A Bag of Apples

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apple red mfMy Reader, when you look at the two pictures shown above that depict “apples in a bag,” which is most appealing to you?  I enjoy the crunch and juiciness of a fresh apple.  It is an easy snack to grab that requires no preparation other than making sure the fruit has been washed.  Many days a fresh apple is part of my lunch and I buy many bags of apples during the year.  However, my friend Marcia posted on Facebook a recipe for apples in a bag that is also very yummy. (Check out the website for Afton Apple Orchard where you will find the recipe and image that I am including in my blog today. September 11, 2013 date for recipe)  These apples in a bag take a few minutes to make but are worth the time for a special treat.  A few extra ingredients and a little heat can alter the texture and taste of the apples.  Personally, I like a bag of apples either way.

apple red mfWhether fresh or cooked, apples can satisfy my hunger when my stomach is rumbling for some food.  When I become aware of a spiritual hunger within my soul, scripture can offer me another kind of apple. Deuteronomy 32:10 states, “He kept him (or her) as the apple of His eye.”  When doing a little research, I found that “apple” refers to the pupil of the eye where the center of vision originates.    This provides me with some food for thought when I realize that I am an apple in God’s sight.  Is my life like an apple in God’s big bag?  That is an interesting image to think about – and blog about!

apple red mfIf God has picked me to be in His bag of apples, I want to be a fresh and crisp apple for Him.  I do not want to be spoiled or tasteless. I do not want to be the rotten apple of the bag!  In order to be an appealing apple, I need to be refreshed in God’s Word.  I must allow God’s hand to touch my life is ways that will keep me to be the best apple for Him.  Just like sugar and spice being added in the apple recipe and then heat being utilized in the microwave, there will be times when the Lord makes additions to my life.  Some experiences may seem like sugar and spice while other times He may turn up the heat in my life in ways that may seem unpleasant for the moment but ultimately will be for my good.  Honey is often referred to as a sweetener in the Bible.  Psalm 119:103 says, “How sweet are Your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” Proverbs 16:24 explains, “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”  In Exodus 30:23, cinnamon is mentioned as one of the spices found in anointing oil.  Cinnamon is also mentioned as a precious and costly spice in such scriptures as Song of Solomon 4:14, Proverbs 7:17, and Revelation 18:13.  Regarding heat, the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace comes to my mind.  Daniel 3 records how God was not only with these men in the fire but He also brought them out of the furnace without any smell of smoke on them.  Luke 3:16 is a New Testament reference to fire when John the Baptist explains that one (Jesus) was yet to come who would baptize with the fire of the Holy Spirit.

apple red mfShiny fresh raw apples that have been polished are appealing to the sight and delicious to the taste, but there are times when I like apples that have been cooked and the flavor enhanced by additional ingredients. This is a good way for me to understand how God sees me.  I am good and acceptable in His sight just as I am, but He may choose to make some changes in my life through various circumstances because His plans include some further development and refinement of my character.  I want to be in God’s bag of apples prepared to serve Him in the ways He sees fit!

apple red mfMy Reader, because God perceives you as the apple of His eye, do you realize how important you are to Him?  Whether you identify with the fresh picked apples in the bag or with the sweetened apples that have been microwaved in a bag, both are good in the sight of the Lord. Enjoy your relationship with the Lord by being an apple of His in the bag of life!  I also encourage you to try the apple recipe listed below.

Joyfully,
Cheryl

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 Apples in a Bag
1 cut up apple
1/4 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. water
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
Mix and put in microwave safe bag and microwave for 2 min. Enjoy!
(I have heard it suggested that these apples can be added to hot oatmeal, served on ice cream or used as a dip with cinnamon pita chips as well as simply eaten as a special treat as prepared.)

 

Homeless and Bread and Fish

 

homelessbreadThe other evening while the wind was blowing and the snow was flying and the temperature was going below zero, I snuggled in a chair with a warm fleece blanket. I was cozy even though it was frigid outside. The winter of 2014 has been extremely harsh and I have often thought about and prayed for the homeless. Where would they find a warm place to sleep at night?  Would they have a hot meal to eat?  Did they have coats or gloves or boots to wear? I pray for these destitute people as a group rather than mentioning specific people by name. I wonder how God feels about my lumping all these homeless humans into one group. Maybe scripture can help me.

