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What’s Your Ticket to Heaven?

ticket toheaven
All the love in the world cannot and will not get you into heaven. The world would like us to believe that church membership, love for humanity, devotion to humanitarian causes and good deeds will add points to gaining a ticket to heaven and eternal life.

WRONG! Sorry to burst your bubble, but only a personal relationship with Jesus will get you through the pearly gates. Oh how we like to envision that everyone who is ‘good’ and passes into the hereafter is heaven bound; but based on bible scriptures and the words of Jesus, it just isn’t true.

The enemy of this world, Satan, is a master of deceit and has convinced many that our ticket to heaven is by our good works. Our only way to eternal life comes only through our acceptance of God’s grace. Good deeds and efforts are meaningless to God if we haven’t put our faith in Jesus.

What is God’s grace?

God sent His son, Jesus, to die on the cross and shed his blood in payment for our sin. It is that sacrifice alone and a soul stamped with the blood of Jesus that gains us entry into the gates of heaven.

“But we know that no one is made right with God by meeting the demands of the law. It is only through the faithfulness of Jesus the Anointed that salvation is even possible. This is why we put faith in Jesus the Anointed: so we will be put right with God. It’s His faithfulness—not works prescribed by the law—that puts us in right standing with God because no one will be acquitted and declared “right” for doing what the law demands.”  Galatians 2:16 (VOICE)

Say what? Let me clarify.

The above scripture and many others confirm this truth. Our good works are meaningless to God if we believe them to be a redemptive way to earn our way into heaven. Not happening!

It’s God’s grace and faithfulness, not our works that acquits us of our sin and gives us right standing before God. Grace is found in the death, burial and resurrection of His son, Jesus. Our acceptance of this grace is called salvation.

Faithfulness is an extension of God’s grace to continually work within our life to accomplish his purpose and goodwill. Only by doing HIS works for HIS purpose under HIS grace is anything we do counted righteous.

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.”
Proverbs 19:21

I encourage everyone to do good works while living on earth. But if you are counting on your works to earn you a seat at the banquet table in heaven, think again.

The only way to get a ticket stamped for heaven is to accept Jesus as your savior and acknowledge that His blood sacrifice at the cross is your only redemption from sin.

Remember the thief next to Jesus on the cross?

In death he asked Jesus “Remember me when You come into Your kingdom!” (Luke 23:42) This thief had likely done nothing good in his lifetime, yet he was given admission into God’s kingdom by grace alone.

“Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43

It’s hard for us to accept that there is nothing we can do now or ever to earn the grace of God. It goes against everything this world tells us. Yet, that’s the beauty of grace, it’s a gift.  We can’t buy, earn or barter with grace. Our only option is to accept it.

What will be stamped on your ticket at death?

Will it read Redeemed by God’s Grace or Redeemed by my own self-worth and good works? It’s probably a question you should ask yourself sooner than later. No one knows the time of their death but, today, as you read this post you have been given an opportunity to buy your ticket to heaven in advance, before it expires.

people are destined to die once and then face (God’s) judgment.” (Hebrews 9:27)

God’s judgment is based on your acceptance of His grace, on the salvation He offers through His son, Jesus. It’s simple, direct and without fanfare.

This simple prayer, if prayed in earnest, sums it all up:

Heavenly Father,

Make yourself real to me. Your Word says if I confess with my mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in my heart that God raised him from the dead, I will be saved. (Romans 10:9)

I believe Jesus died on the cross for the sin that separates me from having direct communication with you. His blood paid for the redemption of my soul. I want my death ticket to be insured, non-refundable and stamped REDEEMED by the blood of the Lamb.

From this day forward, let my actions, words and deeds be counted as righteous in your sight.

Amen

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What’s Your Nemesis?

chain breakerWe all have a nemesis in life; something that is very difficult to defeat or conquer. It could be anything from an addiction, to pride in our accomplishments, or shame about our failures.

We aren’t perfect, never will be and there’s nothing we can do about it apart from accepting the saving grace God imparted to us through the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus.

