Everything Has a Season, including Baking

To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven
Ecclesiastes 3:1

apple-blossoms-mfEverything has a season, including the changing of seasons. I am thankful spring has finally arrived! Everything has a season, including the fruits available during a particular time period. Apple trees may blossom this time of year but it is not the best season to be eating apples straight from the tree. However, I have a few apples left over that need to be used. Near the end of apple season, I realize that apples are not as tasty just eaten raw so I looked through my recipes and found an old recipe of my mother’s for apple cake. It seems like a good way to use the apples in the refrigerator.

doughWhile stirring up the cake, my thoughts turned towards a spiritual application. The baked cake is symbolic of my life that is made up of various ingredients each day. Just as flour has a bland taste but many uses, I recognize that my day includes multiple mundane household chores that routinely need to be done. Bland and mundane are good words to describe one of the primary ingredients in a cake as well as routine housework. Sugar and oil add sweetness and moistness to a cake. Spiritually speaking, these ingredients remind me of the sweetness of God’s Word and the anointing oil of the Holy Spirit. While cinnamon adds a special flavor to a cake, it also emphasizes  that spice is added to my life as I randomly do unexpected activities. The cake would not rise if soda were not an ingredient. Personally, words of encouragement help me to arise to circumstances I encounter. While salt helps to bring out the flavor of the cake batter, Jesus tells me that I am to be the salt of the earth. I do not want to lose my saltiness! As I think about the taste of salt I am reminded of the salty taste of tears. I must not be discouraged if some tears are mixed into my day because they will add a unique flavor to my life. An egg in a cake helps all the ingredients hold together. Maybe the egg of my life is prayer that helps hold my daily activities together. I must not forget to add the fruit of the apple to my cake or it will not be an apple cake. Neither must I forget to add the fruit of the Spirit to myself. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control are imperative for me to live the way I desire and God desires. Nuts are optional but they do add texture and taste to a cake. I guess it doesn’t hurt for me to be a little “nutty” to add some humor to my day. After all ingredients are combined, the cake needs to be baked if it is to be edible.  I must trust that God will use the heated times of my day to produce the product He desires.

For everything there is a season, including the activities and emotions of everyday life. According to Romans 8:28, I know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him and have been called according to his purpose. This includes all the seasons of my life. Just as a cake needs a variety of ingredients, so does my life require diversity. My day-to-day existence should not always be the same. I must allow God to mix up my daily responsibilities just like I mix up a cake. I want to taste and see that the Lord is good by the end of each day whether it relates to the taste of a cake or the outcome of my obligations and opportunities.

My Reader, remember that “For everything there is a season” in your life. Maybe you want to follow the recipe below and bake this apple cake. You can enjoy a piece of it while you reflect upon the current season of your life. Also keep in mind that it is April and it is spring according to the seasons of the year. Appreciate all the seasons offered to you in various ways.

Joyfully,
Cheryl

This week: Read Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 to find out the seasons of life noted by Solomon.

Easy Apple Cake
2 c. raw apples peeled and diced
1 egg
1 c sugar
½ c. oil
1 c. flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. soda
½ tsp. salt
1 c . nuts chopped

Break the egg into the apples. Stir in the sugar and the oil. Combine the flour, cinnamon, soda and salt together and add to the apple mixture. Add the nuts and mix thoroughly. Bake in a 350 degree oven 45 minutes in a 9×9 pan. Serve with whipped topping if desired.

 

 

 

 

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Tablecloths and Grave Cloths

So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were
running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb
first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there
but did not go in. Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived
and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as
  well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The
cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. Finally
the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went
inside. He saw and believed.
John 20:3-8

 white flower for cloths 3 mfWe celebrated Easter last Sunday at church and at home. For our Easter dinner with the family, I even got out the good tablecloth and cloth napkins. While folding the clean linens before putting them away, I thought about Jesus and His grave cloths. Although His body had been wrapped in burial cloths and a napkin placed around His head, when Jesus rose from the dead He no longer needed them. He left these items in the empty tomb. Now I wonder, is there any similarity between my tablecloth and Jesus’ strips of linen? How about my napkins and the cloth that had been around the head of Jesus? I pondered upon these ideas while I finished the laundry and then decided to search the Internet. Surprise! I am not the only one to think about the grave cloths of Jesus. I have read numerous articles and now I want to transform my thoughts into words.

