The Peace of God or A Piece of God

peace-2piece-of-pie-2In his book I AM, Steve Fry says, “Peace is the evidence that we have submitted to God.” Scripture talks about a peace that surpasses all understanding. I can only experience this kind of peace when I completely trust God with everything in my life. This included the good, the bad and the miraculous. Steve Fry goes on to say, “The rule of peace begins when we no longer want answers, but only want God.”

In other words, I cannot just have a piece of peace. This concept is contrary to what I perceive when I think about a piece of fruit pie. If I had baked an apple pie that was setting on the kitchen counter and I wanted some to eat, I would cut a piece for myself and leave the remainder of the pie. A whole pie would be too much for me to eat. This is not how the Lord does things. I find His spiritual fruit pie in Galatians 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” I notice that Paul says it is “fruit” – not “fruits” – of the Spirit. In other words, I cannot simply cut myself a piece of peace without also having a serving of self-control and seven other things. God serves me with His sovereignty. I must not question what the Lord puts on my plate.

God wants me to understand His rulership and authority over my life. His sovereignty goes beyond my knowledge, and even goes beyond my sense of His presence. When I grasp this concept, I will be able to experience true peace. This peace comes only when I trust God and submit to Him not because of what He does but because of who He is. With this in mind, I want to share some scripture verses that describe the kind of peace available.

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are
steadfast, because they trust in you.
Isaiah 26:3

Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you.
I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
John 14:27

“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.”
John 16:33

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts,
since as members of one body
you were called to peace. And be thankful.
Colossians 3:15

And the peace of God, which surpasses all
understanding, will guard your hearts and
your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:7 ESV

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace
at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.
II Thessalonians 3:16

As I look at each of these pieces of peace, I see that surrendering to God’s sovereignty is significant to my experiencing the peace of God. I cannot allow my own understanding, or lack of understanding, to allow me to cut out pieces of the whole pie God prepares for me. One piece of apple pie may satisfy my hunger, but my spiritual hunger will only be satisfied when I accept without question all that God hands me. The peace of God comes when I submit to each piece of His personal plans and purposes.

So, Lord, take me into a deeper understanding of your ways. And, Lord, give me your peace. I do not want to settle for just a piece of your peace!

Joyfully,
Cheryl
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Memorial Day – A Day of Honor

On Monday, May 29, as Americans, we will celebrate what has become known as Memorial Day. Originally called Decoration Day, Memorial Day is a day of remembrance for those who have died in service of the United States of America. Numerous cities claim to be the birthplace of Memorial Day but rregardless of the exact date or location of its origins, we do know that Decoration Day, or Memorial Day, originated after the Civil War with a desire to honor our dead. May 30, 1868 was the first Decoration Day. General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery while 5,000 participants decorated the graves of the 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried in Arlington.

Over the years, this special day has come to embrace not only Civil War soldiers who lost their lives but to also remember and recognize all those who have sacrificed their lives, living and dead, to serve in our military forces. When we celebrate Memorial Day, we take time to recognize those who are willing to protect us. Today I want to suggest that we expand our perception of those who protect us to include our first responders. These are people who are actively involved in our everyday homeland security.

When I think of our military, I imagine men and woman dressed in uniforms representing the Army, Air Force and Navy. However, I also see our first responders in other types of uniforms. I see police, firefighters and ambulance crew workers in attire signifying their form of service. Our military forces are stationed in countries around the world where they are put in harm’s way. In a different yet similar way, the members of our police force are in harm’s way when they respond to certain calls. I am not diminishing the right for us to take time to honor our military forces. However, I do feel these people are also worthy of our recognition and thanks for their services.

First responders include many people in numerous capacities. Approximately two months ago, we became particularly aware of another specific group of first responders who helped our area. We had a wind storm with 81 MPH wind gusts that resulted in over 100,000 people losing electrical power in  homes. Utility crews were the first responders to this situation. Their uniforms were orange vests and hard hats, Not only were all the workers of our local utility companies working around the clock to restore power, but 290 other utility crews came to aid the restoration process.

I want to highlight three scriptures that remind me of our first responders. When I read I Corinthians 16:13, I think of our National Guard. The verse states,Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.” However, all of our first responders definitely show courage and strength. John 14:27 records Jesus saying, Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” The peace Jesus offers has a spiritual depth not offered by anyone else. Only the peace of God can enable our hearts to not be troubled or afraid. However, keeping peace within a city is the goal of the police force. There are certain locations within many cities where it is hard to live free of trouble and fear, but our police strive to provide us a peaceful environment. Jesus concludes Matthew 10:8 by saying, “Freely you have received; freely give.” Especially in smaller communities, many firefighters are volunteers who freely give of their time to help others.

