I Pledge Allegiance…

 

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With the celebration of Independence Day for the United States of America approaching in a few days, my thoughts turn toward the flag that symbolizes our nation. Not only do I think about the flag itself, but more specifically I think about the Pledge of Allegiance that we as Americans declare to the flag representing our nation. I decided to research the history of this pledge in preparation for our celebration of Independence Day on the Fourth of July.

According to Wikipedia, the Pledge of Allegiance was originally composed by Colonel George Balch in 1887 and later revised by Francis Bellamy in 1892. The original pledge was as follows:

“I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

I learned online from Historic Documents that in 1923, the words, “the Flag of the United States of America” were added. I like the specific reference to our nation. At this time it read:

“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

The last language change made to our pledge was on Flag Day 1954 when Congress added the words “under God.” The 31-word pledge we say today is written below:

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

This last phrase added to our pledge has great significance for our nation. The two little words “under God” are powerful and offer a unique kind of protection for the USA! I discover that “banner” is a synonym for flag, and this reminds me of an Old Testament name for God, Jehovah-Nissi. This name is translated as “the Lord is our Banner.” In the account of Exodus 17:9-16, Moses held up God’s staff in his hand during the battle against the Amalekites, and as long as his hands and God’s staff were raised, Joshua and the Israelites won the war. In a sense, God was the flag that was raised during this battle. Like Moses lifting up his hands and relying upon God’s strength to win the battle against the Amalekites, the flag of our nation is lifted up during military battles. The flag of the United States of America represents a nation that is lifting up God. We are a nation under God. When we honor our flag, we are also lifting up the Lord who is the banner over our nation.

When studying each version of the pledge, I note that there is always reference to our being an indivisible nation offering liberty and justice for all. While highlighting each of these characteristics of the USA, I want to make a comparison between the Pledge of Allegiance to our flag and God’s purpose for our nation. Please allow me to take this liberty with words today.

We are an indivisible nation because of our unity. Oneness and unity are uniquely represented within our nation because we are one entity yet composed of 50 individual states. This verifies for me that our nation is patterned after the nature of our God. Our God is the Holy Trinity of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In John 10:30 Jesus says, “I and the Father are one.” He affirms this fact by His words in John 4:30, “By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.” I can hear Jesus praying the words of John 17:21 for all the states of America, “that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

Let’s move on to the aspects of liberty and justice for all. These are qualities Jesus offers to us through scripture. In Luke 4:18 NKJV Jesus says, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because he has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight for the blind, to set set at liberty those who are oppressed. Regarding justice, I am reminded of “Blessed are they who observe justice, who do righteousness at all times!” found in Psalm 106:3 ESV. (my emphasis)

This year we celebrate the 240th year of our independence as the United States of America. We have continued to be a prosperous nation because we stand upon the foundation of our founding father and our Father God. We still pledge allegiance to our flag and God. This is why we are an indivisible nation with liberty and justice for all.

Joyfully,
Cheryl
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Roses Have Thorns

roses and thorns 9roses and thorns 10Earlier this spring I pruned three miniature rosebushes that surround a big rock in our front gardens. There were obvious spiky twigs and straggly branches that needed some attention with my pruning shears if they were to be aesthetically pleasing rosebushes for the summer season. I encountered many thorns that day, but no roses. Today I have beautiful diminutive pink and red roses in addition to the thorns that still exist on the stems. Although most varieties of roses do not grow without thorns, roses remain my favorite summer flower. Roses are fragrant and beautiful while their thorns tell me some spiritual stories.

Cursed is the ground because of you;…
It will produce thorns and thistles for you
Genesis 3:17-18

Thorns are mentioned in the first book of the Bible. After Adam and Eve sinned, thorns were part of the curse placed upon mankind. Thorns are symbolic of sin in these verses. The stick of rose thorns hurt my fingers and the prick of sin causes pain in my spirit.

