Safe Journey

Two-minute read.

“Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from him a safe journey for ourselves, our children, and all our goods.” 

Ezra 8:21

Safe journey.

We meet Ezra at the beginning of a 900-mile journey to Jerusalem with the Jewish nation, returning from exile after Nehemiah repaired the city wall. Before the descendant of Aaron begins the long trek, he proclaims a fast for safe passage. Since Ezra testified to the king about God’s goodness and power, he didn’t want to ask for a military escort; instead, he trusted the Lord for safe passage. God didn’t disappoint; he answered Ezra’s call.

Ezra seeks protection for the children because of their vulnerability during wartime. The vast treasures they possessed made the group a target for robbers. Only with divine protection could the nation pass unharmed on the long journey. Pursuing God first gave them the security they needed to move boldly forward and return to their home.

Seeking God through prayer and fasting before a long journey helps prepare the way. Like Ezra, I often ask the Lord for smooth passage, asking Him to take care of any obstacles and challenges for us, whatever the journey. Anxiety and fear try to stop me, but with God, I find the strength to take the first step.

“Lord, remove my anxiety and fill my heart with excitement,” I prayed in preparation for my latest trip. Fasting sugar and gluten, anxiety plagued me as I thought about the 400-mile journey home to Pennsylvania in the middle of winter. What if it snowed? What about black ice? What if something happened to Ron in my absence? The anxiety-ridden thoughts plagued my mind, but when I turned them over to the Lord, he replaced them with excitement and anticipation for the trip.

Taking the first step on any journey requires courage; doing it afraid defines bravery. Both require divine assistance, whether physically taking a trip or starting a transformational voyage. When we decide to move from one place to another, seeking God’s guidance and protection will make the journey easier. 

Decide what journey you want to take. Fast and pray, seeking the Lord’s divine assistance. Don’t take the first step until you consult God and find His direction. Trusting the Lord to provide, protect, and lead you will fill your heart with anticipation and excitement for the journey, no matter how difficult the terrain.

Journal Questions:

  • How can I apply today’s devotion to my life?
  • What trip do I want to take this year?
  • What divine assistance do I need from God to make the journey?

 

Prayer:

Lord, thank You for bending down and listening to our prayers. As we seek You, let us find You.  Go before us and smooth the way for our journey. Guide and direct us safely to our destination, whether physical or transformational. As we take the first steps, bless our efforts and encourage our hearts. Let us honor and serve You well as we follow You.  IJNIP. Amen

Secret Fasting

Two-minute read.

“That your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

Matthew 6:18

Secret fasting.

During a fast, keep it secret. Don’t go around bragging.  The Pharisees, religious leaders, proudly shared their holiness, wanting human recognition. When they fasted, everyone knew it. Fasting for God privately receives a heavenly reward not seen by man.

Years ago, I did a ten-day fast because of a relational issue.  At my wit’s end, I turned to fasting and prayer to help me find victory.   What happened during the ten days didn’t change others but transformed me.  The Lord humbled me and showed me areas I could work on to improve the situation.  About halfway through the fast, I felt a breakthrough in my Spirit. “Great, I can stop fasting now,” I thought.  Immediately, the Holy Spirit responded, “Do you want a partial victory or a full victory?” I knew at that moment I needed to complete the fast to obtain a total transformation.

Over a decade later, God’s work in my life during those ten days still stands strong. Finishing the fast and allowing the Lord to transform me from the inside out softened my heart, changed my attitude, and improved my life. All done in secret, no one else knew at the time what I did.  But the Lord knew, and He honored my efforts and helped me become more like Christ, a journey that continues today.

Trying to explain the benefits of fasting doesn’t compare to doing it.  Discovering a deeper intimacy with God only happens when we put into practice His teachings.  Expecting us to fast, Jesus teaches us how to receive the most benefits from depriving ourselves of worldly temptations and focusing on things of the spirit.

For he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” 1 John 4:4

Experience God’s greatness by fasting in secret.  Draw closer to your Maker as you replace things of this world with time with Him.  Transform your life and become more like Christ through fasting and prayer.  Developing a regular practice of fasting will help you discern God’s will for your life and discover life to the fullest, fulfilling Jesus’s desire for you.  One hour at a time, one day at a time, one fast at a time, discover new life in Christ.