Romans 13:7 is a good scripture for us to be mindful of regarding all those who are or have been part of our military forces and civilian responders.Give to everyone what you owe them: … if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.” These individuals deserve our respect and honor for their commitment to serve our nation and our citizens. Memorial Day is a good opportunity for us to set aside time to publicly recognize and thank those who protect us around the world and at home. However, they are also worthy of our support and gratitude every day of the year. Our freedom depends upon them.

Joyfully,
Cheryl

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A Pocketful of Promises

pocketMy Reader, is there anything in your pocket? I encourage you to fill the pocket of your heart with the promises of God. These promises are good stuff to find in your pocket because Joshua 21:45 says, “Not one of all the LORD’s good promises to Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.” If His promises did not fail the Israelites, neither will His promises fail us. II Corinthians 1:20 also assures us that, “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ. And so through him the ‘Amen’ is spoken by us to the glory of God.”

God wants you to accept His promises as personal words that He whispers to you when you need encouragement or direction or forgiveness or strength. These are reminders of His love for you and His interest in your life. II Peter 1:4 NLT says, “He has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.” The Lord wants you to have His promises close in your heart pocket so you can pull them out at specific times. If His promises are hidden in the pocket of your heart, you will not have to get out a Bible or concordance to hear His words of wisdom.

Be ready to pull out a promise from your pocket and apply it to your present circumstances. The Lord gives you His promises to transform you as well as to inform you. It is valuable for you to know His specific promises, but it is of even more important to put the power of His promises to use in your life. At the time of creation, God spoke “Let there be…” and it happened. When God speaks His promises to you, He is saying “Let there be” whatever the promise provides for you personally.

Let me help you fill up your heart’s pocket by sharing a few promises spoken personally by Jesus.

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.
Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls.
For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
Matthew 11:28-30

So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find;
knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives;
and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened.”

Luke 11:9-10

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness,
and all these things will be given to you as well.

Matthew 6:33

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.
I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

John 14:27

I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper,
that He may be with you forever;

John 14:16

And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Matthew 28:20

Today, I challenge you to fill the pocket of your heart with an abundance of God’s promises. Do not let doubt create a hole in your heart that could cause you to lose the power of the personal promises spoken into your life by the Lord. Allow these promises to overflow from your pocket but never lose them.

I want to close on a lighter note by sharing my adaptation of the Mother Goose rhyme about Peter Piper.

Personally pick a pocketful of precious promises;
A pocketful of precious promises please pick;
If you pick a pocketful of precious promises,
What will the pocketful of precious promises provide?

Joyfully,
Cheryl
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Jesus, Chickens and Mothers

mother-and-child-2chickens-1Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
Proverbs 31:28

With this coming Sunday being designated as Mother’s Day, I want to take time to honor our mothers and fulfill Proverbs 31:28. However, I am pondering what qualifies a female to be a mother. I believe any woman who reflects a lifestyle of nurturing and caring for others is a mother. Motherly characteristics are exhibited not only by human beings, buy also by animals and birds. Jesus described His love for Jerusalem (a symbolic representation of all believers) as being like that of a mother hen. I am not saying Jesus or mothers are chickens! However, I think there is a revelation of Jesus’ love and a mother’s love when we look at the life of a chicken. I grew up on a farm and we had chickens, so maybe that is why I am attracted to this image today. Let’s see how we can tie together the hearts of Jesus, chickens, and all women who function in a mother role.

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you,
how often I have longed to gather your children together,
as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings,
and you were not willing.
Matthew 23:37

When I read this verse from Matthew, I not only see a mother hen drawing her little chicks close to her body but I also picture Jesus doing the same with each of us as His children. I am reminded of the refrain of the old hymn Safe in the Arms of Jesus by Frances Crosby, “Safe in the arms of Jesus, Safe on His gentle breast; There by His love o’ershaded, Sweetly my soul shall rest.” Psalm 91:4 NLT says, “He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with His wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection.” This image is similar to a picture of an earthly mother holding a baby in her loving, caring arms. There is a feeling of warmth and security as well as love when a baby chick, a believer in Christ, or a young child is snuggled near to the body of the one emanating love. 

