This World is Not my Home

“O Paradise! O Paradise! I greatly long to see, the special place my dearest Lord in love prepared for me.”  Frederick W. Faber.

THE APOSTLES’ CREED

I believe in God the Father Almighty

Maker of heaven and earth;

And in Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, our Lord;

Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,

Born of the Virgin Mary,

Suffered under Pontius Pilate,

Crucified, dead and buried;

He descended into hell

The third day He rose from the dead;

He ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of God the Father Almighty;

From thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit;

The Holy catholic Church;

The communion of saints;

The forgiveness of sins;

The resurrection of the body;

And the life everlasting.

 “Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.”  2 Corinthians 5:1

 When I was a little girl, I heard a minister preach about eternity – and it terrified me.  I remember laying in my bed, trying to wrap my childish mind around the concept of eternity – of something that would never end.  My heart began to race with panic, and I cried myself to sleep that night.  I am far removed from that little girl, and God has graciously taught me many wonderful truths from His Word.  I still cannot wrap my gray-haired mind around the concept of eternity – but I am no longer afraid.

In this final phrase of The Apostles’ Creed, we are going to see what God’s Word has to tell us about heaven and about everlasting life.

Psalm 103:19 tells us the significance of this place called heaven. “The Lord has established His throne in heaven, and His kingdom rules over all.”  Heaven is the dwelling place of God, the place where He rules over all of His creation.  Heaven is so much more that the image that we have drawn in our minds.  Heaven is not sitting around on fluffy clouds, strumming harps, bored out of our minds.  It is a place of wonder and amazement, everything will be glorified because of the awesome presence of God. The colors of heaven will be more brilliant that anything we have seen on earth.  Plants more beautiful, food more flavorful, music more glorious (the angels will be singing after all).

Revelation gives us the most description of heaven.  In Revelation 3:12 Jesus speaks of the city of God, “the New Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from God.”  In this New Jerusalem we will drink “from the spring of the water of life” (Rev. 21:6). The Holy City will shine “with the glory of God,” with the “brilliance of a very precious jewel” (Rev. 21:11) Try to picture with me the descriptions in Revelation 21 and 22:  The city is made of pure gold  (the purest gold on earth is 24K, but the gold of heaven is “as pure as glass’) with walls of jasper, the foundations are twelve precious stones, the gates of the city are made of giant single pearls  The gold that our world revolves around – that’s just pavement in heaven, where the streets are made of pure, transparent gold.  There is no sun or moon, “for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.”  The city’s water source flows from the throne of God, as clear as crystal.  And the tree of life will be a source of nourishment, healing and life to all.

But here is the most beautiful sight of all: “The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and His servants will serve Him.  They will see His face…” (Rev. 22:3-4, emphasis added).  We will see the face of God, the face of our Savior!  As a writer, here I fall silent.  What words could I offer to describe the glory of beholding the face of Jesus?

And we will have to privilege of looking into His face – forever.  For we will have life everlasting!  As hard as it is to comprehend, it is one of the foundations of our faith – eternal, everlasting life.

Life everlasting is the promise that has kept the heart of the Christian faith beating steadily through trial, persecution, and oppression.  It has been the song on the lips of the martyrs down through history.  Life everlasting is not just about existence that never ends.  It is about LIFE that never ends.  It is about our heavenly home and the uninterrupted presence of God.  It was purchased for us by the blood of Jesus, and secured at His resurrection, and when you accepted Christ, He “put His Spirit in [your} heart as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come” (2 Corinthians 1:22).

What are some of these “everlasting blessings?”  Glad you asked!  How about everlasting love (Ps. 103:17); everlasting righteousness (Ps. 119:142); an everlasting kingdom (Ps. 145:113); everlasting joy (Is. 35:10); everlasting salvation (Is. 47:17); everlasting kindness (Is. 54:8); everlasting light (Is 60:19 & 20); an everlasting name (Is. 56:5); and an everlasting Father (Is 9:6)?  Do you see now, why eternity doesn’t frighten me anymore?  It will be an everlasting paradise (Rev. 2:7)!

Holy Father, Sometimes life is so hard here, and I cannot find a reason to carry on.  Fill my heart with this hope and assurance: this world is not my home, my “citizenship is in heaven” (Phil. 3:20).  Someday, I’m going home to walk on streets of gold!  Amen.