Jesus taught, healed, fed and had compassion for the multitudes! Although Jesus cared for people and knew them by name, He did not have to personally meet with someone in order to minister to their needs. Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 includes such phrases as “when he (Jesus) saw the crowds,” and “he began to teach them” and “the crowds were amazed at his teaching.” Matthew 14:14 says, “Jesus…saw a large crowd, had compassion on them and healed their sick.” However, He did not stop with teaching and healing. He also fed the multitudes. Matthew 14:15-21 tells of His feeding over 5000 people and Matthew 15:29-39 records His feeding  over 4000 people. Jesus sees the multitudes but He also sees the individuals.

Although the account of Jesus feeding the 5000 is found in all four gospels (Matthew 14, Mark 6, Luke 9 and John 6), today I focus upon the words in the fourth gospel. John pointed out that a boy brought Jesus 5 barley loaves and 2 small fish that He then multiplied to feed this multitude. Jesus fed the people but the boy presented what he had to Jesus. Here is where I find an application regarding my accentuated feeling for the homeless during this extremely cold season. Are the loaves of bread and fish symbolic of something I have to offer to these destitute people? I notice that the boy brought two different things – not just bread, not just fish. What are my 5 loaves and 2 fish? First, my loaves may be my prayers. This is what God has asked me to do regarding the homeless during the cold weather. Prayer is powerful and I must not neglect this privilege and responsibility. Second my fish may be my actions. Do I have time to volunteer at a shelter for the underprivileged? Do I have an extra coat in my closet that I can donate? God may not require either my prayers or my actions, but He chooses to use them. Jesus could have performed the miracle of feeding the 5000 people without the boy’s loaves and fish just as easily as when He held these food items in His hands. However, He involved those around Him. Today He still chooses to involve me to help those in need.

I also see that in all four gospels it is recorded that Jesus gave thanks to God for what He had before the miracle of multiplication for the multitude took place. I think Jesus probably told the boy thank you for giving Him his lunch, but He also gave thanks to God. After Jesus gave thanks for the five loaves of bread and the two fish, there was enough to feed over 5000 people. This makes me wonder if God appreciates my prayers to the extent that He thanks me for my prayers so He can multiply them and provide for the needs of those for whom I pray. That is something I really need to think about! I also want to follow Jesus’ example of including thanksgiving as well as requests in my prayers. Jesus gave thanks and then the miracle of the food increase for the hungry took place. My focus must be first upon thanking God before needing to see answers to my prayers.

Jesus was not only able to feed all of those who were hungry, but there were 12 baskets of leftovers! The boy was most likely amazed to see all that transpired through his giving his lunch to Jesus. I do not need to know how the Lord will use whatever I give to Him. I just need to be obedient.  I like the verse of John 6:12 where Jesus says, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” God wastes nothing, so it is never a waste of my time or effort to give to Him. The loaves the boy brought to Jesus were broken. The pieces of my life may be broken, but these pieces are still usable by the Lord.

I now find some solace in scripture where Jesus ministered to the multitudes. I will continue to pray for the pool of people whose faces I see but whose names I do not know. I will not be intimidated by simply seeing these individuals as a great number of needy people for whom I cannot provide. I will present my loaves and fishes of prayers and actions. I present them to Jesus and then wait to see how He is doing to multiply my offering to satisfy the needs. Jesus knows their needs better than I, but I can place what I have into the hands of Jesus with thanksgiving.

My Reader, has the Lord pricked your heart to do something for the homeless? Have you learned anything from the story of a boy’s bread and fish today? According to John, the feeding of the 5000 began with one boy willing to offer his lunch to Jesus. What can you offer to Jesus? You might be surprised how your offering will be multiplied.

Joyfully,
Cheryl
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A Love Question

3 heartsI am thinking about “love” today and I realize it is a word that can have various meanings.  Love can be expressed with different levels of emotions.  I articulate different feelings when I say “I love you” to different people in different situations.  “I love you” is a term of endearment that I profess to my husband with a romantic meaning I share with no one else.  “I love you” are words with a unique connotation I say to my children and grandchildren reserved for them alone. I may even say that I love chocolate but that has an entirely different sentiment!  “I love you” is a phrase that can be voiced either flippantly or sincerely. When I think about an example of “I love you” in the Bible, I am reminded of the conversation between Jesus and Peter after they had breakfast on the shore one morning shortly after Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus and Peter verbalized two different kinds of love.