As a young girl, I remember seeing the chickens running around in their open space while I was swinging on my tree swing. One of my recollections is of a mother hen leading her newborn chicks out for a walk. With the mother hen in the lead, five or six fluffy little chicks followed in a parade. The new hatchlings followed their mother wherever she went. They trusted her to lead them along the right path. Mothers of young children also lead and instruct their children. Proverbs 22:6 instructs moms (and everyone else) to “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” David says in Psalm 25:4, “Show me your ways, LORD, teach me your paths.”

While living on the farm, there were occasions when I remember hearing a lot of squawking from the chickens. Usually it meant that some predatory animal, or even another chicken, was trying to attack a brood of young chicks. The one making the most noise was the mother hen who was trying to protect her defenseless chicks. If the attack was instigated by another chicken and her squawking was not enough of a deterrent, she would ruffle her feathers and attack. Psalm 121:7 says, The LORD will keep you from all harm– He will watch over your life.” The Lord watches over our lives, a mother hen watches over the lives of her chicks, and mothers watch over the lives of the children entrusted to them.

Jesus, chickens and mothers are not synonymous words, but it has been fun to search for similarities. While exhibiting love and compassion, mothers are also protective and defensive of their children. Their goal is to help their children grow and mature to be who God created them to be. Any woman who finds herself in the role of a mother is worthy of honor on Mother’s Day and every day.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Joyfully,
Cheryl
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IF…

bible-studyAnd a leper came to Jesus, beseeching Him and falling on his knees
before Him, and saying, “
If You are willing
, You can make me clean.”
Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him,
and said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.”
Immediately the leprosy
left him and he was cleansed.
Mark 1:40-42

Today, I want to consider two different interpretations of the phrase “If You are willing” found in the verses of scripture I have quoted from the gospel of Mark.

I usually have interpreted this phrase to reveal a lack of faith by the leper. He does believe because he seeks Jesus for healing and he shows a reverence for Jesus by coming humbly to Him. I have perceived the leper as possibly being a relatively new believer who was not extremely confident in his faith. Jesus is touched by the honesty of the leper and reaches out to touch him. While the leper was healed by the touch of Jesus, I also believe he developed a deeper relationship with Jesus because of this personal encounter. Jesus assured the leper that He was willing and able to do what the leper asked. Previously, I have pictured the leper as one who was wanting to know more about who Jesus was and what He could do. This man had faith, yet he lacked faith.

Recently while reading these verses, I thought about the possibility of the leper expressing this phrase for a different reason. I wondered if the words, “If You are willing,” revealed a more profound faith and understanding of who Jesus was. In John 5:19, Jesus said, “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” Then in John 8:28 Jesus said, “I do nothing on my own.” I have to wonder if this leper had a greater understanding of who Jesus was than I had originally accredited to him. He may have been respecting the fact that Jesus was only able to do what was in agreement with His Heavenly Father.

Regarding both interpretations, there are three points I want to highlight.

First of all, I want to note that although leprosy is a physical disease, it is also spiritually symbolic of sin. I may not have the disease of leprosy in my body but I do admit that sinfulness can be found within me. So, I ask the question, Do I sincerely believe that Jesus can forgive my sins? I John 1:9 assures me, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

My next focal point is related to the fact that the leper came to Jesus in person and asked to be healed. To put it into other terms, I can say that he prayed. Do I take time to pray and specifically ask the Lord for what I desire? Jesus says in Matthew 7:7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” However, in addition, I need to remember to surrender to God’s will when interceding in prayer. I must follow the example Jesus gave to His disciples as to how to pray. In Matthew 6:10 Jesus told His disciples to pray “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Pastor Bob Reeves of Calvary Assembly of God has said that we need to recognize both the power of God to do something and His right to do something. We do not dictate our terms when praying. We follow Jesus, not ask Him to follow us.

Finally, I must examine my level of faith. Does the phrase “If You are willing” reflect a lack of in my faith that would benefit from being deepened? I may need to cry out to Jesus the words of Mark 9:24, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” Or, am I exhibiting a faith in God that surrenders to the will of God when I verbalize the words, “If You are willing”? Maybe I should heed the words of Hebrews 10:36, “You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.” The truth I must remember from our scripture for today is found in Mark 1:41 when Jesus says, “I am willing.” Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Jesus will meet me and touch me no matter what level of faith I am experiencing as long as I call out to Him.

My Reader, how deep is your faith today? How do you interpret the leper’s words? You can receive a touch from Jesus no matter which interpretation is currently most appropriate for you as long as you cry out to Him.

Joyfully,
Cheryl
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