Relying on Old Faith

I love blackberries! I remember growing up as a child back East and picking blackberries from a blackberry bush in my friend’s backyard during the summertime. They were so sweet and delicious!

Blackberry plants are actually quite interesting. The plants consist of woody stems or branches called canes. Although the roots of blackberry plants last a long time, the canes or branches only live for 2 years.

In the first year, the new canes are referred to as primocanes. Primocanes do not produce fruit until their second year, when they are known as floricanes. It is the floricanes that produce berries and after the floricanes have produced their crop of luscious berries for that season, they interestingly…die. (I know this sounds like science class…but hang with me here!)

The floricane only produces blackberries for one year. And so the blackberry plant cannot rely on that cane…that old cane… to produce blackberries again! After that one season, that cane will never produce another blackberry!

And so just as the blackberry plant cannot rely on last season’s cane to produce berries again this season…the same is true with our faith.

We cannot just rely on our past faith…our old faith… to carry us through our present circumstances.

Our faith must continually be growing. And God wants to grow our faith…He wants to take us from faith…to faith. He wants to take us from faith…to greater faith!

So how about you? Are you relying on your old faith to get through a present circumstance?

I remember a season in my life when my mother was very ill. She was in the ICU at the hospital…in a coma… on a respirator…for 3 months. I didn’t know if she was going to live or die…but I continued to trust God.

I can tell you that facing this very difficult season in my life, my faith grew stronger…stronger than ever. I trusted and relied on God more than I ever had to in my entire life. And Praise Jesus! My mother amazingly recovered and made it through this difficult season!

Four years later, my mother became very ill again. My immediate cry to God was… “Lord…not again! I don’t think I can do this again! I had such strong faith the last time my mother became ill…I don’t think my faith will be strong enough to get me through this one!”

And so I found myself unable to rely on my old faith… I was unable to just rely on my past faith from 4 years ago. I had to develop new faith…new faith to face this new season.

Just like the blackberry plant…It cannot rely on its old floricanes…It must develop new primocanes…new canes to face its new berry-producing season.

Now we know that the blackberry plant is well rooted in the ground…and so too is our faith rooted in Christ. And being rooted is very important!

But God wants to build our faith. Wherever you are at today…If your faith is as small as a mustard seed or you have great faith…He still wants to build your faith! And that means not just relying on your old faith…not just relying on the faith you had to get you through the last difficult season in your life…

No…He wants to grow your faith…He wants to strengthen your faith…He wants to build your faith…He wants to give you new faith! He wants to take your old faith…and take you to greater faith! …To face current circumstances and challenges in your life!

Why? Because check out James 1:3 in these different bible translations!

Because you know that the testing of your faith…

…produces perseverance. NLT

…produces endurance. NASB

…produces steadfastness. ESV

…produces patience. KJB

The fruit of the blackberry plant is blackberries while the fruit of growing faith is perseverance…endurance…steadfastness…patience.

And why is this important?

So let it grow, for when your endurance [perseverance, steadfastness, patience] is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. James 1:4

Now as you have been reading this devotion, please don’t misunderstand me…there is a place for your old faith as you face new seasons in your life.

Our faith will be tested…as we face new seasons in our lives…as we face new circumstances or challenges in our lives…and our old faith will encourage us and strengthen us to go to the next level of faith.

Remembering our past victories and what God has done by pulling us through our past challenges spurs us to greater faith! It is a building process…God wants to build on our old faith to develop greater new faith.

And it is this building process…from faith to greater faith…that develops perseverance, endurance, steadfastness, patience in us!

And trust me…this is a lifelong process! Our faith should always be growing! We should never come to a place of satisfaction and complacency that we have reached a certain level of faith in our lives.

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. Philippians 1:6 NLT

So how should we respond to God taking our faith…to greater faith? Note: And yes that may mean Him allowing us to go through trials.

1) Believe that our faith can grow!   

No matter where your faith is a today…mustard seed faith or mustard tree faith…God wants to grow your faith…and we must believe that!

If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you. Matthew 17:20 NIV

All things are possible to him who believes. Mark 9:23 NASB

2) Associate with others who have great faith

Your faith will grow when you see how others with great faith have handled challenges in their life. The more we associate with those who really trust God, the more we will see our faith grow.

Can you think of someone whose faith has inspired your faith?

When we get together, I want to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours. Romans 1:12 NLT

 3) Read and Study God’s Word

So faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ. Romans 10:17 NLT

We must read and study God’s word because it will encourage, strengthen, and build our faith. Studying God’s Word nourishes our faith. Paul challenged Timothy to be constantly nourished by the words of faith when he said… 

If you explain these things to the brothers and sisters, Timothy, you will be a worthy servant of Christ Jesus, one who is nourished by the message of faith and the good teaching you have followed. 1 Timothy 4:6 NLT

4) Prayer and Fasting

When we realize and grasp Who it is we are praying to, we can be encouraged in our faith. God is able to do exceedingly abundantly more than we can ever ask or imagine!

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us… Ephesians 3:20-21 NKJV

I have seen God do amazing miracles in my own personal life through not just praying but also fasting.

Check out Isaiah 58 for the benefits of fasting. You can also check my previous blog devotion called “Why Fast?” for greater insight and practical tips about fasting.

