor lasts a lifetime. I know He has a good plan for me, and I know that if I stay in that plan, it will go well with me. I tend to jump out ahead of God and try to “help.” That usually goes sideways. I must remember what my husband always says, “Delay is not denial.” I also must remember that if I lag behind God’s leading, that also can end badly. I must be in step with God’s plan for my life. Therefore, I must embrace this season of waiting. Take each day, each moment, one step at a time, holding onto God’s hand.

What season are you going through? Is it something that is such a blessing that you want to never end? Is it a time of sorrow that you wish would pass quickly? Is it a time of waiting for direction?

David seemed to go through times when it seemed as if God was silent. Psalm 40:1 says, “I waited patiently for the Lord; and he inclined unto me and heard my cry.” (KJV) David’s obedience paid off. He called out to the Lord and God heard him and answered. Notice it doesn’t say immediately, but it does say, God heard and answered. Embrace the time of waiting and know God does hear and will answer when the time is right. Know that the times of blessing are put in place to help us gain encouragement. We may want to stay in that time of “everything is going right”, but we must realize that we don’t grow in the good times, but we grow in the desert and valley times. It is in those times that our faith is strengthened. We must embrace them and value them as much as we embrace the good times.

Seasons change. We are in the time of the year when we go from Summer to Fall. Everything around us is changing. The trees are losing their leaves, the temperatures for some of us are getting cooler, everything is moving to prepare for Winter. I’m not a Winter girl, I’m a Summer girl, and the time of year we are in now is not my favorite. It just reminds me that Winter is coming, and I’m not very excited about it. Yes, I’m wanting to move to Montana and that means Winter comes in a big way. However, most of the time Winter isn’t too bad there, and I don’t mind it so much. I learned to embrace it when I lived there. So, I must embrace this season of my life right now.

Can you embrace the season you are in and know God has your life in His hands? Do you know that His plans for you are for your good, to give you a future and a hope? (Jeremiah 29:11) Take hold of this season, embrace it, and hold onto God’s loving hand and allow Him to lead you into the next season.

Who is in Control of Your Season?

As we continue our series on seasons, today’s verse is Daniel 2:21, “It is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men And knowledge to men of understanding.” (NASB) Some seasons are easily traversed while others are very difficult. Some we wish would stay longer, others we can’t wait for them to be over and done.

As much as we want to control the seasons in our lives, we can’t. Only God has control over the seasons of our lives. In our Scripture today, Daniel has been summoned by King Nebuchadnezzar to interpret a dream he has had. Daniel’s first action is to go to God and ask for wisdom and the interpretation to be relayed to the king. When God has given him what he has asked for, Daniel offers a prayer of thanksgiving and acknowledgment that it is God who establishes the seasons, places and unseats kings, and gives wisdom to those who seek it.

There are so many times in our lives that we wish we could orchestrate things to go the way we wish. The times of struggle are seasons that we would like to avoid completely, but once through them, even though very difficult, we have found that God allowed us to go through that season for a purpose. Maybe it was to stretch us so that we can grow stronger in our faith. Maybe it was so that our experience may be a blessing and comfort to someone who is going through the same thing. God knows our pathways; He directs each step we take. As much as we try to control each season, what usually happens is that we become frustrated because the path isn’t going the way we want it to.

When my first husband was so sick, I wanted that season of my life to be over with so badly. I wanted my husband well, back to the way he was before his strokes and seizures. I wanted him walking, talking in complete sentences, working on his pet projects, and I wanted his wacky sense of humor back. Taking care of him was very difficult and as much as I didn’t mind that assignment, after seven years of struggle, I was becoming overwhelmed. I wanted my husband healed! I prayed and cried, and still, God’s plan was not for him to be healed here, but in Heaven. I was so frustrated because I had no control over the situation.