“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23

Whatever the source of your nemesis chances are good that it will eventually incite feelings of anguish, moments of regret and lead to destructive behavior. Yet, our nemesis can become a powerful tool with life changing results when placed in the hands of God.

Our faith deepens when we confess our weaknesses and genuinely seek repentance and willingly desire to change our ways to avoid a repeat of our current circumstances. As believers in Christ, we are continually learning to follow God’s ways and abandon our sinful nature.

Along the way we are pursued by and often fall prey to our nemesis. We conquer one only to find a surrogate nipping at our heels. Until our last breath, the process of ‘becoming’ like Christ is ongoing. Your nemesis today may not be your nemesis six months from now.

However, what doesn’t change is how God uses our shortcomings, failures and disobedience to reshape, disciple and create us into His likeness. The only requirement is a repentant heart, a desire to turn from sin and the willingness to seek restoration with God.

TODAY’S PRAYER:

Lord, my imperfections and moments of defeat are what draw me near to you. Thank you for sending your Son, Jesus, to redeem me from the consequences of my sin and love me as the imperfect person that I am.

Break the chains of my nemesis to accomplish a divine purpose in my life as I lay it at the foot of the cross.
AMEN

He’s a Chain Breaker song lyrics by Zach Williams

 

If you’ve been walking the same old road for miles and miles
If you’ve been hearing the same old voice tell the same old lies
If you’re trying to feel the same old holes inside
There’s a better life
There’s a better life

If you’ve got pain
He’s a pain taker
If you feel lost
He’s a way maker
If you need freedom or saving
He’s a prison-shaking Savior
If you’ve got chains
He’s a chain breaker

We’ve all search for the light of day in the dead of night
We’ve all found ourselves worn out from the same old fight
We’ve all run to things we know just ain’t right
And there’s a better life
There’s a better life…

 

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Jesus: The Feng Shui of my Soul

water-1525798_1280The consistent rhythm of lapping water against the lake’s shoreline is a harmonious and soothing Feng Shui blend to my soul. I need that right now. I am continually amazed how God uses nature to enlighten and direct our thoughts to find tranquility in His divine creation amidst life’s adversities.

Every one of us has been a casualty, even if only temporarily, of a life story that has an unhappy conclusion. God knew that from the beginning of creation which is why He sent Jesus to save us.

Our eternal redemption was secured with every droplet of blood spilled at the base of the cross, but that sacrifice never guaranteed life on earth would be without heartache. Even Jesus didn’t escape the hardships and suffering of this world.

In our moments of distress, when we feel lost and alone, Jesus is our Feng Shui. He listens to the inner cries of our heart, brings a balance that enables us to move forward even in our deepest moments of anguish and sorrow.

Are the lapping waters of your life’s shoreline bringing waves of defeat or waves that create?

Waves of defeat bring  debris to the shoreline of life. Waves that create, clear the water’s edge and wash life’s debris into God’s sea of forgiveness.

And so, as I listen to the lapping water, I choose to cast out the debris that contaminates my life and embrace the harmonious and soothing Feng Shui of God’s forgiveness. In the process, His redemptive grace cleanses my shoreline view. so I can see clearly; I can see Him instead of the adversity littering my shoreline.

Prayer for Today:

Lord Jesus, help me to look beyond my adversity and seek peace and tranquility in the shoreline of everyday life. Cause me to seek you in all things with the knowledge that every lapping wave is purposed from above.  Allow me to see that my reaction to those waves will either create a new shoreline view or obstruct it when I give into defeat.

“seek God…he is not far from any one of us. For in him we live and move and have our being” Acts 17:27

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The ‘Forgiveness’ Cocktail

forgiveness.pngThe indisputable truth about an unforgiving mindset is it can (and will) cripple our life spiritually, emotionally and physically. God desires us to be Christ-like in every area and since He has unconditionally forgiven us, I’m pretty certain He expects us to reciprocate forgiveness to others.