5) Remember past victories

But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings. Hebrews 10:32 NASB

Remembering our past faith and past victories will encourage us to greater faith. Past successes remind us of what God did for us way back when…and what He will do for us now.

Keeping a victory journal is a great way to encourage us when we face new challenges in our lives because we can look back and remember our past faith and past successes.

A great biblical example is David who found that remembering past successes with God increased his faith for greater challenges.

Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God. 1 Samuel 17:36 ESV

My prayer is that we would all be women who embrace the challenges God brings our way. Realizing that we cannot rely on our old faith…that we would develop new faith to face new seasons in our lives. And ultimately, allowing God to take our faith…to greater faith thereby producing perseverance, endurance, steadfastness, patience in us!

Reflection Points:

  1. Are you relying on your old faith to get through a present circumstance?
  2. Why does God want to grow your faith to greater faith?
  3. What is produced when God takes your faith to greater faith?
  4. Have you grown complacent in your faith? Or is your faith continually growing?
  5. So how should we respond to God taking our faith…to greater faith?  

Action Points:

Refer to the list of points above to understand and learn how we should respond to God allowing us to face new challenges and taking our faith…to greater faith.

 

Does He Have A Foothold?

With summer here in Arizona, every day is an attempt to keep my little boys busy with the goal of staying out of the heat! Not so much for their sake…but mine! Unfortunately this is not really a possibility considering the number of hours in a day and the max hours I can keep 2 active boys cooped up in the house!

So I recently took Connor and Bryce to a nearby park…at 10am. FYI…for my non-Arizonians…it is already over 90 degrees at 10am!

At the park, there was a huge play structure with numerous slides, monkey bars, swings, and a rock climbing wall. My youngest Bryce was determined to climb this rock wall. It wasn’t very high…but to a 3 year old it certainly looked high and was a challenge to conquer!

I stood behind Bryce as he began climbing this rock wall. I noticed that he had to make sure that one foot rested on a peg before he could reach for another peg with his other foot and both arms. Bryce needed this peg…this foothold… to continue up the rock wall. If he was unable to rest his foot on this foothold…he got stuck and called for me. Resting his little foot on a peg and having this foothold was necessary for Bryce to progress further and eventually accomplish this endeavor of climbing to the top of the rock wall.

A “foothold” is defined as “a secure position, especially a firm basis for further progress or development.”

The term “foothold” and its definition may not sound too interesting unless you are interested in rock climbing…like Bryce. However, there is great importance and implication if you are a Christian.

In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. Ephesians 4:26-27 NIV

Ephesians 4:26-27 clearly talks about the devil having a foothold….and even though this scripture specifically talks about anger and sinning in your anger….there are many ways the devil can enter into areas of our lives and have a foothold.

I don’t know about you…but understanding Ephesians 4:27 with the context of the word “foothold”…does not comfort me at all. If the devil has a foothold in an area of your life that means he has a secure position there!

Ok, like that isn’t enough to make you a little concerned….the foothold…according to the definition…also gives the devil a firm basis for further progress or development!

Are you aware of any footholds in your life? Are you aware of any areas in your life that the devil has a secure position?

So why exactly does the devil want to have a foothold in our lives? Because as humans we were created in the image of God…and the devil doesn’t like that!

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27 NIV

As Christians, we are God’s children…and if the devil…the enemy…Satan…whatever you wish to call him…can’t stop you from being a Christian, he will try to prevent you from growing…from sharing God’s Word and the truth with others…and from living in God’s promises of peace and joy.

The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy… John 10:10 NLT

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8 NLT

The devil is after every area in our lives…marriage, relationships, health, money, employment, business, and ministry. The devil wants it all but in order for him to conquer these areas in our lives, he has to find an opportunity…he has to find a point of entry into these areas.

It’s interesting to note that Ephesians 4:27 says… do not give the devil a foothold. That means that the devil doesn’t just have a foothold but that we give him a foothold!

We can give the devil this opportunity…this point of entry… in numerous ways…without even knowing it. Sin…the most obvious way the enemy is given an opportunity… as well as other such examples listed below are ways that we can give the devil an opportunity to have a foothold in our lives.

Unforgiveness, fear, depression, anxiety/worry, jealousy, insecurity, comparison, pride, anger, bitterness, and resentment are just some of these examples.

…So the activity of the devil demands vigilance and self-control on all occasions, and especially on those on which the devil is most apt to try to get a foothold. The reference to the devil is not a figure, but an obvious recognition of his personality, and of the liability of all Christians to fall under his influence. Pulpit Commentary

Such examples can drive a wedge in areas of our lives…which is exactly what the devil wants to do. He knows that these examples give him the opportunity to enter in our lives and steal our peace and joy and hold us back from walking into the plans and purposes God has for us.

He knows that unforgivenesss holds onto our past hurts and pain and prevents us from God’s healing….