 white flower for cloths 3 mfWhile online, I had a lesson regarding the Greek language. The Greek word for the burial cloth wrapped around Jesus’ head is “saudarion” and means a towel or a cloth. It is not a napkin as I think of it today. The other interesting Greek word is “entulisso” meaning to twist or entwine. This word is translated in the NIV Bible as “folded up.” Other translations use such words as wrapped up or folded together or simply lying apart from the other wrappings. So much for the similarities between my folding napkins and what Jesus did with the burial cloth for His head! Some of the words may be the same but there are definitely different definitions.

white flower for cloths 3 mfI read about a legend regarding the meaning of folded and unfolded napkins for the Hebrew people. It said that an unfolded napkin left at the table meant that the person was finished and would not be returning to the table. However, a folded napkin meant the person would return to the table at a later time. The analogy was made saying that Jesus was relaying the message that He would return to earth when He left “the folded napkin” of the burial cloth for His head. This could relate to John 14:2-3 where Jesus tells His disciples, “My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” However, as I read other reviews regarding this concept, I discovered that no Bible commentators give any credence to these concepts. In fact, the people during this time period used a hand washing ceremony rather than table napkins. Although there is no validity to this story, I like the thought of it. It even goes along with my original idea of comparing my table linens to Jesus’ burial linens. (Thinking back to the appearance of our table at the conclusion of our dinner on Sunday, I am quite sure no one is coming back because all I found were crumpled napkins.)

white flower for cloths 3 mfThe most valuable insight I learned from my Internet searching relates to the importance of Jesus leaving behind the grave cloths. When Peter and John found the grave cloths in the empty tomb, it proved that Jesus had indeed risen from the dead and His body had not been stolen. Empty burial cloths without a body was resurrection proof. It did not matter whether the cloths were napkins or towels or whether they were folded or twisted. The fact was that the tomb was empty even though Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus had buried the body. (John 19:38-42) After Peter and John left the empty tomb, Mary Magdalene lingered outside the tomb weeping because she thought Jesus’ body had been taken away. She then not only saw two angels seated where Jesus’ body had been laid, but she personally encountered the risen Lord Himself. Jesus met Mary at the tomb but He was not dead in the tomb. (John 20:10-18)

white flower for cloths 3 mf My tablecloth and napkins are now placed in the linen closet until the next time we have special company. However, the importance of Jesus’ resurrection has not been put out of my mind. Even though there are no legitimate similarities between my table linens and the empty grave cloths of Jesus, I do not think my time of contemplating comparisons has been wasted. Anything that reminds me of the death and resurrection of Jesus has value. Paul says in Philippians 3:10-11, “I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,  and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.” Like Paul, I want to continue to grow in my knowledge of Christ and His power. Being aware of signs and symbols that remind me of Jesus helps me to attain this goal. I never want to distort what the scriptures say, but I also want to be open to resurrection reminders within my natural surroundings.

Joyfully,
 Cheryl
gold apple new

Seventh of the Seven Last Words

Father, into your hands I commit my spirit. Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.  Father, into
 Luke 23:46

cross-12-mf

Jesus called out with a loud voice,
“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”
When he had said this, he breathed his last.
Luke 23:46

As I read this verse of scripture three words or couplets stand out to me: (1) Father (2) Your [God’s] hands (3) I [Jesus] commit. Today, I am going to give each of these words some more thought.

Father

The Seventh Word from the Cross is known as “The Word of Reunion.” The first thing I notice is that Jesus is once again referring to God as Father rather than as God as emphasized in the Fourth Word. (see post for March 26) While he is still hanging on the cross, Jesus is experiencing a spiritual reunion with God as Father. Also, Father and Son will soon be physically reunited when Jesus returns to his heavenly home after the resurrection.

Your (God’s) hands

The hands of Jesus are pierced with nails that hold him to the crossbeam of the cross. He places these hands into the hands of his Father rather than into the hands of mankind. It was the hands of men that pounded these nails through his hands in the first place so this is not what he wants. Jesus acknowledges a more secure feeling of comfort and care in the hands of God. Jesus no longer needs to know the whys of his situation; he simply trusts his Father by placing his hands into His hands.

