Gazing in the Garden

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Jesus, unlock the garden of my heart;
awaken love in me.
I want to sit at Your feet, as the great mercy seat,
in the garden of my heart.
I want to laugh; I want to sing;
I want to dance with the King
in the garden of my heart.

Jesus, unlock the garden of my heart;
awaken love in me.
I want to gaze in You eyes, so that faith may arise,
in the garden of my heart.
I want to laugh; I want to sing;
I want to dance with the King
in the garden of my heart.

Jesus, unlock the garden of my heart;
awaken love in me.
I want to feel Your embrace, and receive Your grace,
in the garden of my heart.
I want to laugh; I want to sing;
I want to dance with the King
in the garden of my heart.

My Reader, are you ready to grasp another key to unlock the garden of your heart? Last week, we examined the first key while humbly sitting at the feet of Jesus at the mercy seat. This week we will look at the second stanza of this praise chorus that verbalizes the desire to gaze into the eyes of Jesus so that faith may arise within the heart. Please join me in this garden.

If I apply the words of this praise chorus to my natural surroundings, my picture might be as follows. I am sitting on a park-like bench in a tranquil garden on a summer evening. I gaze at the stars. The longer I focus upon the sky, the more stars I see and the beauty of the heavens increases. Making a spiritual application, I describe the scene as follows. As I humbly sit at the feet of Jesus and meditate upon His Word, I realize how merciful the Lord is to me. Although I began with my head bowed, I now lift my eyes up to His face. The longer I gaze into the eyes of Jesus, the more I comprehend what it means to live by faith.

To understand the meaning of gazing into the eyes of Jesus, I focus my eyes upon scripture. I repeatedly find the phrase “the apple of the eye” that speaks of a place of priority and importance. This phrase seems to go along with the concept of gazing. Zechariah 2:8 says, whoever touches you touches the apple of his eye.” Wow – God considers me the apple of His eye! If the Lord keeps His eye on me, then I desire to keep my eyes on Him! Proverbs 7:2 says, “Keep my commands and you will live; guard my teachings as the apple of your eye.” This Proverb gives me insight to how I can gaze upon the Lord. Along with David, I plead the words of Psalm 17:8, “Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings.”

The words of my song promise me that if I gaze into the eyes of Jesus, my faith will increase. Hebrews 11:1 states, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Hmmm. I have been reflecting upon gazing and now I read words about not seeing. Is this contradictory? Not necessarily. Webster’s dictionary defines gaze as to look intently and steadily; to stare, as in wonder or expectancy. For me, to look with confidence and expectancy is faith in action. Gazing in faith involves spiritual sight rather than physical sight. For me to live by faith, I will follow the instructions of Paul in I Corinthians 4:18,“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” In her book Jesus Calling, Sarah Young embellishes this verse by saying, “Fix your eyes not on what is seen (your circumstances), but on what is unseen (My Presence).”

What is my response to gazing into the eyes of Jesus and having my faith arise? The last three lines of this chorus say that I want to laugh and sing. Last week I focused upon how I want to laugh. This week I want to look at the concept of wanting to sing. I reiterate Psalm 126:2 from last week because it mentions both laughing and singing. “Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy…. ‘The LORD has done great things for them.'” In Ephesians 5:19, Paul speaks of “singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord.” I like this because the setting for my singing is in the garden of my heart. Psalm 28:7 says, “My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.” This is what I want to do!

I conclude by saying, I want my eyes to look into Jesus’ eyes and I want to see what He sees. My purpose for gazing into the Lord’s eyes is for my faith to increase and never cease. This will create a song within the garden of my heart. My Reader, is there a song in your heart today?

Joyfully,
Cheryl
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Note: Next week we will conclude our time in the garden of the heart by looking at the third stanza of this praise chorus.