He knows that fear can paralyze us from having faith and moving forward in the plans and purposes God has for us…

He knows that depression brings us to a place of strong discouragement, despair and eventual defeat preventing us from having hope and even carrying out normal day to day functions…

He knows that anxiety/worry focuses on our problems, takes our focus off God, and can also affect our health…

He knows jealousy focuses on the fear of losing something or someone valuable to you and prevents us from having healthy relationships…

He knows insecurity focuses on what we can’t do and prevents us from moving forward and leading with our weaknesses…

He knows that comparison causes us to focus on who and what we aren’t or what we do not have causing discontentment and prevents us from knowing who we are and the unique gifts that God has blessed us with…

He knows that pride focuses on ourselves, our own abilities, and our strengths instead of on God and glorifying Him…

He knows anger is a damaging emotion that can affect our marriages and families with negative consequences…

He knows bitterness and resentment can be deeply rooted in our hearts and ruin our marriages and relationships and prevents us from loving others…

Have any of these examples given the devil an opportunity into areas of your life such as in your marriage, relationships, health, money, employment, business, or ministry?

It is so important that we acknowledge these ways so we can take the necessary steps to close the door on the devil. As Christians we have been given the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome sin and these other areas we may struggle with. It is through God’s power that we can be strengthened to fight against the devil and his schemes. We can’t do it alone!!!

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 1 John 4:4 NIV

No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. Romans 8:37 NLT

Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 2Corinthians 12:9 NLT

If we are in sin, we must ask God for forgiveness and repent (turn away from our sin). If we are struggling to turn away from a specific sin in our life or if we are just struggling in an area of our life, pray for God to strengthen you and help you. It’s also important to turn to other Christians that you trust to pray with you…support you…and hold you accountable.

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. James 5:16 NIV

We can prevent the devil from getting a foothold in areas of our lives. We can prevent the devil from having the opportunity to destroy our marriages, relationships, health, money, employment, business, or ministry!

Turn to God today and ask Him to strengthen you! Let’s not give the devil a foothold!

Reflection Points:

  1. Are you aware of any footholds in your life? Are you aware of any areas of your life that the devil has secured his position?
  2. Has unforgiveness, fear, depression, anxiety/worry, jealousy, insecurity, comparison, pride, anger, bitterness, or resentment given the devil a way to enter into areas of your life?
  3. Has any of the above examples affected your marriage, relationships, health, money, employment, business, or ministry?
  4. If you have recognized any of the above examples affecting any areas of your life…what are you doing to close the door on the devil?

Action Points:

  1. If you believe the devil has a foothold in your life, the first step is to recognize how he has been given the opportunity.
  2. Determine if he has been given an opportunity through sin or other areas you are struggling with. Confess your sin to God, ask for forgiveness and repent (turn away) from your sin. Use God’s Word to be strengthened by studying and reminding yourself of scriptures that are specific to your area of struggle.
  3. Find a Christian friend that you trust who can pray with you, encourage you, and help you overcome your struggles.
  4. Pray and ask God to help you and be strengthened to close any doors that the devil is waiting to be given an opportunity to enter. Be encouraged that you aren’t fighting the devil on your own! You have been given the power and strength of the Holy Spirit and the truth of God’s Word! If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Romans 8:31 NLT

Run In Such A Way

While growing up, I remember participating in all kinds of running races at school, at camps, and with friends just for fun. I specifically recall attending a summer camp at the age of 6 and running in the 50 yard dash and 100 yard dash. The winner of each race would receive a trophy.

With my great love for sports and strong competitive nature, I ran with everything I had to win…Why? I wanted that trophy of course! And guess what? I won! I actually still have these trophies stored away in an old box in my garage.

These days I am not sure if the 50 yard dash and 100 yard dash still exists…but I can tell you that there are many opportunities to run races if you so choose to…from 5k’s to 10k’s…from ½ marathons to full marathons…from mud runs to warrior and neon dashes! Yup all different kinds of runs for the running enthusiasts!

How about you? Do you enjoy running?

Ok, well maybe you are like me and don’t necessarily enjoy running but you run for its physical benefits. I guess you could say I go through periods of enjoying it…and not enjoying it.

But what I ultimately do enjoy is the end result…whether it be the physical benefits…the sense of accomplishment and achievement…or the charitable benefits when running for a cause.

Running races is certainly not a new thing…as it goes way back even to Biblical times.

The Isthmian games …the equivalent of our Olympics…was an event held every 2 years approximately 10 miles outside the city of Corinth. These games brought people from every part of the Mediterranean to compete or just watch. It was the sporting event of the year…drawing the Empire’s best talent. Athletes would compete in foot races, broad jumping, discus throwing, wrestling, boxing, gymnastics, and equestrian contests. They would compete fiercely, each striving for the Isthmian crown…a wreath of wild celery. (Yes I did say celery!)

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 1 Corinthians 9:24 NIV

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. 1 Corinthians 9:24NASB

I have found this scripture to be quite interesting! When the writer Paul talks about receiving a prize, he is talking about something more than just a crown made of the bland crunchy vegetable celery!

Initially we may think that the “prize” implies salvation…eternal life with Christ. And that is what we do receive when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior. However, salvation is not earned…it is given to us freely!

So what exactly is this “prize” that we may receive…or win?

Unlike the Isthmian crown which is perishable and may fade away…the “prize” actually implies the eternal crown…the imperishable crown…the eternal rewards that we can receive. And this is the truly amazing grace of our God. We receive salvation as a free gift and then the Lord blesses us on top of that with temporal and eternal rewards for faithfully serving Him!!

Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 1 Corinthians 9:25NASB

All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. 1 Corinthians 9:25NLT

Back to 1 Corinthians 9:24…The words that really capture my attention in this scripture are… Run in such a way as to get the prize. Some bible translations say… Run in such a way as to win.