 3 heartsIn just two days it will be Valentine’s Day.  My Reader, do you love the day or would you prefer there not be a day set aside to celebrate love? Are you secure enough in the love of those around you that you look forward to expressing your love to them and to have them verify their love for you?  Do you need to ask a particular person in your life whether or not they love you?  How do you think Peter felt when Jesus asked him three times if he loved Him?

 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter,
Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”
The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?”
He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.”
John 21:15-17

3 hearts I have heard it said that Jesus did not have to ask Peter three times if he loved Him because Peter was hard of hearing but rather Jesus asked because He had something special to relay to Peter that He wanted him to remember.  I like the humor in that statement along with the truth it reveals.  Love is the topic of conversation between Jesus and Peter, but they are not talking about the same thing. Peter affirms his love for Jesus but the type of love he expresses is different from what Jesus asks the first two times this question is presented to Peter.  Jesus uses the Greek word “agape” indicating an unconditional type of love that is not only affectionate but also a supreme and perfect love.  Peter responds with the Greek word “phileo” signifying that he loves Jesus as a friend and has high regard for him.  The third time Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him, He uses the term “phileo” that Peter used in both of his previous responses. In the English language I read one word but there are two entirely different meanings to what Jesus and Peter are talking about.

 3 heartsAnother thing I notice when reading the love conversation between Jesus and Peter is that it does not conclude with just the issue of whether or not love exists between the two of them. Even though Peter does not answer the question with the depth of commitment indicated by Jesus, he still responds positively.   Jesus accepts Peter’s answer and then challenges him to a future ministry among the sheep of God’s fold. Although Jesus would have preferred to share a deeper love relationship with Peter, He acknowledges Peter’s honesty and the third time Jesus acquiesces to Peter’s level of commitment.  I wonder if there is the possibility that phileo love can be transformed into agape love over time.  I wonder if Jesus’ intention was to encourage Peter to a deeper love that he might need in the future. For myself, I guess I need to be sensitive to what Jesus may be asking me today.  Is He asking me if I love Him?  What form of the word love is He using when he inquires about my love for Him?  Is there a specific reason He wants to know about my commitment to Him? There is a lot to think about regarding this little four letter word “love”!

3 hearts There is something else I notice in this question and answer exchange between Peter and Jesus.  In John 21:15, Jesus not only asks Peter if he loves Him but He asks him, “Do you love Me more than these?” Commentators have different interpretations of what the pronoun “these” refers to.  I guess I always thought “these” referred to the other disciples, but another interpretation has caught my attention.  “These” may refer to the fish Jesus and Peter have just shared for breakfast.  Looking back at the beginning of John 21, I remember the setting in which this conversation takes place.  The night before was when Peter and several other disciples had gone fishing and had caught nothing until the morning when Jesus appeared on the shore and told them to cast their nets on the other side of the boat.  Jesus prepared a breakfast of broiled fish and bread for them and it was after they had eaten that Jesus questioned Peter. Peter had gone back to his former occupation of fishing and I wonder if Jesus was asking Peter if he intended to revert to his old lifestyle of fishing rather than being willing to fulfill the ministry he had learned during the last three years in the presence of Jesus.  It makes sense that Jesus was questioning whether Peter’s first priority and love was to catch fish or to feed Jesus’ lambs. This makes me ask myself, “What is ‘these’ in my life?”  Is there something or someone I love and give priority to over my relationship with Jesus.

3 hearts Although it is not used in the conversation between Peter and Jesus, there is third Greek word for love known as “eros” denoting an intimate and romantic love.  It is the word from which the English word erotic is derived.  Eros was the ancient Greek god of love, identified by the Romans with Cupid.  This is the type of love that is commercialized on Valentine’s Day.  Although there is a beautiful aspect of this type of love, it is also the type of love that can be degraded. Personally, I do not want to confuse agape, phileo, and eros love.

 3 heartsMy Reader, what kind of love valentine are you going to receive and/or give this Valentine’s Day?  Love those God has placed in your life, but never forsake your first love for the Lord.  Do you hear Jesus saying to you (replace Simon Peter’s name with yours), “–————, Do you love Me?”  How will you respond?  If you say, “Lord, you know I love you,” what form of love will you be using?  Please do not be like Peter and settle only for phileo love when agape love is available.  If Jesus is asking you “Do you love me more than these?” to whom or what does the pronoun “these” refer in your life?  Are you willing to adjust your priorities?