The Garden Seat

 

 

garden-heartmercy-seatWelcome Readers! Last week I shared about summertime gardens and three specific scriptural gardens while introducing the concept of our hearts being gardens. I base the idea of the heart being a garden upon scripture found in the Song of Solomon. Let me quote a few verses as if these words were a personal conversation I was having with the Lord. In Song of Solomon 4:12, the Lord (the Lover) tells me (the Beloved), “You are a garden locked up, my sister, my bride; you are a spring enclosed, a sealed fountain.” I appreciate that the Lord considers me His garden and I extend a personal invitation to Him to be sure He knows I desire a personal relationship with Him by speaking the words of Song of Solomon 4:16, “Let my beloved come into his garden and taste its choice fruits.” The Lord then assures me of His presence within my heart by the words of Song of Solomon 5:1, “I have come into my garden, my sister, my bride.”

Several years ago the Lord inspired me to write a short praise chorus that I entitled The Garden of My Heart. Essentially, this chorus is a continuation of the dialogue I just shared from the Song of Solomon. However, my conversation with the Lord in this chorus is on a more personal level. Let me share it with you because it will be the basis of my blog for the upcoming weeks.

Jesus, unlock the garden of my heart;
awaken love in me.
I want to sit at Your feet, as the great mercy seat,
in the garden of my heart.
I want to laugh; I want to sing;
I want to dance with the King
in the garden of my heart.

Jesus, unlock the garden of my heart;
awaken love in me.
I want to gaze in You eyes, so that faith may arise,
in the garden of my heart.
I want to laugh; I want to sing;
I want to dance with the King
in the garden of my heart.

Jesus, unlock the garden of my heart;
awaken love in me.
I want to feel Your embrace, and receive Your grace,
in the garden of my heart.
I want to laugh; I want to sing;
I want to dance with the King
in the garden of my heart.

Each stanza of this song begins with my plea for Jesus to unlock my heart and stir up new growth of love in me. Then the next two lines describe what I wish to do while in the presence of the Lord. The final three lines portray the interaction I yearn to experience through a vital relationship with Jesus. Today, I want us to focus primarily upon the first stanza of this song.

What I desire to do in the first verse is to just sit at the feet of Jesus. I want to sit with Jesus because He is the guest in my heart. I do not want to ignore Him by being preoccupied with “stuff.” In humility, I choose to sit at Jesus’ feet and to give Him the seat of honor. Where is the place of honor? It is the mercy seat!

Many gardens have a bench where one can sit down and enjoy the surroundings. I describe the bench in the garden of my heart as being the mercy seat. The mercy seat in scripture is not actually a bench for me to sit upon but it gives a good analogy. In the Old Testament, the mercy seat is the solid gold lid or cover on the ark of the covenant. It is described in Exodus 25:17-22. At each end of this gold lid is a cherubim. Their outstretched wings provide a throne from where God would mediate on earth. It is a representation of His true throne in heaven. Exodus 25:22 says, “There I will meet with you; and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony, I will speak to you about all that I will give you in commandment for the sons of Israel.” The mercy seat is the place where the blood of sacrifices was sprinkled. The word for “mercy seat” is the same root for the word “atonement”. It means to cover, cancel, appease, or cleanse. In the New Testament, the Greek word for Mercy Seat is ‘hilasterion’. Paul literally says that God presented Christ as a propitiation or ‘mercy seat’. Romans 3:25 NET says, “God publicly displayed him at his death as the mercy seat accessible through faith.” This means that Jesus Christ is the mercy seat! I am humbled knowing that I can sit with Jesus, who is the actual mercy seat in the garden of my heart!

Knowing that I can share the garden of my heart with Jesus, what do I want to do? I give three responses in the last two lines of the praise chorus, but today I am going to only focus upon the first action of laughing. I want to laugh because of what the psalmist says in Psalm 126:2, “Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy…. ‘The LORD has done great things for them.'” Laughter expresses joy and I like the image of Psalm 47:1, “Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy.” I think there was laughter heard among with the cries of joy unto the Lord.

I come to the conclusion that it is only in humbleness that I can sit at the mercy seat with Jesus in the garden of my heart. According to  Lamentations 3:22, the Lord’s mercies are new every morning. According to the first line of my chorus, I ask Jesus to awaken love in me. I desire to be awakened every morning to the love and mercy of the Lord!