These words imply that there are different ways of “running”. You can run in such a way as to “finish” a race or you can run in such a way as to “win” a race.

Have you have ever run in a marathon? I have a number of friends who aren’t really avid runners but have trained diligently to run a marathon because they just wanted to run one and experience that sense of achievement when they crossed that finish line.

But how about the runners that are among the first to cross that finish line? Are they just running to “finish?” Or are they running to “win?”

I guarantee you that the discipline and work ethic of the winners are different than those who just want to finish. Now I am not saying that there is anything wrong with that desire to train and “finish” a marathon. I give you marathoners out there a lot of credit for taking on 26.2 miles… which is certainly an accomplishment!

But as Christians, it’s not about how fast you run but HOW you run.

Have you ever run a race where you ran so fast in the beginning that half way through you were so tired that you just started walking because you didn’t pace yourself??? I can guarantee you that marathon winners have trained diligently to pace themselves…they know HOW to run the race in such a way that they may win.

How are you running? Are you running the spiritual race with the self-discipline and work ethic of a marathon winner? Are you running in such a way as to get the prize?

As Christians, whether we like running or not, we are runners and have entered a race not against one another but toward our heavenly reward…toward the prize…to win. And HOW we run matters.

Just as runners are disciplined in their training, we too as Christians must be disciplined in order to run our spiritual race in such a way as to get the prize. And this requires a number of essential spiritual disciplines.

Spiritual disciplines can be described as those behaviors that augment our spiritual growth and enable us to grow to spiritual maturity. This process of spiritual growth and development begins to take place the moment a person encounters Jesus and comes to Him for salvation. And that’s when we have entered the race.

The biggest difference between running a race in the Isthmian games and running a spiritual race as Christians is that there is only one winner that receives the perishable crown in the Isthmian games whereas we can all receive the imperishable crown as Christians. Running the spiritual race requires a number of essential disciplines which include the following but are not limited to:

  1. Worship
  2. Prayer
  3. Reading and studying God’s Word
  4. Fellowship (attending church and bible studies regularly)
  5. Service

The one discipline I want to focus on here is…spending one on one time with Jesus reading and studying His Word.

Developing the habit of reading and studying God’s Word is necessary to win our eternal crown and will benefit us greatly while we are here on earth as well.

Studying God’s word has a positive domino effect. The more you study God’s word…the more you will know God…the more you know God, the more you will experience his unconditional love for you….the more you experience His love for you, the more you will love and trust Him….the more you love and trust Him, the more you will obey Him….the more you obey Him, the more you will experience His blessings for you here on earth and in heaven.

The intimate and loving relationship that is created with you spending time with Jesus and studying His Word cannot be replaced with anything else. No Sunday service….no bible study…no discipleship or mentorship program can take the place of your one on one time with Jesus. If you are doing all these things that’s great! Keep doing them! But the things that God will reveal to you…the things that He will entrust to you…the things that He will teach you in your time with Him are truly remarkable and amazing! I speak from my own experiences!

Developing the discipline/habit of reading and studying God’s Word is not always easy but is crucial in the spiritual race we are running.

Just as a runner has a specific course to follow when running a marathon…God’s Word is our specific course/path to follow when running the spiritual race.

And when we focus on HOW to run versus how fast to run, we will ultimately finish the race as winners receiving the prize…the imperishable eternal crown!

Reflection Points:

  1. How are you running? Are you running the spiritual race with the self-discipline and work ethic of a marathon winner? Are you running in such a way as to get the prize?
  2. What are you doing to develop spiritual disciplines in your life…specifically the discipline of reading and studying God’s Word daily?

Action Points:

  1. Begin the habit of reading God’s Word daily…Whatever it takes for you wherever you are at spiritually and wherever you at in life.
  2. Purchase a bible that you understand. It’s hard to read God’s Word if you can’t understand what you are reading! My personal preference is NIV Life Application Bible.
  3. There are many resources to aid you such as daily devotionals. Some great examples are Jesus Calling, Whispers of Hope, Jesus Day by Day and Jesus Our Great Hope.
  4. With our world of modern technology, you can download the Bible, apps and reading plans on your phone.
  5. Subscribe to daily devotions such as Proverbs 31 ministries and Our Daily Bread and get emails from them daily. You can also subscribe this weekly devotion at sweeterthanhoneyblog.com.
  6. Begin spending 5 minutes a day…Read a Psalm or a Proverb. If you are a new Christian, begin reading the book of John or one of the other Gospels…Matthew, Mark or Luke in the New Testament. If you can develop the habit of getting into God’s Word daily…you will see your time with Him increase! It’s not about the quantity but the quality of time.

 

 

Rest in the Shadow

It’s May here in Arizona and we have already hit 100 degrees in temperature! I can tell you that after being outside for my son Connor’s last baseball game a week ago… it is certainly heating up out here already!

When I arrived at Connor’s game last week, I planted myself at the end of the dugout because the dugout fence and the tree just behind it created a shadow that provided me with just the right amount of shade to stay cool.

Shadows can be quite interesting. It’s funny how during the day we are always looking for the shade created by shadows to stay cool…especially during the hot summer months! And how at night shadows cast dark images on the walls and may tend to be frightening…especially when you have 2 little boys like I do!