And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns
and put it on His head.
John 19:2

During the mock trail of Jesus, a crown of thorns was placed upon His head. This crown was composed of big thorns, not the little ones I have on my rosebushes. These big thorns hurt Jesus’ head. Jesus wore this crown of thorns when He hung on the cross and died for our sins. While the soldiers wove the thorns into a crown, God was weaving these thorns into His plan of salvation. The sins of all mankind were placed upon Jesus’ head that day as He wore the crown of thorns. The beauty of the thorns became evident only after Jesus’ resurrection. Three days after dying on the cross, He rose from the grave and became a blossoming rose of everlasting life. The splendor of salvation became available to us because Jesus endured the agony of the cross and the crown of thorns. The rose of Christ had thorns! Every time my finger is pricked by a thorn of a rose in my garden I am reminded of the pain of sin that Jesus endured for me.

there was given me a thorn in the flesh,
a messenger of Satan to torment me–
to keep me from exalting myself!
II Corinthians 12:7

Paul experienced what he called a thorn in the flesh. We are never given a detailed description of what the thorn was, but whatever it was, it caused pain to Paul. Three times he prayed that this thorn be removed but the Lord’s response was to assure Paul that His power was made perfect in weakness. In turn, this weakness kept Paul humble. Paul concluded by declaring that his thorn allowed him to be strong in the Lord’s strength. I must remember to turn my painful and difficult circumstances over to God, realizing they are the evidence of His working in my life. Whether from a rosebush or another source, sometimes pricks of pain can encourage me to humbly turn to the Lord for help.

neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation,
will be able to separate us from the love of God
that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:39

As I continue to look closely at my little roses, I become aware that the thorns on the stem cannot be separated from the blossom of the flower. This realization is applicable both botanically for roses and spiritually for my relationship with Jesus. As Paul tells the Romans, nothing can separate us from the love of God. Paul lists such things as tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, and sword as possibilities that could cause separation, but concludes that none of these things have the potential to do so. For example, I might pray for God to increase my patience. In turn, He may answer by allowing me to endure circumstances where it is hard for me to restrain my frustration. More patience in my personality will blossom as the end result, but in the meantime I have to be touched by some thorns.

For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ
among those who are being saved
and those who are perishing.
II Corinthians 2:15

As I pick a few roses from my rosebush, I am willing to feel a few sticks from the thorns because of the beauty and sweet aroma of the roses. Often Jesus allows us to be pricked with pain so that we can be penetrated with His perfume. The blossoms of blessings are often sweeter when followed by a little laceration of a thorn.

As I kneel before my miniature rosebushes, I also kneel before the Lord in prayer. I thank God for the roses, and I even thank Him for the thorns. I ask the Lord to teach me the value of thorns. I need His help to accept, not resent, pain and persecution because God is with me and will use all things to fulfill His purposes. I also thank Him for the thorns He endured to forgive my sins and I ask for His abiding presence to help me spread the fragrance of faith to those around me.

Joyfully,
Cheryl
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The MVP Award for Fathers

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When we see the letters MVP, we usually think of it being the acronym for Most Valuable Player, an award given to a team member who contributes significantly to winning a game of a particular sport. However, years ago our son gave the MVP mug pictured above to his dad recognizing him as being his Most Valuable Pop. Life could be described as a game involving teamwork between fathers and sons, so it is appropriate to think of nominating someone for the Most Valuable Pop award. Father’s Day seems to be an appropriate time to confer this type of honorary distinction. Sons and daughters, would you nominate your father for an MVP award this Father’s Day? Dads, do you feel like you qualify for an MVP award?