I commit

Feeling the security of the promise of reunion with his Heavenly Father, Jesus verbally commits his spirit into the hands of God. These are the words of a dying man who is breathing his last breaths of earthly life. This is a statement of surrender to the Father’s plans and purposes, which at that moment did not look great from his human vantage point upon the cross of crucifixion. Jesus trusted even though he did not fully understand. It is interesting to me that another reunion is being made possible at this same time. Jesus’ commitment opens the door (or curtain) for the reunion between Father and Son and it opens the way for me as well. Mark 15:38 states, “The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” when Jesus uttered these words. The fact that the curtain was torn from top to bottom is a powerful statement revealing that the curtain was torn by the hand of God rather than the hand of mankind. Not only are Father and Son being reunited but the torn curtain symbolizes that people now can have access to God at any time. That is why Jesus says in John 14:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life.”

Father…your hands…I commit

Since “The Word of Reunion” can apply to me today, I want to consider how this affects my daily life. Just as Jesus never got his why question answered, neither should I expect full understanding in my journey with the Lord. God doesn’t ask me to understand but He does ask me to trust and obey. Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 16:24,“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. “ Hmmm. What kind of cross am I to take up? I do not need to really die a physical death upon a cross like Jesus, but there is a dying to self that I must experience. I like the quote from Ann Voskamp  “I know — we need a place of execution in our lives if we’re ever to rightly execute a life of faith.” Just before Jesus began his final journey to the cross, he prayed in the Garden of Olives saying, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” according to Luke 22:42. So, if for me to take up my cross means to die to myself, what do I need to die to? This may include my will, my dreams, my desires, even my own rights. This gets very personal! I am not so sure I will always like this but I want to heed the words of Matthew 16: 25-26, “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” Maybe dying to myself will not be so bad after all when I consider the length of time of eternal life!

My Reader, in just a few days we will be celebrating Easter. However, before I can celebrate Resurrection Sunday, I feel the need to embrace the cross of crucifixion and the meaning of the seven sayings by Christ on the cross. Personally, as I try to wrap my mind around all of this today, I find myself singing the first verse of the hymn I Surrender All by Judson W. Van DeVenter. Then I will be ready to sing Christ the Lord is Risen Today on Sunday. My Reader, will you join me in song?

All to Jesus I surrender;
All to Him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust Him,
In His presence daily live. 
Refrain:
I surrender all,

I surrender all;
All to Thee, my blessed Savior,
I surrender all.

Joyfully,
Cheryl
gold apple new

Sixth of the Seven Last Words

It is finished. It is finished. It is finished. It isfinished. It isfinished. It is finished. It is
John 19:30
 

cross-11-mfWhen he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.”
With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit
John 19:30

The sixth saying expressed by Jesus from the cross is the third phrase recorded in the gospel of John. I note only three words (It is finished.) in the English language and these words give me the impression that something is completed and is now a “done deal.” However, in Greek only one word is needed for this phrase: “tetelestai.” The tense of this verb in the Greek language implies that an action has been completed in the past with the results continuing into the present and even into the future. This lets me know that these words of Jesus still affect me today!  “It was finished in the past, it is still finished in the present and it will remain finished in the future.” I read an insightful sermon regarding this from Keep Believing Ministries. For me, this explanation exemplifies Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

Previously when I read these words, I would ask myself, “What is finished for Jesus? Is it his life on earth? Is it the pain of the crucifixion? Is it the physical separation from his Father?”  “It” includes all of these plus so much more. It means that Jesus did exactly what he was sent to earth to do and he has now fulfilled his obligations. It is a phrase of victory! The words shout of Jesus’ obedience to the plan of God.

This saying is known as “The Word of Triumph.” When I hear the echo of the words, “It is finished” in John 19:30, it is as if I also hear God the Father responding “Well done, good and faithful servant!” as recorded in Matthew 25:21. There is no longer a need for animal sacrifices to be made to cover sin. The price of sin has now been paid by the Son of God. Jesus walked the road to Calvary in order to pave the road of redemption for me and everyone who accepts Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

The phrase “the end is the beginning” seems to be applicable for these words of Jesus. Soon after he spoke “It is finished,” Jesus would leave this earth. However, he still is active on behalf of me and all believers today. Some scriptures come to my mind. Jesus says in John 16:7, “But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” He continues to say in John 12-13, “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear.But when he, the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.” Another scripture I think about is John 14:1-3, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

Jesus said, “It is finished.” He did not say “I am finished.” Neither must I say that I am finished with whatever plans and purposes God has for me. Just as Jesus’ work on the cross continues to be active today, so must I continue to be obedient to fulfill the work God has for me according to Jeremiah 29:11, “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” If my life is to be Christ centered, it must be cross centered.

