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!

 

 

 

In Spirit and In Truth

In our Women’s Bible Study at my church, we began an amazing new study and last week we learned in great depth about the story of the Samaritan woman in John 4:1-26. This passage is truly remarkable and reveals many biblical truths…far too many to discuss here…but I certainly encourage you to read and study it for yourself!

As we began to discuss this passage illustrated by a conversation between Jesus and an unnamed woman…known to us only as the Samaritan woman or the Woman at the Well…oh and a conversation that is considered the longest one on one conversation recorded in the bible…pretty significant don’t you think? Ok sorry to side track…

As we began to discuss this passage…John 4:24 caught my attention. I felt my curiosity nudging me to explore this scripture further to grasp a deeper understanding of its meaning.

For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth. John 4:24 NLT

What exactly does it mean to worship God in spirit and in truth?

Well, in order to understand what this scripture implies…we must first define the word “worship.”

The term “worship” means “worth-ship”…to attribute worth to an object. Therefore, to worship God is to attribute worth to Him.

John 4:24 begins by stating God is Spirit. This means that God is not a physical being limited to one place. He is present everywhere…omnipresent!

Why is this important?

Well, because if God is Spirit, His worship is not limited to a physical or geographical location. His worship is not limited to a place or the performance of a ceremony. He can be worshipped anywhere…at any time!

The object of worship will continue still the same, God, as a Father; but an end shall be put to all differences about the place of worship. Reason teaches us to consult decency and convenience in the places of our worship; but religion gives no preference to one place above another, in respect of holiness and approval with God. Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary

When the Samaritan woman interjects about worshiping God in a specific location, Jesus directs the conversation to a more important point…not so much the location of worship but the attitude of worship.

Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” John 4:19-20 NIV

Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. John 4:21-22 NIV

True worship of God is not physical worship in a physical location…it is spiritual worship.

Historically, physical worship meant that worship was limited to going to one particular place and physically acting in certain ways (like going up on top of a mountain or to the Temple in Jerusalem)

However, true worship is spiritual…not physical. It is worship of your inner being and is not found in the outward actions of the flesh.

Now don’t get me wrong…even though outward physical actions can be connected to worship ie. singing praises to God, lifting your hands in surrender, offering financial gifts…

True worship is not to be found in the outward physical actions but in the inward condition of the heart. It is an inward attitude of reverence and exaltation in which outward actions can be associated, but not required.

Spiritual affections, as shown in fervent prayers, supplications, and thanksgivings, form the worship of an upright heart, in which God delights and is glorified. Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary

So what then does it mean to worship God in spirit and in truth?

In Spirit

To worship God “in spirit” means that our worship must engage our whole heart…therefore, the condition of our heart is important. Worshiping God “in spirit’ is directed by our love for Him.

And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. Mark 12:30 NLT

To worship God “in spirit” means to worship him with an attitude of …

1. Passion and Zeal

Praise the LORD. I will extol the LORD with all my heart in the council of the upright and in the assembly. Psalm 111:1 NIV

2. Understanding

I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding; 1Corinthians 14:15 NIV

3. Reverence and Respect

In the council of the holy ones God is greatly feared; he is more awesome than all who surround him. Psalm 89:7 NIV

4. Sincerity

And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; Philippians 1:9-10 NASB

5. Glorifying Him.

Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness. Psalm 29:2 NIV

In Truth 

To worship God “in truth” means that our worship must be consistent with God’s Word.

To worship God “in truth” means that our worship must be consistent with the revelation of who God is…His attributes, actions, character, and conduct. Unless we have knowledge of the God we worship, there is no worship “in truth.”

Both are necessary in satisfying God-honoring worship. Spirit without truth can lead to a shallow overly emotional experience that could be compared to a high. Truth without spirit can result in a dry, passionless encounter that can lead to a form of joyless legalism.

The best combination of both aspects of worship results in a joyful appreciation of God…informed and motivated by God’s Word.

The more we know about God…the more we appreciate Him. The more we appreciate Him, the deeper our worship. The deeper our worship, the more God is glorified!

When we worship God in spirit and in truth…we exemplify the kind of worshiper that God seeks!

