Knowing Him

We all have relationships in our lives. We have relationships with our spouses…our families…and our children. We have relationships with friends…schoolmates… neighbors…coworkers…and clients.

And in all of these relationships, we have different levels of intimacy. Some may only be acquaintances…while others are actual relationships. Some may be superficial …while others are more personal. Some may be strictly business…while others may be more casual. And some may be close…while others may be even closer and very intimate.

So how about your relationship with Jesus? Do you have a relationship with Jesus? If so, how would you describe it?

Is it really a relationship…or just an acquaintance?

Is it superficial…or more personal?

Is it more of a business relationship…you do something for Jesus and in return expect Him to do something in return?

Is it a casual relationship…sometimes you want to be with Jesus and other times you want to be left alone?

Or is it a deeper closer relationship…a passionate intimate relationship?

Wherever we stand in this broad relationship spectrum…It’s important to know that Jesus wants a close intimate relationship with us! Whether we may know this or not…we were created for intimacy!

You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am He. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me. Isaiah 43:10 NIV

If you are Christian today and you don’t feel close or intimate with God…it’s not because He moved! It’s because we moved! We have pulled away for one reason or another.

Jesus says that He will never leave us or forsake us! (Hebrews 13:5)

We determine our level of intimacy with Jesus…not God. It is a choice. And it is our choice how close to God we want to be.

The word “intimacy” can be defined as “a close personal relationship; a detailed knowledge resulting from a close or long association.”

So check this out…this is pretty interesting! The definition says that intimacy is having “a detailed knowledge resulting from a close or long association.”

This expresses that there is an association between intimacy and knowledge. Knowing brings intimacy. So this therefore implies that “knowing God” is essential in developing and experiencing an intimate relationship with Him.

I am not talking about…“knowing about God”…but “knowing God.” Knowing about someone and knowing someone are 2 different things. Knowing about God does not bring intimacy…knowing Him does!

And the intimacy that’s created from knowing Him is a result of spending time with Him…and more specifically spending one on one time praying, reading and studying His word.

Just like in any relationship, the more alone time you spend with that person…..the better you get to know them…the more intimate you become.

In the Bible, at least 70 people traveled with Jesus when he preached but only 12 disciples were his close companions. And of the twelve, Peter, James, and John were closer still. But only one of these 3 laid his head on Jesus’ chest. One of these 3 the bible says is “the disciple whom Jesus loved”. Jesus did love them all but only one of his followers achieved the highest level of intimacy.

Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; the one who also had leaned back on His bosom at the supper and said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?” John 21:20 NASB

It was John! John achieved the highest level of intimacy with Jesus!

John spent much time with Jesus…John knew Jesus… and therefore John had a very close relationship with Jesus…John had an intimate relationship with Jesus.

Again…It’s not enough to know about Jesus…We must know Him!

So what exactly does “knowing God” mean?

In the Old Testament of the bible, the Hebrew word “yada” is used and translated in the English as the word “know” or “knowledge.” This Hebrew word has a much broader meaning than the English word “know.” The biblical Old Testament word for “knowing God” means:

To Perceive                   To Learn

To Understand               To Recognize

To Believe                      To Accept His Claims

To Conform                    To Be Willing

To Perform or Live         To Obey

To See or Experience

These words all come from the Hebrew word “yada” and hold important keys to getting to know God the way He wants us to know Him.

In the New Testament, the Greek words “oida” and “ginosko” are used and have broader meanings like the Hebrew word “yada” but in the context they are used in the New Testament, they also have the following additional meanings. The biblical New Testament word for “knowing God” means:

To Believe and Accept Jesus

To Know Jesus is to Know God

To Know Truth

To Respond in Faith

These Hebrew and Greek translations really take our understanding of defining “knowing God” to another level! “Knowing God” means much more than just understanding and learning about Him.

“Knowing God” is the key to experience a close intimate relationship with Him!

Today I would like to focus on the barriers that can hold us back from “knowing God” and experiencing this close intimate relationship with Him.

Before we can know God and experience intimacy, we need to first recognize if there is anything holding us back. There are several barriers that can hinder our relationship with God.

Barriers to Knowing God intimately:

1. Unconfessed Sin and Unrepentant Heart 

Disobedience is a major barrier because it creates distance in our relationship with God. We can’t have an intimate relationship with Him if we don’t respect His boundaries.

Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them. John 14:21 NLT

2. Insufficient Vision

Lack of vision is another barrier. God offers us unimaginable love, joy, peace, and completeness through an intimate relationship with Him. And yet oftentimes we are satisfied with only being mere acquaintances.

God looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. Psalm 53:2 NIV

3. Lack of Belief 

Unbelief prevents us from trusting God and knowing Him intimately. We live in a physical realm and even though we cannot see Him with our human eyes we can experience the effects of His presence…and that requires us to have eyes of faith! 

