In Need of Shoes?

footprints-in-sandCome, follow me.
Matthew 4:10

This is an invitation extended by Jesus to each of us. He desires for us to follow in His footsteps as we walk through life. However, He does not expect us to walk barefooted. While studying the Bible, I discover different types of shoes Jesus provides for us to wear while traveling our paths of life. Today I think it will be fun to go scriptural shoe shopping.

shoes-baby-3Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people
who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly
–mere infants in Christ.
I Corinthians 3:1

Newborn infants wear booties and soft soled shoes. The souls of new born-again Christians are soft and need to develop before they are ready to walk alone. Although the feet of babies need to be covered, the little ones still require being carried whether it be by biological parents, Jesus or more mature Christian mentors, they cannot walk alone.

shoes-children-1But Jesus called the children to him and said,
“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them,
for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”
Luke 18:16

Jesus extends His invitation to follow Him to children as well as to adults. We must remember that the kingdom of God includes spiritual infants and children growing in faith as well as more mature men and women of God. As a person grows in one’s faith, the size of one’s spiritual shoes increases.

shoes-flats-1In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.
Isaiah 40:3-4

Flat shoes remind me of flat ground. Level paths provide easy walking. This scripture promises opportunities for a stroll, but it also reminds us that there will be times when we will be climbing mountains and foraging rough terrain. Everyone enjoys sauntering along flat terrain with a friend whether that friend be another human being or Jesus. We should remember to talk with the Lord and thank Him for these enjoyable times while meandering with Him along a level plain.

shoes-heels-1Who may ascend the mountain of the LORD?
Who may stand in his holy place?
Psalm 24:3

Anyone who follows Jesus has the privilege of ascending to spiritual heights with Him. Although we have the promise that we can be with Him, He does not promise that the route will always be easy. High heels remind me of the height we can attain when following Jesus, but these shoes are not ones to be wearing when climbing mountains.

green plastic flip flops against colored backgroundI know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot;
I wish that you were cold or hot.
So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold,
I will spit you out of My mouth.
Revelation 3: 15-16

The Lord is omniscient; He knows everything about us. He knows where we are regarding our walk with Him. There are times when we grow cold in our faith and there are other times when we are on fire for Him. We can wear flip-flops. We will flip flop in the closeness of our relationship with Him. He will walk with us through these times, but He does not want us to become indifferent regarding our faith walk.

shoes-running-1those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.
Isaiah 40:31

There are times when we need to wait in hope and faith for the Lord’s leading in regards to the next step He wants us to take. Then there will be other times when we have to run to keep up with where He is going and what He is doing. Jesus has promised that when we wait for His leading we will be given the strength to run and not become weary. He provides us with the endurance we need.

shoes-combatThis is what the LORD says to you:
Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army.
For the battle is not yours, but God’s.
II Chronicles 29:15

Life’s journey is not always easy and there will be days when it seems like we are constantly fighting battles. However, when we are following Jesus, we can be confident that He is the commander-in-chief of all we encounter. He assures us that it is His battle to fight – not ours. Put on your combat boots and be ready to follow Jesus.

shoes-fuzzy-4Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Matthew 11:28

Following Jesus requires physical and spiritual energy. When we become tired, He will give us the opportunity to rest. He will wait for our energy and our faith to be revived in order for us to continue the journey together. In fact, He is the one who will revive us. Tired feet need times of rest.

feet-3your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.
Ephesians 6:15
When you walk, your steps will not be hampered;
when you run, you will not stumble.
Proverbs 4:12

When we follow in the footsteps of Jesus, we will be prepared to share the gospel of peace with those the Lord places in our paths. We will not stumble; we will not be hindered. Every morning may we put on the pair of shoes that best fits the terrain of our current path with the Lord. May we also strive for the footprints of our shoes to help others to discover their personal route for following the Lord. Jesus has the correct style and size of shoes for everyone to be able to follow Him.

Joyfully,
Cheryl
gold apple new

Suggested Exercises for Strengthening

………Physical Strengthening………Physical Strengthening………Physical Strengthening………
………Spiritual Strengthening………Spiritual Strengthening………Spiritual Strengthening………

exercise-1

praying-hands-6Last week I compared how my physical alignment problems with my back led me to see how a problem of spiritual alignment can also occur in one’s life. Today I want to expand upon the physical and spiritual similarities in correlation to exercising. After alignment comes strengthening through exercises. Physically the muscles and tendons of my back needed to be strengthened. Likewise, spiritually there is a need to strengthen one’s relationship with the Lord after getting back into proper alignment with His plans and purposes. I realize I may be taking the following scriptures out of context as I create a physical and spiritual exercise program. Particular words are highlighted for emphasis. Unless otherwise noted, scriptures are taken from the New International Version of the Bible.