But the time is coming–indeed it’s here now–when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. John 4:23 NLT

 

Reflection Points:

  1. What does worship mean?
  2. Do you associate worshiping God with a specific place …like a church?
  3. What does it mean to worship God in spirit? What is the condition of your heart?
  4. What does it mean to worship God in truth? Is your worship consistent with God’s Word and who He is?
  5. Are you worshiping God in both spirit and truth?

Action Points:

  1. Read the passage about the Samaritan woman and observe their conversation about worshiping God in a specific place.
  2. Review above the characteristics of worshiping God in spirit.
  3. Continue to study and read God’s word to gain more knowledge and understanding. Then you will fully appreciate God and worship Him in truth.

 

Boxed In

A year and a half into our marriage, my husband Billy and I went through very difficult financial circumstances. The down-turning economy greatly affected our business…we were losing our house….we had to sell my car…and I was 7 months pregnant with my first child.

Certainly not what I had planned or envisioned to be a part of what should be considered such a joyful time with my first pregnancy!

As Billy and I looked at all our options and turned in every direction to find a way to save our home…we couldn’t see a way out. I prayed and pleaded…petitioned and desperately cried out… to God to help us in our financial stress.

I felt boxed in…trapped…with no hope in our circumstances.

What are we going to do? Where are we going to go?

Have you ever felt this way? Boxed in…trapped…with no way out…with no hope in your circumstances?

“Boxed in” can be defined as “enclosed in or as if in a box; trapped.”

I felt boxed in…but the problem was that I boxed God in with me…and I just couldn’t see past the walls of my enclosed box…my enclosed circumstance.

It became so clear one morning…after I had prayed and prayed and prayed….when God reminded me that…

Even though I felt boxed in…He was not.

Even though I boxed God in with me…He was not in my box.

Even though I was limited by the six walls of my box…He was not limited…by ANYTHING!!

Even though I was feeling “There is no way!”…He was saying “I am the way!”

God took me that day from desperation to hope.

Hope in a God who loves and cares for me so much…more than I will ever know or understand. Hope in a God who is omniscient…omnipresent…omnipotent!

And check this out! …The prefix omni means “all; without limits”.

Omniscient…All-knowing

Omnipresent…Present in all places at all times

Omnipotent…All-powerful

A God who is…

Without limits in His knowledge…Without limits in His presence…Without limits in His power. Truly Amazing!!!

Omniscient

O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. 2 You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. 3 You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. 4 Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD. 5 You hem me in–behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. 6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Psalm 139:1-6 NIV

Omnipresent

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? 8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. 9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, 10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. 11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” 12 even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. Ps 139:7-12 NIV

Omnipotent

Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Ephesians 3:20-21 KJ

God knows what needs to be done…Omniscience!

He has the power to do it…Omnipotence!

He is always wherever He needs to be to do whatever needs to be done…Omnipresence!

God pulled me out of my box that day and gave me hope.

18 So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. 19 This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary. Hebrews 6:18-19NLT

We did lose our house…we did sell my car…and we struggled financially for the coming years after.

God didn’t work things out the way I may have wanted him to…but as I look back I can see, feel, and know his love and concern for me and my family every step of the way…every step from then to right now at this moment.

He will continue to be your hope in and through every circumstance in your life. Do not underestimate His “omni” nature…His unlimited nature…in His knowledge, presence, and power!

He is your all-knowing…all-present…all-powerful God!! Praise Him today for this hope that cannot be taken away…especially when you feel “boxed in.”

Yes…we lost our house…we sold my car…and we had a beautiful healthy baby boy 2 months later…

Yes… God knows what needs to be done… He has the power to do it… and He is always wherever He needs to be to do whatever needs to be done!

Reflection Points:

  1. Have you ever felt boxed in…trapped…with no way out…with no hope in your circumstances? Do you currently feel this way?
  2. Have you placed God in your box…like I did?
  3. Do you know the “omni” nature of God? His omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence?
  4. Do you believe that God is all-knowing…all-present…all-powerful?

Action Points:

  1. Realize that God is not limited by your circumstances. He doesn’t operate in the natural…He is supernatural!
  2. Meditate on the “omni” nature of God. Read and study bible verses that demonstrate these attributes.
  3. Place your hope in a God who loves and cares for you so much! Trust in His plans…even when you may not understand them. (Proverbs 3:5-6, Jeremiah 29:11, Romans 8:28)

 

 

Peace of Mind

No God, No Peace…Know God, Know Peace.