Journal Questions:

  • How can I apply today’s devotion to my life?
  • What challenges you about fasting in secret?
  • How can you make fasting a regular part of your life?

Prayer:

Lord, forgive us for fasting publicly.  Thank You for teaching us the importance of fasting in secret.  As we attempt to fast, help us do so in private, trusting You know the desires of our hearts and will bless our efforts. Reveal truths to us, expose lies, and purify our hearts as we earnestly seek You.  In all things, we give You the glory.  IJNIP. Amen

When You Fast

Two-minute read.

“But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face,”

Matthew 6:17

When you fast.

Jesus uses the word “when” in His explanation of fasting. In other words, God expects us to practice fasting regularly. The expectation Christ sets for fasting makes it an essential practice for anyone who follows Him.  Fasting focuses our attention on God. Eliminating something from our diet or life reminds us to seek the Lord for sustenance. Saying no to fleshly desires says yes to a spiritual connection with God. Focused on Jesus, we seek His attention, not the world’s.

Fasting food means feasting on the word. Jesus refers to food when He talks about fasting. Because we need calories to sustain us, like Christ when the Devil tempted Him in the desert, we can find nourishment from God’s word when hunger pangs strike:

“It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Matthew 4:4

Instead of indulging in lunch, we substitute the time by reading God’s word. I wrote my first book when I fasted from television. We can fast from anything that affects our relationship with the Lord. For me, watching T.V. had become an idol. To break the bondage, I gave it up for a period. Traveling for work, I remember sitting in my hotel room, wondering what to do since I couldn’t turn on the T.V.  Opening my Bible, I found a scripture that inspired me to begin writing. By the time I finished my fast, I’d written a book. God does amazing things when we intentionally seek Him.

Fasting from food or a worldly temptation puts God first in your life. Abstaining from a fleshly desire tells the Lord, I want more of You and less of me. Intimacy with God develops as we pursue Him wholeheartedly. Relying on God to help you overcome your dependence on things of this world will draw you closer to your Creator. You will begin to find God’s goodness as you seek Him.  Bonds will break, freedom will come as you deny yourself, and tune into the Lord on a deeper level.

Journal Questions:

  • How can I apply today’s devotion to my life?
  • What worldly obsession hinders my relationship with God?
  • How can I make fasting a regular activity in my life?

Prayer:

Lord, thank You for instructing us on fasting. As we begin to practice abstaining, strengthen us and give us the tools to overcome the world’s temptations. Help us draw closer to You as we seek You.  Bless our efforts and help us transform our lives through prayer and fasting. Give us victory over our challenges; let Your peace reign in our lives. IJNIP. Amen.

Let the Fast Begin

Two-minute read.

 

Lent begins today.

In 325 AD, the Council of Nicea met for three months to reach a consensus on Jesus’s divine nature and His relationship with God the Father.  Historians believe the practice of Lent came from that meeting. Initially, the fast applied to new converts to the faith as an opportunity to repent and reflect before entering the baptismal waters at Easter.  Some churches did 40 days, including weekends, while others did not.  Some fasted on Sundays, others didn’t.  Everyone did the same fast, whatever the structure of the days:  one meal a day after 3:00 p.m., with no meat, fish, or dairy.  Pope Gregory I (590-694) officially made the fast 46 days, starting Ash Wednesday, not including Sundays. Observed by Catholics, Orthodox, Lutherans, Anglicans, Episcopals, and Methodists, Lent has participants from all walks of faith.[1]

As for me, I learned of Lent as a child and loved it.  Fasting before Easter helps me keep my eyes on Jesus and His work on the cross.  Giving up something for Lent helps break bondages, and I fast different things each year.  Sugar, an addictive food for my sweet tooth, usually makes the list.  In the last few years, I have also tried to add a positive habit into my routine, like getting 10,000 steps a day or adding evening devotional time to my schedule. 

People fast social media, Television, food, activities, and other things.  Typically, people choose unhealthy things that they want to eliminate from their lives.  Replacing it with a healthy habit, like daily Bible readings, helps them transform their lives as they prepare for the sacred holiday.  If you decide to fast from social media, you can sign up for emails of my daily devotions at honestreflections.net.

