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.

Why We Need Vision

 

Today we’re going to look at vision from a Spiritual perspective. By that I mean, looking at vision strictly in relationship to Spiritual understanding. Today’s Bible Journaling verse is Proverbs 29:18, “Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained, But happy is he who keeps the law.” (NASB) The King James Version says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish’ but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” The NIV says, “Where there is no revelation, people cast off restraint; but blessed is the one who heeds wisdom’s instruction.”

In J. Vernon McGee’s Commentary on Proverbs, he says that “Vision’ is actually spiritual understanding. It is the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer to give him understanding of the word of God.’” The Hebrew word for vision is “Chazown” and it means a vision, oracle, or prophecy of divine communication. When our pastors preach, they can give forth divine communication. Vision is a mode of revelation.

Without vision, an understanding of God’s Word, we walk in chaos. Our verse today says that without a vision the people are unrestrained. We see so much of that in our society today. It is much like it was in Micah’s day, “In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” There is no Spiritual knowledge or understanding and everyone does what “feels right.”

For us to walk in a manner that gives God glory and honor, we need to be students of His Word. II Timothy 2:15 says, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (KJV) Digging into the Bible helps us to gain understanding and live according to its precepts, and brings peace, joy, and happiness.

When we study God’s Word, we bury it deep into our hearts, minds, and the very spirit of our being. We make it a part of ourselves. God will reveal His desires for us through His Word and through the preaching of the Gospel, and we find a life of order and peace, and we are walking in the pathway He has set before us.

In I Samuel 3:1, the Bible tells us that when Samuel was a young boy, he “ministered unto the Lord before Eli. And the word of the Lord was precious in those days; there was no open vision.” (KJV) When God’s word is given in an atmosphere where there is no understanding, then God must appoint someone to give the understanding. God raised up Samuel to meet the need of declaring God’s Word.

We see today in countries where God’s Word is scarce and preaching is condemned, the hearing and reading of the Word of God are precious. People cherish a Bible in their hands, whether it’s the full book or just a page because it is not readily available for them to read or own. They treasure it. We too should treasure the Bible, the hearing of God’s Word, and the preaching of the truth. Spiritual understanding helps us to “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.” (II Peter 3:18 KJV)

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.

A New Thing

It’s 2020! A new year is upon us and we have a whole new slate to start with, in living before the Lord for this year. Today’s Bible Journaling verse is Isaiah 43:19, “For I am about to do something new. I have already begun. See, do you not see it? I will make a new pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.” (NLT) We will be looking at vision this month, but I received a prompting from God to start here.

As this year begins, we do need to have a vision of where we need to be, where we want to go, and where God is leading us. But more than that, we need to be open to God doing new things in our lives. Maybe this is the year God says, “It’s time to get out of your comfort zone and try something new.”

As Believers, from time to time, it’s good to take stock of where we have been and look at where we are going. Before coming to Jesus, we were wrapped up in doing the old things we had done before. Then Jesus came into our hearts and lives and He started a new thing. Life became so much better. Does that mean there have not been hard times? No, but we found that we didn’t go through those things alone…God was with us! That was a new thing!

God tells us in Isaiah 42:9, “Behold, the former things are come to pass, and new things do I declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them.” (KJV) God does new things in our lives, and He does these things out in the open, not in secret. He tells us what is to come. Sometimes, we feel like He is silent and the road we are on is confusing, but He loves us enough to plan only good things for us. (Jeremiah 29:11)

One of those “new things” that God does, is that He makes new creatures out of us. II Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold all things are become new.” (KJV) When we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, He gives us a new heart. The old man is gone, and the new man has come, and we are born-again! From that point on we are on a new pathway. That’s a new thing!

God tells us in Revelation 21:5, “Behold I make all things new.” (KJV) God wants to do new things in us. It is up to us to accept the new things He is showing us and leading us into. If you are like most people, getting pushed out of your comfort zone, is uncomfortable and downright scary! This is where learning to trust that God has our best in mind for us comes into play. He wants us to grow in a manner that will give glory and honor to Him and will bring us joy, peace, contentment, and a greater love for Him and those around us.

Be open to new things! Seek God’s face in prayer, asking Him to direct your steps. If you are feeling a prompting to do something that scares you silly, trust Him enough to know that He isn’t putting you out there alone, He will go with you. Trust that He will never ask you to do something that you can not do, but always will be something to help you grow to the next level of relationship with Him. You may find that it has been something you have always wanted to accomplish but were too afraid to take the first step.

When we step out in faith, we can accomplish so much more, and who knows, we may find that when we step out into a whole new area of experience with God, it will not be as daunting as we first thought and actually will blossom in that new pathway. God is saying, “I am doing a new thing.” Trust Him and take that first step!