I have always loved this saying! …That’s what the bumper sticker read on the car in front of me at the stoplight many years ago. Amazing…after all these years it has still stuck in my head!

Peace of mind…something everyone wants in their life…don’t they? Don’t you?

We all want to be able to rest…not worry…enjoy life. We all want to be able to enjoy ourselves and not be burdened down with worries that can rob us of our vigor, joy, and purpose in life.

It comes as no surprise that as Christians we can know peace…because we know God. Like the bumper sticker…right?

But how many Christians…how many of us…still struggle with peace and specifically with peace in the day to day details of our lives?

“Peace” comes from the Greek word eirene, the Greek equivalent for the Hebrew word shalom, which expresses the idea of “wholeness, completeness, or tranquility in the soul” that is unaffected by outward circumstances or pressures. The word eirene strongly suggests the rule of order in place of chaos.

Sounds good to me! I certainly want to have peace…tranquility that is not affected by outward circumstances or pressures. And I certainly like order over chaos! Don’t you?

We may face various circumstances in life…we may make many decisions in life (some harder than others) …we may experience busy days full of commitments and pressures in our lives… all seeming to push peace so far out of reach.

So if we are Christians and have a relationship with Jesus and God gives us peace…then why do we still lack peace?

I am leaving you with a gift–peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. John 14:27 NLT

If our Father is the Prince of Peace…if our Father is Jehovah Shalom…then what robs us of our peace?

Some of the things that can rob us of our peace are worries in life, difficult circumstances, discontentment, and busyness of life. (FYI…a great acronym for BUSY is Being Under Satan’s Yolk.)

So how can we experience peace of mind on a daily basis and in our lives?

Right Focus

Having our focus on God helps us experience peace of mind. Many times we may dwell on our circumstances and problems which rob us of our peace. We can become so consumed with our problems that we can lose focus of our problem-solver…our Prince of Peace…our all-knowing, all-powerful God!

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. Isaiah 26:3 NIV

For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace Romans 8:6 NASB

Right Perspective

Having an eternal perspective will help us have peace of mind. Understanding that our time on earth is short compared to eternity will help us not get caught up in the unimportant details of our daily lives. Having an eternal perspective will also help us push through our difficult seasons knowing that our trials here on earth are temporary.

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 NIV

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world. John 16:33 NLT

Right Attitude

Having a thankful attitude will help us have peace of mind. Thankfulness demonstrates that we are content with what we have. Many times we are robbed of our peace when we become discontent and begin to focus on what others have and what we don’t have in life. Having a thankful attitude will eliminate a comparing attitude.

And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful. Colossians 3:15 NLT

Rejoice always, pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV

Right Thoughts

Having right thoughts will help us have peace of mind.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me–put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:8-9

Think on these things – Esteem them highly, recommend them heartily, and practice them fervently. Clarke’s Commentary

Think on these things; or take account of. Let these be the considerations which guide your thoughts and direct your motives. The apostle implies that we have the power of governing our thoughts, and so are responsible for them. If the thoughts are ordered well, the outward life will follow. Pulpit Commentary

Right Heart

The key to having peace of mind is having a heart that fully trusts God…no matter what. Because our understanding is so limited…and God’s is not…we are not to depend on our own understanding.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. Proverbs 3:5-6 NLT

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27 NLT

And because our hearts determine our actions, a right heart will lead to right actions.

Right Actions

Growing in our relationship with God through prayer and reading His Word will help us have peace of mind. This is how we will actually know God and consequently know peace!

Through prayer we can come to Jesus and cast our worries and burdens upon Him. Through reading God’s word we will grow in our hope, faith and trust in Him…and then we will experience rest and peace.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 NLT

 Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30 NIV

Those who love Your law have great peace, And nothing causes them to stumble. Psalm 119:165 NASB

Our thoughts will ultimately determine what is truly in our hearts. And our hearts will ultimately determine our actions.

Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life. Proverbs 4:23 NLT

As Christians, we can Know God…Know Peace.