“But, you have no idea what he or she did to me and my family!” No, I don’t. I can only speak about my own life circumstances. I’ve had to drink the ‘forgiveness’ cocktail more than once.

Let me share:

Once upon a time I married my prince, or so I thought, but he was actually a toad incognito. Let’s call him ‘Dick’ to protect his identity.  Sidebar: This person is NOT my daughter’s father who remains a good friend to this day.

I gifted this prince my heart. In return, he gifted me a secret life of strip clubs, porn, drugs and lies. Imagine going to work and a co-worker shares, “I’m pretty sure I saw your husband at my in-home nurse visit today. He seemed to be living there.”

It all proved true. Dick’s out of town commercial paint jobs were really nights spent with the ‘other’ woman… or at strip clubs. Once his secret life was exposed, Dick never returned home and the IRS lien notices soon followed. My prince had defaulted on his quarterly business taxes and our home was about to go into foreclosure.

Call it bad choices, ignoring the obvious signs or being blind-sided. The truth is life happens and the ending doesn’t always play out like Hallmark movies.

In the Bible, the Greek word translated “forgiveness” literally means “to let go.” My translation would be closer to this:

I can ‘let go’ after you suffer alive as body parts are dissected for science; or, you experience a forever erection and acquire a disease that requires a lifetime catheter. Yep, you should get what is due you for my pain and suffering.

But then, there is God and His mercy. Hard to ignore when we look at the cross and realize we didn’t get what was coming to us.

“Get rid of all hard feelings, anger and rage; stop all fighting and lying. Put away every form of hatred.” Ephesians 4:31 (NIRV)

God’s ‘Forgiveness’ cocktail doesn’t mean you condom the offense. God forgave King David of serious sins (murder and adultery), but David still suffered the consequences of his actions even after asking for forgiveness. We aren’t the judge and jury for how the actions of others impact our life.

“Let go of anger and abandon rage.” (Psalms 37:8). To partake and reap the full benefits of the ‘forgiveness cocktail’ we must let go.

“Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.” – C.S. Lewis.

I had one brief encounter with Dick after he abandoned us. It was at his mother’s funeral. He gave no indication we had ever been married and shared an intimate relationship, but that’s OK. My decision to forgive rather than retaliate has yielded 23 years of marriage to a man who more than makes up for the guy I thought was my prince.

Prayer for today:

Dear Lord, help me to remember Colossians 3:14:

“Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.”

Remind me that your mercy flows to me in spite of my faults and failures. Guide me into the freedom of forgiveness. I praise you for the work you are doing in my life, teaching and perfecting my faith.

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The Perfect Cocktail

coppa-martiniDo you know the Bible has the perfect cocktail for every situation in life?

Bartenders are aware that the most important rule of mixology, the rule that supersedes everything else, is that balance is everything. The same is true in your Christian walk with Jesus. Forget about a splash of this scripture or a splash of that scripture.

To grow in God’s grace, we must look deep into His Word to truly understand and receive the balanced life Christ intends for us to enjoy.

We are quick to assess our Christian cocktail based on needs. A couple parts of joy mixed with a little kindness and love; we throw in a pinch of mercy for good measure. Or, I’ll take two shots of a miracle, one shot of peace, followed by three shots of forgiveness.

If only the Christian walk was that simple. It’s not! Bible cocktail recipes are based on sound doctrine and principles. We can’t just throw things into a shaker and expect it to yield a perfect and balanced Christian life.

The right cocktail of scriptures mixed with prayer is the only way we find balance for whatever weakness, need or struggles we face.

What does God’s perfect cocktail look like for you?

I invite you to visit my blog (DeniseMarksBlog.com) every Monday and Friday for the next five weeks as I share my thoughts on God’s perfect and balanced cocktail for our imperfect life situations. God truly desires for us to find consistency, balance and divine intervention in all things.

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GO FOR THE GOLD

medal-390549_640I watched each Olympic gymnast run down the floor mat and jump onto the spring board. They catapulted onto the vaulting table with calculated precision in preparation for a perfect dismount. They knew every twist, turn and flip of their body could cost them a medal.

