I am a Citizen of Heaven

A Heavenly Home

For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland.
And truly if they had called to mind that [country] from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return.
But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly [country]. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.
–Hebrews 11:14-16, NKJV

I love Steven Curtis Chapman’s music. As I read through these verse, his song ‘burn the ships’ came to my mind. It’s been years since I’ve listened to it, but the chorus still echoes strong.

Burn the ships, we’re here to stay
There’s no way we could go back
Now that we’ve come this far by faith
Burn the ships, we’ve passed the point of no return
Our life is here
So let the ships burn

The fleet had landed. They’d committed to this new adventure, to a new home. That home hadn’t been realized yet, and the journey to it was harder than anyone had imagined, but they couldn’t go back. Cortez wouldn’t let them.

Faith is a sure confidence in things yet unseen. Home is a hope of a life fulfilled, a joy sustained and a wholeness unsurpassed.

None of these things are realized here on earth–not completely. There’s always a little longing in our hearts, always something waiting to be filled. Because this isn’t home.

CS Lewis wrote “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

I have a heavenly home, I was made for it, and I long for it. This world cannot offer enough pleasure to fill the void of yearning. So, I press on. My heart is there, how could I turn back?

I am Precious

I Am Precious

David said to him, “Do not fear, for I will surely show kindness to you for the sake of your father Jonathan, and will restore to you all the land of your grandfather Saul; and you shall eat at my table regularly.”

Again he prostrated himself and said, “What is your servant, that you should regard a dead dog like me?” ~2 Samuel 9:7-8 NASB

From Jen:

Imagine a story—any story where there are kings and noblemen, castles and suits of armor. Got that story in your mind? Good. Now put yourself in it. But instead of the castleprincess of the realm, you are the peasant. The maid who does all of the work, who is dressed in rags and smells bad and can’t read or write.

How do you feel?

Now, imagine that you are still that lowly peasant, but you’ve received an invitation. You know enough that it carries the seal of the King—it’s actually from him. Are you going to put it on a shelf, unopened, and let it live there?

No way! You’re going to find a way to discover what’s written inside—and a good thing, too. You’re invited to not only see the King, but to stay with Him. To live with Him and become part of his household.

Now how do you feel?

From Susan

Like Cinderella.  I’d be so awed by that invitation that I’d use my sharpest knife to just barely lift the seal, mindful not to crease it.  I’d hold the creamy paper in trembling hands.  I’d sign up for literacy classes just so I could read the thing myself, and then I’d stare at it until the words were engraved on my heart.  I’d show it to every one of my stinky peasant friends.  “Look.  The king has invited me to the palace, and he wants me to become … a princess.”

The invitation is, of course, the Bible.  It shows me the way to the place of my King.

In the verses Jen chose for us today, King David invited the grandson of his predecessor to the palace.  Poor, lame Mephibosheth must have been terrified.  Was this powerful king going to run him through with his shiny sword?  Mephibosheth was, after all, the grandson of King David’s rival.  Did David want to make sure Mephibosheth wasn’t going to try to usurp the throne?

But no.  David welcomed him not as an enemy but as a precious member of the royal family.  “So Mephibosheth ate at David’s table, just like one of the king’s sons.” 2 Sam 9:11b HCS.

I, too, was an enemy of the King.  Not only an enemy, but a hygiene-challenged peasant.  God sent me an invitation to dine at his table daily as a princess. I treasure that invitation.  I read the Bible daily, because I treasure the time in His presence.

The King looked at me, his enemy dressed in rags, and found me precious.

I am secure

I am Secure: Safe in His Providential Care

time in hand“But as for me, I trust in you, oh Lord… My times are in your hands.”

~Psalm 31:14-15a, NASB

This little nugget of beauty is stuck in the middle of a lament. The verse before ends with “they scheme to take away my life.”

Some wonder how one can live with hope when they are surrounded by despair. Here is the anchor, the hand-hold on truth:  My times are in God’s hands. And this God is mighty in power, gentle in spirit, loving at heart and good in all He does. Though thunder rolls and waves crash and fires blaze all around, my life is kept secure in the immutable hand of God. Things may not make sense from where I stand, but His plan is sure and will not be thwarted.

I often listen to Alistair Begg while I’m on the elliptical at our local YMCA, and this week I went through his series called “my times are in your hands,” which came straight from Psalm 31. I loved what he had to say about this verse, this security.

“I am not trapped in the grip of blind force.”

In other words, my life is not shackled to an ambivalent fate. My life, my everyday living and doing; my past, my present and my future is held fast by the very hands of creation.

I am secure

I am Secure: A Joint Post

 

“My sheep hear My voice, I know them, and they follow Me.  I give them eternal life, and they will never perish—ever! No one will snatch them out of my hand” ~John 10:27-28 HCS

From Susan

My husband, Steve, carrying two porcupines but no warthog, walked back to the village outpost, which was nothing more than a couple of mud huts and a watering hole.  He and his West African hunting buddies sank into bamboo chairs in the shade under a rice-sack lean-to.  They’d have to wait until evening to try again.  The conversation died down, and a few of the men drifted off to sleep.

Steve was awake, though, when two flocks of sheep arrived at the watering hole from two different directions, each led by a Fulani man carrying a shepherd’s stick across his shoulders.  Sheep from both flocks melded together in one bleating, thirsty mass.  The shepherds spread out their mats under a mango tree and brewed tea over a little fire while the animals drank and milled around.