We have the power to control our thoughts and what we choose to focus on. We can choose to have the right focus… right perspective…right attitude…right thoughts…right heart…and right actions…helping us have peace of mind in our daily lives as well as life in general…no matter what circumstances we face…no matter what decisions we face…no matter what may try to rob our peace.

Reflection Points:

1) Do you struggle with peace of mind in your daily life? Or life in general?

2) What seems to rob you of your peace?

3) Do you have the right focus… right perspective…right attitude…right thoughts…right heart…and right actions?

4) What areas do you need to work on to help you bring peace of mind in your life?

Action Points:

1) Review and put to action the 6 points above in order to experience peace of mind in your life.

 

Be Still and Know

I don’t know about you, but I am a person who can never seem to be still! I keep going and going and going! It’s already in my nature as a woman to be a multi-tasker…and add on to that my type-A tendencies? Yup, I pretty much never take a break…until my head hits the pillow at night! Even my husband will ask me to just sit down on the couch with him and hang out for a little while…Hang out? Seriously?

Ok, yea sure, I have a load to put in the washer…a load to put in the dryer (because the Lord knows if my 3 year old doesn’t have a dinosaur shirt to wear to school tomorrow…well let’s just say a battle I choose not to fight in the morning!) …dishes to wash and put away…toys to pick up….thoughts of dinner lurking in my mind…do I really have the time to sit down and hang out? Yes, I just might have some Martha tendencies…like in the story of Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42)…but that’s a topic to discuss at another time!

When I think of my busy life, I can’t help but be reminded of the scripture in Psalm 46:10.

Be still, and know that I am God! Psalm 46:10 NLT

Throughout the years in growing in my relationship with God, I have heard a few interpretations of this verse…interpretations such as…

You have got to sit still and not be so busy so you can spend time with God and get to know Him better!

You need to stop talking so much and be quiet so that when you pray you can actually hear God…

Have you ever read Psalm 46:10 and felt this way too?

Well,  just recently this scripture caught my attention…so much so that I began to play and replay in my mind the words…be still and know…be still and know…be still and know. And so the desire to dig deeper grew inside of me.

“Be still” is defined in the Webster’s dictionary as “motionless, stationary; quiet; calmness or silence.”

Not surprising… definitions I most certainly expected in defining “be still” and definitions that most certainly do not describe my life!

But check out this out!

The word translated “be still” actually comes from the Hebrew term raphah which means “to let go” or “to release” or “to be weak.”

“Be still” implies that an action takes place…that we must actually do something (let go, release)…which seems contrary to the Webster’s definition of being motionless or stationary.

One commentary states:

Be still – means properly to cast down; to let fall; to let hang down; then, to be relaxed, slackened, especially the hands: It is also employed in the sense of not making an effort; not putting forth exertion; and then would express the idea of leaving matters with God, or of being without anxiety about the issue. Barne’s Notes

I believe this seeming contradiction can be clarified by understanding that the first aspect of this scripture… “be still” …goes hand in hand with the latter aspect… “know that I am God.”

So what are we exactly letting go of? And why do we need to let go?

We must first “be still”…let go…release…surrender…control to God.  And then we will know that He is God! It almost appears conditional, doesn’t it?

When we realize that we are truly incapable of controlling our life (as much as we may try!), we can surrender our will to God’s will. It just may be a matter of finally saying that we trust Him completely. This will then open the door so that we may experience the fullness of all God wants and has for us. Then we will know that He is God!

And so what exactly does it mean to know that He is God?

“Know” is defined as “to be aware of the truth or factuality of; be convinced or certain of; to understand.

Do you know God today? I mean really know God? Are you aware of the truth or factuality of… are you convinced or certain of… who God is? That He is God?

We can know God by having an intimate relationship with Him. That does not come from knowing about Him, but rather getting to personally know Him by what He says (in the Bible), recognizing the things He does in our lives, and by way of His Holy Spirit who comes to guide and comfort us.

And know that I am God – See, in what I have done, the evidence that I am God. See a work accomplished which none “but” God could effect. Barne’s Notes

Know that I am God – Understand that I am the Fountain of power, wisdom, justice, goodness, and truth. Clark’s Commentary

Now, LORD our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, LORD, are the only God. Isaiah 37:20

When we can “be still” …and release control to God….we open the door to see who He is!