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What Are You Searching For?

“Seek the Lord while He may be found; call on Him while He is near.” Isaiah 55:6

 I was studying at my desk when my husband began searching for something.  He looked through cabinets and drawers.  He even cleaned out his van trying to find an important tool. As he came back into the house I asked “Did you find it?” “Nope.” He said, followed quickly by “Yep.”  The tool he was looking for was sitting on his dresser all along.

It occurred to me that we live in a world that is searching.  People are searching for meaning, searching for hope, searching for peace, searching for truth, and searching for love.  Just as my husband spent more than an hour looking for a tool that was in plain sight – all the world’s frantic searching can be resolved by looking to God.

God has been speaking to me lately about what I am looking for-and where I am looking.

In Psalm 27:8 we read, “You have said to my heart, ‘Seek My face.’  Your face Lord I will seek.”  The prophet Jeremiah records my life-verse, “You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13)  While we are running here and there searching for all that makes life worthwhile, God has issued us a beautiful invitation.  “Seek Me.  I will make Myself available to you.”   He promises in Isaiah 45:19 that He is not calling us to seek Him in vain-Jeremiah 29:14 says: “I will be found by you.”

Psalm 34:10 promises, “those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.”  God honors those who seek Him.  This is not a casual glance in God’s direction, nor is it only done on Sunday mornings.  Seeking God is a life-long, daily, determined pursuit.  It is making time every day for Bible study, prayer and meditating on Him, His character and His Word.  It is allowing nothing to distract us or disrupt our heart’s mission – to know God.

What will we gain when we seek God?  So much more than you could ever image.

In our society, the pursuit of “success” consumes so many people.  2 Chronicles 26 tells of Uzziah, king of Judah.  Under the ministry of Zechariah, verse 5 says, “As long as he sought the Lord, God gave him success.”  Seek God and look for Him to bless your efforts.

Are you searching for release from fear?  David said in Psalm 34:4, “I sought the Lord, and He answered me; He delivered me from all my fears.”   The one who seeks God is delivered from fear and anxiety.

Psalm 70:4 says, “May all who seek You rejoice and be glad in You.”  Those who seek the Lord will find joy and gladness. Even in the most trying circumstances, “the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).

Perhaps today, you are searching for rest – you are weary and worn out.  The struggles of life have taken their toll on you.  2 Chronicles 14:7 is your promise today – “We have sought the Lord our God; and He has given us rest.”  Rest comes in the presence of God.  Psalm 23:1 & 2 tell us “He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul.”  The weary are refreshed with His  living water (John 4:14).

Here is one more beautiful truth about this subject of seeking and I hope it blesses your heart like it blessed mine.  God sought you out.  God pursued you.  Jesus declared in John 19:10 – “The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”  Imagine that with me – God; the God of heaven, the Creator of all things, the great and holy I AM, sought you and me to be His own.  Before He called you to seek Him, He had been on a search for you.

Maybe you have wandered from God, and are lost in a wilderness of your own choices.  I’ve been there, and it is a scary place to be.  Jesus promises that, as the Good Shepherd, He will go on a “search and rescue” mission to find you and bring you back.  John 15:4-7 tells the parable of the lost sheep.  Jesus said, “Does [the shepherd] not…go after the lost sheep until he finds it?  And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home” (vs. 4,5).  My friend, Jesus is not angry with you for wandering off – in His great love, he is seeking you to restore you and bring you back to Himself.  See how he promises to joyfully carry you home on His shoulders?  Don’t try to run and hide from Him any longer.  Seek Him.  Pursue Him.  He will find you, and He will rejoice with you all the way home.

What are you looking for today?  Peace? Joy? Rest? Where are you searching? In busyness, in addiction, a computer screen, or money?  It’s not there.  Your search is only fulfilled when you find Jesus Christ.  He has made Himself available to you – seek Him and know what life can be when your frantic search is over.