My Reader, will you invite Jesus into the garden of your heart today? Are you willing to humbly sit with Him at the great mercy seat?

Joyfully,
Cheryl
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Note: Next week we will continue our time in the garden of the heart by looking at the second verse of this praise chorus.

Gardens and Gates

 

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I enjoy gardens, especially during the summer. Whether the garden consists of a few square feet of perennial flowers in front of our home or whether it includes trees, shrubbery and flowers that cover an area of several square miles, I appreciate these enclosures of plants. I love the beauty of flowers and I welcome the solitude among trees. However, most of all I delight in the presence of the Lord in the garden of my heart.

What do I mean when I refer to a garden? A garden is a piece of ground set aside where plants can grow. With this in mind, why do I describe my heart as a garden? Because I consider my heart to be the center of my growth. Physically, I could not live or grow if my heart was not functioning. Emotionally, all of my feelings such as love and joy and fear originate in my heart. Spiritually, my heart is where my faith either grows or diminishes. With this being my perspective, I want to correlate my heart’s garden to three gardens mentioned in scripture. These are the Garden of Eden, the Garden of Gethsemane and Paradise.

garden of eden 3The Garden of Eden is the first garden mentioned in the first book of the Bible. Genesis 2:8 says, “Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed.” Within this garden, God communed with Adam and Eve. This garden was a real place, not just an allegorical image. It may have been a reserve, or an enclosed, park-like area. It was a quiet place where God and Adam and Eve could walk and talk with each other. It was where God confronted Adam and Eve when they disobeyed Him and ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Because of their disobedience, they were banished from the Garden of Eden and never allowed to return. The garden was locked with a flaming sword to guard the way to the tree of life according to Genesis 3:24.

gethsemaneThe next garden I want to focus upon is the Garden of Gethsemane. This is the garden where Jesus prayed the night before He was crucified. Matthew 26:36-46 records the prayer Jesus prayed before He was arrested. In this garden Jesus beseeched His Heavenly Father about the possibility of His not having to endure the death on the cross that He knew awaited Him. However, as He talked with His Heavenly Father, He concluded His prayer by yielding to the will of His Father. For me, this exemplifies the most intimate communication possible. Adam and Eve lost this privilege in the Garden of Eden but Jesus still experienced the original relationship between God and man because He was both human and divine. After His prayer, Jesus was arrested and led out of the garden by a multitude of people armed with swords. God did not banish Him from the garden. What happened in this garden allowed the gate of another garden to be opened. In fact, Jesus referred to Himself as the gate in John 10:9, “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.”

eternityThis leads me to the third garden known as Paradise. Paradise comes from a Persian word for garden that was used to designate the heavenly garden of God. The symbolism of this garden suggests the perfect fellowship that God and humankind enjoyed in Eden before the Fall. After Jesus prayed His powerful prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane and was hanging on the cross, He continued to draw people towards a future garden. When the thief on the cross cried out to Jesus to save him, Jesus responded by saying in Luke 23:43, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” But, how is it possible for the thief to enter God’s garden that was locked after Adam and Eve sinned? I pointed out earlier that Jesus was the gate to this garden, but now I see that He is also the key that unlocks the garden’s gate. The opening of this spiritual gate is visible by the tearing of the curtain or veil in the temple at the moment Jesus died. The temple had three main parts and there was a curtain that separated the Most Holy Place from the other sections. The Most Holy Place represented where God dwelt and the curtain was a barrier between God and humanity. This curtain was torn in two and the gate into God’s presence was opened. Matthew 27:51 says, “At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” Direct communication was again possible between God and mankind.  Whenever there is reference to Paradise in scripture, it represents a place of blissful fellowship with God – a garden. Revelation 2:7 says, “To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” This tree of life in Paradise is the same tree that was guarded in the Garden of Eden according to Genesis 3:24!