My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak,
but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever.
Psalm 72:26 NLT

This struggle started for me when my back alignment failed to be what I needed for the best support of my body. It is interesting that scripture mentions that when health fails, the spirit can also encounter weakness. My faith was not always as strong as I would have liked as my physical problems prolonged. Through this scripture in Psalm 72, I realized  that God is aware of the connection between physical and spiritual health and He is there to provide both types of strength.

The LORD replied, “My Presence will go with you,
and I will give you rest.”
Exodus 33:14

At the beginning of my back problems, I asked my chiropractor what was the best thing for me to do to promote healing. His response was for me to just rest. I did not like that answer because I wanted to actively do something to make it better quickly. I have to admit that resting in the Lord can also be the solution when I encounter stressful times spiritually. All the Lord may ask of me is to rest. This may not be easy but it can be the best thing to do.

And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a
conscience void to offence toward God, and toward men.
Acts 24:16 KJV

After numerous adjustments to my spine and a time of rest for healing, the next step was to begin an exercise plan to strengthen the weakened areas of my back. My exercises were very simple but I had to start at the beginning after having done next to nothing for almost a month. I find it interesting that when the Lord speaks of exercising in His Word, he relates it to not allowing oneself to be offended or hurt by things that happen or words people say. This may sound simple but it is not always an easy directive to fulfill. There are times when I have to exercise my faith to avoid getting angry. My chiropractor gave me guidelines for physical exercising. I need to rely upon the Holy Spirit to be my trainer for spiritual help.

Therefore, strengthen your hands which hang down
and the feeble knees, make straight paths for your feet
so that what is lame may not be dislocated,
but rather healed.
Hebrews 12:12-13 NKJV

Wow! Here is a real physical and spiritual workout! I had to strengthen many weak muscles in order to be able to keep my spine straight. I did not want another dislocation – I wanted healing. My spiritual exercises involve lifting my hands in praise and bending my knees in prayer. This will strengthen my walk along the straight path the Lord has mapped out for me without my becoming dislocated. This is the path to healing, health and wholeness.

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen
you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,
Ephesians 3:16

As I followed a routine of physical exercises, my back became stronger. I could do more reps of each exercise at a time. When exercising the privilege of prayer, the power of the Holy Spirit strengthens a person’s spirit. Both of these strengths are achieved little by little because exercises take time for the greatest benefit to occur.

but they who wait for the LORD
shall renew their strength
Isaiah 40:31 ESV

I had to not only continue to do the exercises but I had to wait to see the positive results of my efforts. My physical strength has been renewed but it took time and I continue to do the strengthening exercises so that I will not experience misalignment again. The Lord promises to answer our prayers and meet our needs but we have to wait upon the Lord for His strength in His time. I must continue to stay in alignment with the Lord.

the joy of the LORD is your strength.”
Nehemiah 8:10

This scripture is both a reminder and a testimony of the faithfulness of the Lord. His strength helped me to regain physical strength in my back and His strength continues to be a joy in my spiritual life. Last week I compared the physical strength of tendons and muscles to the spiritual strength I gain from expressing gratitude unto the Lord. I daily continue to express my gratitude to God for His strength both physically and spiritually.

My Reader, are you experiencing some form of weakness in your life? I believe that God sees each struggle we face as an opportunity to train us to be stronger in our faith just as a physical trainer works with individuals to become physically stronger. We may feel pain as we strengthen muscles we have not recently used and we most likely will feel pain as we strengthen spiritual muscles we have used to the best of our ability. Do not reject the opportunity for growth and strengthening in any area of your life. In the coming days, engage in some exercises that will build stronger physical and spiritual muscles. Don’t give up! Remember, the Lord promises in II Corinthians 12:9 “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” May we respond with the words of Paul in II Corinthians 12:10, “for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses,… For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Joyfully,
Cheryl
gold apple new

Back in Alignment

Physical Alignment…..Physical Alignment…..Physical Alignment…..Physical Alignment…..Physical Alignment…

Spiritual Alignment…..Spiritual Alignment…..Spiritual Alignment…..Spiritual Alignment…..Spiritual Alignment…

 

gratitude-2spine-4Recently I encountered some back problems. I have heard enough about spinal adjustments, misalignments, vertebrae, joints, discs, tendons etc.! Although this somewhat debilitating season lasted longer than I had hoped, I learned several lessons. Often when I face a problem, I look upon it as a time when I am put upon a shelf and I cannot wait until the struggle is past so that I can again be active for the Lord. This time, at the beginning I asked the Lord to use my injury for His glory. In Jeremiah 29:11, the Lord declares that He has, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  If I was to trust God to fulfill the plans and purposes He had me, then I had to have faith that whatever was happening to me would be used in a positive way to glorify Him.