Countless hours of training had placed these athletics in a position to compete for the gold. They were disciplined, dedicated and driven to succeed in this competition but even that didn’t guarantee victory.

Slips of the foot on the balance beam, out of bound dismounts, body alignments and falls were critically judged. It required total perfection to win and every mistake or miscalculated move would be deducted from their final score. Pardon or favor by the judges was not an option.

I am not an Olympic gymnast nor do I participate in competitive events. However, I do train, practice and take part in Christian living. It is an affirmation of faith that requires a lifestyle based on Biblical principles.

Like Olympic gymnasts, there are times I make mistakes, lose my footing and fall. In those nebulous moments, I question the futility of my Christian commitment and wonder how many more times I can fail before being eliminated? The answer is NEVER.

In Christian Olympics there is only one judge that determines who receives the gold and His name is God; Elohim, (Creator and Judge of the universe). With divine knowledge God judges the actions, spoken words and hidden secrets of our hearts. All mankind is a participant and the only way to win is an admission of our unrighteousness and an invitation to make Jesus our Savior and Olympic coach.

To accept Jesus into your heart means imperfections are forgiven; they are no longer counted against you. The blood He shed at the cross covers the curse of sin. Like the Apostle Paul, the finish line is the Olympic goal of every Christian.

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness is laid up for me, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but to all who crave His appearing. 2 Timothy 4: 7-8

Feeling defeated today? Are you ready to give up because you’ve lost your footing on life’s balance beam? Maybe you’re faced with life changing events that have caused you to lose your grip or have fallen from grace and overcome with brokenness.

Whatever your story and wherever you are in your faith, the Righteous Judge is near. He longs to show loving compassion, forgiveness and pardon from all your ineffectual attempts to participate in life without His help. He stands ready to coach you to the finish line and award you the crown of life.

“He knows the way I take; when He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.” Job 23:10

The trials that test our faith are more precious than gold. So, go for the GOLD!

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My Avenger (El Nathan Neqamah)

venganceJonathon Wild was a notable thief and master manipulator. He appeared to be on the side of the law by offering London police his assistance in finding stolen goods, but he was the thief.

Wild ran a gang of thieves who kept the stolen goods and waited for the crime to be announced in the newspapers. He would then claim that his agents had found the stolen goods and return the items to the rightful owner for a reward.

The story of Jonathon Wild is just one of the many betrayal stories recorded throughout history. Even the pages of Scripture are no exception . Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss of death; King Saul sought to kill David even though David had served with loyalty. The Book of Judges shares how Delilah betrayed Samson’s when she allowed the Philistines to shave his hair.

Our first response to betrayal is anger and to seek our own form of revenge. Licking our wounds isn’t an option; we want a payback and we want it to be worse than what was done to us. In the case of Jonathon Wild, his duplicity eventually became known and he was hanged before a massive crowd. Forgiveness wasn’t an option to those he betrayed.

For Christians, forgiveness is the only option when others deceive and fail us. It isn’t our job to take revenge. We are called to forgive in the same way Christ has forgiven us. That’s a bitter pill to swallow when every fiber of our body cries out for vengeance. It might feel good for the moment, but when we react on our own, we are essentially telling God we don’t trust Him to handle every situation.

“It is mine to avenge; I will repay. In due time their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them.” Deuteronomy 32:35 (NIV)

Nothing is hidden from the eyes of God and when He exacts revenge it is done objectively. Our biased opinion isn’t needed to determine just recompense. God needs us to let go (forgive). If we can let go of the experience and our desire for revenge, we can move beyond the betrayal. The negative emotions associated with the betrayal may remain unchanged and that’s OK.

The act of letting go helps us look past our hurt and anger and resign our case to the final jurisdiction of El Nathan Neqamah* (The God Who Avenges Me).

Is it time for you to let go and trust God to right the wrong?

*Play for Pronunciation