Control must be surrendered to unlock the doors for us to truly know God and to know who He is. It’s just like when we admit that we are weak, then we are strong because God’s power and strength is made apparent in our weakness.

…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. 2Cor 12:9 NLT

By letting go…we will know! We will know how awesome and amazing God is and His name will ultimately be glorified and lifted high!

As important as it is to literally “be still” so that we can spend time with God, it is important to also understand that the context of Psalm 46:10 is greater and deeper.

My hope and prayer for you and for me is that we would “be still” and “know [He is] God!

Reflection Points:

1)      Have you read Psalm 46:10 before? How have you interpreted it?

2)      Does understanding that the Hebrew translation of “be still” means “to let go or to release”, help you to see that releasing control to God is important in knowing who He is?

3)      What areas of your life do you need to surrender control over to God?

4)      What exactly does it mean to know that He is God?

5)      Do you really know God?

Action Points:

1)      When we are able to “be still” …let go…release…surrender control to God, we will know that He is God.

2)      Control must be surrendered to unlock the doors for us to truly know God and who is. It’s like when we admit that we are weak, that we are strong because God’s power and strength is made apparent in our weakness. (2Cor 12:9) Then we may experience the fullness of all God wants and has for us.

3)      Pray and ask the Lord to show you areas of control that you need to surrender to Him. And then pray for the strength and willingness to let go. You will be amazed to see what God will do!

Passed Your Past

My youngest son Bryce began to crawl when he was approximately 7 months old.  Of course a huge milestone for a baby and a mommy!

I clearly remember on one occasion when Bryce crawled a short distance towards a little toy that he desired. When he reached the toy, he grabbed it with his left hand. He seemed quite content with his newly found toy and then after a brief period of time, he lost interest.

He then he saw another toy in front of him that he desired. This time he attempted to move forward but was unsuccessful because he was still holding onto the first toy.

He just couldn’t figure out that he needed to let go of the toy he was holding onto in order to propel himself forward! Holding this toy prevented him from moving forward and reaching his goal.

Hmmm…sound familiar? Anyone?

Just like Bryce holding onto this toy  prevented him from moving forward…many times we too similarly hold onto things that prevent us from moving forward….moving forward into the purpose…the plans… and ultimately the destiny that God has for us.

Are you holding onto something that is holding you back from moving forward in your life today?

Are you holding onto something that is preventing you from moving forward in your relationship with Jesus and moving toward spiritual maturity?

Are you stuck in your past and having a hard time moving passed your past?

In the book of Philippians, the apostle Paul… acknowledging that he himself has not yet arrived (Philippians 3:12)…shares 3 actions that help him….and can help us…in moving forward and progressing toward the plans and purposes God has for us….progressing toward Christlikeness and spiritual maturity.

But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:13-14 ESV

Action One: Forgetting what lies behind

Forgetting what lies behind…forgetting our past…getting passed our past…is easier said than done, isn’t it?

Especially if we are holding onto deep hurts…a painful experience…failures…mistakes…guilt …unforgiveness…or even sin!

It may be hard to move forward but if we keep holding onto our past, it will prevent us from moving forward…just like Bryce holding his toy prevented him from moving forward!

Forgetting can be defined as “disregarding intentionally; overlooking.”

We can’t change our past (as much as we may really want to!)…and in order to get passed our past, we need to be intentional…intentional about forgetting our past and intentional about changing the meaning of our past.

The past teaches us many valuable lessons…lessons about God…lessons about life…lessons about ourselves. We are to learn from what lies behind, and then take those lessons and move ahead… progressing toward Christlikeness and spiritual maturity.

Notice the verb tense of the word “forgetting”…it is present continuous. Hint: our past experiences and events don’t necessarily get erased from our minds…we must continually be intentional about “forgetting” our past when we find ourselves dwelling…hanging on…holding on…to our past.

We will certainly face challenges and difficult circumstances in our life…some we have control over and some we do not. But it’s our response in the present…our actions in the future…which determine the meaning of the events in our past.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 NIV

God will use our past…the good…the bad…and the ugly…and He will use not just “some things” but “all things” for our good!