 Let love surround you on Valentine’s Day and every day!

 Joyfully,
Cheryl

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The Rope of Hope

 

The Rope of Hope

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free-ropeA couple of weeks ago I awoke in the night and had trouble going back to sleep.  My mind started going a hundred miles a minute in directions it should not have traveled.  Before I got back to sleep, I had a pity party with me, myself and I. I even began to feel depressed.  The next morning, I began my day as usual by reading the daily devotional by Sarah Young in Jesus Calling.  She writes as if Jesus were talking directly to you, and this morning Jesus was definitely speaking to me.  Listen to some of the words I read: “Hope in Me and you will be protected from depression and self-pity.  Hope is like a golden cord connecting you to heaven.  The more you cling to this cord, the more I bear the weight of your burdens; thus, you are lightened.”  The Lord knew what I had experienced during the night and He was giving me the solution to resolve my negative thoughts and feelings.  God is good!

This led me to a scriptural study of the word “hope” that I found very interesting.  My Reader, let me share some of my insights with you.  According to the Word Wealth notations in The Spirit Filled Life Bible, there are two different words in the Bible that have been translated hope. Tiqvah is the Hebrew word and  elpis is the Greek word.

hope-rope-3-mfThe original meaning of “tiqvah” is “to stretch like a rope” and can be translated line or cord. This reminds me of the story of Rahab in Joshua 2 where she used a rope or cord to let down the Israelite spies from her house and allowed them to escape.  In Joshua 2:18, the spies instructed her to tie a scarlet cord (tiqvah) in the window as her hope for rescue for when they would come back to take this land. The promise is fulfilled in Joshua 6 when her life is saved during the conquest of Jericho.  For me, this rope or cord is a picturesque description of the rope of hope!  The definition of hope (tiqvah) is expectation or something yearned for and eagerly anticipated.

rpoe-in-heart-mfThe Word Wealth for the Greek word “elpis” says that hope is not just an optimistic outlook or wishful thinking without any foundation, but portrays a confident expectation based on solid certainly.  Biblical hope rests on God’s promises, particularly those promises pertaining to Christ’s return.  This notation distinguishes between faith and hope by saying, “Hope is never inferior to faith, but is an extension of faith. Faith is the present possession of grace; hope is confidence in grace’s future accomplishment.”  I want to grasp the rope of hope when I grasp this interpretation of  “elpis.”

hope-rope-7-mfA friend and I are doing a book study entitled Cast of Characters Lost and Found by Max Lucado.  He talks about hope in a couple of chapters of this book.  When I think back to my experience of feeling hopeless during the night, I identify with one concise comment Max Lucado makes: “Hope hibernates.”  This is reassuring to me because I realize hope lives deep within my spirit even though I may not always feel the most hopeful.  God understands my meandering mind in the middle of the night, and that is why He gave me such a powerful word of hope the next morning!  Another statement I underlined in Max Lucado’s book says, “Hope doesn’t promise an instant solution but rather the possibility of an eventual one.”  In most instances, I would prefer an immediate solution but hope keeps me going until a solution is realized.

free-ropeIf hope is going to keep me going until I experience a solution, then I need to make myself a rope of hope!  Sarah Young’s words said that I am to hold on to a golden cord of hope that will allow the Lord to bear the biggest portion of my burden.  So, how do I make or where do I find this golden rope of hope?  The Bible is the correct answer.  My rope of hope is made of strands of scripture woven together for strength.  Some of the scriptures are verses that include the word “hope” and other verses are promises that pertain to a specific situation for which I need hope.  The makeup of my rope of hope changes from time to time. My Reader, I encourage you to make your personal rope of hope.  I will include a few scriptures relating to hope that are a part of my rope and may be helpful to you.  Then intertwine your favorite verses into your rope of hope that will keep you connected to the Lord.

For You are my hope, O Lord God.
Psalm 7:5
Be joyful in hope, patient in affection, faithful in prayer.
Romans 12:12
your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ
  I Thessalonians 1:3
(hope entails time and work – it is not always easy)
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:13
So let us seize and hold fast and retain without wavering the [a]hope we cherish and confess and our acknowledgement of it, for He Who promised is reliable (sure) and faithful to His word.
Hebrews 10:23 AMP

I am holding tight to my rope of hope! I encourage you will do the same.

Joyfully,
Cheryl