Wade Boggs, a third baseman who played baseball primarily for the Boston Red Sox, never received an award that specifically noted him as being an MVP for baseball. However, he did receive the American League Silver Slugger Award eight times and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2005. I would consider him an MVP sportsman as a Most Valuable Player. Based upon how Boggs described the relationship he had with his father, I believe he could have nominated his father for an MVP award as Most Valuable Pop. Boggs has been quoted as saying, “Anyone can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a dad, and that’s why I call you dad, because you are so special to me. You taught me the game and you taught me how to play it right.” I like the differentiation Boggs makes between a father and a dad. Most every male has the potential to become a father but unless time and love is invested into the relationship, the role of dad will not be fulfilled.

I do not mean it disrespectfully when I suggest that our Heavenly Father could be the recipient of the MVP of Most Valuable Pop award. “Abba Father” is a significant Aramaic name for God that portrays how He relates to people. It can be translated as “Daddy.” Abba, like the name Pop, signifies the close, intimate relationship of a father to his child as well as the childlike trust that a young child puts in his dad. Jesus says in Mark 14:36, “Abba, Father, everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” When Jesus calls His Heavenly Father by the name Abba, He is having a private conversation with Dad. When Jesus wholeheartedly surrenders His will to the will of God, I believe He is nominating His Father for the MVP award. Jesus has confidence and trust in who His Heavenly Father truly is. Now let’s think about what Romans 8:15 says about us as children of God, The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’” Being a child of God gives each of us the right to truly call Him “Abba Father” and honor our Heavenly Father with the MVP award of Most Valuable Pop. Galatians 4:6 says, Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.”

This Sunday we will take time to recognize all men in the role of fatherhood. The MVP award of Most Valuable Pop is one of the highest honors that can be bestowed upon a dad. Happy Father’s Day to all who answer to a name such as Abba, Dad, Pop, etc.

Joyfully,
Cheryl
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Temptation can be Tempting

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The Spirit then compelled Jesus to go into the wilderness,
where he was tempted by Satan for forty days.
He was out among the wild animals, and angels took care of him.
Mark 1:12-13 NLT

Jesus – Son of God and Son of Man. The divine became human. According to Mark 1:12-13, while in human form Jesus was tempted by Satan. He was tempted but He did not sin. Amazing!

In Genesis 3, Eve was tempted by Satan. She was tempted and she yielded to temptation. This resulted in sin. Not surprising!

Hmmm. If Jesus was tempted and Eve was tempted, then I should not be surprised when I am tempted. Will I yield to temptation like Eve or will I be able to resist temptation like Jesus? I notice that both individuals were tempted by Satan. He is my tempter as well so I heed the words of I Peter 5:8NLT, “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” There are three things I want to remember when I am being tempted: I am not to be afraid. I am not to be ashamed. I am not alone.

I am not to be afraid. Like Jesus, I can conquer temptation by standing on scripture. God’s Word is stronger than any word Satan speaks to me. I can echo the words of Jesus in Matthew 4:7, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'” The important thing for me to remember when I quote scripture is that I must obey the words of God as well as know them. Satan knew the scriptures but he did not obey them while Jesus knew and obeyed the words of His Heavenly Father. Paul says in Romans 8:31-39, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?… in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Will I overcome temptation or will I allow temptation to overcome me? I want my Heavenly Father’s factor to dominate the fear factor within me.

I am not to be ashamed. I can easily be embarrassed when I am tempted to submit to sin. I can belittle myself by thinking I am the only person who would ever consider doing something so foolish. However, I Corinthians 10:13 NLT tells me, “The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.” I must remember this verse when the enemy tries to embarrass me.

I am not alone. Mark 1:13 NLT concludes by saying, angels took care of him.” Jesus knows what it is like to be tempted so He is now able to help me through my temptations in the best way possible. He knows what I need and He is by my side ready to care for me. Deuteronomy 31:6 says, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” “Never” includes times of temptation.