God will use our past to encourage us and strengthen our faith. God will use our past to be relatable to others and give us the opportunity to share what we have faced to minister to others.

Action 2: Straining forward to what lies ahead

It’s interesting to note the word “straining” used here.  Straining implies that moving forward to what lies ahead may not necessarily be an easy task!

Straining can be defined as “exerting to the utmost; stretching to maximum extension; stretching beyond the proper point or limit.”

Sure doesn’t sound like a stroll in the park, huh?

Have you ever felt stretched in your attempts to move forward…stretched in your attempts to move forward to what lies ahead…stretched in your attempts to fulfill the purpose and calling that God has for your life?

When Paul talks about “straining forward to what lies ahead” the context of his words suggests a runner racing toward the finish line. Paul fixes his eyes on the goal…living for Christ, becoming more and more like Christ and growing spiritually mature. And with all his energy…mental, emotional, and physical…he is committed, focused, and disciplined to running this race.

Leaving in God’s hands the elements of our past…which can hold us back and drain us of mental, emotional, and physical energy…is an important step in the race toward living for Christ, becoming more like Christ,  and growing in spiritual maturity.

Action 3: Press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

God has a plan and purpose for each and every one of us! He says…

I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. Jeremiah 29:11 Message

Press on means “to act upon through steady pushing; to follow through; to force or push one’s way; active and earnest endeavor.”

To press on toward the goal of Christlikeness and spiritual maturity…like Paul… is a race we will run for the rest of our lives. And pressing on…pushing forward…following through… can seem difficult…But God hasn’t left us alone!

We are to draw on God’s grace and strength every step of the way. And only then we will persevere!

But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31 NIV

Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:4 NIV

We are all a work in progress…especially when our goal is to become more Christ-like and progress to spiritual maturity. Let’s follow Paul’s example so that we may run this race…called life…fixing our eyes on Christ to reach the goal and ultimately the purpose that God has for each of us.

“I may not be where I need to be but I thank God I am not where I used to be.” Joyce Meyer

I am sure we can all say amen to that!

Reflection Points:

1)      Are you holding onto something that is holding you back from moving forward in your life today?

2)      Are you holding onto something that is preventing you from moving forward in your relationship with Jesus and moving toward spiritual maturity?

3)      Are you stuck in your past and having a hard time moving passed your past?

Action Points:

Review the 3 Action Points that Paul shares  to help you forget what lies behind…move passed your past…strain forward to what lies ahead…and press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus!

Who Are You…Really?

After grad school, I was determined to find a job as an athletic trainer in professional baseball. I was so determined that I sent my resume to every professional baseball organization whether they had a job opening or not!

Soon after I sent my resume out, I received many letters back from these organizations stating that they had no job positions open. Funny though…these letters that were sent back were addressed to me as Mr. Taleen….instead of Miss Taleen!

You see I was trying to break into a very male-dominated field…having a woman athletic trainer in professional baseball was unheard of! These organizations saw my name…had no clue I was a woman…and just assumed I was a man. I even had one organization call me for an interview and ask to speak with Mr. Taleen… How quickly their tone on the phone changed from enthusiasm to disappointment upon the discovery that I was a woman!  FYI…I didn’t get that job.

After all my efforts and determination, I actually did get a job offer and worked for the Chicago Cubs professional baseball organization for 3 years. Because it was very uncommon for a woman to have this job position in professional baseball, I had multiple TV interviews and newspapers contacting me to do stories about being a woman in this male-dominated field.

And while I was breaking these barriers, my goals of being the first woman in my position to hopefully move up to the Major League level began to define me. I found value in the attention I received and the accomplishments I was achieving. I was a woman breaking the barriers in a male dominated field. That’s who I was…

So what about you? Who are you? Who are you …really?

Are you really the person that people think you are? Are you really the person that you think you are?

Where do you find your identity?

Our identity is…what defines us…what gives us our value…what gives us our worth.

Oftentimes, we find our identity in our jobs/occupations (like I did)…in our accomplishments and achievements (like I did)…in our material possessions…in social media…in who others think we are…and even in who you think you are!

In addition…as women…we can base our identity and value on certain roles and tasks that we do…for instance, our role as a wife or a mother. And we can evaluate our worth as a woman against how well we perform those tasks.

