The Secret Place

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High
Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty
(Psalm 91:1 NKJV).
The Hebrew word for secret comes from a root word that means to hide, protect or cover in such a way that sins or wrongs are hidden or kept secret. In other words, the secret place is a protective covering where the stronger covers the weaker.
The first thing that happened to Adam and Eve after they sinned in the garden was that they lost their covering:
Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings (Genesis 3:7 NKJV).
They no longer dwelled in the secret place of the Most High or under the shadow of the Almighty. They had lost their holy covering and tried to sew something together so that they could cover themselves.
But in Isaiah chapter 51, God says:
Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness, you who seek the Lord: look to the rock from which you were hewn…For the Lord comforts Zion; he comforts all her waste places and makes her wilderness like Eden, her desert like the garden of the Lord;  joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the voice of song (51:1-4 ESV).
Because God goes on to say this:
I am the Lord your God…And I have put my words in your mouth and covered you with the shadow of my hand, establishing the heavens and laying the foundations of the earth, and saying to Zion, “You are my people” (51:15a-16 ESV).
God has returned his covering to his people, to those who pursue righteousness and seek the Lord. How is this done? Look to the rock from which you were hewn:
They remembered that God was their rock, the Most High God their redeemer (Psalm 78:35 ESV).
The Hebrew word for rock in this verse is also the word for refuge. God is our Redeemer, our Rock and our Refuge.
When we seek the Lord, when we remember the Rock from which we are hewn, Almighty God covers us with his hand and the voice of song is heard in the land:
“Thus says the Lord: In this place of which you say, ‘It is a waste without man or beast,’ …there shall be heard again the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voices of those who sing, as they bring thank offerings to the house of the Lord:
“Give thanks to the Lord of hosts,
    for the Lord is good,
    for his steadfast love endures forever!”
For I will restore the fortunes of the land as at first, says the Lord (Jeremiah 33:10a-11 ESV).
God is our Redeemer, our Rock, our Refuge, our Restorer and our Bridegroom. We are covered by the robe of his righteousness:
I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels (Isaiah 61:10ESV).
If you feel sad, alone or not covered by an earthly relationship; or you’re missing loved ones who have gone on before you, please remember that we who are hewn from the Rock of our Salvation dwell with Jesus in the secret place of the Most High and we abide forever under the shadow of the Almighty.
Jesus Christ is our heavenly Bridegroom. In him all things are restored, and he will never leave us nor forsake us. His love for us is everlasting.
Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel; be glad and rejoice with all they heart, O daughter of Jerusalem. The Lord has taken away thy judgments, he hath cast out thine enemy: the king of Israel, even the Lord, is in the midst of thee: thou shalt not see evil anymore.
The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love; he will joy over thee with singing (Zephaniah 3:14-15, 17 KJV).

For Everything there is a Season.

What does it mean to age well? God’s answers to this age-old question are timeless. Around 935 B.C., King Solomon wrote in chapter three of the Book of Ecclesiastes that there is a time, a season and a purpose for everything under heaven.
For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest. A time to kill and a time to heal. A time to tear down and a time to build up. A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance. A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones. A time to embrace and a time to turn away. A time to search and a time to quit searching. A time to keep and a time to throw away. A time to tear and a time to mend. A time to be quiet and a time to speak. A time to love and a time to hate. A time for war and a time for peace. 
What do people really get for all of their hard work? I have seen the burden that God has placed on us all. Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-11 NLT)
Like a beautiful garden, God has planted eternity in the human heart, and it is from the depths of eternity that God sows the seeds of our lives and causes them to spring forth and bear fruit, in its own time and in its own season. There is a time to search, and a time to quit searching. There is a time to keep, and a time to throw away. A time to plant and a time to harvest. A time to heal. A time to build up. A time to rend and to mend. A time to cry, and a time to laugh; to grieve and to dance. God makes everything beautiful, according to its time. He gives us beauty for ashes and the oil of joy for mourning and in the end, He wipes away every tear from our eyes and yet, not a single tear is wasted, for God saves each of our precious tears in a bottle and records every cry in His great book. The garden in our hearts is watered by our tears, and the Eternal Gardener, apart from Whom we can do nothing, makes certain that the seed that is watered with tears does not return to us void, but brings forth an everlasting harvest, stored up forever for us, in the Vinedresser’s kingdom.
What does it mean to age well? Maybe it means to keep a vigil over our lives, to sit shiva with God over all that we’ve lost or that has been taken from us along the way. Perhaps it is to erase with a bold hand everything that the enemy of our souls would constantly use to divert our attention, and to finally believe, and speak, and declare over our lives, “It is finished!” To realize that God has removed every transgression as far from us as the east is from the west, through the atoning Blood of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and that He restores even that which He did not take away.
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven. God makes all things new, and what was once stained scarlet, He washes as white as snow. Perhaps to age well is simply, finally, to yield. To abide. To, at last, enter in to His rest and find peace, and make peace, with whatever was in the past, and to let go of worry about whatever God has designed for our future. Perhaps after all is said and done, to age well is to have earned the wisdom to trust God with all of it: with yesterday, with today, and forever, releasing our lives to the One Who has subjected the same in hope, Who quickens us through the gift of His Holy Spirit. Who abides with us forever.
Those who sow with tears shall reap with songs of joy because our Father in heaven has given us this promise. I will be your God throughout your lifetime – until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you. (Isaiah 46:4 NLT)
Even now, we cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. But when we look back at the scope of our lives, from the beginning until now we can see the hand of God moving us and shaping us, steadying us step by step along the way, and we know that when He comes, at last, we shall be like Him. He is the One Who knows and understands all of our temptations and our infirmities, and He is the One, the only One, Who will carry us, all the way home.
I pray all of God’s grace and peace over you and your families, in Jesus’ holy Name.