Three simple words, yet three powerful words! Or in the Greek, one simple word, yet still so powerful! For me, it is even more compelling when I consider the magnitude of the meaning in Greek. It is a word or phrase that I want to appropriate by living a life of faith – the kind of life available to me because Christ died on the cross and proclaimed these words.

My Reader, have you accepted the fact that “it” is finished for you since Christ was crucified? What is “it” that you are called to complete today?

Joyfully,
Cheryl
gold apple new

Fifth of the Seven Last Words

I thirst. I thirst. I thirst. I thirst. I thirst. I thirst. I thirst. I thirst. I thirst. I thirst.
John 19:28

cross 1 mf

Another week – another word. The fifth word is known as “The Word of Distress.” Most likely, these are the most human words ever spoken by Jesus. This is the only statement from the cross when Jesus expressed a physical need of his body. Hear these two words now spoken by the Son of God who once spoke all the waters into existence. He formed the oceans and the rivers, the lakes and the springs, the wells and the reservoirs. He created water and now he is crying out for water! He caused rain to fall from the sky upon parched dry ground and yet now his mouth is parched and dry as he utters these words. My Reader, join me as I think about these two little words: “I thirst.”

Later, knowing that everything had now been finished,
and so that Scripture would be fulfilled,
Jesus said, “I am thirsty.”
John 19:28

 When reading the complete scripture verse of John 19:28, I find it interesting that it says Jesus had to express his thirst in order for scripture to be fulfilled. It must be the case because this is the fulfillment of the prophecy spoken by David in Psalm 22:15, “My mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death.” However, I am quite sure Jesus did not need the prompting of any scripture verse for him to know he needed water at this time. He had not had anything to eat or drink since he shared the Last Supper with his disciples the previous evening. I would be crying out that I was hungry as well as letting it be known that I was thirsty! I think about all Jesus has endured since his last meal – questioning, mocking, beating, scourging etc. He now was dying a physical death because of blood loss and possibly an infection caused by the nail wounds in his hands and feet. There probably was a fever in his body causing his mouth to be parched. I only need to think of how thirsty I can be when I have a fever with the flu – and that is miniscule compared to what Jesus was experiencing. Yes, he was physically dehydrated, but was there more being said?

Another time when Jesus was thirsty is recorded in John 4. He asked a Samaritan woman at the well for a drink of water. But the conversation went to a deeper level. In John 4:10 Jesus told the woman, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” He went on to say in John 4:13, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” I notice that He did not say He was the living water but that he would give living water to her that would cause her not thirst again. Jesus was referring to the Holy Spirit as being the Living Water. Another scripture where Jesus referred to thirst being satisfied by the Holy Spirit is John 7: 37-39, “On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.’ By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.” While on the cross, I would not be surprised if Jesus had called out for the Living Water to satisfy his spiritual thirst as well as liquid water to quench his natural thirst.

My Reader, what are you thirsty for? I pose this question to you as well as to myself. If we are thirsty for liquid water, we pour a glass of water, put it to our open mouths and drink. We drink until we desire no more. If we are thirsty for spiritual water, we need to go to the Word of God, open it to a specific passage and read. Do we read until our spiritual thirst is satisfied? The amazing thing is that the more we drink spiritually, the thirstier we become! We taste and see that the Lord is good and we just want more and more – that is the way God designed us. I think of what David describes in Psalm 42:1-2, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” One glass of water will not quench my physical thirst forever and neither will drinking of God’s Word one time satisfy my spiritual thirst forever. Let us remember that Jesus’ expression of thirst are some of the last words he spoke on earth. Now let us listen to some of the last words of scripture spoken by a voice from heaven in Revelation 21: 6. “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.” Jesus paid the cost so we can now freely drink from the water of life. Jesus experienced both physical and spiritual thirst so our spiritual thirst can be fulfilled for all eternity. Call out to Jesus today saying, “I thirst!” He will hear you because he once said these words himself. He will respond to you by telling you to come and drink!

Joyfully,
 Cheryl
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