Access Granted

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Ephesians 2:4-7 (AMP), “But God, being [so very] rich in mercy, because of His great and wonderful love with which He loved us, even when we were [spiritually] dead and separated from Him because of our sins, He made us [spiritually] alive together with Christ (for by His grace—His undeserved favor and mercy—you have been saved from God’s judgment). And He raised us up together with Him [when we believed], and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, [because we are] in Christ Jesus, [and He did this] so that in the ages to come He might [clearly] show the immeasurable and unsurpassed riches of His grace in [His] kindness toward us in Christ Jesus [by providing for our redemption]. For it is by grace [God’s remarkable compassion and favor drawing you to Christ] that you have been saved [actually delivered from judgment and given eternal life] through faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [not through your own effort], but it is the [undeserved, gracious] gift of God; not as a result of [your] works [nor your attempts to keep the Law], so that no one will [be able to] boast or take credit in any way [for his salvation]. For we are His workmanship [His own master work, a work of art], created in Christ Jesus [reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, ready to be used] for good works, which God prepared [for us] beforehand [taking paths which He set], so that we would walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us].”

How many of us as children wanted to belong to a “club”? We put signs on our bedroom doors, or the latter of our tree houses that read something like, “for girls only,” or “club members only.” Maybe we even had a secret handshake or a password to get in.

Heaven has a password… no really. It is the same password that gets us victory over any circumstance and sets the enemy running. I am sure you guessed it by now. Our password is “JESUS”.

Now, not just anyone who uses that name is part of the club. Even He said that some would knock on the door saying, “Lord, Lord, let us in,” yet not be able to pass through. He said that just knowing His name isn’t enough; we have to know Him in a close relationship. (Luke 27, Matthew 25)

The good news is that this club isn’t for just a special group. It’s open to everyone and anyone that chooses to get to know their Creator, anyone who is willing to open their heart to His love. We don’t earn entry, there is no exam, no great quest, no change of behavior, no dress code, or any conditions whatsoever. Well, maybe one… admitting our need for Him. As soon as we realize we have messed things up all on our own, or just come to the realization that there is Someone who really, truly loves us, and we give up, then we belong to the club.

Ephesians 2 tells us that salvation, accepting Jesus’ work on our behalf, is a free gift! That we were actually created to be like Him, to do good works that God has prearranged for us to do. It tells us that we are seated in Heaven, right now! Not just getting to go there someday, no, at the time I am seated at my computer writing this, I am also seated in Heaven with Him. When I am working, driving, sleeping, and yes, even when I have a bad day and am nagging my husband, I am still seated there with Him. I have access to the Father through Christ’s shed blood. I am living from Heaven because I live there. Access to all the Father has for me has been granted. All I have to do is believe it and accept it.

Religion can’t do that for me, laws, rules, sacrifices, and bribes can’t do it.

Only a relationship with the Father can.

Ephesians 1:3-7 (KJB), “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.”

His good pleasure? It was to pour out His blood to redeem us so that we can abide in Him forever. Jesus is in me, I am in Him and we are both seated in Heavenly places. No enemy can take me away from my home, no sin can keep me from my position. If I mess up, I fess up and plead the blood over my life. God sees His Son in me and forgives it all. We don’t have to be perfect, just honest and real before Him.

He loves us that much. I am adopted into His family. He calls me “beloved.”

Sojourner

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Ephesians 2:1-10 (HCSB), “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins in which you previously walked according to the ways of this world, according to the ruler who exercises authority over the lower heavens, the spirit now working in the disobedient. We too all previously lived among them in our fleshly desires, carrying out the inclinations of our flesh and thoughts, and we were by nature children under wrath as the others were also. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, made us alive with the Messiah even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace! Together with Christ Jesus He also raised us up and seated us in the heavens, so that in the coming ages He might display the immeasurable riches of His grace through His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For you are saved by graces through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s giftnot from works, so that no one can boast. For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.”

You may see my physical body here on earth and, yes, I am a citizen of the United States of America. However, I am really a citizen of Heaven. This earth isn’t my true home. I am just passing through. Heaven is my real home. I am only on a temporary visit here.