Prepare your heart by centering it on Jesus through intentional sacrifice.  Whenever temptation comes upon you, use it as a reminder to pray and seek God.  For instance, when I fast sugar, and someone tempts me with a sugary delight, I silently pray, “Lord help me resist.”  When we fast, we shouldn’t brag about it but do it privately as a spiritual activity to draw us closer to God.  Fasting takes connecting with God to a whole new level.  For the next 40 days, excluding Sundays, we’ll look at fasting from a Biblical perspective as we prepare our hearts for Easter.

Join me on the journey of a closer relationship with God through fasting and prayer.  Only the Lord knows what the next forty days will bring, but all things become possible with Him.

Journal Questions:

  • How can I apply today’s devotion to my life?
  • What could I fast over the next 40 days?
  • What could I add to my life to draw me closer to God?

Prayer:

Lord, thank You for Jesus and the opportunity to grow closer to Him.  Show us what we should fast over for the next forty days to help us prepare our hearts to celebrate Christ’s resurrection.  Strengthen us for the coming days as we submit our will to You, seeking Your guidance and direction.  IJNIP. Amen


[1] https://groundworkonline.com/blog/a-short-version-of-the-long-history-of-lent

Love Remains

Two-minute read.

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:13

Love remains.

When this life ends, love remains. We will no longer need faith or hope because we will reside in God’s perfect love for eternity. As we close out two weeks focused on becoming a better lover of God and people, remember, “the greatest of these is love.”

Wherever life takes you, fly on the wings of love. Before you speak or act, ask yourself, “Am I doing this in love?” If not, don’t say the words or do the actions. Couching everything in love means stopping and thinking before doing anything else. Slowing down and considering the situation will help us have healthier relationships and better outcomes.

“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30- 31

Jesus summarized the commandments into four words: love God and love others. We can only accomplish our divine purpose by remaining bonded to the Lord. If you genuinely want to become a better lover of Christ, spend time with Him daily. Make a relationship with Jesus a top priority over all others, even spouses and kids. If you prioritize God, it will affect every other relationship you have for the better.

As Benjamin Franklin said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”[1] Determine today to plan to love. Take what you’ve learned and turn it into a lifestyle of love. Find ways every day to do one act of love toward someone else. Maybe give grace, overlook an offense, and spend time with someone who needs company—maybe cook a meal for your friends or family. You can find many ways to love people when looking for them.

Respond in love in every circumstance. Sometimes, the most loving thing to do means doing nothing; other times, you must roll your sleeves up and get to work. The situations God brings into our lives become opportunities to grow and become more like Jesus, who exemplified a lifestyle of love.

In Christ, we can do all things. We can love the unlovable, forgive the unforgivable, and become new creations, one day at a time.

Receive the love God offers, renew yourself daily by spending time with Jesus, and share it. Turn the world upside down with love, just like Jesus did!

Love Challenge:

Keep the love going. Decide to do one loving act a day, every day. Change the world by sharing God’s unconditional, for everyone, love.


[1] https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/460142-if-you-fail-to-plan-you-are-planning-to-fail

Access Granted

Two-minute read.

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

1 Corinthians 13:12

Access granted.

Stop hiding from God. Give the Lord access to every part of you, the good, bad, and ugly. Allowing Jesus to shed His unconditional love into the dark places of your soul will give you life to the fullest on earth. As you begin to exercise grace for yourself, hope blossoms, and life changes.

“Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Matthew 6:10

When the disciples asked Jesus how we should pray, He responded with the Lord’s prayer. The verse requests God’s kingdom to come, His will done on earth as in heaven. Defined by love, we will discover the essence of God’s kingdom as we accept and share the Lord’s affection with others.

We can experience heaven on earth by allowing God’s Spirit to take up residency within us and giving Him full access to our souls. Working from the inside out, Jesus guides and directs us. No longer responding to the world around us from a fleshly perspective, instead letting God’s Spirit guide us.

Life changes as we journey with God, letting Him know us fully. Taking control of our thoughts and focusing them on the Lord will cause different reactions. Before responding, we will ask God what He thinks, living for the applause of One instead of many.

To live life to the fullest, we must submit it to Christ. Opening our hearts and souls to God takes intention. But if we remind ourselves that God already knows our worst sin and loves us anyway, confessing to Jesus becomes easier. Nothing will stop the Lord from loving us. God created us, knows everything about us, and loves us unconditionally. Jesus came to seal the deal; faith in Him forever binds us to our Maker.