My summation of these three gardens is as follows. The Garden of Eden was the garden created by God where He had a perfect relationship with Adam and Eve. Because of sin, Adam and Eve were led out of this garden that was then locked. God still desired to have a garden where He could have uninterrupted fellowship with mankind so now we have the garden of Paradise available to us. Since the gate to the Garden of Eden has been locked, the gate to Paradise must be unlocked for us to enter. This unlocking process began in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus, who is the gate, also became the key to unlock Paradise. Each of us must accept Jesus as our personal savior (our key) in order to gain access to Paradise. Romans 3:23 says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Therefore I am locked out of the Garden of Eden just like Adam and Eve. However, Galatians 2:20 tells me that “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Consequently, when I surrender to the crucifixion of my flesh as Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane, I can be assured of eternity in Paradise because Jesus speaks the same words to me that He spoke to the thief on the cross in Luke 23:43, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” These steps of faith allow the garden of my heart to be unlocked and for a perfect relationship between Jesus and myself to be restored. He lives in my heart’s garden now and I will live with Him in Paradise for eternity.

I have gained a deeper understanding of why I appreciate gardens! My Reader, what is your experience with gardens? I pray that you are enjoying summer gardens and spiritual gardens.

Joyfully,
Cheryl
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Note: Join me next week as we begin exploring the gardens of our hearts together.

How Deep Is the Water?

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water-drop-1It is summertime and swimming is a popular activity. When getting into the pool, one of the first questions a young child will ask is, “How deep is the water?” It is scary to get into water over your head if one does not know how to swim. There is definitely safety in knowing the depth of the water. When I think of myself as a spiritual swimmer, I realize that I like to know the depth of what I will be encountering with God. The Lord has set before me the depths of faith to which He desires to take me, but I also have control over how deep I choose to go.

As the man went eastward with a measuring line in his hand, he measured
off a thousand cubits and then led me through water that was ankle-deep.
He measured off another thousand cubits and led me through water that was

knee-deep. He measured off another thousand and led me through water
that was up to the waist. He measured off another thousand, but now it was
a river that I could not cross, because the water had risen and was
deep
enough to swim in
—a river that no one could cross.
Ezekiel 47:3-5

water-drop-1In Ezekiel 47, the prophet describes the river that is shown to him. I notice that the water is gradually getting deeper. In verse 3, it simply covers the ankles. In verse 4, the water comes up to the knees and then the waist. Finally in verse 5, the water is deep enough for swimming. While in a pool of water, I may prefer to be in deeper water but I am not so sure about depth when it comes to spiritual water. However, I remember some of Paul’s words in I Corinthians 10:13, “And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.” To put this into swimmer’s language, Paul is assuring me that God will not lead me into water where I will not be safe. Although I may be hesitant to dive in as deeply as the Lord may desire, I must remember that He will keep me safe in His arms regardless of the depth of the spiritual waters. Deuteronomy 33:27 assures me, “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” The Lord’s arms are encircling me like a life-preserver! I can have the tendency to limit God by not fully trusting Him to take care of my life. I need to remember Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” God does not limit how deep I go – I do. Ephesians 3:18 says that I may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ but I must be willing to jump into the spiritual waters if I am to comprehend the capacity of Christ’s pool of love. I ask myself, “How deep will my faith allow me to go?” God controls the depth of the water. Do I trust Him enough to jump into spiritual waters that I think are over my head? I have to remember that the Lord is already in the water and He is waiting with outstretched arms to catch me when I jump.