I am a sojourner.

Philippians 3:20-21 (NIV), “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.”

According to orton.org the responsibility of a US citizen is:

We must obey laws or pay consequences. Good citizenship for adults also means serving on jury duty and paying taxes. Responsibilities: As an adult, being an informed citizen about our government and community is an important responsibility. Voting in elections is just one responsibility of all good citizens.”

Let’s take a lesson from the natural responsibilities. First we must obey the laws or pay the consequences. Let me first remind you, that in our Heavenly Citizenship we no longer obey the Law of Moses, but the Law of Love. However, there is still a law and our responsibility is to obey it. Jesus said if we loved Him, we would obey His law.

Luke 10:27 (NASB), “And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”

Next, we must serve on jury duty (judge between right and wrong) and pay our taxes (give God His ten percent, a tithe of all our increase, time, energy, and resources). The most important, in my opinion, is to be informed of the government (God) and our community (fellow believers). For us, that means knowing who God is, what He has done for us, what His plan is, and who we are in Christ. It includes being a vibrant part of a local church and building relationships with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Every citizen should know the laws of the land they live in. Now, I know that in the natural they pass new laws every day, but God’s ways are not complicated. He made everything simple. Though we don’t “vote” Him into office, we do choose to place ourselves under His leadership, so shouldn’t we know what He stands for? Wouldn’t it be beneficial to know His likes and dislikes? What is His plan for His people?

I think it also important to note, that even in the natural, these responsibilities are for adults. Children are a gift and a blessing, but they don’t contribute much in the respect of building a nation. Caring for them is very important and training them up to be good citizens as well. They will be our future adults and leaders after all. However, it takes productive adults to build a nation, those who are able and willing to work, to live right, to set good examples, and to be upstanding citizens, those who will represent their Sovereign well.

We all know some Christians who have the “Peter Pan Syndrome” and just don’t want to grow up. They prefer to have someone else doing the work and pressing in, while they get changed and fed and… babied.

If we remember that our visit here is temporary, we will want to grow up and move on, accomplish as much as we can in our short stay. Think of a vacation. For most of us they are too short. So we cram as much in as we can in the few days set aside. Who wants to waste time? The Psalms continue to remind us that our lives here are just a vapor. If we don’t get going on vacation the worst thing that happens is we don’t get to see everything we wanted to, or experience it all. If we waste time as citizens of Heaven, the consequences are much greater, we lose souls, and if we aren’t careful maybe even our own. Instead of adding to the family, we may hinder the growth of His Church.

Don’t get caught up in the cares of this world, it’s not your home. Change what you can change (always being led by His Spirit), pray about what you can’t, and move on. Don’t let yourself get anxious. “This too shall pass” applies to our short time here. Whatever we may suffer here is nothing compared to the glory we will experience and though it may seem to take forever for an answer, think about the situation in light of eternity. We aren’t waiting to experience Heaven, we should be experiencing it here and now. Again, think of a vacation, what if you could bring that cruise ship home and park it in your yard, or what if your daily budget on vacation was your normal daily budget in real life? Life would be pretty sweet wouldn’t’ it.

God has given it all to us, right now. We don’t have to wait for Heaven “one day”.

A sojourner doesn’t put any permanence on his stay; he knows that his forever home won’t be here. He isn’t building his mansion in his temporary country or laying up stores there. He knows he won’t be around to enjoy it. God wants us blessed here and now, but He doesn’t want our focus to be on temporary blessing. If we keep our eyes on Him, we will have what we need here and be laying up treasures in Heaven.

Matthew 6:19-21 (NIV), “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

 

 

 

What Are You Building Out Of?

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I Corinthians 3:10-13 (KJV) “According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise master builder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth hereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.”

What would you prefer to have your building made out of? The choices are gold, silver and precious stones or wood, hay and stubble. The rich building materials represent things that aren’t easily found, they are rare, they last, and they have value. They can be tried by fire and retain their beauty and form. The others are easily found building materials, quite common actually. During those fiery trials…they burn up. In a stiff wind or a storm, they blow away. The wood here isn’t big oak logs, but more like the twigs of the “Three Little Pigs” story. These building materials are easily corruptible. They rot, they mold, and they lose their strength over time.