Jesus – Our Peace

It’s the day after Christmas and we can all breathe. The presents have been opened and we’ve had time with family, all is right with the world…or for most it is. However, for some, there is turmoil, pain, loneliness, grief, and a total disconnect from the world. There is no sense of peace. All around are tidings of “Peace on Earth, goodwill toward men” yet for some, there is no peace. Even though today’s Bible Journaling verse isn’t considered a Christmas verse, it echoes what the Christmas story says, that Jesus is our Peace! Ephesians 2:14 says, “For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall.” To put this verse into perspective we must look at it in the context of the verses around it.

The Apostle Paul is talking to the Ephesians about their problems between Jewish and Gentile Believers. The Jews were trying to encumber the Gentiles with Jewish laws like circumcision. Paul is telling them all that once they have accepted Jesus as Savior and Lord, there is no difference, hence in our verse, he mentions the breaking down of the barrier or dividing wall between them. Notice, Paul says that Jesus is our peace! When He died on the cross for our sins the barrier between Jew, Gentile, God, and Man was torn down. Jesus is the avenue we take to reach God regardless of who we are or where we’ve been.

Isaiah prophesied that Jesus would be called the Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6) We can find the peace we seek through Jesus Christ and a relationship with Him. Despite the circumstances, we encounter we can have peace. He is the provider of peace…peace internally and Eternally! The world is in chaos. All around us, there is turmoil…wars, shootings, and discord of every kind surround us. But even though all around us is a mess, we can live in total peace.

When we allow Jesus access to our heart, He brings us His peace! When He lives in us, His very nature is living in us. He IS peace! Even though in our lives we are in circumstances that have us in an upheaval, we can have His peace, with the assurance that He has everything under His control. We may go through something that leaves us wondering “why” or in a time of such despair that there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel. At Christmas time, those who experience this find it so difficult to find that peace. It is at this time of year that we see so many suicides.

The answer to so much pain is so simple! Accept Jesus as Savior, ask Him to forgive you of your sin, acknowledge Him as Lord, Savior, and Master of your life, believe that He was born of a virgin, lived on this earth, teaching and preaching about His Father, God, that He died on a cross for your sins, was buried, and rose again three days later to conquer sin, death, and the grave, and is now seated in Heaven at the right hand of the Father, and will come again to get His children. Thank Him for your salvation and endeavor to live for Him. Repentance is making a 180 degree turn from where you are headed and heading in a new direction. Allow Him to bring you the peace that only He can give you. He can then be YOUR peace!

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!

Changing Seasons

As we enter Fall, we are looking at a new season. Summer is fading, Fall is approaching, and Winter will soon be upon us. Seasons come and go with each passing year. For me, Fall and Winter are not my favorites. True, Fall is beautiful with all the different colors, but that means that Winter will be upon us and that means cold and snow…not my favorite thing to deal with. We enter different seasons in our lives also. Ecclesiastes 3:1 tells us, “There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven.” (NASB) The King James Version puts it this way, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:”

As we read Ecclesiastes, Solomon seems to be in a depressed mood, talking about how everything is just vanity. Then he sort of snaps out of it when he remembers that everything we experience comes under the watchful eye of God, our Father. As we read the third chapter, Solomon goes on to expound about the different seasons of our lives. As we enter different seasons in our lives, we must remember also, each season is under God’s careful care. There is a reason for each season in our lives that we face. Some seasons may be placed in our lives to help us grow and mature in our Christian walk with God. Some may be as an encouragement for others who may be going or will go through, the same thing. Learning how to navigate each season is what helps us grow.

As I went through the season of widowhood, I learned that grieving the loss of a spouse was different than grieving the death of my father. The grief was totally different. This year, my family is dealing with the death of my nephew, who died way too young, and that kind of grief is different from either of those other deaths. Through each of these situations, God is walking with us. Things have happened in my family as a result of my nephew’s death that causes my heart to rejoice! Family members have drawn close to the Lord, and I’m watching in amazement at how they are walking in peace, knowing God has them in the palm of His hand. They are drawing closer each day to Him, and being intentional in their Bible study, church attendance, and even beginning to witness. My heart is so grateful to God for taking them in His arms and helping them.

I am now remarried, and I’m finding that this season of marriage is different from my marriage with my first husband. I find I need to learn how to relate to someone who is so different, and there is a learning curve here. Even in this, God is walking with me, helping me to deal with each situation we face together as a couple. We are learning to appreciate each other more, accept the differences, and life is on a good path.

As each of us faces each new season in our lives, we must look to Jesus, who is the author and finisher of our faith. (Hebrews 12:2) He has experienced every season we have, and He alone can help us through each experience.  (Hebrews 4:15) He knows what it is to experience loss, joy, financial difficulties, sadness, betrayal, and on and on. Everything we have gone through, He knows what it is like because He also went through those things. Therefore, we can trust Him to help us.

Seasons come and go, but we have this solid confidence…Jesus never changes, and He is our stability as we go through each season. As you face different seasons, remember, each season is for a purpose. Embrace each season with confidence, and know you are not alone!