Nothing you do will separate you from God’s love. Once you place your faith in Jesus, you become His. Let Christ know you fully; don’t hold anything back. Live life to the fullest, embracing the good and bad, trusting God to use it all for His glory.

Allowing God to know us fully brings freedom into our lives. We can accept ourselves because the Lord does. God knows them all, whatever temptations we face, struggles we endure, and secrets we keep. Walking with us, the Lord guides us one day at a time, revealing truths and helping us live life to the fullest.

Love Challenge:

Let God know you fully today. Open the depths of your heart to the Maker and let His light shine into it, bathing every crevice with His grace.

Letting Go

Two-minute read.

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.

1 Corinthians 13:11

Letting go.

Growing up means letting go. We must release the childish ways to become mature. No more tantrums of uncontrollable emotions; we must learn to take the reins on our feelings, not letting them control us.

In my book, “Three Word Prayers for Everyday Living,”[1] I talked about my prayer strategy to help me put away childish ways. Dealing with anger issues that caused my husband not to want to marry me, I turned to God for help. “Grace, not Anger,” became my coping mechanism for the powerful emotion, also known as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy:

“Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a structured, goal-oriented type of psychotherapy (talk therapy).

Mental health professionals, including psychologists, therapists, and counselors, use it to treat or manage mental health conditions and emotional concerns. It’s one of the most common and best-studied forms of psychotherapy.”[2]

As a child, anger became an ingrained response to adversity. When an unexpected event disrupted my day, anger rose its ugly head. Only when my husband pointed it out during our dating years did I realize the toll of my emotions on relationships. But life changed once I invited God into the situation and applied constant prayer to my dilemma. Every time I felt anger taking control, I used prayer to retrain my mind and control my emotions.

Over a decade later, anger no longer controls me. Writing “Three Words,” therapy, and constant prayer have helped me mature into a new creation in Christ. I still feel strong emotions, but I’ve learned to take control of them through prayer.

We must put our childish ways behind us to become more like Christ. No more outbursts or childish actions. Instead of reasoning like a child, we must grow in our thinking, becoming more discerning and analytical.

Most of all, we must accept that the world doesn’t revolve around us, and not everything will go our way. When we do, we open the door to maturity, leaving behind our childish ways.

Ask God to help you identify areas of childishness in your life. Find ways to help you overcome childish responses and become more mature in Christ. All things become possible with God, even letting go of childish ways.

Love Challenge:

Take control of your reactions today. Find a scripture, develop a prayer strategy, and let go of childish ways by taking captive your thoughts and controlling your emotions.


[1] https://www.amazon.com/Three-Word-Prayers-Everyday-Living/dp/B09KF44SQY

[2] https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments/21208-cognitive-behavioral-therapy-cbt

Exercising Discernment

Two-minute read.

But when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.

1 Corinthians 13:10

Exercising discernment.

Maturing in Christ means exercising discernment, the ability to judge well. We must let go of things that don’t build God’s Kingdom. The partial will pass away, and the misconceptions and misinterpretations will not stand the test of time. But God’s perfect word will.

Reading social media, I saw a post from a friend taking scripture out of context. Immediately, I wanted to engage in the conversation, but instead, I kept scrolling. Why? Because I knew engaging would only cause an argument and create distance in the relationship. Instead, I waited for an opportunity to talk in person, not wanting my comments taken out of context.

Perfection doesn’t exist on earth. No one perfectly understands all the scriptures or every situation on earth. Why bad things happen to good people remains unanswered until we reach heaven. But in the meantime, we can trust God’s moving us forward on our journey, using everything for the good of those who believe and trust in Him.

When we reach heaven, the trials of this world will pass away, and we will know perfection. Comments taken out of context will no longer concern us. We won’t have to pay bills or go to unfulfilling jobs. No more sleepless nights worrying about loved ones. Instead, we will live in perfect peace with our Maker for eternity.

When frustration with worldly matters overtakes you, remind yourself that the partial passes away. What seems insufferable ends; perfection awaits us in our heavenly home. The trials of life help us grow more like Christ as we apply His principles to them. Our crowns wait for us in heaven and will last forever.