Independence Day 2021: God’s Call to Freedom.

The call of God is a call to freedom. But the freedom that God calls us to is not an earthly, fleshly freedom that winks at every kind of sin. The freedom into which we are called is not freedom to sin, but freedom from sin, and from all the suffering that sin creates.
In his letter to the church at Galatia, Paul illustrates the stark contrast between freedom from sin and bondage to sin, and in it he encourages us to use our God-given gifts not to satisfy our earthly desires but to love and care for each other. He wrote, “For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another” (Galatians 5:13-15).
How many times have we heard that we should love one another as we love ourselves? We often take it for granted and either forget to practice it, or when we do our best to treat one another in a Christ-like way we find ourselves unable to keep at it for very long and we get discouraged and give up! Paul understood that we would be unable to follow through with Jesus’ commandments on our own, and therefore he reminded us that as the Body of Christ, we are not to depend on our own strength but on the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit.
He demonstrated this point by writing, “So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions” (vv. 16-17).

Paul drew a stark contrast between the works of the flesh – or our sinful nature – and the gifts of the Holy Spirit:
“When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” (vv. 19-23).
When we examine this contrast between how human beings predictably operate in the flesh and what is produced in us when we are led by the Holy Spirit, we can see that sinful behavior is not only harmful to ourselves personally, it also causes harm to other people. In these passages Paul is pointing out that to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, we must first be willing to set aside our childish, sinful natures and instead allow the Holy Spirit to instruct us in becoming people who are peaceable, joyful, faithful, kind, good, gentle, patient, and loving. And we simply cannot do this on our own! We desperately need the help of the Spirit to fulfill even this simplest of commandments!
Paul went on to write, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another” (vv. 24-26).
In Galatians chapter 6, Paul further illustrates this concept when he instructs us to bear with one another in love. “Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important.
Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. For we are each responsible for our own conduct” (6:1-5).

He reminds us that while we are to help one another, we are still likewise responsible for our own behavior. Peter echoed this precept when he wrote in his first epistle, “Dear friends, I warn you as ‘temporary residents and foreigners’ to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world” (1 Peter 2:10-12).
The United States Constitution outlines the rights that are to be protected by its government on behalf of its citizens, and the preamble to the Declaration of Independence states that, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” And yet, the Bible reminds us that we are only “temporary residents and foreigners” on this earth and that our citizenship is not of this world. Therefore, our understanding of what it means to celebrate life, guard our liberty, and pursue happiness cannot be defined solely in worldly terms, but must be informed by who we are in Christ and who we will be in the world to come.

As Peter wrote, “But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. Once you had no identity as a people; now you are God’s people. Once you received no mercy; now you have received God’s mercy… It is God’s will that your honorable lives should silence those ignorant people who make foolish accusations against you. For you are free, yet you are God’s slaves, so don’t use your freedom as an excuse to do evil.  Respect everyone, and love the family of believers. Fear God, and respect the king.” (1 Peter 7:9-10, 15-17).
Therefore, let us claim for ourselves the freedom contained in the instructions that Paul wrote to his disciple Timothy:
I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth. For, There is one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus. He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone.
This is the message God gave to the world at just the right time. And I have been chosen as a preacher and apostle to teach the Gentiles this message about faith and truth. I’m not exaggerating—just telling the truth. In every place of worship, I want men [and women] to pray with holy hands lifted up to God, free from anger and controversy. (1 Timothy 2:1-8)
And let us hold fast to this promise from our Savior: “Jesus said to the people who believed in him, ‘You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free’” (John 8:31-32).






All scriptures are from the New Living Translation.