My problems began with a misalignment of joints in my spine. The chiropractor was able to adjust my spine but the tendons and muscles of my back had been weakened by the injury and were not able to support the adjustment. Little by little, my back had gotten out of proper alignment without my being aware of it. Then suddenly a sharp pain in my lower back got my attention. My discomfort helped me to realize that I can also allow my life to get out of alignment with the Lord. I decided that I did not want to wait for a sharp spiritual pain to make me aware of my need for the Lord’s strength. I believe the spiritual tendon that holds my body, soul and spirit  in align is gratitude. Gratitude keeps me in line with the Lord! I do not feel that it was by happenstance that I decided to reread One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp this summer while recuperating. The Lord’s hand has restored health to my back through the help of my chiropractor and the Lord has strengthened by faith through a deeper understanding of gratitude.

In her life, Ann Voskamp expresses gratitude unto the Lord by writing a list of gifts for which she is thankful. Her list of gifts includes not only good gifts but also hard gifts for which she has learned to express gratitude. Hmmm. Was my back problem a gift? Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” God wastes nothing! Did God have a better plan for how I would spend a couple of months of my time than I had planned? Of course He did! Since I have now moved beyond the time of most limitations, I can  see how God used me in ways not possible if I had been involved in all of my normal activities. In gratitude, now I try to perceive that all circumstances are gifts from God.

If I were to make a gratitude list, one of my highest priority gifts would be God’s sovereignty. Although He does not promise that everything will always be easy, He is still my Lord. Jesus says in John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” The following three scriptures were helpful to me during my season of back problems.

See now that I, I am He, and there is no god besides Me;
It is I who put to death and give life. I have wounded and I will heal.

Deuteronomy 32:39 NASB
The
Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away;
blessed be the name of the Lord.
Job 1:21 NKJV
Surely, just as I have intended so it has happened,
and just as I have planned so it will stand.
Isaiah 14:24 NASB

I do not claim to fully understand sovereignty and gratitude and alignment but I am learning. However, an opportunity for spiritual growth came to me through the difficult time when my back was out of alignment. Often it is in hindsight that I can see the benefit of a hard time. God can reveal important things about himself and life through these experiences.

I want to emphasize two statements made by Ann Voskamp. She points out that the secret to joy is to keep seeking God where we doubt He is. (There were times that I doubted that there was any joy in the pain and stiffness I felt in my back.) And then she says that the art of deep seeing makes gratitude possible. (The longer I struggled, the deeper I looked for the possible gratitude and joy within during this season.) While experiencing a time when it was hard for me to move physically, I came to realize that the only way to move into God’s presence is was through gratitude. In Jeremiah 30:24, I am reminded that “The Lord shall not turn back until He has executed and accomplished the thoughts and intents of His mind.” The Lord had a greater purpose to achieve in my life than just helping me get rid of back pain. He wanted to teach me about gratitude – for that I am grateful!

I close my thoughts quoting Sarah Young from Jesus Calling for May 29.

I am with you, watching over you constantly, I am
Emmanuel (God with you): My Presence enfolds you in radiant
Love. Nothing including the brightest blessings and the darkest trials,
can separate you from Me. Some of My children find Me more readily
during dark times, when difficulties force them to depend on Me.
Others feel closer to Me when tier lives are filled with good things.
They respond with thanksgiving and praise, thus opening wide the
door to My Presence.

I know precisely what you need to draw nearer to Me.
Go through each day looking for what I have prepared for you.
Accept every event as My hand-tailored provision for your needs.
When you view your life this way, the most reasonable response is to
be thankful. Do not reject any of My gifts; find Me in every situation.”

Joyfully,
Cheryl
gold apple new

Note: I quoted two of my favorite books in this blog. I want to give credit to One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp, Zondervan, 2010 and Jesus Calling by Sarah Young, Thomas Nelson, 2004. I highly recommend both of these books for your reading.

A Chain Reaction

music-notes-4I keep singing Tasha Cobb’s song entitled Break Every Chain. This in turn causes me to remember a short song I wrote several years ago entitled The Paint Brush of Praise. The words I focus upon from Break Every Chain are “There is power in the name of Jesus to break every chain, to break every chain, to break every chain.” The words from my song that I think about are “With the paint brush of praise, we paint the links of the chains that hold us in bondage this day.” Chains are highlighted in the words of both pieces of music.

chain-2First of all, I ask myself, “What are the chains that need to be broken?” Simply because we are of human flesh, I believe we all experience some kind of bondage or chains in our lives. Romans 3:23 states, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Personally, my chains are my sins and shortcomings that hold me back from the fulness of the Lord.

jesus-2How can I be released from these chains? The answer is found in Jesus. Tasha Cobb’s song says it is by the power in the name of Jesus while my song suggests it is through praising the Lord Jesus. Let’s see what scripture states. Jesus concludes Luke 4:18 by saying, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me … to set the oppressed free.” Then Romans 8:2 says, “through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.”