 

Holy Father, You have promised that I will find You when I seek You with all my heart.  And You have promised to search for me when I lose my way, and bring me back home.  Lord, I will seek You – and You will find me.  Amen

 

A Perfect Body at Last! (Part 10 in the Apostle’s Creed)

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”  1 Peter 1:3

 THE APOSTLES’ CREED

I believe in God the Father Almighty

Maker of heaven and earth;

And in Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, our Lord;

Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,

Born of the Virgin Mary,

Suffered under Pontius Pilate,

Crucified, dead and buried;

He descended into hell

The third day He rose from the dead;

He ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of God the Father Almighty;

From thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit;

The Holy catholic Church;

The communion of saints;

The forgiveness of sins;

The resurrection of the body;

Continuing to focus on the Apostle’s Creed, we come to “the resurrection of the body.”  This was a “hot potato” even in Jesus’ day – as one faction of the religious leaders, the Sadducees, did not believe in the resurrection, while the Pharisees did.  The debates over this subject still divide people, but the Scripture is very clear, and that is where we will be focusing in this devotional.

Before His own resurrection, there are three separate accounts in the Scriptures of Jesus’ raising people from the dead:  the widow’s son in Nain (Luke 7:11-17; Jarius’ daughter (Mark 5:21-24, 35-43; and Lazarus (John 11:1-45).  But these all still eventually died, theirs was not an eternal life.

It was only at the resurrection of Jesus that a bodily resurrection unto eternal life became a reality for believers.  So critical to the Christian faith, the writers of all four gospels, under the divine leading of the Holy Spirit, were inspired to record Christ’s resurrection.  (Matthew 28:1-10; Mark 16; Luke 24; and John 20.) Jesus’ resurrection lead the way for all who will follow Him into eternal life. Paul said, “Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor. 15:20).  This was His promise in John 11:25-26 as He spoke to Martha – “I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die”

Jesus proved His bodily resurrection to His disciples in Luke 24: 37-43, when He told them “Look at my hands and my feet.  It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have” (v. 39).  He even ate before them, as further evidence that death has no hold on the Author of life.

Jesus declared that ours will be a bodily resurrection, just as His was.   The most important Scriptural evidence came when He addressed the Sadducees in Matthew 22, He said “But about the resurrection of the dead – have you know read what God said to you, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’?  He is not the God of the dead but of the living” (vs. 31-32).  Dr. R. C. Sproul says “Our Lord’s argument seems to be based partly on the use of the present tense; God said, ‘I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,’ not ‘I was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.’”[i]  He is the God of life, and will raise to life all who believe in Him.

Philippians 3:21 is another confirmation of the resurrection of the body: “Jesus Christ…will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body.”  In this body we will enjoy everlasting, or eternal life, as Jesus Himself promised: “I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life” (John 6:47).

Paul gives us an excellent source of information for the resurrection of the body in 1 Corinthians 15: 35-57.   He says that we will have imperishable, glorious bodies, raised in power and in the Spirit (v. 42-44); we will “bear the likeness of the man from heaven” (v. 49); we “will be raised imperishable and immortal” (v. 53).

John writes “This is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.  He who has the Son has life” (1 John 5:11-12).

What does this all mean to you and me?   No more death, no more tears, no more crying or mourning or pain.  The Lord said, “I am making everything new” (Rev. 21:4-5).  That includes you and me and every person who has placed their faith in Jesus Christ, the salvation of all mankind. He will bring us, with transformed bodies, into everlasting life.  That is the greatest news the world has ever known.

Lord Jesus, when I think of the resurrection of the body, I always think that I will have hands, to hold the hand of my Savior; arms to throw around You in a loving embrace, and lips to sing Your wonderful praises with the angels of heaven.  Oh what glory that will be!  Amen.


 

[i] Sproul, R. C. “Tabletalk Devotional with RC Sproul.” Bible Gateway. September 24, 2013. http://www.biblegateway.com/devotionals/tabletalk/2013/09/24 (accessed September 24, 2013).