About an hour later, one of the shepherds stood to leave.  He didn’t even glance at the sheep.  He just took out a tin can and beat a rhythm on it as he walked away.Fulani Shepherd

Half the sheep scrambled, pushed and even climbed over others in a frantic effort to follow him.  The shepherd chose a path next to Steve’s lean-to, and the sheep, many running to catch up, did too.

The other half of the sheep? They just hung out at the watering hole, unfazed.  Their shepherd still sat beneath the tree.

From Jen

As Christians, we may mingle and blend with another flock, but the sheep who belong to the Savior follow His voice. In Him we have safety. In Him we have everything we need.

Sheep need the care of the shepherd. Left to their own, they overgraze their food source, and have a tendency to get themselves in difficult, life-threatening situations. They simply need the overseeing protection of one who is wiser and who can meet the needs they are unable to meet on their own.

No wonder God often uses the image of a shepherd and his sheep. Left to our own, we take the good in front of us and misuse it to our destruction, we let ‘blessings’ over come us until we cannot stand under the weight of it all, and we love to see how far we can stretch the boundaries until we find ourselves in difficult, sometimes life-threatening situations.

We need His care. His protection.

Security comes from the shepherd. He tends His flock with wisdom and love. He leads us to green pastures and guides us to calm waters. He meets every one of our needs.

And all I need to do? Simply follow His voice.

I am loved

I Am Loved By God; I Must Love Others

“This is how we have come to know love: He laid down His life for us.  We should also lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has this world’s goods and sees his brother in need but shuts off him compassion from him–how can God’s love reside in him? Little children, me must not love in word or speech, but in deed and truth.”  1 John 3:16

God loved me in deed.  He didn’t just sit and heaven and spout pretty words at me.  Nor did he just hang out on his throne and feel tender toward me.  He did something.  He stepped out of the splendor of heaven, strapped on some first-century sandals, and chose a torturous death to become the sacrifice for my sin – just so I’d have a way to him, a way to receive his love.

And he asks me to love those around me the same way.

It’s pretty easy to think about acting out my love to my children or my husband.  I cook, clean, comfort, help with homework, drive to endless basketball practices.  I love them in deed.  Why?  Because I have oceans of loving feelings for them.  I enjoy them.  They love me back.

Ditto for my fun, giving friends.  Easy to feel love.  Easy to act on it.

But what of the people I don’t feel warm and fuzzy about?  Take, for example, women who are struggling in poverty’s clutches or chained by addictions.  They’ve got emotional issues springing from abuses I can’t even imagine.  They’re overly needy.  Clingy.  I am to love them in deed.  I am to do something about it.  Take them to lunch.  Give them a ride. Listen to their hearts.  Love them, when I receive nothing from them in return. Love them when it doesn’t feel fun.

Or … my enemies?  I’m supposed to love them the same way.  I may not be able to muster a single happy feeling toward them, but I am to act out love.  Patience.  Kindness.  Not holding a grudge.  These things are not feelings.  They are deeds.

God passionately loves me, and believing that gives me wholeness.  It gives me peace.  But my emotional well-being isn’t God’s only goal in loving me.  He commands me to take my full cup and pass it on to the people around me, lovely or not.

I am loved

I Am Loved: Loved With Joy

“The Lord your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, he will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.” Zephaniah 3:17 NKJV

I wondered what that meant–“He will be quiet in His love”. Does it mean that because He loves me He will cease rebuking? No, I don’t think that’s right. The proverbs tell us that The Lord rebukes the son that He loves. I needed to do some digging.

I’m so glad I did.

It’s interesting to note that the Hebrew word used here was commonly used to denote the love between a man and a woman. Love like what we think of in human terms. Love that is deeply felt and pursued by choice.

Have you ever been told that you’re difficult to love? Ouch. I mean, really, ouch. That sting doesn’t quit.

Maybe sometimes we read of God’s agape– his unique, divine love–and we think in the secret, wounded places of our hearts “I like that, but He loves me because He must. . . Because He is love.” Something in that robs a bit of the sheen from that truth.

Listen, oh my tender heart, to what Matthew Henry writes of this verse:

“I know not where there is the like expression of Christ’s love to his church. . . The great God not only loves his saints, but he loves to love them, is pleased that he has pitched upon these objects of his love.”

This is the kind of love a bridegroom lavishes upon his bride as he stares into her eyes with wonder and joy and LOVE.

And my God looks at me like that? My heart just melted. He loves me with a joyful love!

I am loved

I Am Loved: Pursued by Love

“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found [it], he lays [it] on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together [his] friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!” Luke 15:4-6 NKJV

These verses did not come up when I ran a topical search on Gods love for me. But as I prayed this morning, this is where the Spirit lead. Reading over the familiar passage, I could hear the wonderful, slight brogue of Alistair Begg as he animated these verses in a sermon I listened to over a year ago.

“You see, I love that wee lamb, and I’m going after her . . .”

Love in action. That’s what this passage is. Though I am but a small lamb in a large flock, insignificant on the surface, ordinary and easily passed over, Jesus says, “I love you, and I’ll seek you out when you lose your way. I’ll find you, and when I do, I will lift your trembling frame to my shoulders, because I know that your tired and afraid, and I will carry you back to safety. And I will rejoice, for I have found my lost lamb.”

Wow. That kind of love goes beyond a proclamation . . . A love that pursues is true love indeed. And I am the object of His pursuit.