Whether you see a shadow during the day or at night…the definition for the word “shadow” remains the same.

The word “shadow” can be defined in the dictionary as “an area of darkness created when a source of light is blocked.”

So at the baseball game, I purposefully placed myself in the shadow where it created shade…to keep me cool…to keep me protected from the heat…so I could rest and enjoy Connor’s game!

And isn’t it true that sometimes we too need to be protected from not just the literal heat from the sun…but the heat of life…the pressures of life…the challenges of life…the fears of life…and even the dangers of life…so we too are able to rest?

Psalm 91 is an absolutely amazing psalm about God’s protection! Check out Psalm 91:1 as our focused scripture for this devotion. I have included 3 different bible versions to emphasize specific aspects of this verse.

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. NIV

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. WEB

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall remain stable and fixed under the shadow of the Almighty [Whose power no foe can withstand]. AMP

I can’t wait to dig deeper into this scripture with you and gain a greater perspective and understanding of the protection God provides for us!

Whoever dwells…

Whoever means “anyone that or whatever person that” and therefore indicates that it doesn’t include everyone. It is for whoever…anyone that…dwells. It is for whoever chooses to dwell.

And the word dwells is very significant. Why? Because dwell means “to abide, to live or reside permanently” To drive this point further…it doesn’t mean to just visit, profess, or wish.

And this dwelling…abiding…residing permanently must be in the shelter…or secret place… of the Most High. Who is the Most High and what exactly is this secret place?

…in the shelter [or secret place] of the Most High

“The Most High” in Hebrew is the word El-yon, meaning “the Supreme One”, the owner of heaven and earth … the God who is over and above all things that are.

The word translated “shelter” in Hebrew means “covering, hiding place, or protection.”

The “secret place” refers to God’s Temple…and in the Old Testament…the secret place was the tabernacle also known as the Tent of meeting…which was actually a portable version of the Temple. And the Temple was considered the earthly dwelling place of God’s presence.

For in the day of trouble He will hide me in His tabernacle; In the secret place of His tent He will hide me; Psalm 27:5

When God delivered Israel out of bondage in Egypt, they traveled in the wilderness for 40 years before they reached the Promised Land. During this time, they lived in tents as part of a large camp.

They camped in a circle around the tabernacle…aka the Temple…aka the Tent of meeting…and thus the secret place. The tabernacle was surrounded by the 12 tribes of Israel, three tribes on each side, and was known in Hebrew as the Mishkan,which literally means to dwell and it was here where the God of Israel revealed Himself to the Israelites and dwelled among His people.

The significance of the first part of this scripture… He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High… is that we can reside permanently in the secret place of God…but it is a choice.

Are you dwelling in the shelter…in the secret place…of the Most High?

He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High. He who has his thoughts always on God is said to “dwell in him” – to “make his abode with him” – to “sit down in his secret place.” He has the Almighty, as it were, for his constant companion. Pulpit Commentary

As Christians, we have a choice after we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior…to dwell…to reside…in the secret place…or not. To dwell or abide in Christ…or not.

Dwelling…or abiding… in Christ demonstrates our devotion to Him…through keeping His commandments…resting in His love for us…and bearing fruit as we are connected to Christ and filled with His Spirit.

Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us. 1John 3:24 ESV

Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 1John 4:15-16 ESV

I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. John 15:5 NASB

…will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

I find it interesting that the Amplified bible version uses the words remain stable and fixed in place of the word “rest.”

The Hebrew word translated for “shadow” means “shade or protection.”

So by dwelling in the secret place of the Most High….we can rest…remain stable and fixed under the protection of the Almighty…referring to God.

During the time that David reigned as king, he would literally take shelter in the tabernacle where the Ark was. As nighttime fell, the setting sun would cast a long shadow over the Ark, and King David would abide under that shadow. As long as he remained there, no one could find or disturb him.

“The shadow of the Almighty” is a picture of taking our place of rest in the tabernacle where the Ark was…in the secret place.

Resting and remaining in the shadow of the Almighty is to lean upon Him and to embrace His ways and His directions. Just as I purposefully placed myself in the shadow for protection from the sun’s heat…we too must purposefully place ourselves in the shadow of the Almighty for God’s protection so we may rest.

Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. This is not “tautology.” What is meant is that “loving faith on man’s part shall be met by faithful love on God’s part” (Kay). God will extend his “shadow” over the man who places himself under his protection.Pulpit Commentary

“Dwelling in the secret place” is an indication of our devotion to God. We are choosing where to dwell…where to live…where to establish our home…in Him. And this implies that we are not trying to live on our own or away from His protection.

When we choose to dwell in the secret place of the Most High, we will rest in the shadow of our Almighty God and this consequently places us under the protection of God.

Please Note: With the summer approaching, I will be spending more time with my family and children so I will be posting new devotions twice a month. I am so thankful for you all. I am truly encouraged and blessed by your continued support of Sweeter than Honey Blog!