My Reader, are you being tempted by the enemy today? Jesus overcame temptation – and so can we. We do not overcome temptation by ourselves, but we can overcome with the help of Jesus. Hebrews 4:14-16 states, “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” When temptation comes, may we remember that we do not need to be afraid nor do we need to be ashamed. We are never alone,

Joyfully,
Cheryl
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God’s Presence Is a Present

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God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.
This is what you are to say to the Israelites:
‘I AM has sent me to you.'”
Exodus 3:14

The best present anyone can receive is the presence of the Lord! In fact, He assures us of His daily presence when He refers to Himself as the I AM. Francis Chan says in Crazy Love, “God already has a name, an identity. We don’t get to decide who God is. God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM’ Exodus 3:14. We don’t change that.”

I AM has always been one of my favorite names for God. It is made up of only two words totaling three letters. Yet it is so all-inclusive and constant. This name has been defined as “the unchanging, eternal, self-existent God.” In Exodus 3:14 God is saying that He is a covenant-keeping God. Malachi 3:6 says it this way, “”I the LORD do not change.” The Psalmist declares in Psalm 102:27 “But you remain the same, and your years will never end.”

I am thinking about scriptures that support the statement of Exodus 3:14 describing God as the I AM. Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” That’s the all-inclusive I AM. Revelation l:8 declares, “’I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.’” This is reiterated again by John in Revelation 22:13, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”

I AM describes God as being eternal. He has no beginning or end. He was the I AM before He created the earth and He will continue to be the I AM throughout all the tomorrows of eternity. As human beings, we each have a specific birthday denoting the day we were born into existence. We will each have a date of death when we breathe our last breath on earth. God does not have a birthday; He will never have a death date. He always has been and He always will be.

I AM speaks of God’s living presence; it states that He is. These two words, one name, speak of life and of the Lord being active in our lives. Paul says in Philippians 1:6, “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” God is not dead – He is alive because I AM is in the present tense. I AM is who God is today. I WAS is the I AM of yesterday – I AM is for every today – I WILL BE is the promise of I AM for tomorrow. I never find the name I WAS or I WILL BE quoted in scripture. He always is the I AM!

I AM is always a reassurance to me that I am never alone. However, I AM describes much more than just His presence. I want to look at three attributes of God that are important aspects of the Lord being the I AM. First, He is omnipresent, meaning He is always with us. Secondly, He is omnipotent describing that He has the power to do anything – nothing is too difficult for Him. Lastly, He is omniscient, He knows everything, nothing is beyond His comprehension. All of these descriptions are present tense saying HE IS, or I AM.

In the gospel of John, Jesus chooses to describe Himself by completing the I AM name in seven different ways.
Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. (John 6:35)

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. (John 10:9
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I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11
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Jesus said to her,I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” (John 11:25-26
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Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6
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I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

I have often said that what I liked best about God being I AM was that I could personalize and complete this name to fulfill whatever my current need. However, as I meditate upon the name I AM today, I realize that I want to keep God’s name as simple as possible. I AM IS WHO I AM is how God described Himself to Moses and I do not want to add or detract from who He declares to be. If I add more words to I AM, I could be limiting God to be only who I describe Him to be. The two little words I AM allows God to be who He knows I need Him to be. I AM is a simple yet complex name! I praise the great I AM!

Joyfully,
Cheryl
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Note: Another whole study could be done regarding the Old Testament name of Jehovah. Hosea 12:5 says, “the LORD God Almighty, the LORD is his name! Jehovah and Lord can both be translated I AM. Consequently, each time God reveals Himself with a compound Jehovah name, He is describing Himself as the I AM. I am not going to delve into these names today, but I will include a couple of scriptures as reminders of some of these names. He is Jehovah-rapha according to Exodus 15:26, “for I am the LORD, who heals you.” He is Jehovah-shalom according to Judges 6:24, “So Gideon built an altar to the LORD there and called it The LORD Is Peace.” Finally, He is Jehovah-tsidkenu in Jeremiah 23:6, “In His days Judah will be saved, And Israel will dwell securely; And this is His name by which He will be called, ‘The LORD our righteousness.” My Reader, I encourage you to do a study on the compound Jehovah names of God.