Hold the things of this world loosely, reminding yourself of the temporary nature of life on earth. Embrace the promise of perfection that awaits us in eternity. When faced with difficult situations, ask yourself, will this matter a year from now? Five years from now? Choose wisely by keeping your eyes on Jesus, making His priorities yours.

Perfection comes when God calls us home. Until then, we must remember that now we know in part, then we will know in full.

Love Challenge:

Use God’s filter to discern what you can do to build the Kingdom today and what you need to let go. Don’t let temporary problems distract you from eternal tasks.

Realistic Awareness

Two-minute read.

For we know in part and we prophesy in part,

1 Corinthians 13:9

Realistic awareness.

As Christ’s followers, we understand spiritual things from a human perspective. Imperfect: we have a limited knowledge of faith, but once we reach heaven, it will become perfect. Prophesy suffers from interpretation; discerning selfish motives from Godly messages challenges the human heart. Many prophesies people have told me contained bias and didn’t come to fruition. 

Know-it-alls don’t exist. No one on Earth understands everything, no matter what they say. George Washington Carver had a realistic awareness of his limitations:

“I asked the Great Creator what the universe was made for.
‘Ask for something more in keeping with that little mind of yours,’ He replied.
‘What was man made for?’
‘Little man, you still want to know too much. Cut down the extent of your request and improve the intent.'” [1]

Carver changed his request, asking God to teach him about the peanut. Discovering over 300 uses for the peanut, Carver didn’t know everything, but he knew a lot about the one thing. 

Use caution when you talk to someone who has an answer for everything. God didn’t give us minds that can comprehend the universe’s secrets. But the Lord did give us limited knowledge about certain things. Relying on God to reveal information to us when needed causes us to follow Him closely. Accepting our limited knowledge helps us seek the One with all the answers.

Asking the Lord to help us understand love will allow us to exercise it. Like with patience, we must practice love to begin knowing it. As a verb, love comes with motion, not stagnant.

When the person cuts us off in traffic, we must choose not to respond in anger. During conflicts with friends and family, we must not make the argument about winning and losing but about restoration. Developing a close relationship with the Lord means spending intentional time with Him.  Acts of love look different, but all equal love. 

Realistic awareness of ourselves means accepting our limitations and seeking the One without limits.

Love Challenge:

Ask God for opportunities to practice love today. Wait expectantly for His answer and obey quickly when He does.


[1] https://mbcpathway.com/2021/02/26/peanut-sized-faith-george-washington-carver/

Love Never Dies

Two-minute read.

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 

1 Corinthians 13:8

Love never ends.

Unlike prophecies, tongues, and knowledge, love doesn’t have an ending. Once we reach heaven, we will know everything, no longer needing communication through prophecy and tongues. Basking in God’s perfect love, we’ll have all we need.

When my nephew died, a piece of my heart died with him, but not the love we shared. Almost ten years later, I still feel the warmth from our last hug on Earth. Memories of moments together still bring me joy. Knowing we will one day meet again in heaven comforts me; the love we shared hasn’t lessened; it doesn’t die.

Living a lifestyle of love has no regrets. Over Christmas, I watched “Love Actually.”  One of my favorite scenes occurs near the end when young Sam races to tell his crush he loves her. Speeding through the airport, dodging security, Sam’s romantic gesture leaves him with no regrets. A smile fills his face as he rounds the corner, and Joanna surprises him with a kiss.

They won’t know how we feel if we don’t share our love for others. Small acts of kindness convey huge messages. God sent Jesus in a manger, with no room at the inn, to show the world His love for it. 

“Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.” Matthew 5:15

Love needs sharing. We can’t hide what God did for us under a basket; we must show it to the world, letting His light flow through us. Not once do I regret the things I did that showed Cody how much I loved him. Every hug, every ride to school, every movie, every trip conveyed to my nephew how much he meant to me. Our days on Earth have a limit; we shouldn’t waste any of them. Take every opportunity to shine your light to the world, one act of love at a time.

One act of love at a time, we change the world. Jesus turned the culture upside down with His love; we can do the same when we follow Him. Introducing people to the Savior introduces them to unconditional love and grace they can find nowhere else.

Love Challenge:

Tell someone you love them today. Go out of your way to ensure they know how much you care for them. Let your light shine brightly!