We may compare ourselves with others…judging our performance against others’ performance. If we are doing well relative to others, we feel good about ourselves …but if we aren’t…we often feel like a failure.

I have experienced this personally as a mother. It’s easy to compare yourself to other mothers and think… “Wow, she is so patient with her children! I can’t do that!” or “Wow, she is such a good mother…her children are so well-behaved!”

In Luke 10:38-42 we find the story of Jesus visiting his friends…2 sisters named Mary and Martha. And it is in this passage that we will see how one of these women struggled with her identity.

38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “You are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” NIV

Now it may not seem so obvious but Martha…although she had been touched by the love of Jesus… believes her significance and value are found in doing…doing many things…making preparations like cooking and cleaning!

The key to seeing Martha’s identity crisis is actually found in Luke 10:40. Martha shows frustration not only in the fact that her sister Mary is not helping her but also in that Jesus doesn’t seem to care or recognize all that she is doing!

And to top it off, Jesus commends her sister Mary for choosing to do what is better!

Can you imagine how Martha felt? She was cooking and cleaning and making preparations. She was serving Jesus!

Even though what Martha was doing was certainly honorable,  Jesus had to remind her of something that can easily be forgotten in the midst of our busy lives…our value…our worth…our identity…are not determined on how we behave or perform on a daily basis.

Our value and identity are not based on what we have done…or will do…but on who we are in Christ. Our identity in Christ is a gift of God’s grace…not a standing we can earn by hard work and good intentions.

Your identity is in this constant state of chaos and change and influenced sometimes positively and sometimes negatively. What this leads to is a very inconsistent emotional and spiritual life. These are the things that may explain you, but they do not define you. Mark Driscoll

Our identity is in Christ and who He says we are!

So who exactly does Christ say we are?

Well, for starters, we were bought at a price! (1 Corinthians 6:20) What price? At the price of the blood of Christ being shed…At the price of Jesus dying on the cross for us! God sacrificed the life of his very own son for us…if that doesn’t make you feel valuable I am not sure what will!

Psalm 139:14 also states that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. The context of the word fearfully here refers to the respect and reverence God has for us when He created us! This also demonstrates the value we have in God’s eyes!

Check out these scriptures to further understand who God says we are!

We are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God. 1Peter 2:9

He chose us in Him before the creation of the world…Ephesians 1:4

He predestined us to be adopted as his [daughters] through Jesus Christ…

He gave the right to become children of God… John 1:12

We should be called children of God…1 John 3:1

You are all [daughters] of God through faith in Christ Jesus… Galatians 3:26

You are fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household…Ephesians 2:19

Our citizenship is in heaven…Philippians 3:20

He set His seal of ownership on us…2 Corinthians 1:22

We are God’s workmanship… Ephesians 2:10

God made you alive with Christ… Colossians 2:13

God has made also an heir… Galatians 4:7

I have called you friends… John 15:15

If anyone is in Christ, [she] is a new creation…2 Corinthians 5:17

We are therefore Christ’s ambassador’s… 2 Corinthians 5:20

[God] seated us with Him in the heavenly realms… Ephesians 2:6

Doesn’t that just blow your mind?!! To be bought at a price…to be made fearfully…to be chosen…to be God’s daughter…to be considered royalty…to be an heir…to be seated with Him in heaven…just to name a few!

As you read through these scriptures, you can see not only who you are…but whose you are!

Allowing your identity to be in anything other than Christ will leave you disappointed. Because everything in this world is subject to change…but only Christ is unchanging.

I continue to attend athletic training conferences to keep up my credentials…and I still have young ladies come up to me sharing how they know who I am…one of the first women athletic trainers ever in professional baseball!

I just smile…My identity is in Christ now…because that’s what defines me…because that’s where my value comes from…because that’s who I am now.

Reflection Points:

1)      Who are you really?

2)      Where do you find your identity?

3)      Is your identity in Christ?

4)      Who does Christ say you are?

Action Points:

1)      As Christians, it is important that our identity is in Christ. If we put our value and worth in anything other than Christ we will be disappointed.

2)      We can easily put our identity in other things but by understanding and studying what God says about us, we can accept who we are in Christ.

3)      Review the scriptures listed to gain a better understanding of who you are…and whose you are!