Reflection Points:

  1. Do you ever face the heat of life… the pressures of life…the challenges of life…the fears of life…and even the dangers of life and pray for God’s protection in the midst?
  2. Have you read Psalm 91…an amazing psalm of God’s protection?
  3. What does the first verse in Psalm 91 mean to you?
  4. Are you dwelling in “the secret place of the Most High?”
  5. What exactly does it mean “to dwell in the shelter [secret place] of the Most High?”
  6. Do you understand that we have a choice in placing ourselves in the secret place of God and thus receiving His protection by doing so?
  7. What can you do different in your life to “dwell in the secret place” of God so that you may “rest in the shadow of the Almighty?”

Action Points:

  1. Read Psalm 91.
  2. Meditate on Psalm 91:1 and review the notes above for a deeper understanding.
  3. …“dwelling in the secret place” is an indication of your devotion to God. We are choosing where to dwell…where to live…where to establish our home…in Him. And this implies that we are not trying to live on our own or away from His protection.
  4. If you struggle with “dwelling in the secret place” …begin devoting yourself wholeheartedly to Christ by spending time each day reading His Word and in prayer. Make an appointment with Jesus each day!

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

 

Finding Hope…In His Plans

As Mother’s Day is upon us…it has certainly taken on a different meaning for me in the past 6 years. You see…I became a mother approximately 6 years ago when I had my first child. And shortly after I became a mother…my very own mother passed away.

And oh the many times I wish she was here…not just as a grandmother to my children…but as a mother full of love, wisdom, and guidance helping me as a young mom through my frustrations and times of not knowing just what to do!

My hope was for her to see both my children grow up…she never did live long enough to see my second child born…to see them go to school…to watch them perform their school musicals…and to cheer them on at their T-ball games.

That was my hope…my plan. And clearly it was not God’s.

Are you facing a current situation where you are having difficulty believing or seeing the hope in God’s plans? Are you facing a challenge in your life and struggling to find hope in God’s plans?

Life is full of challenges and unfortunately there are many who lose hope when their plans…their dreams…their vision…for their lives do not go the way they had expected.

Maybe that’s you today…maybe you have lost hope because your expectations were not met.

Where does your hope lie today?

Unfortunately, we live in a world where many put their hope in people, objects, positions, careers, their plans, their agendas…really just about anything! And then we wonder why we find ourselves disappointed.

The word “hope” comes from the Greek word elpis and means “favorable and confident expectation” and is similarly defined in the dictionary as “to desire with expectation of obtainment; to expect with confidence.”

When we put our hope…when we put favorable and confident expectation…in the things in this world, we will many times face disappointment. Why?

Because this world…and the people and things in it…are not secure! The world…people and things…are always changing. People come…people go…things come…things go!

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

Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. Hebrews 6:17-19 NIV

Our hope must be in our God…and His plans. Our hope must be anchored in an unchanging…secure…immoveable God.

Just as a ship anchor holds firmly to the seabed, our hope in God is the anchor for our soul, firm and secure.

The word “anchor” is defined “something that serves to hold an object firmly; a person or thing that provides strength and support.”

We need our hope anchored in God to keep us in place in times of disappointment…to keep us from being swept toward the rocky shore…to keep us from capsizing and sinking.

We are in this world as a ship at sea, tossed up and down, and in danger of being cast away. We need an anchor to keep us sure and steady. Gospel hope is our anchor in the storms of this world. It is sure and steadfast, or it could not keep us so… Christ is the object and ground of the believer’s hope. Mathew Henry’s Concise Commentary

How can we have our hope anchored in God…and His plans?

And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. Colossians 2:6-7 NLT

Our hope in God…and His plans will grow when we follow him…when we are rooted, built up, strengthened in faith, and overflowing with thankfulness. Checkout a previous blog devotion called “Metaphors of Growth” for a deeper understanding of Colossian 2:6-7

We must find Hope…in His plans.

H= His

O=Organized

P= Plans

E= Excel

I will celebrate this Mother’s Day…celebrating my mother who is no longer in pain and suffering here on this earth…but healed and rejoicing in heaven with our Heavenly Father!

I may not always understand God’s plans but one thing I do know is that my hope anchored in God is secure and firm…and that His plans for my life are way better than my plans for my life!

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11 NLT

Reflection Points:

  1. Are you facing a current situation where you are having difficulty believing or seeing the hope in God’s plans? Are you facing a challenge in your life and struggling to find hope in God’s plans?
  2. Have you lost hope because your expectations were not met?
  3. Where does your hope lie today?
  4. How can we have our hope anchored in God…and His plans?

Action Points:

  1. If you have difficulty believing and seeing the hope in God’s plans, pray that God would increase your faith and strengthen your trust in Him. Read God’s Word regularly to grow in your faith. (Roans 10:17)
  2. Understand that finding hope in the people and things of this world will disappoint you. Find your hope in God who is secure…firm…and immoveable.
  3. HOPE= His Organized Plans Excel
  4. Anchor your hope in God and His plans for your life…Read and study Colossians 2:6-7. Review the blog devotion called “Metaphors of Growth” for deeper understanding of these scriptures.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hidden Pride

Pride…a word that doesn’t have a very positive connotation in our society today whether we are a Christian or not. Nobody I know goes around saying “I am so full of pride! I just love that I am a prideful person!” Do they?

Now some may beg to differ that pride can actually have a positive implication. For example, when someone takes pride in their work or takes pride in belonging to a particular group… they are proud of or take satisfaction in what they have done or where they belong. I will comment on this later.