water-drop-1Thinking back to the scripture of Ezekiel 47, I find it interesting that each time there is mention of a change of depth in the water, it is by the measurement of 1000 cubits. (FYI: a cubit is 1.5 feet) In numerical symbolism, 1000 represents the completion of a season. I begin to understand how the Lord takes me into deeper waters by allowing me to go through different seasons of trials and temptations. Through each season, or 1000 cubits, my faith is strengthened and deepened. I develop the strength and endurance to swim in deeper spiritual waters without having the assurance of my feet being able to touch firm ground. II Corinthians 5:7 says “we walk by faith, not by sight.” Maybe I need to say that I swim by faith in deep water, not by keeping my feet on visible ground. As I live for the Lord, He will take me a few feet deeper through the waters He has established just for me day by day, moment by moment, season by season. Ecclesiastes 3:1 NLT says, “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.” God has a plan and just as He has ordered the season of summer for swimming in the natural realm, so has He ordered seasons of swimming in the supernatural realm. Ezekiel’s river flowed from the throne of God and increased in depth gradually and safely. The same can be said for the river of life God has planned for me. Hebrews 12:2 informs me that “(Jesus is) the author and finisher of (my) faith.” Therefore, I can say that He knew the depth of the water where my faith began and He knows how deeply He can take me into His river. I can trust Him! I no longer need to ask “How deep is the water?” I can jump into the spiritual swimming pool with full assurance that the Lord knows the depth of the waters and that is all that matters!

water-drop-1In Luke 5:4 NKJV, Jesus challenges Simon to “Launch out into the deep.” Although Jesus was referring to fishing rather than swimming, I think Jesus gives me the same challenge today. He wants me to delve more deeply into understanding His Word and applying it to my daily life. The Lord does not want me to be satisfied with a shallow faith. Corrie Ten Boom has said, “Faith sees the invisible, believes the unbelievable, and receives the impossible.”  If I am to live, or swim, by faith, I must be willing to dive into spiritual waters without seeing the bottom of the pool while believing that the water will never be so deep that it will cause me to sink or drown. Even though it may seem impossible at the moment, I must believe that the Lord will help build up my endurance, or my faith, to swim the required distance when I launch out into the deep waters of life.

My Reader, are you a swimmer? Whether you are swimming physically or spiritually, enjoy the refreshing water. Physically, swimming cools off the body on a hot summer day. Spiritually, swimming refreshes body, soul and spirit in all kinds of weather. Remember God’s promise in Jeremiah 31:25, “I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.”

Joyfully,
Cheryl
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Independence Day or Dependence Day?

As the nation of the United States of America, we will be celebrating our freedom this weekend. Our freedom spans a time period of nearly 240 years. On July 4, 1776, the thirteen united States of America unanimously declared their independence from England. The Declaration of Independence is the founding document of the American political tradition and has become a cherished symbol of liberty and freedom for our nation. Although this document declares our independence from England, it is also our document of dependence upon God. Out of love for God and country, the founders of our nation were willing to fight for, live for, and die for the foundational truths upon which our nation is based. The forefathers of our nation depended upon their Heavenly Father for their personal lives and the livelihood of this new nation. We as citizens of the United States of America must follow their example if we are to continue to be a successful independent yet dependent nation.

One way our nation celebrates Independence Day is through displays of fireworks. The explosions of sight and sound remind us of the battles fought for the freedom of our nation. I also want us to experience a spiritual outburst of Living Light within our minds during this holiday because true and ultimate freedom is found only in Jesus Christ, the Son of God. May the brilliance of faith fireworks burst forth in our minds as we meditate upon the promises of freedom available for us when we live dependently upon the Lord. May faith be our firecrackers and scriptures be our sparklers.

My Reader, let me help you begin an early celebration of independence and dependence through the following images and scriptures. May these powerful verses explode with new meaning for you both historically and spiritually.

fireworks-5For freedom Christ has set us free;
Galatians 5:1

fireworks-1So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
John 8:36

fireworks-3Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is,
there is freedom.
2 Corinthians 3:17

fireworks-8But now you are free from the power of sin and have become slaves of God.
Now you do those things that lead to holiness and result in eternal life.
Romans 6:22 NLT

fireworks-10For you were called to freedom, brothers.
Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh,
but through love serve one another.
Galatians 5:13

fireworks-7Live as people who are free,
not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.
Honor everyone.  Love the brotherhood.
  Fear God.  Honor the emperor.
1 Peter 2:16-17

fireworks-9I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts.
Psalm 119:45

Joyfully,
Cheryl
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