My next question is, “Why is there power in the name of Jesus to break every chain?” I find my answer in Philippians 2:9-11, “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

paint-brush-2Then I ask, “What kind of paint do I apply to the chain links and how do I apply it?” Ephesians 6:12 declares, “ For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” This verse tells me that I will not purchase this kind of paint in a paint store. Yet, if my paint had a color, it would be red symbolizing the blood of Jesus that was shed to make it possible for my chains to be broken. However, I need a can of praise paint because I desire to praise Jesus for being my deliverer, my chain breaker. Jeremiah 17:14 says, “Heal me, LORD, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise.” I believe healing and salvation are two results of chains being broken over our lives. I find my praise paint applied in Psalm 138:1, “I will praise you, LORD, with all my heart; before the ‘gods’ I will sing your praise.” Taking the paint brush of praise in my hand and voice, I apply the blood of Jesus to the links of the chains holding me captive. The blood of Jesus is like a solvent that dissolves sin’s hold upon my life. I am reminded of the words of the praise chorus Praise the Name of Jesus by Roy Hicks Jr., “Praise the name of Jesus, Praise the name of Jesus, He’s my Rock He’s my Fortress, He’s my Deliverer, In Him will I trust, Praise the name of Jesus.”  I especially note the phrase “He is my Deliverer.” This song proclaims that Jesus is the One who delivers me from my chains of sin.

My Reader, are you stuck in a difficult or uncomfortable situation? Do you feel like you are chained to your current circumstances? If so, get out a bucket of praise and paint the links of your chains with a paint brush of praise! Dip into God’s Word and apply some praise promises over your bondage. Remember, there is enough power in the name of Jesus to break every chain you may be experiencing. Paint and proclaim His name above and over all the difficult circumstances that may be keeping you from being your best for the Lord. There is truth in John 8:36, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

Joyfully,
Cheryl
gold apple new

Let’s Celebrate Labor Day!

labor-daylabor-day-2Those of us who live in the United States realize that on Monday, September 7, we will be celebrating Labor Day. However, I wonder how many of us know the origin and meaning of this holiday. I decided to do a little research to gain some understanding for myself. According to the United States Department of Labor,  Labor Day is a celebration of the American labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of workers. It is an annual national tribute to the contributions of  workers  to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country. Originally the observance and celebration of Labor Day was a street parade showing the strength and spirit of the trade and labor organizations of the community. The parade was followed by a festival of recreation and amusement for the workers and their families. In later years, speeches by prominent men and women were given to emphasize the economic and civic significance of the holiday. Today, do we honor our laborers or do we just think of this day as the last holiday of summer giving us a reason to have a picnic? Personally, I want to thank the skilled and semi-skilled workers of our nation for making it possible for me to live the lifestyle I am inclined to take for granted. Our laborers deserve recognition and thanks for their contribution to our nation’s prosperity. I am saddened by the number of jobs that have been lost by members of our working class because we now purchase products made outside our country for less money. As a nation, should we not provide these men and women the opportunity to labor and provide financially for their own families? They deserve the ability to find value and worth within themselves as well as to produce the goods we except to purchase.

In 1909. the American Federation of Labor convention adopted the Sunday preceding Labor Day as Labor Sunday and dedicated it to the spiritual and educational aspects of the labor movement. I never knew about this! However, this new insight led me to look for scriptures relating to labor. John 6:27 ESV says, “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.While I admit that there is a need to work for physical food, we must not forget the need for spiritual food as well. Physical labor will not achieve its fullest significance if one works only for a monetary reward. The best physical labor is not an end in itself but is a means to the greater eternal purposes of God. Paul tells us in Galatians 6:9 ESV,And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” No matter what type of work we do, we tend to grow weary or reach burn-out if we focus only upon the work itself. We need to follow the advice of Colossians 3:23, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” These scripture verses may be good food for thought for all of us at our Labor Day picnics.

Again I quote the United States Department of Labor, “The vital force of labor added materially to the highest standard of living and the greatest production the world has ever known and has brought us closer to the realization of our traditional ideals of economic and political democracy. It is appropriate, therefore, that the nation pay tribute on Labor Day to the creator of so much of the nation’s strength, freedom, and leadership — the American worker.” So, American workers, I relay to you one more scripture found in Matthew 11:28 ESV, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.May Labor Day be a day of rest for the laborers who help our nation to be a nation of prosperity and peace. May you experience both physical and spiritual rest.

Joyfully,
Cheryl
gold apple new