Pride is defined in the dictionary as…

…“a high opinion of one’s own importance or superiority, whether as cherished in the mind or as displayed in bearing, conduct, etc.”

…“pleasure or satisfaction taken in something done by or belonging to oneself or believed to reflect credit upon oneself;

… “a sense of one’s own worth, and abhorrence of what is beneath or unworthy of one; loftyself-respect; noble self-esteem: elevation of character.”

…“a feeling that you are more important or better than other people; arrogance, conceit”

Clearly, pride has a number of definitions…most of which don’t appear real “pretty”…as a woman I like “pretty”…but unfortunately in our world pride takes on a somewhat “ugly” look.

Not only does pride appear “ugly” …the Bible says that God hates it!

Ok now, there is only one place in the Bible that I am aware of where pride is translated in such a way that it appears good…and that is with King Jehoshaphat.

He took great pride in the ways of the LORD and again removed the high places and the Asherim from Judah. 2 Chronicles 17:6 NASB

And actually the Hebrew translation here says that “his heart was exalted” …meaning that he was excited about the ways of the Lord. This however is not our normal meaning of pride and the common meaning of the word pride used in the Bible is someone having a superior attitude toward others.

And this brings me back to the point I mentioned above about having pride in your work or pride in belonging to a group. These forms of pride reflect our self-image because taking pride in these things makes us feel better about ourselves or who we are associated with.

We cannot have a positive self-image apart from God. God gives us our worth and value…not our accomplishments or associations!

Ok, so God hates pride? Hate is such a strong word…but it’s true! Stay with me!

When God says he hates something ….our ears should perk up! Shouldn’t they? And yes…the Bible says there are 7 things that God hates…well 6 and one He detests…and pride leads the pack.

There are six things the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community. Proverbs 6:16-19 NIV

The Message translation says… Here are six things God hates, and one more that he loathes with a passion: eyes that are arrogant…

Pride…haughtiness…arrogance…is found in a number of scriptures in the Bible.

To fear the LORD is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech. Proverbs 8:13 NIV

When pride comes, then comes dishonor, but with the humble is wisdom. Proverbs 11:2 NASB   A man’s pride will bring him low, but a humble spirit will obtain honor. Proverbs 29:23 NASB   For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. 1John 2:16 NASB

But he gives us even more grace to stand against such evil desires. As the Scriptures say, “God opposes the proud but favors the humble. James 4:6 NLT

God hates pride because He knows that pride can…prevent us from giving Him all the glory and gratitude that He deserves…prevent us from developing our self-image based upon the worth and value that God places on each of our lives…prevent us from growth in our faith and trust in Him…and prevent us from receiving help from Him.

Pride seeks to promote self…rather than God.

Pride is the very reason we have an enemy today…Satan…the devil! Satan…who was actually named Lucifer…was a beautiful angel in heaven. But he became prideful and his attitude drove him to lift himself up above everyone else…including God.

But you said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, And I will sit on the mount of assembly In the recesses of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High. Isaiah 14:16 NASB

Furthermore, the Bible is full of examples of people who allowed pride to get in the way of their relationship with God. Eve, Saul, King Uzziah, the Pharisees…to name a few.

There are obvious aspects and signs of pride in our society and possibly in our own lives…

But the one aspect of pride I would like to challenge you with today…the one aspect of pride that is not so obvious…the one aspect of pride that can be hidden in our lives…

Is our impatience with God and His timing. Ouch!

This was hard for me to swallow when I first came to understand and realize that when I don’t trust in God’s timing…in whatever aspect that is in my life…I am demonstrating pride. Why?

Because when I am impatient I am not trusting God’s timing! I am basically saying that what I think…my idea of timing …is above and greater than His timing.

What are you waiting for today? Is your idea of when things need to change in your life above God’s idea of when things need to change in your life?

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts”. Isaiah 55:8-9 NIV

And please don’t misunderstand me…I am not saying we shouldn’t keep praying and crying out to God for our needs…but after we have presented our requests…submitted our needs and desires to Him…we need to understand that God’s timing is not our timing and he will answer according to the proper time…the right time…the best time…His time.

So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. 1 Peter 5:6-7 NLT

God showed me this new perspective regarding pride a number of years ago when I was single and waiting for Him to bring me my husband. I had finally left my old life…my old relationships and my old dating habits behind. I was a new creation…the old was gone and the new had come.

I had a great desire to be married and trusted God that He had an amazing Godly husband for me. But as the years went by there were certainly times I grew impatient…felt “ready” to be married…and questioned God’s timing.

If after we pray, we find ourselves impatient…murmuring…and complaining we need to do a self-check and really question if we are trusting God fully…and His timing!

And we need to consider the pride that we may have allowed into our hearts.

After having those moments and questioning God’s timing about bringing my husband, I can now say that His timing was absolutely perfect.

He is never early, never late, but always on time!

Reflection Points:

  1. What are you waiting for today?
  2. After praying and submitting your requests and desires to God, do you grow impatient when your prayers haven’t been answered according to when you think they should be answered?
  3. Do you question God’s timing in answering your prayers?
  4. Can you see how your impatience demonstrates a lack in trusting God’s timing….and thus leads to pride?