When we try to take control of the season we are in, sometimes it can backfire. When I was in my 40’s an opportunity presented itself where my husband and I could possibly adopt. At that stage of our lives, we had already been married for 25 years. We had tried to adopt when we were much younger, but circumstances were such that the adoption fell through due to the situation in the country we were trying to adopt from. Now at this time, we had another chance, I thought, to try again. My husband wasn’t completely on board with the idea. However, I desired a baby so badly that I ran full steam ahead going through with the process of home study and interviews with the adoption agency. I got myself so off-track, that I rebelliously told God that I didn’t care if it was in His will for me or not, I was going through with it. However, God shut the whole process down through the agenda of a social worker who was not on board with our assessment of discipline and rearing children. Once she heard the words Dr. Dobson and Focus on the Family, it was an uphill battle. She shut us down and would not approve us for adoption. It was only then that I realized that as much as I tried to control the situation (the season, if you will) I couldn’t. God did not have it in His plan for us to be parents. That was the hardest lesson I ever learned.

Once we realize that it is God who controls the season, and not ourselves, we find that as we walk through the season we are in, allowing God to orchestrate situations to fit into His plan for us, we are much happier. We must relish the seasons that we treasure and enjoy, and hold onto God through the seasons that are hard. Even if a season is one of great delight, we must relinquish control over that season and realize that our life is in His hands. He knows where He is taking us, it is ours to follow along and trust Him.

What are You Harvesting?

As we continue our series on seasons, we are continuing to look at the harvest. Hosea 10:12 says, “Plant the good seeds of righteousness and you will harvest a crop of love. Plow up the hard ground of your hearts, for now is the time to seek the Lord, that He may come and shower righteousness upon you.” (NLT) As I was reading and thinking about this verse, I asked God to show me what I needed to focus upon. The more I looked at the verse, the second part of it seemed to come to the forefront. As important as it is to plant good seeds of righteousness, the thought came to me, “You can’t plant if the ground is hard or not prepared for planting.”

As I remember how my Grandpa worked in the fields on his farm, I know he had to prepare the soil for seed. The ground would be hard from the winter snows and he needed to disk it to loosen up the soil. Seeds don’t grow in hard soil, at least not very well. So, can we “plow up” the soil of our hearts on our own? The next part of the verse gives us the answer; “now is the time to seek the Lord”, why? So that He can shower righteousness upon us. We have no righteousness on our own, therefore we would not have the seed to plant unless it came from God. When we plant righteousness, our harvest is love.

To plow up the soil of our hearts, we must be willing to allow God to do a work in us that will provide a climate conducive to growth. I know in my case; stubbornness can be a real problem. God, at times, needs to work overtime to get me to understand what it is He wants of me. Even when I understand, it may be something I’m not really wanting to do. Sometimes there are things that I’m doing that may be a comfort zone for me and I’m not willing to give it up. But it may be just that thing that may be hindering me in my walk with the Lord. I must do the hard work of “plowing up the hard ground” of my heart so that I can sow the seeds of righteousness to gain a crop of love.

When we look to God, He will help us. We don’t have to try on our own to remove the seeds of unrighteousness from our hearts, in fact, we can’t remove them ourselves, and we can’t plow up the old soil on our own either. We must “seek the Lord”. It is only with His help that the unhealthy soil and unrighteous seed in our hearts can be removed and replaced with good soil and then He gives us the seed of righteousness to plant in our hearts. As we continue to seek Him, walk closely in the pathway He has provided for us, we will gain a harvest of love – love toward God and love toward others.

As I look at the context of this verse, Israel is being chastised by the Lord. Hosea was God’s “mouthpiece” to the Israelites, delivering a message from God. Verse 13 says, “But you have cultivated wickedness and harvested a thriving crop of sins. You have eaten the fruit of lies – trusting in your military might, believing that great armies could make your nation safe.” Israel turned their backs on God, deciding to do things in their own strength, not relying on God to guide them. Now, the Lord has come to the point where discipline must be meted out. Hosea Chapter 11 is God’s declaration of love toward Israel, and how He wants them to turn back to Him. He catalogs their sins, and in spite of all they have done, He still loves them.

God desires for us to walk with Him. He wants us to trust Him. He wants obedience from His children, and He desires more than anything to give us His blessings. He wants to shower upon us His love and righteousness. He wants us to harvest a thriving crop of love.