 

Lessons From A Woman Scorned

“The angel of the Lord found Hagar…” Genesis 16:7

I’m spending some time in the Word this morning studying Genesis 16 and 21, specifically looking at one woman’s encounter with God.  Hagar was an Egyptian slave, serving as handmaiden to Sarai, the wife of Abram.  You may know them better by the names God would give them later: Sarah and Abraham.  A woman in Hagar’s position was bound by any request of her mistress, and Sarai needed Hagar to perform a service that was quite common in the Ancient Near East – to serve as a surrogate mother and bear a child for the barren Sarai.  Without being terribly indelicate, that meant Hagar would sleep with Abram. When she learned that she was pregnant with Abram’s child – something that Sarai couldn’t accomplish – Hagar “began to despise her mistress.” (Gen. 16:4b). In my Alabama home, we would say Hagar got uppity with Sarai.  This caused much strife between Sarai and Hagar, as you can imagine. Sarai returned Hagar’s attitude and began to mistreat the Egyptian, to the point that Hagar ran away from her mistress, into the unforgiving wilderness

Lesson #1 – When God blesses you, don’t get prideful and uppity.  When the Lord initially called Abram, He made this promise: “I will bless you…and you will be a blessing” (Genesis 12:2).  Pride is a dangerous thing before God, especially when we become prideful over the blessings God has poured out on us.  He blesses that we might in turn bless others

In the wilderness, Hagar stopped to rest.  Scripture tells us “The angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the desert” (Gen. 16:7).

Lesson #2 – God will seek out His wayward children.  The Hebrew word for “found” means “to cause to encounter,” God purposefully put Himself in Hagar’s path to cause her to have an encounter with Him. Go with me to Jesus’ parables in Luke 15.  First the parable of the lost sheep – the shepherd goes out on a mission to locate and rescue His lost lamb (Lk 15:4-7).  The woman searches her house over to find her lost coin (Lk. 15:5-10) and the father searches the horizon continually, looking for his wayward son.  God doesn’t go on a seek-and-find mission, He set Himself right where He knew she was going, because she was His wounded child and His heart was tender to her.  (Note that her wounds all started out of her own pride and arrogance.  Even when we are the root of our problems, God still desires to restore us to Himself.

Hagar encountered God – and gained precious insight into who He is.  Through the angel’s assurances, she learned that the God of her master was very much aware of her and her plight.  She named the Lord El Roi – “the God who sees me” (Gen. 16:13).  This was an awesome insight for the Egyptian, because the pagan gods gave no notice to humans, unless they displeased them in some way.  But here God revealed Himself as a God who watched over His people and tenderly cares for them.

Lesson #3 – God often reveals Himself to us in our times of struggle and pain.

Had Hagar not been lost in the wilderness, running from the hard hand of her mistress, she would have never encountered the Lord and come to know this tender heart of the God who saw her.  I know this lesson has been true in my life.  So often I have discovered aspects of God that I would have never known had I not been in difficult circumstances.  When I was unable to pay my rent, I discovered Jehovah-Jireth – the Lord who Provides (Gen. 22:8). When my husband was desperately ill I found Jehovah Rapha – The Lord our Healer (Ps. 103:3). When I was discouraged and fearful, Jehovah Shalom – The Lord is Peace (Jud. 6:23-24) and Yahweh-Tsuri – The Lord my Strength (Ex. 15:2) came to encourage and strengthen me.  If you are in a difficult season, look for God to reveal Himself to you in a new and encouraging way.

After the birth of Ishmael (which means The Lord has heard – Gen 16:11) Hagar and her son were forced to leave their home with Abraham and Sarah, because of Sarah’s jealousy.  Abraham gave them a little food and water and sent them to wander in the desert.  This was a certain death sentence, and sure enough the water ran out and as they became dangerously dehydrated, Hagar recognized their inevitable deaths.  She put Ishmael under a tree and walked away, so as not to watch her weakened son die.  She and the boy were both crying, and God – once again – came to Hagar and assured her that they would not die, for God had a future planned out for the boy.  Genesis 21:19 says, “Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water.”  Oh see the beauty of this passage, El Roi – the God who saw Hagar, now opened Hagar’s eyes so she could see.  He showed her a well of water, life giving water that would minister to their bodies and to their spirits.