Action Points:

  1. Study God’s word and review the scriptures about pride.
  2. If you grow impatient and find yourself questioning God’s timing, humble yourself…pray… and repent of pride. Ask God to strengthen your faith and trust in Him and His timing!

 

The Veil Was Torn!

With Easter quickly approaching us, Easter eggs and Easter bunnies have flooded the displays at the local grocery and craft stores. And how about the ridiculous assortment of candy from jelly beans….to chocolate eggs and bunnies…to marshmallow peeps? …Leaving my 2 little boys salivating and quite impatient for their Easter Egg Hunt at their school! And my ever-increasing quest of decreasing their sugar in-take is challenged once again!

With Good Friday and Easter coming up this weekend, many will be flooding into churches to reflect and celebrate the death, burial, and resurrection of their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ as this Easter holiday is the very reason we as Christians can receive forgiveness of our sins and eternal life.

While listening to the radio this week, I heard a beautiful song that was sung at my wedding called “At the Cross” by Hillsong. And I noticed that many songs by very talented and gifted musical artists as Hillsong, Mercy Me, David Crowder Band and Chris Tomlin have written and produced songs reflecting the very pain and suffering…the shedding of blood…that Jesus endured and experienced for us. And many of these songs have also included the line “the veil was torn” in their lyrics.

These words actually come from the Bible scripture in Matthew 27:50-51.

And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split. Matthew 27:50-51 NASB

I believe an understanding of these scriptures can help us further appreciate what Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection represents for us today.

The mere fact that the scriptures record the occurrence of this veil being torn at the very moment that Jesus breathed His last breath of life…releasing His spirit… certainly demonstrates something quite significant.! And most likely why it has been included in so many Christian artists’ lyrics too! Don’t you think?

What does “the veil was torn” really mean and why is it so important for us to understand its significance? And is there significance in the fact that the veil was torn in two from top to bottom?

Before we can grasp what the veil being torn symbolizes…we need to explore the purpose and background of this temple veil.

During Jesus’ lifetime, the Holy Temple in Jerusalem was the center of Jewish religious life. The temple was the place where animal sacrifices were carried out and worship was followed faithfully…according to the Law of Moses.

In the temple, a veil…sometimes called a temple curtain…separated the Holy of Holies (the earthly dwelling place of God’s presence) from the rest of the temple where men dwelt. (Hebrews 9:19) The veil was a symbol of the separation of God from sinful mankind and therefore marked the boundary between God’s holiness and the wickedness of mankind. It was not possible to go beyond the veil because our sins have separated us from a Holy God.

But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God. And your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear. Isaiah 59:2 NASB

Because man was separated from God by sin…only the high priest was permitted to pass beyond this veil once each year to enter into God’s presence for all of Israel and make atonement for their sins.

But only the high priest ever entered the Most Holy Place [Holy of Holies], and only once a year. And he always offered blood for his own sins and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance. Hebrews 9:7 NLT

Atonement means “satisfaction or reparation for a wrong or injury; amends.”

At the very moment that Jesus breathed His last breath, the temple veil was torn. So what is the significance of the veil being torn?

The veil being torn symbolized that mankind’s separation from God had been removed by Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross. The tearing of the veil at the moment of Jesus’ death dramatically symbolized that His sacrifice…the shedding of His own blood…was sufficient atonement for man’s sins…forever!

Furthermore, the fact that the veil was torn from top to bottom was also significant. Why?
Well, first of all, this temple veil or curtain was not a simple curtain you would hang above your window in your home. This temple veil was 60ft long and 30ft wide and was one inch thick! It was so massive that it took 300 priests to manipulate it!

Therefore, no one could simply tear the veil themselves! It would take more than human strength to tear it.

The analogy is that it took the mighty hand of God Himself to tear it supernaturally. And this tearing which represents the removal of the separation of God and man could not be done by humans. It had to be done by God alone…and that’s why it is so significant!

No one can remove our separation from God but God Himself!

He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins–and not only our sins but the sins of all the world. 1 John 2:2 NLT

All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5:8 NIV

The fact the veil was torn in two from top to bottom…which stood some 60ft from the floor where humans clearly could not reach it…shows that God was the One that caused the veil to be torn. He was the initiator of the veil being torn.

The significance of the veil being torn from top to bottom and just the fact that it was torn is that Jesus’ sacrifice makes it possible for us to come to God our Father. Our sins no longer separate us from Him.

On Good Friday at approximately 3pm, Jesus took His last drink…spoke His last words…and breathed his last breath. He gave up His spirit that day and the veil was torn.

When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. John 19:30 NIV

Jesus Christ through His death…removed the barriers between God and man…and now we may approach Him with confidence and boldness!

Jesus Christ through His resurrection…destroyed the power of death…and now we as Christians may receive forgiveness of our sins and everlasting life!

Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death-that is, the devil-and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. Hebrews 2:14-15 NIV

As we reflect and celebrate this Easter weekend, my prayer and hope is for us to not only gain a greater perspective as Christians in understanding the significance of the “veil [being] torn” but also that many others who don’t even have a relationship with Jesus will come to him and accept Him as their Lord and Savior!

Let’s all come together in prayer that God will begin moving on the hearts of those who don’t know Jesus today in our communities…in our country…in our world!

Happy Easter! Thank you so much everyone for your continued support of Sweeter Than Honey Blog!