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. Hebrews 11:6 ESV

4. Preoccupied with Distractions 

Busyness can be a barrier to developing a closer relationship with God…even when we are actively serving Him. The story about Mary and Martha in the book of Luke is a great example!

38As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40But 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, 42but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42 NIV

5. Spiritual Warfare  

As Christians, Satan knows he has lost hold on your eternal destiny so you better believe that he is going to do everything he can to prevent you from developing intimacy with God and fulfilling His plan for your life. And the previous barrier…busyness…is a great way for Satan to take your focus off God and distract you. FYI: A great acronym for BUSY is Being Under Satan’s Yolk!

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” John 10:10 NASB

6. Idolatry  

Idolatry…anything or anyone that takes the place of God in our lives…is another barrier to knowing God intimately. God should be the center of our lives but we are often tempted to elevate someone else or something to that highest place of priority.

Therefore, my dearly beloved, shun, keep clear away from and avoid by flight if need be, any sort of idolatry, of loving or venerating anything more than God. 1 Corinthians 10:14 AMP

7. Lack of Discipline 

Many of us have the desire to know God and have an intimate relationship with Him but we lack the discipline. We aren’t disciplined enough to pray and read God’s word on a daily basis. Going to church and attending bible studies are great but will not create the intimate loving relationship with God as spending one on one time with Him…praying and studying His word.

The slacker craves, yet has nothing, but the diligent is fully satisfied. Proverbs 13:4 HCSB

These barriers will prevent us from knowing God intimately.

Do you recognize any of these barriers in your life?

Interestingly, all the barriers that hinder us from knowing God and experiencing an intimate relationship with Jesus can be paralleled with the Hebrew/ Greek definitions for “knowing God.”

Unconfessed Sin and Unrepentant Heart…Knowing God means To Obey

Insufficient Vision…Knowing God means To Believe and To Perceive and To Understand

Lack of Belief…Knowing God means To Accept His claims and To Respond in Faith

Preoccupied with Distractions…Knowing God means To Be Willing

Spiritual Warfare…Knowing God means To Recognize and To Know Truth

Idolatry… Knowing God means To Recognize

Lack of Discipline…Knowing God means To Learn, To Perform or Live

God wants an intimate relationship with you! If you aren’t experiencing this intimacy, begin today to take the necessary action in developing and strengthening your relationship with Him.

The benefits of having an intimate relationship with Jesus are unimaginable! The amazing love, peace, joy and completeness you will experience in your life cannot be obtained by anything or anyone else in your life…only by “knowing Him!”

Reflection Points:                        

  1. Do you have a relationship with Jesus? If so, how would you describe it?
  2. So what exactly does “knowing God” mean?
  3. Do you recognize any barriers in your life that prevent you from knowing God and having an intimate relationship with Him?

Action Points:

  1. Understand that we were created for intimacy and that Jesus wants a close intimate relationship with you…not just an acquaintance.
  2. One of the best ways to get to really “know God” is spending one on one time with Him in prayer and studying His word. Begin developing a daily habit of spending time with Him. Practically speaking….get a bible you understand (My preference is the NIV Life Application Bible). Look to other resources that may help you such as devotional books and devotions that you can subscribe to and receive daily. This will result in developing an intimate relationship with Him.
  3. Recognize the barriers that may be preventing you from knowing God intimately. Pray that the Lord will help you overcome these barriers and to help you in seeking an intimate relationship with Him.

 

 

 

 

Gaze vs. Glance

When you drive your car…wouldn’t you say that you gaze out the front window and glance occasionally in your rear and side view mirrors? Sounds logical…right? Sounds like the instructions you were given in driving school…right?

Well, what would happen if you did the opposite? What if you glanced out the front window and gazed in your rear and side view mirrors? You would most likely find yourself headed down a disastrous road! …and most probably crash! Right?

And that’s what many of us do when we face problems in our lives…We tend to gaze at our problems…we tend to focus on our problems…which consequently results in us heading down a disastrous and sometimes deadly road…a road more often than not characterized by intense worry…fear…anxiety…and stress!

And have you ever found yourself while driving…glancing just a little too long in the rear or side view mirrors and when you finally look in front of you again…you see the car in front of you with their brakes on…and then you slam on your breaks?

That’s usually when we realize that we need to refocus our focus and keep our eyes on the road in front of us!

And that’s what some of us may need to do today…refocus our focus on God.

To gaze” is defined…“to look or fix your eyes steadily or intently at someone or something.”

“To glance” is defined…“to look at someone or something very quickly”.

Many of us have the tendency to gaze at our problems…and only glance at God. When we need to gaze at God…and only glance at our problems!

I was inspired this week by the popular devotional “Jesus Today” by Sarah Young and by our current women’s bible study called “Choose Joy” by Kay Warren…which by the way…I highly recommend both in encouraging you in your relationship with Jesus!