The bible uses the word “stubble” quite often. Some versions replace it with the word “chaff.”
In Isaiah 5, Isaiah talks about the wicked. Verse 24 (NASB) says, “Therefore, as a tongue of fire consumes stubble and dry grass collapses into the flame, so their root will become like rot and their blossom blow away as dust; for they have rejected the law of the LORD of hosts and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.”
Isaiah 40:23-24 (NLT) “He judges the great people of the world and brings them all to nothing. They hardly get started, barely taking root, when he blows on them and they wither. The wind carries them off like chaff.”
Isaiah talks about sorcerers, astrologers, soothsayers and the like in Isaiah 47:14 (NIV). “Surely they are like stubble; the fire will burn them up. They cannot even save themselves from the power of the flame. These are not coals for warmth; this is not a fire to sit by.”

That is our poor building material; let’s take a look at the better stuff. Proverbs 3:13-15 (NIV) talks about wisdom. “Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold. She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her.”

The temple was full of these precious building materials. All of the wood, which was the best of the best, was still covered in gold, silver and bronze. All of the articles were made of the same metals. The ephod had twelve precious stones. (Exodus 24, I Kings). Heaven is a wonderful place. The Bible tells us that the streets of the city are gold, the walls are made of twelve precious stones and the gates are giant pearls.

Now, we who are now in the family of God, who have made Jesus our Lord, are building. Jesus and his plan of salvation is the foundation. What building material are we adding to this foundation? Are we building what will remain? What has eternal value? Or will it be burnt up in the flames? It all depends on our motives and whether or not we are hearing from God, or just doing what seems right to us. All good ideas aren’t God ideas.
Getting rich so that we can buy more toys: Stubble.

Allowing God to prosper us so that we can use it for the Kingdom: Gold.
Singing on the praise and worship team so that others can see us: Twigs.
Singing on the praise and worship team so that we can lift up Jesus and give glory to God: Rubies.
Are you getting the picture?

Why Can’t I Just Go Home?

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Should we long to go to Heaven and despise our time here?

Philippians 1:20-26 (NAS) “according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better ; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith, so that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again.”

Paul is clear. For him to die and be home with Jesus was a great gain. But staying here meant working towards a goal, serving Christ, and saving others from an eternity in hell. It was more necessary, for the sake of others, for him to remain and continue in what God had called him to do.

I strongly believe we are living in the last days.
I Thessalonians 5:1-11 (NKJV) “But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation. For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him.”

As children of the light, we can see the timeline is quickly approaching the second coming of Jesus. But we don’t live in fear; we do continue to be ‘citizens’ of heaven. Philippians 1:27-30 (NIV) says, “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have. Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.” We keep doing what we are supposed to. We occupy until He comes. We go to work, raise our families and continue to live worthy. Most importantly, we be the ‘salt’ God calls us to be. We salt the earth, make it palatable, preserve life, and season God’s word. We purify the atmosphere we live in. God forbid we leave so many behind to die in their sins.

So some of us may die before Christ’s return. Some of us may get to be caught up in the air with Him. But all of us should be living like He is calling us home today.

Don’t waste a single opportunity!

II Timothy 4:1-8 (NIV) “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”

Matthew 24:14 (NASB) “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.”

What Are You Looking For?

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Multitudes came to Jesus. He was the rock-star, the all-star of His day (minus the money and the attitude). Why did they come? What were they looking for?

Some came seeking a healer. Like Blind Bartimaeus, or the woman with the issue of blood. Some came looking for salvation. Like the woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears. Some were looking for deliverance. Like the Gaderine or the Canaanite woman whose daughter was demon possessed.

But there were others who came for less spiritual reasons. They were like the Roman mobs who demanded “bread and games.” Who flocked to the arena to be entertained and fed. Or like modern Americans who are looking for a “free ride” and a not-so-real reality show.

Jesus at the end of a long day of ministry looked around at the thousands of people and had compassion on them. He told the disciples to feed them. Of course there was some confusion on how to do that until they found the five small loaves and the two fish, and Jesus proceeded to feed them all. It happened twice. Both times there was enough food for perhaps a couple of people, and Jesus not only fed thousands, but they gathered up baskets full of left-overs. After that the people followed Him because of the food.