Lesson #4 – The God who see you and me will open our eyes so we can see Him. When your eyes are blinded with tears, God will come and tenderly wipe away your tears so you can see that He is with you and will comfort and care for you.  This is one of the most precious promises in the Bible to me “The Lord your God will be with you where you go” (Jos. 1:9).  I have found myself in some difficult places and very hard circumstances, but I have never been out of my Heavenly Father’s sight.  In the margin of my Bible I have written these words that God spoke to my heart: “Child, there is no place you can go that I will not be.”  Whether they are physical places or emotional pits and spiritual dark caves – God has promised “I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Jos. 1:5)

If He went to the cross, and into the dark grave of death for us, then we can trust that He will never abandon us, no matter where we are.  Did Jesus not say, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

I think of all the lessons we can take away from the life of Hagar, the most important one is this: Lesson #5 – God is forever faithful.  He was faithful to a frightened, lost Egyptian slave girl, and He will be faithful to you and me.

 

El Emunah – The Faithful God, thank you for always keeping Your watchful and loving eyes on me.  Wherever I am Lord, I will trust in You.  Amen

Please Forgive Me (Part 9 in the Apostle’s Creed series)

“Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’”  Luke 23:34

 

THE APOSTLES’ CREED

I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth;

And in Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, our Lord;

Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, Born of the Virgin Mary,

Suffered under Pontius Pilate, Crucified, dead and buried;

He descended into hell, The third day He rose from the dead;

He ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand

of God the Father Almighty;

From thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit; The Holy catholic Church;

The communion of saints; The forgiveness of sins;

 

I believe in the forgiveness of sins.  I am grateful to the depth of my soul for the forgiveness of my sins.  Let’s take a closer look at this part of the Apostle’s Creed.

Why do we need forgiveness?  Because we are creatures given to sin.  The first man and woman, Adam and Eve, committed what is known as the “original sin,” and mankind has born the burden of that sin ever since.  But surely, we don’t consider ourselves as “sinful.”  We are making “life-style choices,” living as the “free people” we are.  This is a new age, and the concept of “sin” is terribly outdated.  Our society has tried to deny the truth of sin, to call it less than what it is- a personal offense against God’s holiness.  It is the true story of the history of man.  Paul expressed it like this: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”(Romans 3:23). The penalty of sin?  “The wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23).

Well sure, we are all going to die, right?  But this is an eternal death that is best described in Revelation 21:8: “The cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murder, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars – their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur.  This will be the second death.” I tried to find a nicer way to say it, but the Bible is very clear about the result of man’s sin.  If I water it down, I am not being faithful to the Word of God.  It’s not popular or “politically correct,” but hear Paul’s words: “For those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.” (Romans 2:8).

I hear you saying, “This is so depressing, I thought this was going to be about forgiveness.”  And it is, but we cannot understand and appreciate forgiveness until we understand the truth about sin.  When we are faced with the darkness of our sin, the glory of God’s forgiveness through Jesus Christ shines like stars in the night sky.

Paul recognized the blackness of his sin in Romans 7:24 when he cried out: “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from the body of death?” It is a question that has only one answer, and Paul followed his lament with a blessed proclamation: “Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:25)

Jesus Christ is the answer to man’s sin problem.  He gave His perfect life as the only acceptable sacrifice for our sin.  He bought our forgiveness with His blood.  There was nothing you or I could do to gain forgiveness. Jesus did everything necessary for us to be forgiven and made right with God.  Romans 4:25 says “He [Jesus] was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.”  To be justified means that we are declared innocent in God’s sight – “Just-if-I’d never sinned”  Paul goes on with this thought in Romans 5:9 – “Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him!”   Do you see now why we needed a Savior? Forgiveness is possible only through Jesus Christ.

If Jesus did it all, what, then, is our part?  Peter tells us the most precious truth you and I will ever hear, “Everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name.” (Acts 10:43).  Simply believe.   Believe that you are a sinner, helpless against God’s wrath.  Believe that Jesus Christ paid your sin-debt and His sacrifice on the cross is all you need to be forgiven and made right with God.  1 John 1:9 makes this promise: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

Sweet, glorious forgiveness from the merciful and loving heart of God, made possible by the sacrifice of our Savior Jesus Christ.  It can be yours right now, by praying this simple prayer:

God, I know that I am a sinner, and I cannot save myself.  Thank you for sending Jesus to take away all my sins. I accept Your gift of forgiveness today.  Thank you for giving me a new life in Christ.  Amen.