I thought I would share Sarah Young’s short devotion…. And if you aren’t familiar with Sarah’s writing style you will quickly notice she writes as if Jesus is speaking to you.

Gaze at Me; Glance at problems – THIS is the secret of living victoriously. Your tendency is to gaze at problems for prolonged periods of time, glancing at Me for help. This is natural for someone with a fallen mind living in a fallen world. However, I have called you to live supernaturally, and I have empowered you to do so. The Holy Spirit, who lives in all my followers, enables you to live beyond yourself – to transcend your natural tendencies. Ask My Spirit to help you fix your gaze on Me. Invite him to alert you whenever you get overly focused on your problems so you can redirect your attention to Me. This is hard work, because it is not only unnatural but also countercultural. Moreover, the evil one and his demons seek to distract you from My Presence. All these influences working together put massive pressure on you to pay attention to your problems – or else! So you need the assistance of My Spirit continually. Ask Him to help you deal with difficulties as needed, while reserving the bulk of your attention for Me – your constant companion.

I know that “Gazing at God and Glancing at our Problems” is sometimes easier said than done especially when we are facing difficult circumstances in life…whether we are dealing with issues involving our health….marriage or relationships…job or finances…or painful experiences as a result of grief and losses.

But as Sarah shared… “THIS is the secret to living victoriously!”

By gazing at God and glancing at our problems we aren’t denying or ignoring the problems we are facing…we are merely shifting our focus from our problems to God.

In the Bible, Daniel is a great example of someone who gazed at God…and glanced at his problems. Many of us have heard the story of Daniel spending the night in the Lion’s Den. If you are not familiar with this story…I highly recommend you read Daniel 6 sometime on your own.

To summarize, Daniel was sent into the Lion’s Den to ultimately be killed and eaten by lions as punishment for not following a decree that went out requiring everyone in Babylon to worship the king…King Darius. Well, Daniel didn’t worship the king…he worshipped God.

So he spent the night with the lions…and some say he slept with the lions all night. This is so significant! Why?

Because if Daniel had been focused on the lions he wouldn’t have been sleeping much! If Daniel was focused on the lions he would have been so fearful and worried for his life that he would have probably attempted to hide in the corner hoping the lions didn’t see him!

There are actually many pictures in books and paintings that depict this scene with Daniel in the Lion’s Den. And interestingly…many of these depictions show Daniel…surrounded by these hungry lions…not gazing at the lions…but gazing at God.

Daniel didn’t have his eyes on the lions…he had his eyes on God. He trusted God. And consequently…God shut the mouth of these lions and delivered Daniel!

When we gaze at our problems…they appear bigger…and we become more fearful…more worried…and more overwhelmed.

When we gaze at God…He becomes bigger…and we feel more confident and peaceful…and can actually sleep and rest…in the midst of our problems…like Daniel!

A great acronym for WORRY is…

W-Worry

O-Only

R-Robs

R-Rest

Y-from You

Trusting in God will give you peace…greater peace knowing that your problems are in the hands of someone who can handle them much better than you can!

One of my favorite verses is Isaiah 26:3.

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! NLT

What lions are you focusing and fixed on today? Are you gazing at the lions in your life or are you gazing at God…the one who has the power to shut the mouths of your lions?

Here are some great scriptures to help us focus on God…

The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? Psalm 27:1 KJV

Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith… Hebrews 12:2 NASB

Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest. Hebrews 3:1 NIV

So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. 2 Corinthians 4:18 NLT

We need to gaze at God…and glance at our problems.

We need to magnify our Master…and minimize our mountains!

We need to focus on our Savior…instead of focusing on our situation!

We need to cast our cares on Christ…instead of our cares casting us down a road of worry…fear…and anxiety!

So how can we do this? How can we gaze at God in the midst of our problems?

1) Praise Him

When we praise and thank God in the midst of our problems, we shift our focus off of our problems…off of ourselves…and onto our God.

Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens. Psalm 68:19 NIV

2) Pray to Him

When we pray to God in the midst of our problems, we are relying on Him and His power to help us and strengthen us…instead of relying on our own strength.

God is good, a hiding place in tough times. He recognizes and welcomes anyone looking for help, No matter how desperate the trouble. Nahum 1:7 MSG

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

And so it is when we gaze at God…and glance at our problems, we can experience the peace and joy that God has for each and every one us!

Reflection Points:

  1. What problems or difficult circumstances are facing today?
  2. Are you glancing at God and gazing at your problems…finding yourself fearful, worried and overwhelmed?
  3. Do you need to refocus your focus on God today?
  4. Do you need to gaze at God and trust Him more in the midst of your problems?
  5. How can you gaze at God and just glance at your problems?

Action Points:

Please review how you can gaze at God and glance at your problems. Begin praising Him and praying to Him in order to shift your focus.

 

 

 

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.