He also had those who asked for a sign. Something to “wow” them. Something they hadn’t seen before. They treated their Savior like a wind-up toy, demanding that he entertain them. Some came just to watch Him long enough to catch Him in a lie, or a sin so that they could expose Him for what they thought He was.
Jesus rebuked them for their lack of faith and understanding. He told those that were looking for food, that He was the bread of life and that they needed to eat His body and drink His blood. They were horrified and many left, never to return. When He asked the twelve if they were going to leave, Peter who sometimes seemed so dull, said “Where would we go? You have the words of Life.”

Some came and still come to Him, hoping for a quick fix, a way to make life easier. But following Jesus isn’t about an easy life or prosperity. Yes, the Father wants to bless us and give us good things, and He will. But Jesus warns us “that in this life you will have trouble.” But He also tells us not to fear because He is with us. Shortly after the two bread and fish feasts, Jesus is explaining to the disciples and the multitude that the elders would reject Him, that He would be killed, and that He would rise up. Peter tried to correct Him, only to be rebuked himself.

Mark 8:34-35 “Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.”
The Message Bible says it this way: “Calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to saving yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? What could you ever trade your soul for?”

Before the first nail was ever driven into those kind work-callused hands, He spoke of carrying a cross of our own. My cross is not illness, my disobedient child, my needy mother, or that awful job. No, my cross is my flesh, my ungodly thought patterns and my own will. What did Jesus say in the garden when He anguished over His own cross? “Not my will, but yours.” I have to carry that cross-not indefinitely-just until I reach my own Calvary where I crucify my flesh and rise again with Christ.

Sometimes I find myself out of the Kingdom of Heaven and back into the world. My flesh is rebelling and my mind is full of those un-truths again. Then I have to pick up my cross again-and take my sin to God. He is always quick to forgive. How can I crucify this flesh? Say what God says about me, my situation. Do what He tells me. Read His word, replace the lies with the truth. Fast! Pray for others. Put others first. Thank God for your child, and that job. Honor your mother and rebuke that illness.

The Kingdom of God isn’t about “bread and games.” It is about living in Him. Showing the world how much He cares about us. It’s about walking in our authority, giving of ourselves. It’s about giving and receiving. Sometimes it’s about sacrifice. Living for Him instead of our own selfish desires.

Mark 8:36-37 “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”

What are you looking for?

Lyrics for “Enthralled by Your Love”

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Enthralled by Your Love

They left me empty and broken.
I searched for the one who could put me back together again.

I could not escape from the pain,
giving myself to the darkness, trying to hide from my shame.

In this hopeless place, you found me.
Instead of piecing me back together, you made something brand new out of me.

Chorus/bridge:
I am you beloved, your bride, sitting in heaven by your side.
Enthroned in your beauty and grace, enthralled by the love in your gaze.

When I was lost, you searched for me.
I found my worth in the price that you paid to bring me liberty.

You saw me for what I could be,
captured my heart with your love, making me into royalty.

Chorus/bridge:
I am you beloved, your bride, sitting in heaven by your side.
Enthroned in your beauty and grace, enthralled by the love in your gaze.

Copyright © by Jodi Woody
August 21, 2013

Lyrics for “Free”

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Free
From your Holy Temple
From your Heavenly Throne
You are watching over me.

Your death on the cross
Purchased back your own
Though once was bound now I’m free

Chorus:
I am free to love, Free to live
Free to serve, free to give
All for you-all for you
The King

You have seated me there
In Heaven with you
Given me authority

You have called me out
I have work to do
Setting those in bondage free!

They are free to love, free to live
Free to serve, free to give
All for you- all for you
Our King

Bridge:
I will go to the camp of the enemy
I will shout from my heart-screaming LIBERTY!
No more bondage-no more shame-no more sickness-no more pain-no more lack-no more fear-no more wait-the time is here!

We are free to love, free to live
Free to serve, free to give
All for you-all for you
The King

Copyright © by Jodi Woody
August 9, 2013